In marketing, it is vital to understand your target audience. So given the growth of Internet use and the increasing importance of online advertising, we need to consider the unique qualities of online communities. The audience we are targeting remains the same – but are their expectations of how we interact with them in an online environment different to a physical environment? While viral and targeted advertising through online and particularly social media already form a large part of today’s marketing strategies, a more thorough understanding of the unique qualities of online culture will make our advertising more effective.
So is there a unique online culture? According to Deuze in his article, ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’, there is. Here are his three 3 key characteristics of online culture:
Participation – Dueze argues that in the online community people want to have control over their media. This can be seen in the way people consume media online. For instance, on YouTube the user has constant control over what video they watch and when. Dueze also argues that consumers want to be active participants in the production of the media they consume. This is exemplified by the spread of fan fiction online and the rise of user created modifications, or mods, in online games. The rise of social networking has also facilitated this cultural shift toward participation online, as it not only transforms user into prosumer, but also places them at the centre of their own online experience.
As advertisers, we need to use this culture of participation to encourage our target audience to become involved with our products. This could be through competitions, soliciting comments and suggestions to improve services or to suggest new products, or by allowing consumers to add their own story to the brand. For instance, in the hotel industry many companies are now encouraging feedback online as a way of promoting continued improvement and encouraging users to share their experiences with others via social media. Many are also offering prizes for the best travel stories. Above all, it is important to include a call to action, something that will implore the audience member to act – whether it’s a competition, some great photos, or an entertaining video. If you have the time, this video does a great job of explaining participation from an advertising perspective:
Remediation – According to Deuze, while new media seeks to appose itself to old media as an alternative, the conventions of the new medium are simultaneously incorporated as the basis for its model of operation. For instance, blogging is a unique activity with its own attributes, such as an emphasis on inclusive dialogues with other bloggers through cross-linking and an emphasis on ongoing dialogues with readers through a comments section (a practice traditional media organisations themselves have now incorporated). However, many bloggers still regard journalistic standards such as transparency/objectivity and protection of sources.
Therefore, just because online advertising requires a new approach doesn’t mean that many traditional advertising principals wont apply. Advertising has always needed to adapt to suit new media technologies – from print to radio to television to internet/multimedia – as this video succinctly illustrates:
Advertising will still be about selecting an appropriate target market and appealing to their needs and desires. However, it may involve a lot more two-way communication about which needs and desires customers want from their favourite brands to fulfil.
Dueze says that bricolage and co-creatiion (bringing together ideas from multiple sources), is considered the normal way of doing things online. This can be seen in the creation of knowledge communities online such as fan forums. It can also be seen in the use of cross-linking between sites, directing users to similar content.
In advertising, it can also be seen in campaigns that bring together multiple mediums such as online, print and TV, as well as diverse platforms such as competitions, commercials, live web-chats and blogs to market their product. Advertisers can also use bricolage to further enhance the consumer participation online by incorporating customer-generated material in their advertising. (For a good example of this, see Daft Punk’s latest album launch).
Having explored the key aspects of online culture, we can see that many advertisers are already taking advantage using the unique features of new media. However, many still get it wrong and are still reluctant to fully embrace new online advertising models. Advertisers that create successful online advertising campaigns will be those that take advantage of the unique opportunities of online culture to come up with new and creative ways of engaging their audience.
 Deuze, M (2006), ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’, The information Society, VOl.22, pp.63-75.
- The Top 10 Online Advertising Questions to Ask Yourself (staples.com)
- audience participation in the Internet-based news environment (maichimai2611.wordpress.com)
- 7 Reasons to Embrace Online Culture (socialgusto.wordpress.com)