How has the social media changed consumers over past 10 years and how can marketers best adapt?

Written by Weijun Yin



Social media has rapidly become one of the essential component parts of hundreds of millions of Internet users' life around the world. Marketers put more and more focus on virtual world especially social media when it is beginning. Internet users can use social media site to exchange shopping experiences and share information with other consumers. Companies’ marketers could use different categories of social media like picture, video to introduce their brands, products and service in order to engage new consumers and hold consumers' loyalty. The author use a case of Lenovo company as example to understand the changes occurred on consumers by social media and how can the marketers adapt it.


During past 10 years, an increasing popularity regards internet as their part of life, and internet also bring an incredible changes to the consumers as well (Eisenbeiss, Blechschmidt, Backhaus & Freund, 2011). Consumers started purchasing goods by means of internet instead of the normal purchasing. Internet supports image which consumers cannot dream it at 10 years ago. Consumers can buy most categories from the online store now, and they can gather information to compare the price between online and physical stores to make a sensible buying decision. Also, internet also brings much convenience to the consumers. They can just set on the chair to watch the screen of computer and buy what they want or need, at the same time they could have a cup of coffee instead of going outside with annoying weather. As shown in consumers went to the shopping mall to buy new clothes, pants, and shoes to prepare and celebrate the New Year coming soon at 10 years ago in China. Now the situation had been changed a lot, younger consumers bought new dresses on the internet, and they didn't desire to come to physical store because most of them were busy.

Hindmarsh, Heath and Fraser (2006) supported a broad concept for Virtual World (VW) as a virtual place to communicate, cooperate and collaborate by users the same as in the real world. Internet not only brings online shopping for consumers, but also it presents social media to the people. During past 10 years, social media has rapidly become one of the essential component parts of hundreds of millions of Internet users' life around the world. (Akar & Topcu, 2011) Marketers put more and more focus on virtual world especially social media when it is beginning. It caused that an amount of firms engage in virtual worlds, including Adidas, American Apparel, Dell, Disney, IBM, Nike, MTV, etc. Most international companies joined this party and desired to own more marketing share by using social media (Belisle and Bodur, 2010). This article is aim to provide an analysis for the social media based on a case research, in order to understand how has the social media changed consumers over the past 10 years and how can marketers best adapt.  


Theoretical framework  

Social Media: Web 2.0 

Social media is new kind of Internet by means of new types of online content, applications, and services. Web 2.0 is essential component to be understood in order to stand social media. (Akar & Topcu, 2011)

Web 2.0 is boosted Internet technologies and applications, including blogs, wikis, social networks, mashups, and information tags (Akar & Topcu, 2011). The mainly differences between the traditional web and web 2.0 is that the users created the content, and the internet users collaborated to develop Internet technologies and created applications (Lai and Turban, 2008). Web 2.0 also can be regarded as social software, social computing, participative Web, and user generated content (Akar & Topcu, 2011). Akar & Topcu (2011) showed that user actions and user generated content play a key role at web 2.0. However, there is some differences between web 2.0 and social media. In this context, it is necessary to interpret social media and its range as well.

The concept of social media needs to be based on users generated content. Social media is one of the forms of Web-based applications, which is created by building communities, and sharing information among internet users. Many types social media have been presented, for examples, social networks (such as Facebook and MySpace), photo sharing sites (such as Flickr and Photobucket), online communities, microblogging tools (such as Twitter), social tagging (such as Digg), newsreaders (such as NetVibes and Google Reader), and video creating and sharing services (such as Oic, Seesmic, YouTube and Ustream) (Akar & Topcu, 2011). Bemard Martin who is one of the famous people in Rapid Production Marketing believes that one of the best social media tool for an industrial distributor is YouTube (Armelli & Villanueva, 2011).


Online Consumers and Online Communication

With the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies, an increasing of popularity of consumers make buying decision online, which had a great influence by electronic commerce (Akar & Topcu, 2011). Online consumers can be defined as people who gather information from the Internet and make product choices online (Akar & Topcu, 2011). Cheung et al. (2009) said that consumers can share their shopping experiences with other consumers on the Internet by using social network. Online consumers also created product information from their shopping experiences and spread this information via internet, which has been called electronic word-of-mouth. Electronic word-of-mouth is the most powerful channel at dominating state to influences consumers to make buying decision on the Web (Cheung, lee & Thadani, 2009).

Electronic word-of-mouth as one of the communicating ways can come up in many forms, for instance, Web-based opinion platforms, discussion forums, boycott Web sites, new groups, posted reviews, mailbags, electronic mailing lists, personal e-mail, chatrooms, instant messaging, consumer rating Web sites or forums, blogs, social networking Web site, and individual Web sites (Akar & Topcu, 2011). Online Consumers owned electronic word-of-mouth and used it as online communication.


Social Media-Marketing 

The process of permitting people to show off their own Web sites, products, or services via online social channels to communicate in a wide virtual world by individually is called social media marketing (Weinberg, 2009). Social media is different with traditional advertising channels. In modern society, social media brings a great impact on most international companies, and the companies increased their investigation on social media site in order to present their products and services for the purpose of engaging more consumers. Akar & Topcu (2011) presented that social media sites are beneficial for creating social networks and for swapping thoughts and information.

According to Akar and Topcu (2011), social media marketing composed by different dialogs. Brands link with customers, customers link to the brands, and customers communicate with each other. This is a new situation that couldn't occur before Web 2.0. User generated is mainly point for social media marketing, and most of the content and connections are made by users. Mangold and Faulds (2009) said that social media marketing is the most effective marketplace of communication for consumers to consumers. Online consumers are important for marketers because they are trying to spread the new products to other consumers, which seems to be a snowball (Blackshaw and Nazzaro, 2006).


Case Background- Lenovo

Lenovo is the one of the biggest company of personal computer manufacturer in the world. Lenovo was built in 1984 with 200,000RMB (US$25,000) in a guard house in China. Until 2006, Lenovo make an acquisition with IBM's personal computer department, and then it become the famous brand and company by known of the world. Lenovo always set innovation as the core value of the company, which lead the personal technology around world. 

Today, Lenovo employee more than 46,000 people around world, and sold its products and services in more than 60 countries. Lenovo's headquarter located in Beijing which is capital of China.

 Lenovo use many different social media to spread their products and services (such as Blog, Facebook, and official website). Social media strategy at Lenovo is to used well-known personalities of the targeted country to gain substantial credibility fairly quickly. Nowadays, social media channel has become one of the effective ways to engage the new consumers and hold the consumers' loyalty by Lenovo.

Lenovo treats their online consumers as god, and supports many ways to let consumers exchange information and shopping experiences to the consumers (such as online consumers can communicate with each other at Blog and Facebook, and also consumers can communicate with Lenovo via E-mail, Blog and Facebook (

Lenovo only used no more than 30years to be the world's leader in personal computer industry and mobile area. It must be worth to know how the Lenovo used social media as their tool to introduce their products and services to grow up rapidly at recent 10years.



Lenovo has been presented two aspects in social media sites. Firstly, Lenovo used social media in many years to show their brand, products, and services by means of advertising. Lenovo send their brand, products, and services on YouTube and Facebook in order to keep customers' loyalty and engage new consumers. As Armelli & Villanueva (2011) mentioned that YouTube has become one of the best social media tool for an industrial distributor (Lenovo). Lenovo spend more focus on official website to put all information on website to make things convenient for the customers. From advertising site, social media channel has been stated more important than traditional media channel. What is more, marketers of Lenovo may have a process to understand the power of social media site. During these years, most companies owned their social media channel, it caused that company have to follow and race to control social media site. Now, Lenovo is doing same things as other companies to sale promote brands, products, and services. At least, Lenovo used most of social media as their advertising channel to spread brands.

Secondly, for online consumers site, consumers can gather information from official website and other different online channel. Consumers can communicate with consumer as well at social media as Akar and Topcu (2011) mentioned users communicate in communities at Web-based. In order to engage consumers, Lenovo build official website as same as physical store. Consumers can find all information which they need. Consumers also talk brand on Blog and Facebook to discuss their shopping experiences and share their buying process. Consumers can find support and guild line on the website, then following the buying instructions to buy the goods as easy as possible. If consumers had any after-sale problems, they can contact Lenovo on the web or sending E-mail as well. After buying behavior, consumers easy communicate other consumers on the Blog, Facebook or etc. It made a complete service chain on the internet.

At least, Lenovo sets their online marketing strategy by following the footsteps of time. Marketers have to renew their knowledge as quick as possible, which has been done by Lenovo. Lenovo voted to set innovation and benefits of consumers as core value, which is the main target for the marketers to adapt new century by using social media. Additionally, marketers also have been changing their marketing strategy from offline to online, and using multiple social media channel to expend their marketing share.



Social media changes consumers to a new direction during past 10 years that it's impossible to image at before. Firstly, social media engage new consumers in every corner around world, and this situation didn't take place in the past. With the Internet users increasing, social media brings amount of advantage for the companies. In order to adapt new century, companies and marketers have to change their marketing strategies to be flexible to the consumers. Marketers pay attention to the social media site, which will lead the companies racing to the success in the future, because consumers cannot leave the Internet and social media at nowadays.

Online consumers based on the Internet to communicate with brands or consumers, which caused that companies may have to be further optimized their Internet resource. Paying attention to social media in the future may become main trend, and the social media war will come soon.



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