Jacobson, Gruzd & Hernandez-Garcia. (2019). Social media marketing: Who is watching the watchers? Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.

[Download an open access pre-print copy]  

Just because social media data is “public” does not mean that people do not have concerns and discomfort with third-parties—like marketers—using their data.  A recent publication in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services analyzed consumers’ comfort with marketers using their publicly available social media data.

The authors, Jenna Jacobson, Anatoliy Gruzd, and Ángel Hernández-García, focused on three common functions of using social media data for marketing:

  1. extracting insights via opinion mining (pulling information)
  2. delivering information via targeted advertising (pushing information)
  3. communicating via customer relations with new or existing customers (exchanging information)

Drawing from a census-balanced sample of 1500 Canadians, the research focused on online adults (n=751) who have at least one public social media account. The research explores the drivers of marketing comfort and the relation between information privacy concerns, uses and gratifications, self-disclosure practices, and consumers’ comfort with marketers using their publicly available social media data.

The research introduces a new construct, marketing comfort, to address the link between marketing ethics and consumer comfort.

Marketing comfort refers to an individual’s comfort with the use of information posted publicly on social media for targeted advertising, customer relations, and opinion mining” (Jacobson, Gruzd, & Hernández-García, 2019)

The research found that the majority of people are not comfortable with marketers using their publicly available social media data as summarized in the following chart:

[easy_chart chart_id=’15307′]

The three hypotheses were supported, which suggests that individuals are actively assessing the risks and benefits when forming their attitudes towards the practice of marketers using the public’s social media data.

  • H1. Consumers’ perceived risks of using social media have a negative relation with the comfort with marketers using their publicly available social media data.
  • H2. Consumers’ perceived benefits of using social media have a positive relation with the comfort with marketers using their publicly available social media data.
  • H3. Consumers’ self-disclosure practices on social media have a positive relation with the comfort with marketers using their publicly available social media data.

Targeted advertising was the strongest contributing element to marketing comfort as consumers may have more experience with targeted ads. There is a need for further consumer education, but also for third parties to held to higher standards.

Theoretically, the research extends the applicability of Petronio’s (2002) communication privacy management theory to publicly available social media data.

Practically, it is important that consumers trust marketers’ digital practices. While there is currently a lack of professional norms regarding the use of social media data across professions, the research can inform the evaluation of ethical marketing practices.

To learn more about the research project visit: https://socialmediadata.org/

Cite this article: Jacobson, J., Gruzd, A., Hernández-García, Á. (2019). Social media marketing: Who is watching the watchers? Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2019.03.001

Social media marketing: Who is watching the watchers? [New Study]
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