24 — The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications • Vol. 1, No. 1 • Winter 2010
Privacy and Perceptions:
How Facebook Advertising Affects its Users
Katherine K. Roberts*
This research paper details a study of Facebook users and their perception of advertising on the site. Characteristics such as privacy, micro targeting, Facebook use, awareness, and reactions, were all important factors that influenced these responses. The objective of this study was to see how undergraduate students from four colleges across the country view Facebook and its advertisers. The results indicated that student reactions did not overwhelmingly lean in a particular direction: Individual users perceive the site differently, and this determination directly correlates with the uses and gratification theory.
Facebook is a social networking site (SNS), which provides users with a platform to create a personal profile page, add ‘friends’, and send messages. Since the company was founded in 2004, it has become the top ranked social networking site (Kazeniac, 2009). According to Facebook Statistics (2009), there are over 300 million current active users (i.e. users that have logged-on in the past 30 days). Facebook users have claimed the site a “necessity, along the lines of oxygen, water, and food” (Verna, 2009). For many people, visiting Facebook has become an integral part of their daily lives, and has even caused some to have an unhealthy obsession with the site. According to Elizabeth Cohen (2009), a CNN medical correspondent, therapists are seeing more and more “Facebook addicts,” who become compulsive Facebook users to the point where the site interferes with relationships, jobs, and normal daily life. The site has transformed social communication in the 21st century, with Facebook and other SNS reaching hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
Features and Advertising
Facebook continues to add new features and developments on a consistent basis. Since it is free to create an account, Facebook has to generate its revenue elsewhere, through a venue such as advertising. Companies can utilize Facebook’s features to reach their audiences in different ways. Gangadharbatla (2009) states that SNS are changing the way advertisers reach consumers, and that these changes are transforming * Keywords: privacy, Facebook, corporate advertising, perception of ads, effective advertising. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Privacy and Perceptions: How Facebook Advertising Affects Its Users by Katherine Roberts — 25 online advertising all together. There are a variety of ways to use Facebook, and the different features allow creativity and experimentation in advertising. For instance, when users log-on, they are taken to a homepage called a “News Feed” which highlights recent activities from other users. Each Facebook account also includes a personal profile page, a “Wall” to write public messages to other users, Facebook-generated applications (photos, events, groups, video, notes, and links), and an inbox to write private messages to other users. The site also allows users to add optional features called Platform applications to connect in new ways. According to Facebook’s statistics (2009), more than 70% of Facebook users utilize Platform applications on a monthly basis. Since these Platforms are optional, it is significant that users are seeking out additional Facebook features and uses for the site. The purpose of Facebook has shifted, as the continued popularity of added features proves that its users are looking for more than just casual networking with friends. A few of the currently popular Platform applications include games, fan pages, and gifts. Socialnetwork gaming company Zynga has dominated the site with applications such as FarmVille, Café World, and Mafia Wars. Zynga has over 126 million monthly active users, making it the...
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