Social media and adolescents: an analysis of ambivalent consequences and consumption strategies

Renato Hübner Barcelos, Carlos Alberto Vargas Rossi


Today’s young people continue to embrace social media as a means of achieving connectedness and managing relationships with their friends. However, the development of marketing initiatives aimed at this demographic group has often been hindered by a limited understanding of how young people actually differentiate between the media they use and of the effects which social media have on their lives. This limitation is due in part to a lack in the existing literature of accounts from adolescents themselves about their habits, and to a frequently paternalistic view of the impact of social media (Cook, 2008; Mason et al., 2011). The present paper aims to make up for this shortcoming, proceeding from the assumption that social media present a number of technological paradoxes (Mick and Fournier, 1998), and that as a result young people develop behavioral strategies both to deal with the ambivalent consequences of their use and at the same time to derive desired benefits. Taking as its starting point an analysis of focal groups and in-depth interviews with 50 adolescents, the paper proposes a conceptual model of positive and negative dualities of social media use by young people, these dualities being balanced by four media selection and differentiation behaviors. These behaviors enable adolescents to derive maximum benefit from social media while minimizing the effort required to use them. In conclusion, the paper discusses the marketing implications of these behavioral strategies and argues for their relevance to the planning of relationship marketing and communication initiatives by businesses targeting young people through social media.

Keywords: adolescents, marketing, social media.

ISSN: 1984-8196 - Best viewed in Mozilla Firefox

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