Mobile Social Networks: Communication and Marketing Perspectives

Mobile Social Networks: Communication and Marketing Perspectives

Kaan Varnali (Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1939-5.ch014
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Social networks are migrating to mobile. Mobile social networks combine community-level interactivity with mobile communications and location-awareness, and hence represent a novel phenomenon with unique properties. Due to the growing business potential of this new trend and its increasing impact on the realm of communications, mobile social networks started to draw scholars’ attention. Researchers in computer-mediated-communication have been investigating the phenomenon from a variety of angles, yet marketing literature is falling behind. This chapter aims to review existing academic knowledge on mobile social networks and provide a conceptual framework to study and understand this complex, emergent phenomenon and discuss related future research avenues.
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Defining Mobile Social Networks

Social network sites and mobile communications each have their own uniquely powerful characteristics. A social network consists of a set of users and the relations defined on them (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). With the emergence of social network sites, social networks have migrated to the cyberspace. Boyd and Ellison (2008) define a “social network site” as

“web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” (p. 210)

Most of these sites support the maintenance of pre-existing social connections, others help strangers to establish relationships based on their shared interests. A study by Lenhart (2009) have revealed approximately 90 percent of social network site participants join these sites to stay in touch with friends, while only half of them use their profiles to meet new friends. In communication literature, these interpersonal relationships within social networks are also called ties. The strength of an interpersonal tie (i.e. strong, weak, or absent) is a linear combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy, and the reciprocal services which characterize each tie (Granovetter, 1973). Although a great majority of connections in social networking sites are people who are personally known by the profile owner, many of them are absent or weak-ties (e.g., old friends, distant relatives, barely known colleagues), such that the intimacy, emotional intensity and the amount of time spent together is relatively low.

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