Social media became an integral part of life globally. They are used not only for communication but for business purposes as well. However, despite their global character, peculiarities of social media use differ from country to country. This literature review summarizes research findings and data from reports about the use of social media across the globe and identifies the existing gaps and limitations in the in the study of this problem.
The Marketing Power of Social Media
The rapid development of social media and its penetration into every sphere of life make it a powerful marketing tool. The researchers define such functions of social media as “to monitor, respond, amplify, and lead consumer behavior” and claim that they should be considered not only by the marketing of public relations managers but by all chief executives (Divol, Edelman, & Sarrazin, 2012, para. 3). A valuable idea of the researchers is that social media allows targeting marketing responses during the process of consumer’s decision making. The identified functions also allow collecting information and obtaining knowledge, which can be further converted to action for the benefit of both, companies and customers (Divol et al., 2012). The authors conclude that there is a need for discussions among the executives about leading and learning “from people within your company, marketers outside it, and, most of all, your customers” (Divol et al., 2012, para. 31).
Social media can be applied by marketers to grow their businesses. A report by Stelzner (2016) presents the results of the survey involving more than 5,000 marketers who share their ideas for applying social media in business. Thus, 90 percent of marketers agree that social media is significant for their business (Stelzner, 2016). Among a diversity of social networks, Facebook is one of the most popular and 46 percent of marketers are sure their Facebook marketing is effective. At the same time, the respondents admit some difficulties in social media marketing that appeared recently.
Still, marketing managers should be careful in using social media for their purposes. Thus, according to “Sensis Social media report 2017” (2017) in Australia, only 30 percent of internet users are quite happy with advertising on social network sites while 24 percent do not mention them at all. Consequently, advertising should not be too active and consider interests of the users because 36 percent of the respondents claim that they like sponsored posts from businesses they follow on social media.
User Behavior and Determinants of Social Media Use
One of the issues about the social media that is not well-explored is the behavior of their users. For example, the research by Kim, Lee, Han, and Song (2014) investigate peculiarities of video-consuming behavior on the basis of two popular social media: YouTube and Twitter. Using Korean pop contents as research material, they defined some typical features of video-consuming behavior. First of all, Twitter users demonstrated preference of diversity in video content and less attention to certification of video channels than YouTube users (Kim et al., 2014). Secondly, high-ranked videos on YouTube have more subscribers and are more frequently viewed that those on Twitter. Finally, the category analysis allowed to conclude that there is a greater diversity of video categories on Twitter that on YouTube. On the whole, the research contributes to the understanding of socio-cultural behaviors of social media users.
Earlier studies proved that behavior of user’s social media adoption could be better understood due to such factors as social impact and personal preferences (Wang & Sun, 2016). The researchers suggest further investigation of the issue of determinants of social media use applying such criterion as sociability. The research data were collected among the Chinese users of Wechat and Weibo mobile social media applications. The value of the research is the analysis of both high- and low-sociability networks. The research findings are that social influence factors are more significant for the users of high-sociability media while attitude is more important for intentions of users of low-sociability media (Wang & Sun, 2016). Another advantage of this research is its practical applicability, which includes implications for social media service providers allowing them to improve the usability of their products and focus on the sociability of social media to attract more users.
Social Media Adoption and Use in Different Countries
While the majority of the population uses the Internet, not all people adopt social media. The research by Milwood, Marchiori, and Zach (2013) compares the peculiarities of the Internet use by the citizens of the United States and Switzerland. On the whole, the level of social media adoption in higher in the US than in Switzerland with a mean value of social media success of 6.2 and 5.1 correspondently. Also, the researchers compare the activity of destination marketing organizations (DMO) in both countries and conclude that Swiss DMOs are more careful in implementing social media tools while the US DMOs actively implement them.
Another geographic area which became a location for social media research is the Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific Market experiences an increase in e-commerce development, which also stimulates the spread of social media (“Social media marketing in Asia Pacific,” n.d.). For this area, social media are applied by marketers for brand communication and customer service in almost equal shares (46 and 43 percent correspondently). Moreover, 38 percent use them as sales channel (“Social media marketing in Asia Pacific,” n.d.). The Internet as a whole and social media in particular are less spread in Asia than in Europe and the US and, consequently, need different strategies of development. For Asia, cultural aspect is significant. Also, the marketers should develop neutral content to be able to present it on different platforms.
“Sensis Social media report 2017” (2017) provides a detailed picture of the role and use of social media in Australia. Its results disclosed the fact that 84 percent of Australians use the Internet on a daily basis. The majority of the Australian population uses Facebook, and less than a half prefer Instagram. Moreover, there is a tendency to an increase in the number of Australians who use the Internet more than five times a day (“Sensis Social media report 2017,” 2017). Still, there are people (more than one-fifth of the Australian population) who do not visit any of the social networking sites. The majority of the respondents who do not use social media are not interested in them while the other reasons for avoiding such websites are security or privacy concerns, lack of time, preference of face to face social communication, etc. (“Sensis Social media report 2017,” 2017).
Consequences of Social Media
It is evident that the Internet and social media as one of its products have a significant impact on society. One of the aspects of this influence is investigated by Matzat and Sadowski (2015), who discover the issue of access to specific social resources provided by means of different social media. A literature search conducted by the scientists allowed distinguishing such specific social resources as knowledge resources, social support, access to the employer, access to press or media, and physical support (Matzat & Sadowski, 2015). The research shows that social media have a high potential for user empowerment, social policy, and self-help, providing them with access to diverse social resources. Also, the research findings include the fact that not all online relationships, either new or old, provide access to any specific resources.
Gaps and Limitations
Despite the active present-day interest to researches in the field of social media, the studies have some gaps and limitations. One of the major gaps is in the lack of global research, which would provide a real picture of social media use around the world. The studies dedicated to separate countries or areas are usually not very informative. One of their limitations includes small samples, which do not represent all social media users. Moreover, another limitation is the diverse methodology used in these researchers, which does not allow systematization of the findings.
On the whole, the analysis of studies revealed that social media are popular among the Internet users all over the world. However, their use has certain regional peculiarities and differs from country to country. Many researchers agree that social media make up a powerful marketing tool and their studies prove this fact. Nevertheless, the use of social media for marketing or other purposes should be well-planned and consider the specific features of the region where they are applied.
Divol, R., Edelman, D., & Sarrazin, H. (2012). Demystifying social media. McKinsey Quarterly. Web.
Kim, Y., Lee, D., Han, N., & Song, M. (2014). Exploring characteristics of video consuming behaviour in different social media using K-pop videos. Journal of Information Science, 40(6), 806-822. Web.
Matzat, U., & Sadowski, B. (2015). Access to specific social resources across different social media: Divergent consequences of the time spent with new contacts. Information, Communication & Society, 18(10), 1139-1157. Web.
Milwood, P., Marchiori, E., & Zach, F. (2013). A comparison of social media adoption and use in different countries: The case of the United States and Switzerland. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 30(1-2), 165-168. Web.
Sensis social media report 2017. (2017). Web.
Social media marketing in Asia Pacific. (n.d.). Web.
Stelzner, M. A. (2016). 2016 Social media marketing industry report. How marketers are using social media to grow their businesses. Web.
Wang, N., & Sun, Y. (2016). Social influence or personal preference? Examining the determinants of usage intention across social media with different sociability. Information Development, 32(5), 1442-1456. Web.