The Social Squad A case study of success in social media marketing.

The Rise and Rise of Social Media

Yesterday, after a conversation with a fellow media student post-lecture, I made a point to catalogue how many hours I spent engaged in any sort of social media on my phone, computer and tablet. I don't consider myself hugely attached to any of my online profiles, so it came as a shock when I realised I was spending over 2 hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. This is however, fairly typical of my age demographic in Australia where the median hours per week spent on social media is approximately 16, or 2.29 hours per day.

While the rise of social media usage is hardly a novel narrative anymore, the capacity of these platforms as a means of marketing is still relatively underused (Grewal, Levy, Mathews, Harrigan & Bucic, 2014). Marketing professionals are increasingly attempting to harness the potential for product placement, audience engagement, and brand expansion with varying levels of success. Scrolling through my own Facebook feed, yields multiple examples; from paid advertisements for shopping websites I frequent, to sponsored posts about youtube personalities. Both of these represent a strategic move by a marketing professional, to attempt to capture and hold my attention amongst a sea of similar content. Marketers have always had to compete for 'eyeball time', however with the paradigm shift brought about by the advent of social media, marketing has entered a whole new dimension (Grewal et al., 2014).

Produsers and Participatory Culture: How Marvel sells Emotion

One of the more unconventional new ways that marketers can interact with their target audience is through the rise of participatory culture. No longer just the realm of hard-core fanatics, participatory culture has seen cosplay, fan-fiction, conventions and general speculation become a cultural norm for most media with any kind of following (De Kosnik, 2013). Though there are a few factors involved in this cultural shift, the most overt is the explosion of social media usage of the last decade . One of the most successful marketing ventures to make use of this shift in thinking, is the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios.

The kind of hype that surrounds any new product release from Marvel is difficult to overstate, and their panels at conventions frequently have people camping out over night just to be the first to see the latest offering. As a future marketing professional, to achieve even 1/100th of that kind of brand loyalty would be an achievement you could retire on. It is difficult to dissect exactly what makes the brand so successful, but one of the marketing tactics that is clear is their embrace of produsers and participatory culture (De Kosnik, 2013) . Each product they release is accompanied by countless breakdowns, interpretations and explanations by online print media, youtubers and other social media influencers. By encouraging people to take the media and make it their own, Marvel is able to capitalize on a kind of crowd-sourced content that other brands can only dream of (De Kosnik, 2013; Van Dijck, 2013), while strengthening the emotional connection between audience and product. This ted talk, by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame, highlights and explains that deep bond between creator, consumer and produser.

The Kardashians and the New Royalty of Ephemeral Media

According to Bayer, Ellison, Schoenebeck & Falk, 'Ephemeral social media [are] platforms that display shared content for a limited period of time' and are noted as '[having] become a prominent component of the social ecosystem' (2015). Along with virtual reality media, this is the latest frontier for marketers, and presents challenges and advantages different to any other (Bayer et al., 2015); . Having consistently been an 'early adopter' of new technology my whole life, I find it easy to imagine creating an entire advertising campaign that is released solely through this kind of non-permanent means. And indeed, there are brands who are committing to this kind of marketing already.

Snapchat and instagram stories are ten second shorts that users are able to upload, which marketers can then select to feature on the brands own channel or 'story'. Marketers on both platforms also often host 'takeovers' where celebrities post on behalf of the brand account, usually over limited time period. Relinquishing control of the brand's carefully constructed image, may seem risky and counterintuitive, however these 'takeovers' enable marketers (and celebrities) to reach entirely new audiences, without diversifying or alienating their current consumers - providing of course, that there is enough similarities between the two (Bergström & Bäckman, 2013; Octos, 2016).

An example of one such takeover, where celebrity model Gigi Hadid posted dozens of snaps on the Tommy Hilfiger story as part of her campaign with the brand. Picture screenshotted from TommyHilfiger Snapchat Story, May 2, 2016.

This kind of collaboration on this scale, is entirely due to the media through which the target audience engages; as this video below demonstrates, with so much advertising now present in the online world, authenticity - or the illusion of it - is a prized commodity.

As an avid consumer of online content such as youtube, I consider myself fairly savvy when it comes to detecting and remaining critical of branded content. However, I was surprised how despite studying both Media and Marketing, I was susceptible to branded content from youtubers I subscribe to. I think the video by vox above really does sum it up, by saying 'it feels like a recommendation from a friend', and this kind of parasocial relationship is being increasingly used as a requisite tool by social media Marketers (Edwards, 2012; Feinman, 2012). Marketing through this kind of adroit means, has changed the face of advertising significantly , and most traditional marketing tactics have been shown to not always translate especially well to online audiences (Bayer et al., 2015; Grewal et al., 2014). So the medium is moulding the media, and the end result is marketing professionals needing greater proficiency in communicating through this whole new forum (Grewal et al., 2014)

Social Media as a Dictator of change

Marketing is inherently dictated by cultural trends, and with social media now a widely accepted societal norm, marketing has changed to reflect that. From the encouragement of produsers, and participation beyond basic consumption; through to the illusion of intimacy through parasocial relationships as a means to subvert branded content, and collaborations on a scale never before seen. It becomes increasingly clear that very few marketing professionals will have the luxury of being uneducated when it comes to technological advances, particularly in social media trends. As a future marketing and media graduate, I can only hope to learn from the success stories of social media marketing, and attempt to continue evolving as social media does around me.

Jennifer Haig, n9509691 KCB206


Bayer, J., Ellison, N., Schoenebeck, S. & Falk, E. (2015). Sharing the small moments: ephemeral social interaction on Snapchat. Information, Communication and Society, 19 (7), Retrieved from

Bergström, T., & Bäckman, L. (2013). Marketing and PR in Social Media : How the utilization of Instagram builds and maintains customer relationships (Dissertation). Retrieved from

De Kosnik, A. (2013). Fandom as free labour. In T. Scholz (Eds.), The internet as a playground and as a factory (pp 98 – 111). New York, NY: Routledge.

Edwards, L. (2012). Transmedia Storytelling, Corporate Synergy, and Audience Expression. Global Media Journal, 12 (2). Retreived from

Feinman, L., (2012). Celebrity Endorsements in Non-Traditional Advertising: How the FTC Regulations Fail to Keep Up with the Kardashians. Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, 22 (1). Retrieved from

Grewal, D., Levy, M., Mathews, S., Harrigan, P. & Bucic, T. (2014). Marketing. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Irwin

Octos, N. (2016, April 11). Why advertisers simply cannot ignore Snapchat any longer, Business Insider. Retrieved from

Van Dijck, J. (2013). Culture of Connectivity. Retrieved from

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Jennifer Haig


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