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Many online advertisers are exploring the use of Internet social networking to build brand awareness and loyalty. Social networking is particularly popular among the younger, 15-24 year- old generation, who is more computer savvy and spends more time on the Internet than adults. While this generation has substantial potential, they also represent a challenge to advertisers. This group is notoriously skeptical of being “advertised at.” They expect a more personal, interactive experience. The purpose of this research is to determine which types of social networks are used most by college students and what types of online marketing impact their purchasing choices. In carrying out this research, the following research questions were addressed: which social networks are used most by college students; do factors such as student and/or parent income, student age, classification, gender, marital status, or employment status influence use of social networks; do ads on social networks impact purchasing decisions; does advice from other users of social networks impact purchasing decisions; and do online games, scavenger hunts, and contests influence purchasing decisions? The research provides a better understanding of social network use and provides insight into effective online advertising to college students.
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