Social Media and Consumption: Its Role in Exploitation and Empowering Consumers
Social media are the tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other (Tuten, 2018). In recent years, it has brought a great impact on people’s lives. Some of the contributing factors to the growth and developmen tof social media and its impact on people has been due to the growth and innovation associated with technology and software in recent times. Additionally, the impact of COVID-19 on people’s life cannot be ignored. COVID-19 has altered the way people live, study, and work, making people more reliant on social media and increasing its usage amongst population. With the social distancing and zero contact requirements, social media has greatly facilitated online shopping for consumers. To a certain extent, social media has had positive impacts. However, despite its ability to empower consumers to shop more conveniently and save time, it has also brought about many hidden negative consumption effects including addiction, cyberbullying, privacy concerns, and making people prone to hacking. Therefore, social media is both empowering and exploiting for consumers in a way that it enables growth and opportunities while also exposing them to negative outcomes. The essay will demonstrate how social media empowers and exploits consumers.
The Empoworing Function of Social Media to Consumers
More realization of products
Social media allows customers to choose a wide range of products by providing information and prices when they need to buy products. It enables comparison of product on the basis of quality and other measures that make sense to the customer. Social media allows consumers to see product reviews and more instant reference information when buying products. The consumer generated reviews of products and other benefits create a community online that helps to avoid poor-quality products and merchants (Iankova et al., 2019). Algorithms used in social media allows customers to have more choices when choosing and purchasing products (Bergström & Jervelycke Belfrage, 2018). Because social apps are open to everyone, it’s easier for customers to get information from social apps and communicate directly with them. For example, Instagram bloggers send advertisement posts with product pictures. If someone buys and comments, it is easier to chat with them to learn more about the product. As a result, social media empowers customers to know more about buying a product in the consumer decision making process, giving a platform to learn more about a product.
Reduction of Cost
Social media reduces the cost of time, allowing one to directly understand the product without actually physically seeing it. This allows people to buy goods from all over the world at the comfort of their homes. For example, Tmall International’s overseas direct shopping allows consumers to buy beauty products online. In China, most of the products that could only be purchased by agents in the past can now be purchased through online shopping platforms. By eliminating the role of the middlemen, social meia has facilitated a reduction in cost of acquiring products. High end consumers who have a busy lifestyle, for instance, lack time for physical shoping and now social media allows them a platform to shop all year round by placing orders directly online and buying their favorite brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior or Haute Couture dresses without leaving their home. Overall, the costs linked to middlemen has been eliminated (Wibowo et al., 2020), leading to lower costs for the consumer to acquire a product.
Exploitation of Consumers on Social MediaUsing Big Data to Influence Purchasing Decision
When consumers use social media, social media will push a lot of product advertisements that meet the needs of consumers based on big data. After the advertisement is pushed 3-5 times, consumers will be more likely to have the desire to buy products. According to recent research study on advertisements (Chen & Lin, 2019), when a person sees the same advertisement 3-5 times, it will be easier for them to buy a product. It means that social media is implicitly exploiting consumers. Generally speaking, back-end big data is mainly divided into two categories to exploit customers. On the one hand, when consumers register an account on a social medium, they will need to fill in basic user information, and these background data include gender, age, location, mobile phone number, and so on, and some even need to fill in professional identity. This information will be used by social media and become the best weapon for accurately locating the products consumers may prefer (Alalwan, 2018). For example, Instagram will focus on some fashionable clothing prices based on the information that the user/consumer is a young woman in her 20s and she is a student. In another instance, an older working male, will see ads that focus on products that may appeal to such a group including famous brand watches, leather bags, and other products. In this way, consumers will always see their favorite products, which greatly improves consumers’ purchase of products that are advertised in these social media. This is exploitation using information available to third parties online.
Privacy Invasion and Use of Personal Information for Marketing
Social medis also stores and shares information available with third partoes. Social media platforms will also record the time each time a user browses a web page or video. It also looks at and shares the content of web searches, in order to link a third party seller to the user (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020). For example, a simple search for a bluetooth speaker on Facebook will lead to hundreds of automatic ads on one’s feeds relating to bluetooth speakers. Tis serves to show how privacy is limitedonline. In another example, if a user goes on Instagram browses dog videos or posts a lot of content relating to pets, the background big data will analyze whether they are likely to own a dog. The corresponding social media algorithm will push some advertisements for related products (Gong et al., 2018), such as pet food, pet clothing, and pet toys. In the end, consumers unknowingly see their favorite products, leading to excessive consumption. Such exploitative measures invade on personal privacy while promoting business for third party entities.
Social media is like a double-edged sword, which makes our life convenient but also hides many dangers. We need to put social media in perspective. Keep a rational consumption concept, and don’t blindly follow the trend to buy products you don’t need. Don’t waste too much time on social software, go out and embrace nature more, use social media moderately, and don’t indulge in social media.
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