Indeed, the increasing use of social media has dramatically changed the way how young consumers behave prior to their purchase decision and consumption. This is evident by the way social media (facebook, twitter and LinkedIn among others) have influenced young consumers such as children. Young consumers visit social media to satisfy either their need to socialised and spending time with other people or the need to make decisions to purchase certain products (Biagi 2011, p.39). A tension is created because of the unfulfilled need and the consumers seek ways to reduce this tension. This degree of arousal is called a drive and the specific path that a person chooses to perform a specific behaviour is influenced by a number of factors such as religion, ethnic, or rational background or experience (Biagi 2010, p.74). The final goal for the consumer is to enjoy the required products and reduce its tension.
Abraham Maslow recognised the complexity of motivation. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs proposes individual biogenic and psychogenic needs are structured hierarchically and each level specifies a certain motivation level. The theory suggests that humans satisfy their needs in a sequential order starting with physiological needs and going through safety needs, belongingness, esteem needs, and self actualisation needs (Gulford 2006, p.207). In this regard, social media salespersons and marketers perhaps should use this theory to segment their customers, especially young consumers in different markets, because one culture may value differentiating the different level of hierarchy of needs from some other.
Social media have content that affects the attitude and behaviours of young consumers in a number of ways. Young consumers are motivated and influenced indirectly and directly by powerful social media vehicles that include printed materials, sound recordings, televisions and even the internet. The effects of social media vary according to the age of the child as well as their stages of development. The young consumers are still developing in their cognitive capacity to be able to differentiate what is reality and what is fantasy. Hence, this makes them more susceptible to be influenced by the media. Adolescents on the other hand have violent fantasies as well as emotional problems, which may be incited by the media. This can be increased in the case whereby their peers and family seem to support the use of violence.
Certain characteristics of viewers such as social environments and social media content can have an influence on the degree on which they can cause aggression (Kilinger 2006, p. 54). Some avenues allow for this influence such as control of the social media use by young consumers, interpretation as well as parental supervision. However, it can be stated that there is no person who is entirely immune to the effects of social media.
The realistic actions that are displayed can have a much greater influence over young consumers and teenagers as compared to animated action. At an early age, movies, televisions, books and the internet have an influence on young consumers. As the young consumers, grow the influences of the social media keeps on increasing.
However, social media has a stereotype towards some people as well as some races. Most programmes for young consumers instil ideals in young consumers that some people are good while others are bad. Some are shown to be either bad or smart thus young consumers lean towards the stereotypes, which they see.
Young consumers and teenagers internalize the behaviour patterns of their primary role models hence those that grow up around positive influence will develop positively while those who grow up around negative influence will develop in a negative manner. Educational programmes are important since they can teach young consumers important things such as sports, reading, writing, art and cooking.
For example, there is a lot of advertisement in America. The nation has been stigmatized with over-consumption and this has led to the citizens to be referred to as self –indulgent. This has arisen majorly from the materialism kind of behaviour. This involves the devotion to material wealth at the expense of intellectual and spiritual values. Thus, many teens have been affected by the lives of celebrities, which are portrayed to be interested only in materialistic items. Young consumers are usually the targets of social media advertising since they are seen as the primary consumers of products at younger ages (Jepsen 2006, p.252).
Social media influence and motivate young consumers in many ways. For example, violent movies, computer games and video games may have adverse effects on young consumers. Young consumers and adults spend most of their time watching televisions hence this has a great impact on their lives. When young consumers view violent acts, it means that by the time they reach 18, they will have watched very many of them. This then results in violent behaviour in the youth. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has concluded that viewing social media violence can result in loss of empathy to victims, emotional anesthetization to violence, distress as well as the view that violence can be acceptable as a means of solving problems (De Valck, Van Bruggen & Wierenga 2009, p.192). Young consumers are most likely to adopt the behaviour of the character that is depicted as a hero and they are less likely to imitate the behaviour of an actor that is portrayed as weak or punished.
There has been a relationship between online social violent video games and its influence on young consumers (De Valck, Van Bruggen & Wierenga 2009, p.196). It can be argued that the youth have been brainwashed as well as trained to kill while they play video games. Some of these games teach the young consumers the tactics of beating, stealing, strangling as well as hacking from games. An incident has previously occurred whereby a young boy of seventeen years was involved in a sniper incidence. The police later made the statement that he made a good shot because he had received good practice while playing with a video game that was ultra-violent.
Some people have made an argument that the aggressive play, which follows because of exposure to, cartoons or games that contain violence should be distinguished from the aggressive behaviour which is adopted with an intention to cause harm or damage. It has also been emphasized that those young consumers do not have an intention to harm other people when they act out of aggression (Lee & Kotler 2011, p.102). However, it should be noted that aggression and violence both go hand in hand.
Social marketing researchers have done investigations in regards to how social media has an impact on youth (Gulford 2006, p. 204). It can affect the viewer’s aggression. This can be understood as the behaviour that intends to harm another person. There are different forms of aggression such as verbal aggression, which involves saying harmful things to the victim. Indirect or relational aggression also exists and it is the behaviour intends to harm a particular person. However, this is enacted behind the person’s view. Another type is the physical aggression, which ranges from acts that are less serious such as shoving and pushing and more serious types of assaults like fighting that can end up in serious risks of injury. On the other hand, research has shown that social video games can have some benefits to young consumers (Slife 2006, p.97). In sum, social media is important since it enables young consumers to develop their decision-making skills, thus making proper choices on products/services to purchase and consume.