What is the link between narrative persuasion and social media?

What is the link between narrative persuasion and social media?

Tom van Laer answers the question posed in response to his blog on 17th October, 2012.

Thank you, Abhijin, for this interesting question.

Depending on your age and memory, developments in the modern marketing industry seem radically new or reassuringly old. To me the past five years have seemed like the former. I perceive a new deal: Whereas in the past 150 years, media have been pushed to people, today consumers get to be part of the conversation. Using a Facebook-inspired approach, I argue that companies can piggyback on social actions by online users, because people ultimately influence people.

These claims of course echo Katz and Lazarsfeld who argue that marketers do not simply broadcast messages to a passive audience but rather that they target certain “opinion leaders” who then spread, confirm, or negate the marketers’ messages through their own “social relationships,” whether by word of mouth or personal example. Yet Katz and Lazarsfeld also assume that most of these conversations, and their implicit marketing messages, remain inaudible to firms. The notion that firms might eavesdrop on this chatter became widely conceivable with the rise of weblogs (blogs). Thus Searls and Weinberger could argue that “markets are conversations,” and blogs can make the conversations transparent.

To the earliest practitioners of this new media form, blogging entailed regular sharing of written stories, later adding photos and videos, about themselves and their experiences, with a few interested friends and relatives. Today lots of Internet users do similar things, though they may not consider it blogging; instead, they only see themselves as updating their profile pages on Facebook, MySpace, or other social media sites. Whether in the form of blogs or profile pages though, these are persuasive narratives about who the posters are and what they have been doing.


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