Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Twitter vs. News - Effectiveness in building relations

Social Media has been termed as an effective way to build relationships. Brands are trying to harness this capability by building social presence on this new media. Celebrities today account for the maximum amount of followers on the web with twitter being a fine example for this.

But is this new media effective in creating relationships with this vast list of followers, which celebrities often tend to have?

In an interesting research by Lee and Jang, they explore the effectiveness of celebrities in building social presence on new media. They compare twitter and a news website to check the relative effectiveness of enhancing social presence. While the traditional PR machinery used by celebrities might give them news coverage, they contend that their tweets can reduce the barrier of relational development as compared to a news website. Their findings are counter-intuitive and very interesting.

They find that a celebrity’s Twitter page promotes the feelings that users are actually having a two-way conversation as compared to the news article about the celebrity saying the same thing. But this tendency is visible for only those people shy away from social interactions. They find that people who have greater affiliative tendency i.e. those who place greater value on social interaction experience a greater social presence while reading the news article than a tweet.

Affiliative persons are friendly, sociable, helpful, skillful in dealing with people, and open about their feelings. They make good companions because they are pleasant and agreeable. Others feel comfortable with them and like them.

Their research showed that people higher on affiliative tendency experienced celebrity's presence more vividly while reading the news article. An explanation they give for this finding is in the violation of the expactancy. Readers of celebrity Tweets would expect more of private life of the celebrity on Twitter than in news, since such is the characteristic of individuals that show high affiliative tendency. Since they disclose more, they expect the celebrity to do the same and this causes celebrity to fall short on expectations. To highly affiliative persons, Tweets might not be sufficiently personal and disappointing.

Another possible cause they suggest is the absence of a feedback mechanism. Not having the means by which they can participate in the interactions make affiliative individuals feel unnatural even cause frustration.

As branding moves to the digital age with a focus on engagement and relationships, this research proves that the concept of the illusion of a face-to-face relationship with celebrities on twitter might not be true for all individuals. While a medium such as twitter filters out many formal mediators, the informal nature does not give this illusion of being close to all.

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