Netnography – How Communicators/Researchers Profit From Profiling Your ‘Digital-Self’

Academic Source: Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online by Robert V. Kozinets


Kozinets starts his book with this simple declaration - "Our social worlds are going digital." Social scientists have distinguished themselves by developing research methods (in the field of ethnography) that allow them to accurately understand and analyze social trends in society. This form of research is incredibly valuable to companies that use these insights to inform their corporate, branding, and communications strategies.


Due to the fact that an ever-increasing portion of our social interactions are happening digitally rather than physically, ethnography is becoming obsolete - netnography is the updated version that opens up the scope of ethnography to include the digital world. Kozinets first pioneered this new methodology by studying patterns in the activity of the thriving online community of Star Trek fans.


Research indicates that the 3 core components of communities are all present in digital communities - consciousness of kind, shared rituals/traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility. Virtual communities like these present incredible opportunities for marketing and sales because they're organic collections of consumption/brand-enthusiasts that feed each other's loyalty and influence other consumers looking for information.


Whether or not you identify strongly with a digital community, your patterns of digital communication create your 'digital self' - a public identity that netnographers analyze in a way that contains a great wealth of information about the value systems that drive consumer behavior. Your unique 'digital self' is one factor in a netonography study that can answer some of the daily questions posed by marketing executives. For example, recent netnography studies have proven;


  • How videogamers respond to product placements and brand advertising, 
  • Perceptions regarding illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing and streaming 
  • How learning occurs through 'virtual re-experiencing' among members of innovative online communities.


Kozinets explains that today's marketers and consumer researchers incorporate insights from the fields of sociology and anthropology into their basic theories and methods in the same way pharmaceutical executives depend on chemistry research. Netnography, being 'the new ethnography,' is one of the many critical new fields of research being born from the digital world. I predict it will be a hidden source of extremely profitable insights for corporations going forward and I bet that corporations investing in netnographic research will gain a huge advantage over competitors that don't.