One of the most grandeur and influential technologies of the XX and XXI century, Internet has changed people’s lies completely, broadening the horizon of their communication opportunities. Creating the world of their own where they act as semi-gods, people influence the communication patterns and are influenced by the latter; the process if mutual and irreversible.
Because of the specific pattern of communication, the rhetoric of the Facebook conversations and the communicational patterns that the participants of the online Facebook communication follow create a specific environment and establish certain rules which demand thorough exploration.
It is quite remarkable that in the Facebook, an area where people stay anonymous and share the common Internet space, the issue of rhetoric remains essential and possesses the same features as in the direct communication.
Considering Dickson’s (2002) speculations concerning the specifics of rhetoric: “One way of taking seriously the materiality of rhetoric is to turn to rhetorical ‘texts’ that resist purely symbolic ‘readings’” (6), one must admit that Facebook offers a peculiar material for studying.
Since the conversations in Facebook often presuppose arguments and discussions of certain topical issues, starting from tastes for music, cinema, etc., to the specifics of the world politics, economics and the financial stability, Facebook rhetoric can be considered a peculiar “bridge between sociology and literary criticism” (p. 96), as Burke (1966) defined the given phenomenon.
One of the most evident examples in the given case is the Facebook discussion of the French politics: “Strauss-Kahn arrested in NY for assaulting chambermaid. Unbelievable! Real game changer for 2012. NYPD has him in custody He left his cellphone and other evidence in the tacky Times Sq hotel room as he fled” (Facebook 2011). Analyzing the given excerpt, one should say that the quotation comprises both the elements of social and political journalism and the daily nonchalant manner of speaking.
According to Charland (1987), rhetoric is represented to us in symbols, which themselves have meaning domains. Therefore, Facebook should be considered as storage of specific symbols used in the conversation to introduce certain ideas.
It must be admitted that rhetoric is an integral part of people’s everyday life; with the addition of more banal spaces of peoples daily life spaces such as museums, parks, and art installations there is the presence of rhetoric.
The latter have symbolic meaning, and other less symbolic spaces that they visit every day even unconsciously that Dickson (2002) says that constitute their bodies. It is upon this that we must think of our identity being more that an immaterial mental operation, and look into the bias in the material constituents of our daily life.
This subjectivity in our daily banal activities and spaces that are always at stake especially, when we consider web spaces especially Facebook. Most of the people are constantly persuaded to visit, and base their activities on this, and in return become entwined with their everyday life.
Facebook is by far the most visited social networking site with more than 500 million users, which has become a cultural lifestyle in itself as people communicate, network, shop, share things and many more at the local and international level.
As Charland (1987) says, persuasion is a key term in rhetoric and refers to an agent, or in this case, a person, who is free to be persuaded. Facebook uses persuasion to attract as many people as possible, and with these numbers persuade businesses to place their ads on their pages.
Users themselves make a decision join Facebook, thereby place themselves in another brand and goes on to present themselves in a way; they attract other people they want. In addition, it is possible to reject those they do not want, and join groups that portray, what their brand and share things that appeal to their ‘crowd’.
One of the most striking examples of the aforementioned is the famous BrandsClub (Facebook 2011), which sets the preferences for a certain group of people in the Facebook, thus, promoting certain brands and products. It is quite remarkable that in the given case, the rhetoric obtains a more commercialized tint.
Rhetorical appeal properties of Facebook
Social networking cites, Facebook included, are the most persuasive, also popular sites on the internet. Facebook derives its success from motivating users to take up certain target behaviors such as registering, uploading photos, connecting to friends and inviting friends among others.
An example of how popular Facebook is especially in the Western countries is USA, where it ranks number five as the most visited websites in the country. Across all cultures, people are being motivated and persuaded to join and use social networking sites whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Linkeidn, Mixi etc.
For commercial viability, Facebook as a social networking site uses a pattern that is outlined by Fogg and Lizawa (2008) known as Behavior Chain for Online Participation. This outlines four persuasion goals which aim at encouraging certain behaviors.
Facebook uses persuasion to lure people to create profile pages, which are the, core of social networking sites. One is encouraged to create an engaging profile page by use of different approaches. The “edit” command is placed in a clearly visible place for the user.
This serves two purposes; it eliminates the barrier for adding more information and gives the impression that profile information can be changed is supposed to be updated from time to time. Facebook interface also presents its users with a sequence of labeled tabs with drop down spaces where suggestions are given.
This encourages them to give highly personal information such as their phone numbers, age, dates of birth, sexual orientation, religious and political views, relationship status and interests. Moreover, facebook does not indicate whether these responses are optional (Fogg and Lizawa 2008).
Speaking of the rhetoric used in the Facebook, one must also consider the peculiarities of the service itself, namely, the subconscious messages that it sends to the users, convincing the users to follow certain prescriptions and persuading people to create an account in Facebook.
The process is also quite clear since after the user logs in into the Yahoo or Gmail and selects the people to invite from the contact list, Facebook technology will send each one of them an invitation. This allows new users to have many friends quickly which in Facebook culture elevates ones status, which of course is a ploy by the service to motivate people to connect and invite as many people as possible (Grosser 2011).
The third way in which Facebook persuades people to join and keep using is by responding to others contributions. It gives people satisfaction to post their opinions or comments online, but having people respond to them is what gives more satisfaction.
This is what sets social networking sites different from other traditional media websites. Facebook has used this feature to motivate users to view and comment on what others are saying. The service also allows its users to post content in video, text, links and photos and notifies others when their friends have done this in two ways.
The first one is News Feed, which is at, the centre of every user “home” page showing the recent activities by their friends. It is quite remarkable that the rhetoric used by the creators of the service differs considerably from the one that the users display and presupposes short yet impressive prompts for certain actions, e.g. Log In, Create an Account, Respond, Leave Message, etc. (Facebook 2011).
This includes postings and they can access this activity by just one click. This eliminates any barrier and, therefore, motivates users to continue and view the content. Secondly, it is by generating an email of new comments that are sent to any other email outside of Facebook and again the comment can be accessed by just one click.
This even extends Facebook reach beyond its website. The simplicity in posting comments is also a motivating factor, as the prominent comment box is placed to show the user its customer-friendly interface and openness. The submission button is unsophisticated or just by clicking “enter” key on the keyboard. This experience of sharing and interacting is what mostly keeps people visiting the site (Fogg and Lizawa 2008).
Facebook also motivates people to keep on visiting the site. Active users as social networking service tend to be more appealing and engage for others, who keep on visiting, which is the ultimate goal of Facebook. This is done through several ways.
Facebook send email notification to its users to update them on what is happening with their friends. Also, when a user is tagged on a posted content item by friends or group, or comments are posted about them, and comments made subsequent to their own Facebook send an email to notify the user.
Also if, the user receives a message on the service, added as a friend or a request is sent to join a group, or friend’s birthdays Facebook sends an email notification on addresses outside Facebook. These updates are geared towards motivating a return to the site.
Facebook also psychologically manipulates its users to return to the site through a digest of friend’s activities. The News feed gives an account of, who has posted a link, signed up for an event, who has updated relationship status and so on. Facebook also uses the user’s social presence on one another online spaces to persuade return to the site.
It allows users to visit a friend’s profile page, send messages or “Poke” them also write on their wall. These activities are then, sent via email or SMS to the friend, who will more likely prompt the user to log in and “poke” back or send a message or write on the friend’s wall. This is again simplified to eliminate any barrier (Fogg and Lizawa 2008).
Advertisements on Facebook
Facebook is an extremely persuasive technology according to Grosser (2011). Analysts have looked at how facebook persuades people around the globe to join, and how it persuades them to keep on returning to the site. Further, analysts have looked at how it generates business out of the numbers of users and visits it generates.
, Facebook updates its applications frequently and innovates, and adapts new one to be at par with the newer social networking sites. The most prominent element of Facebook is its marketing and advertising based on individual user. It has managed to brand itself as a place where one can fully take advantage of social networking with family and friend, as well as find potential employers and buyers of products and services (Lair, Sullivan and Cheney 2005).
Facebook has more than 300 million users world-wide, and about 120 million of them login each day according to Fogg and Lizawa (2008) making it highly attractive to businesses to market their products. The given strategy influenced the way advertising is done; it is also worth mentioning that the predictions concerning 39% increase in advertising spends on Facebook were noted last year.
The increase in advertising via social networking sites like Facebook is based on the idea that the service has a lot of data on their users, which can be exploited by businesses. The latter can put on ads that are highly targeted on this large user base, thus, promoting their business.
Facebook persuades advertisers and promoters to place their ads or campaigns on the site through several ways. They include a promise of reaching more than 800 million potential customers. This is where, the advertiser will choose the audience based on location, age and interests and a test with a simple image, text-based ads until one get what works.
Also, possibility of deepening the relationships with potential and actual customers by promoting the Facebook page or website, using the “Like” button to increase the influence of the ads, and building a community around the business or brands. Finally, the advertisers are able to control their budget by setting a daily budget, which they are comfortable working with, while adjusting their daily budget (Grosser 2011).
Personal branding on Facebook
Lair, Sullivan and Cheney, (2005) say that, we are in a consumer society that views all agents as commodities or consumer goods. This is because we are living in an attention-economy society, a neoliberal’s government, which is promoting, social changes. This is because changes have occurred in the prevailing forms of subjectivity.
What this means is that people spend a lot of time on self-marketing in order to survive, to get social recognition and an assurance that we will not be excluded. In the consumer society, we turn into consumers of each other with no other associations, while justifying it, as personal development as Lair and his colleagues continue to say.
Personal development means measurably improving ourselves on various market fronts, which have replaced family, friendship and community. Social relations have now taken the form of exchanges, and personal traits, which are seen, as capital and commodities.
In the capitalist economy, labor must be attractive to capital, which means it must be groomed, compliant and dependably instrumental for the economy. This was once a government responsibility in the welfare state, but in the era of neoliberalism, this is an individual responsibility; to brand oneself to become attractive to the capital.
Facebook and other social networking sites, have taken advantage of this by providing preformatted cyber spaces, and networking mechanisms to sell views to people out there. People either present themselves on Facebook, as who they are outside the network or use alternative identities.
Facebook is also said to be a “participatory culture”, where media congregate, and where consumers not only consume the content, but also help in producing this content according to Grosser (2011). Corporations, religious organizations, musicians, media personalities and clubs among others, create Facebook pages and users choose which to signup with and fill profiles on personal data. The information that these two groups of participants choose to share on Facebook is what shapes their online personalities (Lair, Sullivan and Cheney 2005).
Facebook uses specified relationships, where users are supposed to give their real identities, which according to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is meant to promote integrity. One is supposed to fill profile details with truthful information such as their real names and accurate details.
Other ways that Facebook allows people to brand themselves and which have been covered in earlier sections include information on gender, sexual orientations, languages spoken, places of residence, profession and the content shared with others (Grosser 2011).
The decisions, actions, conversations and tasks that people perform and dominate their daily lives are what constitute their welfare. This rhetoric constitution of people’s daily lives is crucial in how they view things. Spaces such as Face book have meanings in people’s lives and become part of their lives.
Face book has become a cultural lifestyle for its more than 500 million users, where they connect with family and friends, network with businesses, shop, share and many more. Face book has, and continues to, use persuasion to attract as many people as possible all over the world to visit and keep visiting its site.
It has used four persuasive strategies to accomplish this. First is by persuading people to create profile pages, which is the, core of social networking sites, secondly, by inviting and connecting with a friend, another strategy to persuade people to frequently login by responding to others contributions.
Finally, motivation to keep people visiting the site through email alerts, messages, poking and such can be traced. Facebook also claims to have brought a community of more than 500 million people together, which advertisers and businesses could exploit to promote their products and services. Offering a peculiar specimen of online rhetoric, Facebook allows to consider rhetoric in the light of the modern world of commercials.
Brabdsclub. Brandsclub Natal. Facebook. 2011. Web.
Burke, Kenneth. Language as symbolic action: Essays on life, literature and method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1966.
Charland, Maurice. “Constitutive rhetoric: The case of the Peuple Quebecois.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1987: 133-150.
Dickson, Greg. “Joe’s rhetoric finding authenicity at Starbucks.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 2002: 5-27.
Fogg, Brey, and Lizawa Daisuke. “Online persuation in Facebook and Mixi: a cross cultural comparisson.” In Persuasive technology, by Yvonne Kort, Wijnand Ijsselsteijin, Cees Midden, Berry Eggen and B.J. Fogg, 35-46. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2008.
French Politics Blog. French Politics Blog Discussion Page. Facebook, n.d. 2011. Web.
Grosser, Ben. “How technological design of Facebook homogenizes identity and limits persoanl representation.” Ben Grosser. August n.d, 2011. Web.
Lair, Daniel, Sullivan Katie, and Cheney George. “Marketing and the recasting of the professional self: the rhetoric and ethics of persoanl branding.” Management Communications Quarterly, 2005: 307-343.
This critical writing on Facebook’s Marketing and Communication Patterns