Though infrastructure, channels, devices, and social software make social media possible, people like you make it a living, breathing part of everyday life. Social media is first and foremost about community: the collective participation of members who together build and maintain a site. Though different approaches exist, we’ll refer to online communities as a group of people who come together for a specific purpose, who are guided by community policies, and who are supported by Internet access that enables virtual communication. Here is a brief sampling of online communities; there may be some out there just waiting for you! • MyLife • LiveJournal • Tagged • Last.fm • LinkedIn In some ways, online communities are not much different from those we find in our physical environment. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online version, of course) defines community as “a unified body of individuals, unified by interests, location, occupation, common history, or political and economic concerns.” In fact, one social scientist refers to an online community as a cyberplace where “people connect online with kindred spirits, engage in supportive and sociable relationships with them, and imbue their activity online with meaning, belonging, and identity.”
All social communities are social networks. Networks underlie the premise of social media. This slide presents the basics of social network theory.
Chances are you’ve heard of the game The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It’s based on the principle known as the six degrees of separation; an observation that everyone is connected to everyone else by no more than six ties. This statement comes from the mathematical model known as a small-world network, which illustrates that most nodes in a social graph are not directly linked to one another—instead they are indirectly connected via neighbors. The principle is highly relevant in social media marketing, where sources of influence can flow throughout the network easily and quickly. It is this connectivity that has given rise to viral marketing where a message such as a joke or bizarre YouTube clip quickly spreads among members of a network. Social networks also have the characteristic of being “scale free.” This means that the more connections someone has, the more likely they are to make new ones.
Virtual communities do not develop and thrive without a foundation of commonality among the members. Just as your offline communities are based on family, religious beliefs, social activities, hobbies, goals, place of residence, and so on, your online communities also need commonalities to create bonds among the members. These groups come together to allow people to share their passions, whether these are for indie bands, white wines, or open-source apps. Communities are made up of people who share some reason to join together. As we said, this basis can be a location, a shared characteristic, a hobby, an occupation, or any number of other activities that people share.
Researchers estimate that only 1 percent of a typical community’s users regularly participate and another 9 percent do so only intermittently. The remaining 90 percent just observe what’s on the site, so they don’t add a lot of value.
These memes (snippets) may include songs, phrases, ideas, slang words, fashion trends, or shared behaviors. For example, when the TV show The Apprentice caught fire a few years ago, its trademark term “You’re fired!” made the rounds very quickly.
When people form community relationships these affiliations allow them to accumulate resources that they can “trade” for other things. This is “Social Capital.” Social capital tends to be a limited and protected resource.
This resource easily accrues online because of our accessibility to people who can help us with a variety of issues even though we may not know them personally. In contrast, our core ties, those people with whom we have very close relationships, may or may not be in a position to provide solutions to some problems we face (or we may not want them to know about these in some cases). Interestingly, through the course of giving and receiving bonding social capital, we may come to develop core ties, or at least significant ties (somewhat close connections, but less so than core ties), with others in the community.
In other words, influencers develop a network of people through their involvement in activities. They are active participants at work and in their communities. Their social networks are large and well developed.
Influencers exist in all social communities. It is a natural pattern for some members to be more active and to acquire positions of authority within a community. The source of the influence itself, however, originates from the power bases an influencer may possess.
We refer to connections in a SNS with many terms, including friend, fan, follower, colleague, and contact. The biggest predictor of whether someone will become active in a social network space, regardless of the site’s primary function, is the presence of a critical mass of friends. Of the four elements detailed on the slide of SNS participation, three are dependent upon the nodes in your network. If your contacts are not active in your experience, your own activity in the network will be stunted because you won’t have people with whom to interact, you won’t receive sufficient feedback, and your content will not be redistributed.
Sociologists have recognized that technological innovations actually can help us to maintain and support a number of community relationships despite physical distances and other limitations. A Pew report showed that the more we see members of our network in person and talk on the phone, the more likely it is that we will also communicate with those people online. So, the more connected you are, the more connected you will become!
Introduction to Social
Media Mar keting
W hat ar e the char acteristics of
online communities? How do ideas
tr avel in a community?
In what ways do opinion leader s
develop in communities? How do
these influentials influence other s?
W hat r ole does social capital play
in the value of social media
communities? W hat types of ties do
we have to other s in our
How has social media leveled the
playing field and cr eated a sour ce
of power for consumer s?
www.dogster.com for an example of
a community or ganized around a
ar e g r oups of people
w ho come together for
a specific pur pose,
w ho ar e guided by
and w ho ar e
suppor ted by Inter net
access that enables
Networ ks: T he Under l ying
Str ucture of Communities
A social networ k is a set of sociall y r elevant
nodes connected by one or mor e r elations.
Nodes ar e member s of the networ k.
Member s ar e connected by their r elationships
with each other.
Inter actions ar e behavior-based ties such as
talking with each other or attending an event
Flows ar e exchanges of r esour ces, infor mation,
or influence among member s of the networ k.
Object sociality is the extent to w hich an
object can be shar ed in social media.
Ver tical networ ks ar e sites designed ar ound
It’s a Small Wor ld
Six de grees of separation is an obser vation that
ever yone is connected to ever yone else by no mor e
than six ties.
• Based on the mathematical model of small-wor ld
Play six degrees of separation by clicking here
T he interactive
platfor ms of Web
2.0 enable online
• Standards of
• Levels of
T hough social
media pr ovides
an online space
ar e not based on
writing but on a
hybrid of the
Char acteristics of
Pr esence r efer s to the
ef fect that people
experience w hen they
inter act with a
Char acteristics of
Democr acy is a descriptive ter m that r efer s to
r ule by the people.
• Media democr atization means that the members
of social communities control the creation, delivery,
and popularity of content.
Standar ds of Behavior. V ir tual communities
need nor ms, or r ules that gover n behavior, in
or der to oper ate. Some of these r ules ar e
spelled out explicitl y but many of them ar e
• Open access sites enable anyone to
participate without registration or identification.
• The social contr act is the agreement that
exists between the host or governing body and
Par ticipation. For
thrive, a significant
propor tion of its
member s must
Otherwise the site
will fail to of fer
fr esh material and
ultimately traf fic
Char acteristics of
How Ideas Tr avel in a
Networ k str uctur e and
composition play a r ole in the
community’s ability to suppor t
its member s.
• A meme is a snippet of cultural
information that spreads person
to person until eventually it
enters the general
T her e is evidence of
community cultur e in the
memes that evolve within the
and Social Capital
Opinion leader – a
per son w ho is
fr equentl y able to
influence other s ’
and Social Capital
Opinion leader s ar e extr emel y valuable
infor mation sour ces because:
• They are technically competent
• They prescreen, evaluate, and synthesize product
information in an unbiased way
• They are socially active and highly interconnected
• They are likely to hold positions of leadership
• They tend to be similar to the consumer in terms of
their values and beliefs
• They tend to be slightly higher in terms of status
and educational attainment than those they
• They are often among the first to buy new products
Social capital is accumulated r esour ces w hose
value flows to people as a r esult of their
access to other s.
Reputational capital is based on the shar ed
beliefs, r elationships, and actions of those in
the community such that nor ms, behavior s, and
values held and shar ed by individuals
ultimatel y suppor t a community r eputation.
Strong and Weak
Emotional suppor t is
one for m of social
• Core ties – those
people with whom we
have very close
• Significant ties –
those individuals with
connections, but less
so than core ties
• Weak ties – those
individuals with whom
your relationship is
based on superficial
experiences or very few
Strong and Weak
Power user s ar e those other s view as
knowledgeable sour ces of infor mation
• Five characteristics help to describe them:
Strong and Weak Ties
• Reward power: ability to provide others
with what they desire
• Coercive power: the ability to punish
• Legitimate power: authority based on
rights associated with a person’s
• Referent power: authority through the
motivation to identify with or please a
• Expert power: recognition of one’s
knowledge, skills, and ability
• Information power: one’s control over the
flow of and access to information
T he Bases of Social Power
Your level of activity in a social networ k is
• The mix of people with whom you are connected
• The ar tifacts (content) you create on the site
• The feedback you receive from others
• The distribution of the artifacts and feedback
Wor d of mouse – online
wor d of mouth and a
ver y strong influence
on consumer decision
Ad equivalency value what would the value
of the unsolicited
online mention be if it
had come through a
paid adver tising
Social proof – wor ks by
consumer s to make
decisions that mimic
those of people in their
social networ k
T he Evolution of
makes it more
difficult to connect
Do you agree or