[Guest post] Theoretical Foundation of Internet Advertising

Researchers have argued that to understand how Internet users respond to advertising, it is necessary to understand their motivations for going online. Similarly, any study of Social-networking sites (SNS) users’ attitudes toward  advertising must take into account their motivations for engaging in social networking.

According to extant studies of Internet users (e.g., Stafford, 2008; Stafford and Stafford, 2000; Stafford, Stafford and
Schkade, 2004), motives for going online include structural factors (i.e., killing or filling time), content factors (i.e., information or entertainment value), and socialization factors (i.e., to connect with others).

SNSs are, by definition, highly oriented toward the latter; they are online forums in which users with common interests  or connections “can gather to share thoughts, comments, and opinions”.

In addition to communication and collaboration, however, SNSs also facilitate education and information, thus satisfying content-related motives. Furthermore, the popular press is rife with accounts of time wasting on Facebook,
and the amount of time spent on SNSs has been steadily increasing. Hence, there very likely is a strong structural component to SNS usage.

These motivations are highly consistent with media uses and gratifications theory. This theory posits that media users are motivated to expose themselves selectively to media based on their needs and gratification- seeking motives. According to media uses and gratifications theory, consumers actively seek out media to satisfy either utilitarian or hedonic needs. For example, they may watch television to be entertained by a film or to be informed by a  documentary or newscast. We can further categorized these hedonic and utilitarian motives into structural dimensions
(i.e., using media to fill empty surroundings by seeking information or entertainment) and relationship-based dimensions (i.e., using media to facilitate interpersonal relationships or communications.

Although developed to explain television viewership, media uses and gratification theory has been applied to studies of Internet usage; online advertising; membership in virtual communities; mobile advertising; and the usage of SNSs.

Given the previously mentioned motivations for SNS usage, media uses and gratification theory seems appropriate for
the context of this study. Not only do SNS users sometimes actively seek out advertising content, they often  participate in the dissemination of the advertising to other consumers.

Online Banner Advertising

A number of studies measure effectiveness of online banner advertising, and consumer acceptance of online  advertisements. These studies, however, were conducted in the context of more traditional Web sites in which provider content is delivered to users along with third-party advertising. Advertising through SNSs, however, warrants studies specific to this medium for several reasons.

First, the explosive growth of SNS usage—along with the resulting growth in advertising dollars spent on  SNA—warrants a stand-alone study of consumer attitudes. Second, SNSs have their own unique user-to-user ecosystem; thus, relying on studies from other Internet environments may prove insufficient. Third, though traditional Web site advertising is most frequently delivered through banners or sponsored links, social-networking advertising (SNA) is often indistinguishable from user content. For example, MySpace company pages and Facebook fan sites are largely indistinguishable from user profiles, and Twitter “tweets” are identical to non-commercial
messages.

This blog post is written by Mr. Mairsh Jones, who works as a freelance writer for different essay writing service providers in Florida, USA.


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