Social Media and the ‘Information Generation’
written by Caitlin Raddatz
At this very moment, I’m thinking about what I did today. I slept until 10 in the morning (early for a college student), skipped class, watched a couple microeconomics lectures, attended class for two hours and lurked online social media sites for a solid three hours. That’s not all I did, but you get the general gist. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter sucked up what could’ve been a good portion of time spent exercising or socializing or studying. I could’ve done a number of other things, yet I chose to sit in my room, browsing the World Wide Web. Think about this: a study conducted by the University of New Hampshire showed that 96% of students use Facebook every day. During one day, 84% of college students also use YouTube, 14% use Twitter and 10% use LinkedIn.
Increasingly, the younger generation tends to rely more heavily on the use of the internet—especially through outlets of social media. We’ve stepped into the Digital Age, where every piece of information is available at our fingertips. Cell phones have been essentially transformed into portable laptops. E-books are rapidly emerging. If everything’s online, then why shouldn’t connecting socially be too? As a college student, I’ve taken notice of the advertisements that pop up on these social media sites. Yes, they’re a little aggravating sometimes. So how many are actually given a second thought?
Travis Dobler is a 19-year old freshman at the University of Florida who has watched his involvement in social media sites grow. “I do use Facebook often,” Dobler said. But what about the advertisements included within these sites? “I usually just ignore advertisements, finding them to be obstacles in my way, rather than informative.”
How, then, do companies reach him? “The only time I ‘like’ organizations [on Facebook] is after I stumble upon a reason to support a specific company. For example, after hearing about Dove's strong opinion on self-image or Dawn's support for wildlife conservation, I go out of my way to add those companies to my interest category.” The “interest category” Dobler is referring to is one located within his Facebook profile.
What about coupons or discounts? How do those trickle down to him? “I take advantage of certain deals found in USA Today and coupons that are distributed through local campus tabling hot spots.” In Dobler’s case, he does not rely as heavily on social media to affect his purchasing trends.
Moving on… Joe Eslait is a 23-year old senior at UF who has always been curious about the different ways businesses advertise. “I worked for The Independent Florida Alligator when social media was becoming more widely used. I started noticing Facebook ads, which were geared toward my personal preferences.” Here, it’s evident that advertisements on social media sites are recognized.
As for the sites Eslait frequents, he is an active member of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. “I follow local businesses and companies that I am loyal to. In following these companies, I receive status updates that may influence me to look at any specials the company is offering.”
On exactly how companies can reach their customers the fastest, Eslait commented, “I believe that word-of-mouth is the most important and cheapest form of advertising in Gainesville. Facebook is a big contributor to this because it allows its users to post comments about and promotions for a certain association, essentially advertising on behalf of that company.”
Clearly, Dobler and Eslait differ in their approach to social media and its uses. Dobler views social media as just that—a way to unite all his friends online. As previously stated, the internet makes everything accessible in a matter of seconds. Eslait’s interest in how businesses target their audiences undeniably influenced his curiosity in this matter. Whether a company is seeking more attention or simply wondering how to better control followers, it’s best to consider the desires and needs of the target audience.