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Wednesday, July 29 • 10:46 - 12:15
"Viral video marketing campaigns in a social media ecosystem: the rise of ephemeral online communities"

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Authors: Antonios Kaniadakis and Christos Karpasitis

Social media (social networking sites, blogs, content communities etc) constitute the current “face” of the Internet. Our state of knowledge on social media engagement and participation, however, appears quite fragmented (Bechmann & Lomborg, 2012). This creates inconsistencies in our understanding of online agency, especially in a social media context. To address this problem, we suggest a shift away from traditional distinctions (i.e. producers-consumers, designers-users, creators-audiences, individuals-organisations) that currently dominate studies on social media and instead approach social media as an “ecosystem” (Hanna et al, 2011; Kallinikos & Mariategui, 2011). Such a shift, we argue, creates a broader analytical scope for a more complete theorisation of social media user engagement and participation. 

The main objective of this study is to explore the mechanisms and social, cultural and economic forces that mobilize and “perform” (Callon, 2007) the social media ecosystem. As a more specific empirical context, we look at viral video marketing campaigns and trying to collect new evidence that would help us understand what is their role in engaging and performing the social media ecosystem. In addition, we ask in what ways are viral video marketing campaigns helping us understand online agency and social media engagement and participation? 

The methods used for this study fall under the umbrella of what may be understood as online or digital ethnography (Hine, 2000; Kozinets, 2002). Our analysis focuses on specific viral video marketing campaigns in an effort to account for the social, cultural and economic context around social media use and provide an interpretive context for our data. Specific data collection techniques include: monitoring social media conversations (i.e user comments under videos) as well as, the broader social and cultural activity around marketing campaigns in multiple social media platforms (blogs, facebook, twitter, etc). Our investigation focuses on two campaigns: the First Kiss by WREN studios and Monty the Penguin by John Lewis. 

Initial results point to an understanding of viral video marketing campaigns as temporal socio-cultural and economic phenomena. Their form, characteristics and life-cycle depend on the establishment - by social media users - of “meaningful associations” between the contents of the specific campaign (i.e. contents of a video) and multiple, overlapping cultural contexts, belief systems, as well as, with concurrently unfolding circumstances. 
Because of the temporality of the phenomenon, user participation and engagement in viral video marketing campaigns is organised around what we call “ephemeral online communities”, which work towards shaping the meaning(s) and outcome(s) of a campaign. 
In regards to agency, this research has implications for both what we may have traditionally understood as two distinct categories of actors: a) the campaigners (i.e. companies advertising their products, media and advertising companies etc) and b) the audiences targeted by the campaigns (i.e. the critical mass of potential consumers). More specifically, this research suggests that in a social media context, there is a blurring of the boundaries between these two types. As a result, there is also a blurring of the purpose and objective of the campaign and the interests/agendas of the agents involved. 

Future Work: 
Ephemeral communities around viral video marketing campaigns challenge more traditional understandings of online agency, participation and engagement. Future studies of the social media ecosystem should aim to strengthen the conceptual, theoretical and methodological toolkit of social media researchers in their efforts to re-define the field.
Bechmann, A. & Lomborg, S. (2012), “Mapping actor roles in social media: different perspectives on value creation in theories of user participation”, New Media & Society, 15(5): 765-781 
Callon, M. (2007), “What does it mean to say that economics is performative?” In D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa, & L. Siu (Eds.), Do economists make markets? On the performativity of Economics (pp. 311-357). Princeton University Press. 
Hanna, R., Rohm, A., Crittenden, V., L., (2011), “We’re all connected: The power of social media ecosystem”, Business Horizons 54 (pp. 265-273). 
Hine, C. (2000), Virtual Ethnography, SAGE Publications Ltd. 
Kallinikos, J. & Mariátegui, J.C. (2011) Video as Digital Object: Production and Distribution of Video Content in the Internet Media Ecosystem, The Information Society: An International Journal, 27:5, 281-294 
Kozinets, R. V. (2002), “The Field Behind the Screen: Using Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing Research, 39: 61-72 

avatar for Antonios Kaniadakis

Antonios Kaniadakis

Lecturer(Assistant Prof), Queen Mary, University of London

Wednesday July 29, 2015 10:46 - 12:15
(9th Floor) TRS 3-176 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

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