Audience theory has been in existence since the emergence of mass communication/media studies. In fact, the best way to measure the success of any message is to gather audience feedback. However, in traditional advertising, the audience is simply the group of individuals that advertisers are interested in speaking to. They can be grouped or segmented by demographic and psychographic properties. However, in the social media world, audiences share connectedness and a sense of community among online users (Gangadharbatia, 2012). Audiences on social media usually organize themselves into clicks and groups, which can be an advantage for advertisers in segmenting and identifying potential target market.
Another distinction in social media audience, from their traditional counterparts, is the erasure of boundaries – both time and space. When considering communication strategies for the social media platforms, advertisers and marketers should pay attention to the limitation and opportunities for conversations in the open webspace.
Similar to audience theory, several message theories exist that explain how information propagates in a traditional media context. The two-step flow model of communication and opinion leadership are examples of these. However, these concepts could be adapted to study online advertising. For social media “there are fewer or no gatekeepers, and the barriers to entry are relatively low” (Gangadharbatia, 2012). Hence, brands and organizations are forced to become more open and transparent. Even so, communication strategists should continue to explore ways to engage audience in their marketing plans. As technology makes it easier to create and share content, many creative strategies involve user-generated content and audience participation.
Erik Qualman (2009), author of Socialnomics, said that individuals no longer look for information; rather, information finds individual on social media (Gangadharbatia, 2012). This changes our traditional perception of how the message propagates through the channel – social media users have more control than traditional media users, and information presents itself in individuals based on different social contexts. [Note to self:] While collecting user perception of online/social advertising, it is important to remember its differences from traditional media message propagation and the actions it may incur.