Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Web 2.0, Social Networks and E-Commerce as Marketing Tools

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Web 2.0, Social Networks and E-Commerce as Marketing Tools

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Web 2.0 applications, particularly online social networks, have made a remarkable appearance in the last decade. Given the spectacular number of users in such networks, many businesses are using them as marketing tools. The previous is important since most Web 2.0 applications offer their services for free, relying on advertisement revenue to generate income [11]. This situation has motivated the operators of the major online social networks to develop and offer marketing services for which businesses are willing to pay, allowing them to generate revenue to cover their expenses, and in this way provide their core services free to users.

Nevertheless, Web 2.0 has evolved as a fuzzy concept. According to Clarke, "the Web 2.0 movement is diffuse, and does not permit simple definition" [10] p. 40. Using Web 2.0 applications for e-marketing therefore requires clarification to determine with precision their purpose and scope. This is essential to put such applications in a clear perspective with regards to e-commerce, which currently is a fundamental e-marketing tool.

The objective of this paper is to present the potential of Web 2.0 applications, mainly online social networks, as marketing tools, and to compare and contrast them with e-commerce. To achieve this aim, we conducted a literature survey, first to explain Web 2.0 and online social networks, second to understand how they can be used in marketing, and last to clarify how they relate to e-commerce.

We conclude based on this research that, from a technological point of view, Web 2.0 is simply an evolutionary process. Yet from a social stand point, it can be considered a true revolution. Faithful to its roots, Web 2.0 favors more the creation of social networks aimed at establishing and maintaining social relationships than to promoting business sales, as e-commerce does. However, this situation is likely to change.

To explain this change, we propose two different marketing perspectives for online social networks. The first one, to which we referred to as the market perspective, considers such networks simply as collections of individuals which make a market. As Dooley et al. [15] presents, this perspective prevails in Web 2.0 marketing applications. In this perspective, online social networks and e-commerce are complementary e-marketing tools.

In the second perspective, denoted as community perspective, online social networks are seen less as a market and more as a virtual community, in which the individuals share common interests. As it is the case with communities, a seller has little influence in an online social network and the network's members could be resentful if the seller tries to seek such influence [41]. In this perspective, the borderlines between social networks and e-commerce become blurred, and an integration of these two technologies is likely to occur.

This paper is organized in six sections. Section 2 aims to clarify the core concepts of Web 2.0, based on the literature on this topic. Online social networks, the best examples of sites developed using Web 2.0 tools today, are discussed in Section 3. Section 4 discusses how online social networks can be used as marketing tools. Leaving aside the perspective of groupware, which is commonly considered as an extension of the online social networks in businesses, the previously mentioned marketing and community perspectives are presented in this section. Finally, section 5 compares and contrasts online social networks and e-commerce as strategic elements for marketing and section 6 presents conclusions and recommendations for e-commerce researchers.

2 What is Web 2.0?

The term Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci [14] and used in the first Web 2.0 conference held in 2004 by Dale Dougherty of O'Reilly Media, who defined it as a second generation of technology development and web design [39].

Turban et al. refer to Web 2.0 as "a popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, RSS and social references" [54] p. …

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