Facebook – the social network that started in a Harvard dorm room 15 years ago – has evolved into a media and advertising giant. It’s helped create a new age of precise consumer insights. With over 2 billion users worldwide, Facebook can offer granular data about each and every one of them to advertisers – not just demographics but the very narrowly defined interests, conversations and interactions they have on the platform. Advertisers try to leverage all that information into online purchases by directly targeting consumers with messages meant to stand out as they scroll through a newsfeed.
As a media and advertising psychology scholar, I’ve been researching Facebook and its effects on persuasion for the past 12 years. Long gone are the days of brands offering consumers meticulously crafted messages with mass appeal that provide strong arguments or important cues to get them to change their attitudes and behaviors.
Facebook has driven an ongoing digital revolution within the advertising industry, redefining the persuasive process advertisers have traditionally known. Now people communicate differently on and because of Facebook and other social media services. And their buying behaviors have changed too.
Facebook’s not so social anymore
My collaborative research suggests that people’s motivations for using Facebook have shifted over the years. People used to visit for online socialization and interpersonal communication. But now their reasons are more passive, having to do with the desire to be entertained and the simple fact that checking Facebook is convenient.
Facebook users, for the most part, have moved from being hyperactive – endlessly posting about the ins and outs and ups and downs of their lives – to being, simply put, habitual lurkers.