Customer Engagement with Brands via Facebook

Abstract

Company executives have realized the importance of conducting marketing campaigns via social media with special focus on Facebook. The importance of Facebook as a platform to reach a wider segment of online communities relates to the benefits associated with reaching the customer in real time, gathering information about consumer needs with the potential to formulate products to meet consumer needs underlies the importance of establishing factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook. These factors, defined by the underlying customer-centric engagements elements which include feeling valued, consistency, trust, efficiency, control and relevance are crucial to customer engagement via Facebook.

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Customer engagement is a marketing strategy with underlying factors contributing to strong customer-brand relationship which influences buyer or consumer behavior. On Facebook, the relationship between the customer and the brand play a significant role with Facebook providing the platform to share information in real time about the products and brands. Facebook provides the platform to build online communities and allows organizations to build brand profile defined by a marketing strategy to engage customers by building brand loyalties to gain the benefits of driving sales, increasing revenue, and gathering information about customer perceptions about brands associated with brand engagement via Facebook.

Introduction

Studies conducted on the factors affecting customer engagement with brands via Facebook from the theoretical perspectives of engagement as explored by (Brodie, Ilic, Juric & Hollebeek 2011; Benkler 2006). Engagement is defined based on the interactive nature and experiences of people on the same platform. In the context of E-commerce, engagement is a tool that drives sales, enhances revenue generation and profits, and increases sales growth on the ecommerce platform. Ashley et al. (2011) argues that engagement is a tool modern day organizations use to establish strong relationship with brands with the aim to drive sales, increase profits, and enhance brand presence. It is in the domain of relationship marketing and revolves around the relationship between the customer and the brand (Interactive Softworks 2010).

Research has shown that company executives find the current competitive business environment a compelling case to lay strategies to access a wide customer base, gain a big market share, create customer engagements with company brands, and create strong brand loyalties to gain the benefits associated with conducting business on the modern Electronic-Commerce technology environment (Chapman 2008; Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007). The internet based E-commerce transactions using social media as a platform to conduct business by creating customer engagement to create customer brand loyalties has been identified one of the crucial components for companies to succeed in the modern competitive marketing environment (Voltair 2003). According to Willems (2011), customer engagement is crucial as it underlies the strategic approach companies use to advertise and make their presence known on social media.

In practice, brand engagement provides customers and organizations with the ability to support their search for information about a brand, which supports them in the decision making process in their purchasing process (Cronin, Joseph, & Taylor 1992). Customer engagement provides the basis for influencing how customers spend their money toward a brand and customer loyalty with the ultimate benefit of enabling companies to reduce the cost of doing business (Chrisnal 1997). When customer engagement is correctly applied, both the customer and the organization experience benefits uniquely fitting their goals (Willems 2011).

Theory and practice point to six components of customer-centric engagements which include feeling valued, consistency, trust, efficiency, control and relevance as forming the backbone of customer engagements. Social sites in particular Facebook provide a brand engagement platform on the internet which has been an observable trend that marketers have adapted to access and reach target audiences in a world where the virtual world and the real world seem to merge seamlessly. Typically, the rationale underpinning the use of Facebook is the rapid growth of social media as an interaction platform and use of the internet virtually in every form of marketing communication today (Jantsch n.d; Boyd & Ellison 2008).

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Social sites in particular Facebook provide one crucial benefit of brand engagement identified as one of the driving forces behind customer engagement marketing strategies companies use to adopt to meet their marketing strategies and more specifically increase the revenue base to meet profit generation expectations and brand strengths (Bryan & Farrell 1996; Schmugar 2008). That is in addition to reaching a wide audience and making a significant number of people aware of the products and services offered by companies in real time, leading as a consequence to a larger market share, influence customer opinion on a particular product, gain a strong market position, and build brand royalty. That however, is based on the fact that customers only get a virtual feel of the product and services being offered (Bryan & Farrell 1996; Van, Strazzieri & Woodside 2001).

Despite the Facebook site falling deficient of descriptive elements that include smells, touch, taste, sound, and critical evaluations of the product sold online, a strong sense of customer loyalty is developed in the process of companies interacting and communicating directly with the customer, the customer communicating with family and friends, and when engaging in other communication activities (Bryan & Farrell 1996). Using social media like Facebook provides direct channels for online brand engagement. Other forms of brand engagement include the use of mails which include brochures, etc., direct response broadcasting, and many other forms of brand engagement. However, the current study focuses on the Factors affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook where the use of brand engagement using social media and other forms of online communications. Typically, social media provides a marketing platform for companies to formulate marketing strategy to conduct brand engagement, business to business marketing, and customer to customer interactions on as, emerging trends and future implications of brand engagement using social media (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004).

Research has shown an increasing trend in the usage statistics of social media as a platform to conduct E-commerce transactions. That is in agreement with the theory and observations that customer shopping behavior has changed with changing technologies, showing evidence of a significant shift from the brick and motor approach of doing business to the modern social media driven approach of engaging customers. In all this, customer engagement is the answer to the modern challenges of doing business online. That is addition to the statistics that show how social media has become the strongest platform and tool for sharing communication, interacting with families and creating new friends, and where most firms get real-time opportunities to communicate and advertise products and services to an audience that is always present (Stelzner 2009; Shih 2009).

While the above is true of the current marketing trend, bloggers who dominate the social marketing sites in particular Facebook contribute significantly to the current trend in social marketing that is supported by the fact that Facebook provides the customer with the pages to add content about a particular product or service, enable readers to interact directly with the marketer for different subscriptions, and access different search engines to enable content delivery directly to the target market audience and with the particular customer (Dewey 1975; Dibb, Simpkin, Pride & Ferrell 2001). Thus, marketers are able to directly access the customer and obtain detailed descriptions of context information about the market, other market variations, and related information that might influence the customer attitude toward a specific product. That is in addition to providing means of interactively communicating with the customer on Facebook in real time, while encouraging social search using Facebook as a tool that provides a strong basis for fulfilling a company to meet its marketing objectives (Jantsch n.d).

Statistical evidence shows that the social sites in particular Facebook occupy a significant portion of the world market in terms of usage and access of products and services. That indicates the significance of customer engagement and the impact that has on the marketing of products and services on social media based on strong customer engagement strategies. That said, estimates indicate a significant share of access on a daily basis to constitute 2.5 billion people on the daily basis with a typical example of a visit that was made to the sites constituting 2.5 million visitors in 2009 alone (Ofcom Office of Communications 2008).

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However, it is worth mentioning that the sites mentioned above are a little less accessed in terms of the number of visits in a year when compared with Facebook being the most frequently visited sites in the world today. However, projections show that social media has provided such competition in terms of access rates compared with Google and yahoo. Typically, that results, hypothetically, in a rising trend in the use of social media and a marketing platform and powerful tool to enable the growth of business and the market position of any firm offering products and services to the target customers.

It has been argued that if the revenue generated by these sites are compared with the income levels of different countries in the world, it is possible to rank social media with the equivalent of a fourth position in the income level of the rankling of all countries (French 1997). That gives a clear and distinct view of the level of usage of social media as an interactive platform firms use to conduct product sales and services online with the brand engagement strategy playing a significant underlying role. However, it is crucial to establish the approach used to access the market which has many characteristics. One such tool used as a brand engagement tool is blogging, in the current brand engagement approach (Jantsch, n.d; Goller, Hogg & Kalafatis 2002). However, it is curial to note that social media for marketing purposes is characterized by blogging that ranges from shallow to deep engagements (Shimp 2007).

Another underlying rationale compelling firms to conduct business on social media with Facebook as one of the most frequently used sites is the ability to provide real time communication and enable transactions between business to business, customer to customer interactions and information is passed from one point to the other about a product in real time. That is in addition to the ability for firms to exploit the benefits associated with the e-commerce business models on social media with Facebook as the platforms of special emphasis. The most crucial elements here are the customers and the relationship between the customers and service and product provision and the ability of these firms to create and build strong brand loyalties with the customers.

The purpose of the study is to establish the underlying rationale for marketing companies, the characteristics and the main factors which affect viable customers to be engaged via Facebook which is one of the most influential social networking sites with strong impact on businesses in revenue generation, customer base, customer loyalty, and strong customer engagement. The specific focus is to discover the how businesses can discover the potential benefits of using social media in particular Facebook to strongly position a firm to be competitive in the market.

Problem statement

The need for organizations to create strong customer engagement with their brands on Facebook provides the rationale for establishing the facts to consider that affect brand engagement with customers via Facebook as the social networking marketing platform. That underlies the need for organizations to understand the underlying factors that make Facebook the platform of choice to conduct marketing campaigns for their products and services.

Purpose statement

The purpose of the study is to discover salient factors that organizations require to update the customer of their brands and establish strong customer engagement by strengthening their presence on social media with Facebook as the social media platform of choice.

Significance of the study

The significance of this study is to identify the factors that affect customer engagement via Facebook to enable organizations formulate E-commerce marketing strategies to increase sales and revenue, identify and create brand preferences, drive sales, and provide brands that address customer needs and expectations.

Research Aim

The aim of the research is to explore and discover the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook as the best social media platform to understand user motivational on social media to help organizations formulate the best strategies for customer engagement with company brands.

Research Objectives

  1. To identify salient factors that underlies customer engagement with brands on Facebook to create awareness.
  2. Identify the need for customer engagement via social media to increase brand engagement and drive sales.
  3. To identify crucial factors to use to create brand preferences.
  4. To discover the bests strategies of engagement to develop active customer engagement in brands online and create brand loyalty.
  5. To identify the underlying components that organizations use to develop strong customer relations management on Facebook as a tool to reinforce customer engagement with brands on Facebook.

Literature Review

Introduction

The purpose of the study is to explore and discover the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook as the best social media platform to drive sales, increase brand presence, and to understand the users of social media users to help organizations identify the best strategic approaches of developing customer engagement with company brands (Brodie, Ilic, Juric & Hollebeek 2011; Benkler 2006). According to Baym (2000), the internet hosts one of the most frequented social networking sites for companies to conduct business to business and business to customer e-commerce online transactions. Research has shown a significant rise in the number of customers and companies engaged in online business which strive to create customer engagement with brands via Facebook to reap the benefits associated with creating customer engagements via Facebook (Ahasanul & Ali 2007).

Social media provides companies with the opportunities to provide customers with individualized attention, provide the customers with in-depth information about their products, and segment their markets appropriately based on brand loyalties which is based on the quality of services and the perceptions customers develop toward a brand (Asubonteng, Mccleary & Swan 1996; Crittenden, Crittenden & Muzyka 2002). In identifying the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook, to create strong brand loyalties, companies are able to engage customers online on social media especially Facebook to create a positive impact on their businesses to exploit the social networking site to gain from the potential business benefits associated with E-commerce transactions (Brodie, Ilic, Juric & Hollebeek 2011). The marketing campaigns also provide customers with the information about company brands and their products while enabling them to share such information in real time. Therefore, to drive sales, increase company and brand presence, and achieve other marketing objectives that underlie customer engagement with brands, the salient elements that define customer engagement with brands include intimacy, influence, interactions and influence (Brodie, Ilic, Juric & Hollebeek 2011).

Here, one of the tool used to influence customer engagement included Facebook. That is majorly because of the rising usage of the internet with Facebook playing a significant role in the way people interact, share information, post information, create individual and company profiles, connect with family and friends without incurring costs, allow companies to show case services and products (Chapman 2008). Willems (2011) views customer engagement to consist of the frequency of interactions between communities, brand search, and the time spent on a given page (Dholakia & Uusitalo 2002). In that context, Facebook as a social networking site underlies these activities by providing an enabling online communications platform (Ofcom Office of Communications 2008). That is also in addition to the searchability and timeliness of accessing information either by a company profile or individual profile when conducting business to business or business to customer transactions in addition to the way customers feel valued eventually establishing strong engagements with the products and services offered on Facebook (Chapman 2008).

The effectiveness and trust customers are regarded with by the products and service providers and level of consistency with company offering products and services on social media platforms in selling company products and services which can be evaluated by the consumer in real time. The relevance and control of information provided by the companies on the social media platforms which offer products and services to the target customer, the level of user content, and the intrinsic feeling customers develop when accessing services and products via the Facebook (Chapman 2008; Pagon & Quigley 2007). That is in addition to the changing trends in customer behavior. The dynamic changes in technology and continued network evolution also provide the rationale for using social media as a platform to develop strong customer engagements by firms to reap the benefits of using social media as a platform to conduct E-commerce business transactions, the main elements in theory and practice that influence consumer engagements with brands on social media (Guo n.d; Pitta & Fowler 2005).

Reflections show the way companies have shown an increase in social spending with a rise in social tracking (Jantsch n.d). Reports show that “In 2009, the top metrics tracked for social media initiatives included site traffic (90%), number of page views (85%), and number of fans (83%). In 2010, CMOs expect top metrics to track more closely to P&L business goals, not just web-related goals. The fastest-growing metrics for 2010 included revenue, conversion, and average order value, which grew 333%, 174%, and 150% respectively” (Weber 2009). Therefore, the current trend demonstrates a need to evaluate the differences between social media and traditional marketing strategies and the use of social media as brand engagement strategies firms have used (Bryan & Farrell 1996). Other statistics show the implications of using social media as a brand engagement strategy (Vogt & Knapman 2008; Ahasanul & Ali 2007; Besterfield 1994).

Research has shown the strength of brand engagement with customers that organizations need to understand include interaction, involvement, influence, and intimacy as the main elements.

Brand Engagement Elements

Intimacy

According to Brodie, Ilic, Juric and Hollebeek (2011) and Boshoff (1997), intimacy has been identified by a number of authors to be one of the key components of brand loyalty. According to a number of studies, intimacy provides measures to establish brand affinity and the perceptions and attitudes customers have toward a specific brand (Bitner & Hubbert 1994). That is in addition to the reference and expressions customers develop toward a brand reflected in a company’s marketing strategy (Brady & Cronin 2001). Companies are always sensitive to customer expressions about a certain brand and the likely consequences of such expressions which correlate strongly to the volume of sales, profit generations, and brand attachment. In theory, intimacy involves examining intimate or individual sentiments and tracking such sentiments customers express on forums, reviews, and blogs on third party sites, examining opinions and expressions by individual customers on a particular brand, and examining and tracking internal customer expressions on a particular brand based on brand value (Christopher 1996).

It is crucial to realize the rationale for intimacy as one of the critical components in establishing brand engagements online. Here, companies use the concept of intimacy to identify and understand the feelings a customer develops about a given brand which can either be negative or positive and which is likely to affect other customer engaged on social media. Here customer satisfaction is the key element (Churcill & Suprenat 1982; Anderson & Sillivan 1993). Intimacy also affects and influences the way organizations conduct their marketing online. That is because, intimacy provides the basis for understanding the feelings customers have toward a particular product and how such feelings influence or affect engagement toward a particular product.

Social media, with particular reference to Facebook provides a platform to enable real time tracking of customer feelings about a given product and innovatively correct any errors or perceptions that might influence negative customer feelings. That enables organizational executives to align organizational strategies toward exploiting any opportunities identified that might influence strong customer feelings about a given product. Typically, Facebook provides applications based on given algorithms that enable the monitoring of online communications on the perceptions of a given product and the different attitude developed by different customers toward a given product (Copeland, Mason & McKenney 1995).

A survey of the impact of organizational feelings based on the concept of intimacy demonstrates that organizations can only understand such attitude based on a number of factors. These include tracking customer complaints about a given product, examining and analyzing opinions customers express on a particular product, the ratings based on satisfaction rating by customers on a given product, and sentiment tracking, and brand affinities developed toward the service or product in question (Copeland, Mason & McKenney 1995).

Influence

Influence, defined as the “likelihood that a person will advocate on behalf of the brand” is based on the concept of the inclination and tendency developed in a customer to inform and influence another customer in particular peers, family friends, and others closely related to the customer to buy a particular product (Lake 2012; Lake, 2012; Mc Kennedy & Scheider 2000). Influence is the underlying reason for customer brand engagement as it motivates users to download information about a brand, give feedback through about an inquiry on a brand with the likelihood of increasing engagement with Facebook as the platform of communication, increase time customers spend on a particular page, motivate users to generate metadata, increase testimonials about a brand, and increase ratings about a product based on the quality of service on the social media (Lake 2012; Lewis, & Bernard 1983; Lewis & Mitchell 1990).

Studies show that influence occupies a relatively smaller share compared with other customer engagement elements. The findings do not negate the positional impact of influence on an individual, but provides the rationale for customer engagement based on the brand awareness, and the establishment of loyalty on that product. That is in addition to contributing significantly to influencing a customer to purchase a specific product. That also provides a measure of satisfaction which in turn influences a customer to share information with other customers on the brand, eventually leading to brand engagement (McKinney, Yoon & Zahedi 2002). Clearly, the online marketing strategy borrows heavily from the brick and motor marketing strategy to an e-commerce platform.

Interactions

Interactions are partly influenced by consumer behavior that influences the depth of involvement and gradually brand engagement (Mowen, & Michael 2001). Lake (2012) has argued that interaction is based on the depth of involvement a customer develops measured on the contributions individuals make on a certain brand. Interaction provides a measure of actions related to the information requests customers make on a particular brand based on the content created by an individual and the organization creating e-loyalty (Reicheld & Schefter 2000). According to Lake (2012) interactions provide a measure of the alerts customers register to receive information about a brand, the onsite and offsite bookmarks, the number and frequency that customers make comments on a product, the frequency and number of Email subscriptions, and the number of fans that a brand has on Facebook.

Here a community of followers determines the extent of involvement and the frequency of interactions about a product, and the favorite brands that a customer has on Facebook. These factors underlie engagement, which is required for establishing strong relationships with customers. Actions in the context of interactions include the frequency of completed transactions online, click-throughs, social network connections established between customers, log comments by customers, and video and uploaded videos. These interactions with the defining elements contribute significantly to the factors that influence customer value and behavioral changes on the customer when accessing and purchasing these products online (Rayport & Jaworski 2001).

In theory and practice, a number of applications have been developed to address the need to create user generated content which is crucial to determining the sorting procedure and items customers sort, customer product and service preferences, the effect user generated content has on the rate of product ranking and purchase, and the frequency of purchasing products based on user interactions.

Typical of the applications that provide such services include ecommerce platforms using social media as the specific platform with special reference to Facebook. That is in addition to providing the rating interactions data for products based on Facebook search tools and algorithms.

Involvement

Involvement has been identified as another element which provides the basic measure of the relationship a customer develops with a brand and the degree of engagement in that brand. Here, drawing from the studies by Willems (2011) and Brady & Cronin (2001) involvement is one of engagement component that organizations use to create genuine relationships with the customers by addressing their feelings toward the product. Involvement develops a sense of loyalty to the company and its products, leading to mutual relationship between the customer and the brand. Willems (2011) views involvement as an engagement component that provides a measure of the length of time an individual spends on a page hosting a given brand, measures the frequency of visits to a specific site, and the number of pages a customer views hosting a product.

Involvement is a measure of engagement by category and the frequency each viewed page is visited in a given time. The component provides information about the level of visits, the content agenda of each site in relation to a product, and the activities taking pace on particular site (Brodie, Ilic, Juric & Hollebeek, 2011; Dholakia & Durham 2010). Facebook provides customers with an interface that allows involvement and enables real time data on customer involvement and engagement with a particular brand. The four defining brand engagement elements provide the rationale to establish how an organization, in theory and practice and in particular Facebook creates and develops customer engagement with brands on the social media networking environment.

Creating Brand Engagement with Customers

Creating brand engagement with customers is crucial to the success of a business. The current literature review undertakes to explore ways that company executives should adopt to create brand engagement by understanding engagement approaches.

Research has demonstrated that “Increasingly, consumers are relying on each other instead of the companies they buy products and services from, for sales and support related questions”. One of the strategies to create and increase brand awareness and engagement with customers on Facebook includes identifying a company and its products by creating a visually engaging design page on Facebook. That is in addition to creating adverts that stimulate interactivities between fans and friends on Facebook with brands of their choice. Advert destinations, making campaigns with links to fans and friends on Facebook, developing designs that stimulate action with fans and friends, integrating Facebook Plugins to enable sponsorship stories, and integrate campaigns through Facebook (Dholakia & Durham, 2010; Westbrook 1987).

Other studies have shown that service and product differentiation contributes significantly to brand engagement and loyalty provides the basis for making products and services compete with rival companies (Westbrook & Oliver 1991).

Brand engagement is an emotional attribute that affects a consumer’s attitude toward a product and the level of loyalty developed toward that product Gordon (2006). It becomes indispensable for organizations to consider the crucial element of attention that is psychologically considered crucial in capturing the mind of the customer toward a brand. Emotional attachment to a product creates a sense of wanting to associate oneself with the product and effectively creates a sense of attachment without the use of words. Companies need to recognize the facts associated with emotional attachment with a brand and develop non-verbal communication to influence feelings and emotions toward a product as theorized by (Damasio 2000). The emotional attachment developed between the customer and the brand creates a sense of desire based on the stimuli that falls into the category of any of the consumers who belong to their unique segments.

In theory, organizations have to create an environment that influences decision making based on the motivation to buy which draws from emotional attachments and product attributes. Therefore, motivation to buy from an individual organization based on product attributes drawn from information obtained from the social networking community provides the rationale to conclude that emotion is crucial and organizations should develop E-commerce strategies to influence their customers toward developing a positive attitude toward a brand.

A number of authors have demonstrated in their studies other approaches of creating brand engagement, both in theory and practice. Content, the product, the consumer need, e-commerce campaigns, level of attention, and the audience contribute significantly to engagement.

Why Customer Engagement on Facebook

Customer engagement on Facebook has been identified as one of the crucial components that business organizations have realized is indispensable to the success of running of businesses by creating brand engagements. The rationale for Facebook engagement has been demonstrated on a number of underlying factors. That is in addition to the evidence that shows that Facebook has over 750 million active users globally (Peroutka 2011). According to studies conducted by Peroutka, (2011) to determine the reasons for the use of Facebook as a platform for companies to conduct marketing campaigns online, Facebook has demonstrated active and easy tool that people can use to communicate online, Facebook has had a significant share of user popularity, provides a platform that allows for instant user engagement, provides real time response, provides a cost effective and free platform for communication and engagement, and embraces the use of new technologies. That is in addition to other factors such as a strong influence on customer loyalty and provided a flexible link to other networks and sites (Peroutka 2011).

According to the article Measuring success on Facebook (n.d) and the research by Yangs, Jun and Peterson (2004), Facebook has shown great brand resonance for firms that have used the platform to access the target customer, and the changes brand perceptions have created on Facebook fans. That is in addition to the studies by Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh and Gremler (2004) who assert that online social media provides a platform for engaging with others to vent adverse feelings, express their attitude toward brands for their family and friends to consider when buying a product, conduct self-enhancement activities, access social benefits associated with interacting on Facebook, seek for assistance form others, and help a company grow (Yang& Jun 2002).

Unique Marketing Solutions on Facebook

Facebook offers unique marketing solutions from other social networking sites by providing members who are target customers with the application interfaces that allows them to post photos, allow families and friends to keep in touch in real time, provide customers and organizations with the ability to create user and product profiles (Dholakia & Durham 2010). That is in addition to allowing Facebook fans and customers to search, based on the Edgerank algorithm, which displays products on the pages based on individual preferences, provides new feeds, a Facebook wall to post information, and a group of users with a common interest in a particular product or service.

Facebook is tailor designed to provide users with abilities to meet their interaction goals such as getting access to people interested in a particular product, ability to get connected to potential customers, ability for organizations to create a unique community of customers, and ability to generate content targeting a specific product (Quenqua, 2010; Yang, Peterson & Cai 2003).

A critical evaluation of the Facebook site shows striking uniqueness with user oriented designs. These include pages that are split into different categories to address different customer needs and preferences, pages that allow customers to post personal, product, and company profiles with ease, and the ability to own a page on Facebook by allowing one designate multiple administrators.

From a technical perspective, Facebook provides technical capabilities for users and organizations with applications that have advanced functionalities cross media solutions that are consolidated, tools that allow for interactive connections with other users, customer focused applications with advanced functionalities (Quenqua 2010).

Advanced functionalities enable organizations to conduct sales adverts to save time for any media buyer without the need to use Facebook Ad manager. On the other hand, customer focused tools enable vertical integration and use of applications by allowing marketing to be done on Facebook with special emphasis on the products and services offered without the need to mix different products on the same page. There is also the ability to factor and capture voice and other tools to engage the customer to a specific brand through the word of mouth while ensuring that individuals and organizations can provide access to organizational databases without the use of external tools, enhancing external channels (Quenqua 2010).

Here, social media plays a crucial role by acting as a platform to reach the market characterized by different demographic distributions to attain organizational marketing objectives (Dewey 1975). It is however, worth mentioning some of the objectives, which include the need to spread marketing information, work with other firms that provide collaborative support in the growth of business, build a community of customers from around the world, and provide information about specific products and services to build strong brands (Jantsch n.d; Bryan & Farrell 1996).

Statistical data showing the significance of social media as an important tool for brand engagement is evident with many firms. One of the successful examples includes CMO which has consistently used social media as a brand engagement strategy, showing a significant revenue improvement because of brand engagement on social media. One of the strategies used by CMO to tap into the potential for online brand engagement includes investing in social media and encouraging interactive marketing focusing more on the customer. “The survey was conducted among 133 CMOs in September 2009” (Jantsch n.d). The “industries included software/hardware (17%), finance/insurance (9%)” (Jantsch n.d). Typically, it included industries with respective percentages including “travel/hospitality (9%), media/publishing (9%), consumer goods (8%), and retail (7.5%), among others” (Jantsch n.d). On the other hand, the “Annual revenues of CMO companies ranged from $6 to $50 million (25%), $51 to $999 million (42%), and more than $1 billion (23%)” (Bryan & Farrell 1996). Thus, showing evidence of the growth in business for many of the firms engaged in online brand engagement (Jantsch n.d).

Easy Networking and Communication Platform

Studies have shown that Facebook is a platform that enables interactions by making customer involvement and engagement with brands much flexible (Dholakia & Durham 2010). Facebook provides a variety of interfaces to enable communication and networking to be achieved by anyone interacting on the social media. In addition to that, the platform provides customers with the ability to make fun and enjoy visiting the site as often as they like, increasing the frequency of interactions and involvement with the application (Guo n.d; Strahilevitz Myers 1998). Toward that end, Facebook is a platform that provides tools such as “AIM” to enable one to know in real time when someone has established friendship or a connection with another friend online. Such real time connections facilitate customer engagement, involvement, and develop a significant level of intimacy toward products sold online. Such intimacy enhances customer engagement and is likely to enable frequent come backs. Facebook email system is used to establish engagement using chats.

One other feature found on Facebook that supports customer engagement and involvement with brands is a feature that allows customer to share information freely and in real time. A feature named “UseThis” to share provides the feature that allow the sharing of information, videos, pictures, and other information about products and services and companies offering such products Dholakia & Durham 2010).

Another salient feature found on Facebook that supports and offers real time engagement with individuals is the Facebook tool bar. The tool bar allows, when downloaded and installed on a computer, customers to stay logged into one’s Facebook account once online. That allows one to get real time communication with others, check emails whenever they are posted, and provides the flexibility to get any information about a product in real time Dholakia & Durham 2010).

It is possible for individuals to update personal information by uploading recently taken photos, videos, and any newly acquires status. Benefits associated with the use of functions to individuals and companies include free of cost while providing incremental growth to the user (Dholakia & Durham 2010; Scott 2010).

User Popularity

Estimates indicate a rising trend in Facebook popularity in customer engagement with brands among other social networking sites as consisting of over 25% of Internet active and inactive users of the internet population today. The trend seems to be in the upward trend with 350 million active users today. That indicates the potential opportunities for companies to market their products by creating strong brands to create sustainable and strong brand engagements online. To achieve the strategy of creating strong customer engagements and brand loyalties, theory and practice show a number of factors that organizational executives have to bear in mind (Scott, 2010).

These include establishing brand salience, which in theory and practice remains at the bottom of a pyramid that draws on brand performance, brand imagery, consumer feelings, consumer judgments, and consumer brand resonance (Quenqua 2010). In their research, Quenqua 2010) reported that visits made on Facebook provided figures that showed the frequent usage of Facebook as a marketing communication platform that engaged a significant number of users worldwide. Facebook statistics showed that 36% of the people made new visits each month. Borrowing on the financial perspectives by Onwuchuruba (2002), one could argue that Facebook is a cost effective platform which when combined with the level of popularity to the fans, provides a strong example of how people get engagement on Facebook (Chapman 2008 Scott, 2010; Wu 2003).

Understanding the User Community

Business organizations need to understand the user communities that interact on social media who are also the sole online buyers and consumers of the products and services offered by these firms (Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007). That is in addition to the knowledge organizational executives should own about the benefits user communities have to an organization with product offerings as these customers form the basis of exchanging information about products since they know each other much better than organizations could. Understanding the user community enables businesses organizations to formulate the best customer brand engagement strategies to succeed in online business. Defining the community also provides the firms with the ability to understand the motivating factors that draw users to interact with different firms and develop brand loyalties.

According to studies by Gordon (2006) and Barefoot and Szabo (2010), customer engagement is based on emotions as feelings are much better tools that influence behavior and attitude toward a product. Therefore, the critical value of knowing the community by evaluating and understanding emotional feelings that influence and draw customers toward a product with the ultimate goal of creating brand engagements. Understanding the community in terms of motivating factors that draw customers toward a product enables firms to identify themselves and create a presence to create a connection that enables real time communication of events, product launches, social media activities around a given product, communicate current and future developments, and evaluate brand loyalties by establishing repeat visits, number of buyers, volume of products bought, number of times inquires on the product are made, and to help organizations understand user needs and create products that meet user needs and strong relationship (Guo, n.d).

Another approach organizations use is to understand values, beliefs, norms, and ideas with underlying user motivation toward a specific site. That is because products and services advertised on an organization’s social networking page provide powerful channels of communicating directly with the customer to capture the attention of fans and other loyal customers uniquely identified on their cultures. That is supported in theory by the fact that users need to be identified by defining them based on the concentric circles that define a community. Therefore, communities might emerge who share core values and beliefs on a product or services. In theory, it is possible for the communities to emerge as complex group of members who operate on shared knowledge with underlying commonly agreed upon key operating principles (Chapman 2008). It is also crucial to understand each individual user in the online community for organizational managers to understand when establishing an online community to provide a basis and strong background for strong brand engagement on social media with a special reference on Facebook.

In theory and practice, research has shown that individual users are motivated to join social media and in particular Facebook to achieve individual aims, personal goals, and the goals of the wider community (Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007). That is in addition of enabling individuals to significantly contribute positively to the online community making them feel valued, and to contribute to the development and greater good of the community they belong. It is crucial, when building an online community when creating strong brand engagements to ensure that behavioral characteristics of the individuals are well understood to provide products and services that satisfy their needs based on clear distinctions on the engagement levels of the customers with other group members. These members are likely to be marginal, might have dysfunctional social behavior, or adherents with strong attachments to a social group (Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007).

Theoretically, the end result translates to a conceptualization of individual needs which underlie egocentric motivation as the drivers, communal needs that are driven by altruistic motivation. These lead to personal satisfaction on the product being marketed on the social media, or derived from influence by another customer in the same community (Day, Shocker & Srivastava 1979). That is in addition to social rewards experienced by an individual and the community in general that are extrinsic in nature. Here, the needs and wants of individuals are crucial when trying to identify the salient factors that motivate users both at community and individual levels to engage in online business with the sole purpose of understanding the motivating factors that enable engagement with brands on social media. That leads to what is conceptualized from underlying theory as user motivation matrix (Tortrakul 2007).Here, the motivation matrix, as mentioned elsewhere consists of factors that motivate people or an online community to participate and develop an attitude toward a brand. In addition to that, user motivation provides the basis for the beliefs developed about a certain brand and the level of brand engagement that online communities develop. The community members can either be egocentric, as demonstrated in theory or defined by an open community that puts the needs of others ahead of theirs. Typically, understanding the user matrix provides the organization to formulate strategies of brand engagement by factoring all aspects of social media users to build a brand and an online community that responds positively to the brand, therefore creating a strong brand engagement. The matrix also provides a suitable planning tool for formulating the brand, the content, and in developing a community if online users. It is crucial to note that social media plays a significant role in developing the community of users and an organization’s staff should identify the best strategy to engage the online communities build their own engagement with the brand (Takeuchi & John 1983).

Strategies for Brand Engagement

Literature on brand engagement has outlined several strategies that organizations need to adopt to create strong customer engagement to achieve organizational goals when conducting E-commerce transactions (Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007). That is because an organization that performs poorly on social media in particular on Facebook as a generic site can undermine product positioning. On the other hand, a good presence on Facebook provides the benefits such as increased activity and availability of information online. One of the methods is to establishing a strong presence (Plummer, Cook, Diforio, Schachter, Sokolyanskaya & Korde 2007).

Building Brand Presence

A strong presence on Facebook is necessary to inform a wide audience to share information about a product with potential customers. Facebook is a generic site that provides the platform for sending viral messages about a brand to different online communities (Spreng & Mechenzie 1996). Use of Facebook with links to an organization’s website provides the flexibility of visiting the home page of a particular company to view their products and brands. Such an approach enables communities and organizations to establish a special form of interaction while ensuring that user generated content is appreciated to drive the brand further (Schneider & Bowen 1999; Sharon 2003). That is in addition to using their party engagements which provide a level of engagement to a wider audience and specialized engagement that is controlled. Therefore, the engagement strategy consists of different levels of users or communities. Here, users can be casual, lead, or committed users. In summary, there is need for organizations to identify and model different levels of engagement which are then mapped into the Facebook engagement framework in Facebook spaces.

Modeling Desired Practice

Brand engagement on social media requires that a model of engagement on the established framework be established to host different communities with different levels of engagement. Typically, it is crucial that the model reflect best practices that should be consistent with engagement strategies on Facebook to achieve organizational outcomes. Here, the customers are able to engage one another over a given brand by showing genuine enthusiasm in the way of discussions and other interaction about the brand. Once the community takes shape, it is possible for company employees who had been taking the leadership role of controlling the emerging community to relinquish the leadership position and allow the community to structure itself by following its own leadership direction (Shirky 2009).

The role of the organizational employees in this case is to act as community animators to ensure debates and other forms of discussions and interactions remain active. Here, the content about brands the organization desires to engage the communities with remain the responsibility of the community members. The need and wants of the community members allow the members to generate content geared toward solving their own problems using the identified brands. The latter stimulates stronger brand engagement when applied appropriately. Here, each of the communities should be led before the membership becomes strong and the community grows to relinquish leadership to the online community (Sproles 1985).

Developing Content

Content is crucial for the community as interactions and exchange of information revolves around the content organizations develop about their brands. The organization should develop a strategy that enables stimulated response from the customers to create content with the organization’s staff acting as role models and leaders in content creation. Organizational staff is crucial in content creation as they provide a leadership role and direction in the characteristics of content exchanged about a brand (Scott 2010). Here, the staff kick starts discussions about the particular brand based on a number of strategies. These include providing a stream of inputs about a product that should be consistently maintained to ensure a strong brand presence (Scott 2010). That is in addition to ensuing each of the new materials and content have a uniqueness that attracts the customer about the specific brand (Scott 2010).

Content should reflect needs of the user community and captivate users with the aim of creating positive affect, posted at the most appropriate time to the most appropriate demographic community. Appropriate content reflects higher interaction levels, high product availability, product ranges, positive intentions such as praise and gratitude, and stimulate sharing of information about the product ultimately influencing strong customer relationship that leads to brand loyalty and engagement.

Tracking the Dynamics of the User Community

Once the content has been developed, the dynamics of the user community remains crucial in determining the rate consumers interact with each other and share content about the specific brand (Boyd & Ellison 2008). Research shows that organizational marketers need to remain keen about the dynamics of the community and ensure interactions are carefully evaluated to determine the growth rate of the content about the brand on Facebook. That is in addition to ensuring that any draw backs about the brand realized from the communication within and without the communities is evaluated to provide information about actual brand engagement. The marketing staff also ensures that any actions that negate positive brand perceptions are evaluated and strategies formulated to counter such negative effects (Bodkin & Perry 2004). The staff also ensures that string relationships are developed between the organization offering a given brand and the community which has been developed over time. The marketer in this case acts as a liaison between the community and the firm offering the brand designated for engagement on social media (Solomon 2004).

Facebook Success for Brand Engagement

Success in brand engagement, after an organization has put every effort into every strategy to create strong brand engagement, borrow heavily on factors such as repeat customers, the financial benefits gained from the brand, the level of brand loyalty established, and other metrics that point toward the successful performance of a brand on social media (Veloutsou, Gilbert, Moutinho & Good 2005).

Fill (2002) has researched and confirmed that Facebook provides a wide audience to interact with, and provides a platform for the customers to identify their unique attitudes toward a products, express their needs in real time, provide information about how they want a product to be, the needs a product is to address, their likes and dislikes in a product in real time. Information is a key component for any marketer to understand their customers and strive to create products that address their need and wants. Facebook provides a real time marketing ecommerce platform that is market drive.

Studies have shown a significant number of people use Facebook as a communication platform, to share, and interact with other people from different backgrounds and communities who share the same values and beliefs. That is in addition to the fact that Facebook provides access to approach of calculating the impact of online campaigns, provides metrics for measuring brand engagement, and provides flexible platform to reach an audience in real time.

Studies provide examples where Facebook online campaigns have registered success in reaching the intended audience.

According to Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders & Wong (2001) and Zeff & Aronson (2001), while exploring the underlying theories of engagement, research shows a significant departure from a single theory of engagement. In theory, engagement can be attitudinal or behavioral and provides elements such as visual perspectives, attention, memory, visual mental imagery, and social relations (Plummer, 2006). These components water down to behavioral and attitudinal engagement. According to Interactive Softworks (2010), different models have been

The Effective Customer Engagement Model

Different models of engagement have been developed by different researchers that organizations are recommended to adopt when conducting marketing campaigns on social media. These models are designed to create customer engagement with the effective customer engagement models specifically addressed in this study. These models are designed with different steps to achieve engagement. The Interactive Softworks (2010) provides a model characterized by six steps identified to be crucial to achieving effective customer engagement in social media.

True Multichannel

According to Interactive Softworks (2010), these steps include embracing a true multichannel strategy to address communication between different customers based on a communication channel that effectively access the customers in real time. In this study, the practical communication channel considered in this case is the internet with Facebook as the channel of engagement. According to Interactive Softworks, (2010), each interaction activity can easily be accessed in another platform, implying that sites hosting organizational products can be linked to Facebook to create channels of communication and access to information about particular brands. According to Interactive Softworks (2010), the model operates on a shared platform with Facebook defined in the category as a shared platform specific to this study. Facebook, which is a shared platform, provided the basis for conducting the functions, processes, and information sharing about a brand.

Smarter Conversations

Interactive Softworks (2010) argues that “having smarter conversations” is the next step that defines the effective customer engagement model. In this case, conversation that defines the manner of interactions that occur between customers at different levels on Facebook provides a measure of success of a brand on Facebook. Interactions further provide the basis for measuring the level of genuine commitment customers have toward a brand. Conversations provide the frequency with which people talk about a brand based on “initial liking; liking specific content on a page, posting to a wall; commenting; sharing a post or other content from the page; answering a question; photo tagging; check-ins” provides the rationale to confirm the level of brand loyalty on a product. Here, brand loyalty and conversations show the commitment level between a business, a brand, and customer experiences posted on social media.

Initiation

Interaction, according to Interactive Softworks (2010) is defined in the context of the processes that lead to effective conversations defined in the brand initiation phase of developing strong customer relationships that measures the value a product has toward a customer and how an organization values the customer. That is in addition to informing the customer the level of genuineness that a brand has in view of customer needs and expectations. Companies need to understand customer needs, experiences, and customer perceptions at every level of engagement.

Integration

The next level of customer interactions envisaged in the effective communication model at the smart communications phase is integration. Interactive Softworks (2010) argues that organizations attempt to achieve effective operational effectiveness for the product to address the needs and experiences of the customer to influence a customer’s attitude positively.

Intelligence

Firms conducting marketing campaigns on Facebook consider the intelligence phase, which constitutes the fourth step in the interaction process crucial, because information is gathered on the social media platform about a product to develop the right marketing strategy and ultimate brand engagement. Financial returns as one of the tools that define the level of engagement enables the organization to develop appropriate and string brand engagement strategies to address customer needs and experiences based on attitude build and the measure of loyalty developed toward the brand.

Integration

The ultimate element of value creation in the interactions step of the smart conversations phase requires that the organization interacting on the social media platform creates strong relationship with the customer.

Each of the steps results in customer experience that influences emotional information posted on Facebook and shared between the online communities about a product. Each of the experiences that results in customer transformation leads to emotional transformation of the customer’s feelings, influencing the intellect of the customer and the thinking about a brand. Thinking can yield a positive or negative attitude in a person depending on the emotional perceptions developed about a brand, the behavior attitude, and the relationship developed between the customer and the brand.

According to Interactive Softworks (2010), smart conversations provide the basis for customer-focused personalized and direct messages. That is in addition to making the customer focused information automatic, and responses to the customer inquiries should be based on a company expert with internal working knowledge of the products and the company. When the right information is provided at the right time, customers are able to make rightly informed decisions with Facebook providing a real time platform for the delivery of brand messages.

Providing Seamless Experience

Delivery of seamless experiences to the customer about a product, according to Interactive Softworks (2010), provides the next phase of the effective customer engagement model. In his phase, an organization engaged on an e-commerce platform to conduct marketing campaigns endeavors to provide customers with delights after their own liking. The phase requires that interactions are personalized to reflect customer needs while delivering compelling offers that are tailored toward addressing customer needs and expectations. The experience by the customer about a brand should remain consistent and be reflected in the channel history and the type and level of transactions on a brand.

Brand Engagement Strategy

The fourth phase in the effective customer engagement model consists of engaging the customer by formulating brand engagement strategies on social networking media in this case Facebook. The phase requires the company to support the process of building communities on Facebook where interaction plays a significant role where communities after their different values, norms, and beliefs share information about a brand. The right engagement strategy should be aligned to an organization’s objectives and business goals, be critical in providing attitudinal data on customer behavior toward a brand, establish the right data analytically showing the trend about customer preferences, and reflects the factors that influence customer engagement drawing on the ability to influence customers to retain a sustained loyalty toward a brand (Interactive Softworks 2010).

Value Addition

The fifth phase requires that an organization strategizes to add value to the relationships established between the customer and the brand to ensure better terms and conditions are provided for the customer on a continuous basis. The potential for value addition is propelled further with the use of new channels and engaging customers strategically Interactive Softworks (2010). Research has shown that when the customer engagement drive is strong, the impact has been shown to be overwhelmingly positive. A strong drive is based on marketing campaigns that have powerful marketing messages directly tailored to target a market segment, with a combination of positive user experiences that users share on Facebook as a shared platform.

The sharing of information on Facebook underlies the drive based on the user community which provides the foundation of sharing information about a brand. That is in addition to establishing long term relationship with the customers based on the value added to the relationship established between the customer and the brand Interactive Softworks (2010). Customer relationship in this case should be sustained to ensure effective engagement. Effective engagement based on customer engagement elements of feeling valued, trust, effectiveness, control, relevance, and consistency provides the relationship with a sustained engagement based on giving the customer the right message at the right platform and the right time.

Agility

The last phase, which is the sixth phase, defined by the need for the organization to show agility requires that the organization in question establishes appropriate measures of the level of impact of customer engagement with the brand through the level of customer retention, the revenue generated from customer buying behavior for a particular brand, and the loyalty established toward a brand. The approach used to measure and evaluate the potential revenue generated form customer loyalty can be achieved using real time analytic techniques to evaluate the level of brand loyalty and the benefits associated with brand engagement Interactive Softworks (2010).

In summary, the model provides a host of benefits realized when firms adopt the model in formulating their customer engagement strategies. In the model discussed above, the customer and the firm get mutual benefits as the model is customer centric, it is needs focused, and pulls customers. That is in addition to its key characteristics including gathering information from the customers, educating the customers about a brand on social media, informing the customers and the firm about the feelings of the customer, creating optimism in the firm and the customer, and undertaking to create and build brand royalty with the customer Interactive Softworks (2010).

Summary

In exploring factors that affect customer engagement via Facebook, the inquiry has established the underlying brand engagement elements that are crucial for customer engagements. These include intimacy for brand affinity, influence based on customer information, interactions related to involvement, and involvement for establishing genuine relationships. The inquiry has established strategies for creating customer engagement with brands for organizations. These factors include Facebook popularity, ease of usage, real time communication, and user ownership, and unique marketing solutions. It is crucial for organizations to understand the user communities as a prerequisite to establishing and creating engagement factors, to enable organizations formulate effective brand engagement strategies. In this study, brand engagement is theoretically modeled after the “Effective Customer Engagement Model” in the quest for organizations to reap the benefits of brand engagement with customers via Facebook.

Methodology

Introduction

The purpose of this study is to explore factors that affect customer engagement via the Facebook social media. Facebook is a channel that can be used for marketing campaigns to influence customer engagements for organizational products. The platform has direct impact on the performance of B2B and B2C transactions on the E-commerce environment. The best methods that organizations use to influence individual participation, community creation, and engagement strategies on Facebook are established. Facebook is used as a social platform to create higher revenues, customer loyalty, drive sales, and establish strong customer/brand engagements. Toward that end, a mixed study method integrating qualitative and quantitative methods underlies the study. The data gathering tools used include interviews, questionnaires, surveys, observations, and document analysis of both primary and secondary sources of data (Odendahl & Shaw, 2002). To successfully address the research, the target population included online market segments with different demographic and income distributions on Facebook.

Research Design

An exploratory research design was used in the current study to establish the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook. In the study, exploratory literature review, theoretical foundations on brand engagements, and the link between theory and practice are established to determine brand engagement factors. In this study, research questions provide a guide in finding answers to the inquiry. Here, questionnaires were administered to respondents based on a longitudinal study using questionnaires, interviews, and analysis of available literature on brand engagement factors. The approach uses both qualitative and quantitative paradigms under a mixed research method as discussed elsewhere in this paper is used. In this study, the research questions for which answers are sought for include:

An exploratory research design was used in the current study to establish the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook. The design focuses on why organizations should establish a comprehensive understanding of the brand engagement elements. The study attempts to understand how organizations should create brand engagement with customers, the reasons for brand engagement with customers on Facebook, and the uniqueness Facebook offers for brand engagement. A comprehensive strategy for brand engagement is provided in the design with a theoretical model consisting of conceptualized approach to brand engagement. In the study, exploratory literature review, theoretical foundations on brand engagements, and the link between theory and practice are established to determine brand engagement factors. In this study, research questions provide a guide in finding answers to the inquiry.

Research Questions

  1. What brand engagement elements that affect customer engagements?
  2. How do business organizations create brand engagement with customers?
  3. Why do customers engage with brands via Facebook?
  4. What marketing solutions does Facebook provide?
  5. How can business organizations understand the user community?
  6. What brand engagement strategies do organizations use?
  7. How is Facebook successful with brand engagements?
  8. What theoretical model underlies brand engagement via social media?

The rationale for the research questions was to investigate and identify the customer engagement elements to equip the author with prior knowledge on the direction to adopt for the inquiry. That leads to establishing how organizations have developed brand engagement with customers to clearly understand the connection between organizations and brand engagement elements. The author narrows the study down to brand engagement with customers via Facebook to determine the connection with Facebook and associated benefits. In addition to that, the research inquiries into organizational brand engagement strategies to understand the best brand engagement approach. Here, rationale for Facebook brand engagement as a successful platform which underlies the inquiry which draws on the theoretical model discussed in the study. The research questions provide an in-depth and comprehensive inquiry into brand engagement factors on Facebook for organizational business benefits.

Primary data

Primary data were collected using questionnaires with quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Secondary data

Secondary data was obtained by use of in-depth interviews and administration of questionnaires to the target population.

Instrumentation

Instrumentation draws on both qualitative and quantitative tools used to obtain data from the sample selected for the study. From the qualitative and quantitative perspectives, instruments used include questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and surveys. In the study, separate fields were provided for providing information from different people from different backgrounds including education, leadership, ethnic, gender, and online communities.

The underlying rationale of using questionnaires included the low cost incurred to reach a large number customers dispersed over the internet. In-depth interviews provided in-depth information from the respondents. In-depth interviews had the advantage of a one-on-one first hand acquisition of information from the respondent. In theory and practice, questionnaires suffered from low response rates, weaknesses that can be overcome by increasing the target population and making follow-ups, personal bias in filling the questionnaires can be overcome by clarifying questions with reminders sent to the respondents to provide feedback. In-depth interviews were disadvantaged by lack of sufficient time to conduct the interviews, and the difficulty of reaching high profile organizational personnel.

Procedure

The procedure included conducting a literature review on factors that affect customer engagement on social media with a specific focus on Facebook, examining the crucial elements of engagement, user motivation, strategies for creating user engagement, and methods of creating user communities, and Facebook by different authors. The findings provided the foundation for formulating and conducting research by identifying the appropriate tool and methods of gathering data about customer engagement, the target population, and methods of administering the right tools to gather information to address the study.

Questionnaires were formulated and posted online to different online communities to address the study and follow ups were made to enhance user responses to maximize the response rates. The mixed method research design was appropriately applied to address the research in the context of the research problem.

According to Steckler, McLeroy, Goodman, Bird, and McCormick (1992), mixed methods for the current study was to seek to identify the factors affecting customer engagement with brands via Facebook by drawing a parallel with theory of brand engagement based on an analysis of qualitative and quantitative data (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004). Each of the methods, qualitative and quantitative were first examined by considering the relative merits of each approach for their appropriateness in the study (Wolf, 2010).

Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) have studied and detailed the rationale for using mixed methods, which provides data triangulation which has collaborative and convergence effects on brand loyalty and revenue generation. This phase included the rationale of exploring the benefits of mixed methods from practical and theoretical studies. The benefits of mixed methods include better instrumentation in data collection, better provision and comprehension of findings, broader comprehension of the impact of the elements of engagement on the marketing strategies (Greene, Caracelli & Graham, 1989; Hammersley 2005). That was in special reference to studies by Greene et al. (1989) who showed how this could improve the validity of results based on different approaches and perspectives of addressing similar issues from two different perspectives. In the reviews by Greene et al. (1989), the results obtained based on both paradigms could be complimented by requiring a critical evaluation of the results by better elaboration of the findings, with special focus on illustrations of the outcomes which should be with clarity.

Another benefit of mixed methods approach was to overcome the positivist element of quantitative data and the negativism element associated with qualitative data (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Green (1979, p.2) viewed the mixed method research approach as “discovering paradoxes and contradictions that lead to a re-framing of the research question” (Greene et al., 1989).Tashakkori and Teddlie (1998) show that concurrent data collection based on the qualitative and quantitative data collection paradigms add to the benefits of the mixed used as one research method (Griffith & Pol, 1994; Becker & Bryman 2004).

The mixed methods ha potential weaknesses of triangulation because of variations in information by the participants with each source regarded as authentic when the reverse holds true (Greene & McClintock 1985; Greene & McClintock 1985). Triangulation also fails to provide valid sources of data if no measures are in place to ensure validity conflicting answers (Greene & McClintock 1985).

A weakness identified in the research included the subjectivity and objectivity of the questions used in the study and which strongly rely on the perceptions of the researcher who formulated predetermined questions that were administered on the respondents. Other weaknesses included subjectivity the respondents using the qualitative research method by drawing on questionnaires, and closed ended structured and qualitative paradigm drawing semi-structured questionnaires (De Vaus 2001). The difficulty of combining sampling strategies focused on large samples, multiple cases under investigations, and generalized representations based on the quantitative paradigm and qualitative paradigm. That allowed the use of small samples, with a focus on a small scale study that was non-representative of a large population, limited the implications on the research (Meenan et al. 1992; Williams & Richardson 1993; Creswell 1999).

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Finalize methods X X
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Secondary data X X
Interviews X X
Set up data file X
Enter data X X
Analyse data X X
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Qualitative Method

The qualitative data was obtained using open ended questionnaires from the target population used for the study drawn with a sample size taken from customer in the online community who have used social media as a platform to purchase products online and have shared information with others in the online community.

Quantitative Method

Quantitative data was obtained using closed ended questions, in-depth interviews and other sources of information crucial to the study.

Appropriateness of the Design

The mixed methods research design used in exploring the research had been identified appropriate for the study. Justifiably, both qualitative and quantitative paradigms combined into a single mixed research method will provide answers to the question on factors that affect customer engagement via Facebook.

Here, the approach is appropriate because the mixed method method draws on the strengths associated with qualitative and quantitative techniques mentioned above with specifics including the ability to provide both numerical data for testing customer engagement concepts, observations from the qualitative and the quantitative paradigms to provide comparative data for correlation and enhancement to make clear cut decisions on the impact of the relationships being studied on the performance of business organizations to achieve success. These paradigms concur at the point of transformations of one type of data to the other through a transformative design as a key advantage..

Data Collection

According to Creswell and Plano Clark (2007), data collection strategies relevant to a particular study follow a concurrent approach. The concurrent data collection strategy allows for quantitative and qualitative data collections with the flexibility of converting data from one form to the other to address the study as fits the research. Quantitative data will be collected to study the factors that influence customer engagement on Facebook.

The main weakness of respondents was their failure to provide follow-ups when required. To ensure complete data collections and biasness of any other procedure while capitalizing on the strengths of different data collection strategies, a sequential approach was integrated into the concurrent data collections approach. That was to optimize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses associated with different data collections methods.

The sequential method drawing on the quantitative paradigm provided the benefits of iterative data collection strategies with subsequent data collection methods influencing each subsequent step in the data gathering process. That was because, the research required significant amounts of data to reduce any weaknesses associated with drawing conclusions on unrepresentative data. Statistical packages used to provide clear cut approaches for subsequent data to argument the next phase.

The sequential approach included factoring time availability and the respondents who had limited time to respond to the paused questions providing a string benefit for using the approach. To address the time constraints the limiting the respondents are participating in the study, a strategy including collecting survey data and later on conducting in-depth interviews. The sequential approach uses closed ended questionnaires, with the response categories developed from different organizational leaderships. At the lower levels of conducting the study, individualized questionnaires aimed at exploring each survey responses and general perspectives of leadership variables and their implications on organizational performance.

The time constraint on concurrent data collections was overcome where respondents. That is in addition to providing the research time sufficient time to analyse the responses, allowing the research team to tailor subsequent questions appropriate for the subsequent studies. Because the respondents might make mistakes, the sequential approach provided the flexibility to make follow-ups with the aim of clarifying any ambiguities that might get into the way of the data collections process. Survey data and in-depth interviews could provide actual data that could be used to make specific decisions affecting the performance of employees relative to a leadership style.

Key disadvantages identified with the sequential data collections strategies included weaknesses associated with the loss of depth and flexibility especially during the quantization period of qualitative data, the multidimensional nature of qualitative data with the potential to introduce new and different themes from the original theme, with new and emergent themes. Quantitative data in this study is prone to the weakness of single set of responses making the approach unidimensional without the potential to adjust and change with emerging trends. The strategy might compel the research team to reduce the size of the sample to address the limitations associated with the statistical methods of data coding and analysing data. Simple statistical measures of association could provide the problem of quantitization compelling the research team to ensure the sample used for statistical analysis is sufficiently big enough to address any discrepancies that might arise from the results of statistical analysis.

Data Analysis

Both qualitative and quantitative data analysis approaches qualify for use in the study as the study uses mixed research methods. To analyse the data and provide actionable data for the study, the qualitative data obtained from the study was analysed by converting the data into with the purpose of creating a comprehensive single data set that is quantized. Among the strategies to use include establishing a numerical value of the frequency with which qualitative code occurs. The large amount of data, time constraints, and benefits of using technology draw on the use of software programs including Atlas or NVivo that are designed to perform the quantization process to generate such reports. The process involved entering data into access database, coding qualitative data and using Atlas or NVivo software programs, linking the responses to another database with quantitative responses, and associations analysed using the SAS program.

Validity and Reliability

The validity and reliability of the instruments used in the study were evaluated on the ground that these instruments could perform exactly the purpose for which the study was intended. The quantitative paradigm of the design required validity and reliability measures on the internal, external, content, predictive, ecological, face, and bias. The quantitative paradigm design could require validity and reliability based on the credibility, transferability, evaluative, interpretive, and dependability (Patten, 2004; Wallen and Fraenkel, 2001). Content validity and reliability, readability of the instruments, and the layout and structure of the instruments were evaluated. To ensure content validity and reliability, mock trials of questionnaires, interviews, and surveys were conducted to identify any weaknesses and address any weaknesses that might be detected.

Limitations

Scope

The scope was limited to data obtained from online users engaged to Facebook without collecting information from other platform such as Amazon.com.

Validity

The results were valid for a wide audience and could be adopted by organizations for evaluating their customer engagement strategies for alignment to their marketing strategies. However, the results could be limited to Facebook as one unique platform.

Analysis

Data analysis was limited to applications including excel and the subjectivity of analysing the data without a benchmark tool to evaluate the results.

Personal reflections

The design of the current research was both challenging and a foundation for putting into practice my experience of the academic knowledge I had acquired in class. That involved searches for information to appropriately fit into the research I was undertaking. It was a rich and critical experience I had undergone through by trying to establish how people get engaged with brands, what underlies the engagement with brands on Facebook, and the processes of getting engaged to brands via Facebook to establish the factors that influence people toward using Facebook as a media for brand engagement. In conclusion, I felt that people get engaged to brands via Facebook because the site is the most popularly visited sites on the internet, and because it provides additional benefits to the people. These includes links to friends and families, ability to share information in real time, ability to interact with communities of people and develop a sense of belonging, ability to create one’s profile, and the flexibility to view the profile of different companies and brands in real time. That is in addition to the challenges of deciding the research approach to use to ensure the validity of the results. In conclusion, the research was satisfactory and further research needs to be conducted along the line as mentioned in the recommendation section.

Results and Discussion

Results

Results based on the literature review and the qualitative research has yielded a number of factors that affect customer engagement with brands, and the best practices organizations should apply to create strong brand engagements to achieve their marketing goals.

The following findings were established based on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) from the data obtained after questionnaires were administered on a number of online customers who use Facebook as an interacting platform to share information about brands and the degree of engagement with such brands.

Number of Questionnaires administered to respondents online 99
Response rate 96
Discarded Questionnaires 3
Questionnaires used for analysis 93
Percentage response rate 96.97

Qualitative Questionnaire Results.

Factors affecting customer brand engagement N Sum Mean
Facebook provides flexibility for engagement 144 432 3.00
Marketing strategy 144 426 2.96
The user community 144 576 4.00
Influence from online user community 144 645 4.48
Direct marketing 144 675 4.69
Application layout 144 531 3.69
Allows for the sharing of information 144 672 4.67
Provides platform for real time communication 144 537 3.73
Reputation of the firm on Facebook 144 534 3.71
Product design 144 336 2.33
Frequency of interactions 144 378 2.62
Facebook application layout 144 189 1.31
Allows for relationship building between user community 144 421 2.92
Good management and administrative support 144 576 4.00
Facebook provides the platform for the sharing of user experiences 144 438 3.04
Facebook allows brands to be maintained 144 381 2.65
Facebook allows for the generation of awareness 144 468 3.25
Facebook stimulates product demand 144 519 3.60
Provides a real time social advertising platform 144 416 2.89
Facebook is a primary means of communication 144 627 4.35
Facebook allows for one to update product status in time 144 434 3.01
Facebook connects people in a unique way 144 436 3.03
Facebook provides access to people in all hierarchies of society 144 574 3.99
Facebook allows people to interact in similar groups of interest 144 486 3.37
Facebook provides a list of friends groupings 144 340 2.36
Facebook provides links to organizational products and other websites 144 390 2.71
Facebook provides advertising platform 144 330 2.29
Facebook provides the flexibility with a news feed 144 388 2.69
Quantitative Questionnaire Results
Little training sessions might be required to use Facebook 144 423 2.94
Facebook allows others to post product information on their wall 144 474 3.29
Facebook provides space to one to create their user profile 144 429 2.98
It is easy to meet people in need of a particular product 144 336 2.33
Facebook allows others to create content on their own 144 195 1.35
Facebook is global in nature and allows access to a wide audience on the internet 144 330 2.29
Hosts millions of users to interact with 144 381 2.65
Allows people to post updates regularly 144 429 2.98
Allows people to reflect their thoughts regularly 144 423 2.94
Enables people to find new friends 144 436 3.03
Allows people and organizations to upload video 144 330 2.29
Allows people to upload pictures 144 192 1.33
Allows people to register their presence 144 243 1.69
Enables organizations to create a presence of their brand 144 288 2.00
Provides community members to invite others into their communities 144 474 3.29
Provides the opportunity to create in real time interactive conversation about products 144 375 2.60
Enables people to create new friend 144 381 2.65
Enables businesses be part of the social graph 144 333 2.31
Provides pages with free public profiles 144 432 3.00
Enables uses to publish content and connect with friends 144 582 4.04
Facebook generates leads to a brand 144 294 2.04
Facebook pages allows users to designate an administrator 144 336 2.33
Facebook provides the flexibility to control one’s exposure 144 390 2.71
Facebook provides plugins that enable organizations and other users make their websites more interactive and social 144 381 2.65
Facebook provides applications that provide unique Ads never seen on other sites 144 672 4.67
Facebook enables organizations to learn more about their customers 144 570 3.96
Enables firms to learn about customer tastes 144 477 3.31
Enables firms to learn about customer needs 144 525 3.65
Enables firms to learn about consumer behavior 144 426 2.96
Enables firms to learn about customer preferences 144 573 3.98
Enables firms to segment their customers 144 480 3.33
Provides results on marketing campaigns for organizations 144 477 3.31
Site visits 144 531 3.69

In-depth Interviews

The in-depth interviews were conducted with company executives and a small number of customers to determine the factors that affect customer engagement via Facebook. Organizational executives indicated involvement, interactions, and intimacy as crucial to brand engagement. The investigation indicated brand awareness, use of pug-ins, campaigns, us of visuals, and capturing customer emotions to constitute methods organizations use to create brand engagement with customers.

In inquiry showed that the Facebook popularity, great brand resonance, influence, different page categories, the ability to provide real time communication, easy networking, and unique marketing solutions were crucial in establishing customer engagement with brands via Facebook. However, understanding the user community and effective brand engagement strategies were crucial to establishing accurate information about brand engagement with customers via Facebook.

The main weakness with the use of in-depth interviews is finding time to engage company executives to conduct the interviews. The weakness is addressed by applying well in advance for sufficient time to conduct the interviews.

Discussion

Quantitative and qualitative results based on the questionnaires and review of literature provides a lot of insight into the factors that affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook and the underlying elements of customer engagement, strategies that firms or organizations use to create brand engagement, the rationale for customer engagement with brands on Facebook, and a comprehensive understanding of the user community. Therefore, the research and the literature review contribute to discovering a number of issues related to the Factors affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook that organizations need to comprehensibly understand to drive sales, create brand awareness, position their brands in the market, create strong brand presence, brand loyalty, and reinforce customer engagement with brands.

According to the literature review, it has been established that customer engagement on social media with special reference to Facebook is pegged on the attributes that are inherent on Facebook as a social networking site. These attributes include the ability and flexibility that Facebook provides to the online community who are either individual users, a community of users, or organizations to create brand engagement. Facebook provides free social spaces on which individuals create their profiles, organizations create product profiles, and plugins that allow adverts to be posted online. Once an organization or an individual has logged into the Facebook website, one finds the site interactive and easy to use, providing the visitor with the navigational capabilities to achieve the purpose of signing up to the site without the need for third party assistance.

Facebook provides the flexibility and support for communities to interact by providing applications that support the underlying interaction elements to facilitate involvement. In this case, involvement provides the underlying measure of customer engagement with a brand. Here, organizations in need of evaluating the level of engagement with a brand that customer have developed measure the level of involvement by examining the number of visits and log ins a customer makes to a company website with special reference to the company brand through Facebook. Involvement helps organizations to determine the level of engagement and evaluate their marketing strategies, brand attributes and the level of acceptance of the brand by the customer. That is in addition to understanding the time a customer spends on a particular site hosting a particular brand, which is a crucial measure of the attitude and psychological impact the brand has on the customer. Involvement also provides a measure of the level of interactions and how often information about a brand is exchanged between community members, friends, and families and other comments made on a particular brand to allow a firm to res-strategize the best approach to address brand engagement on Facebook, Facebook provides all these capabilities.

Facebook also provides, according to research findings, application capabilities for the customer and the organization to track customer responses on a given brand, rate customer ratings, evaluate and rate the number of transactions done on a brand, the purchases done on the product, and reviews the ratings to provide statistical information about the product to organizational managers. That provides one psychological approach of influencing customers, when the brands are well accepted other members of the online community able to develop a positive attitude that influences their purchasing behavior and the sharing of information about a product with others.

Facebook provides a platform for organizations to measure the level of intimacy a customer has developed toward a given brand. The level of intimacy influences, as research has shown, the attachment one has toward a product and the likelihood of influencing others to develop intimacy or a positive attitude toward the product. The attitude toward a brand shapes the buying behavior and firms find Facebook an effective platform to sell their brands while customers find the site appropriate to search for information about a brand that ultimately influences their purchasing behavior. That is in addition to Facebook providing capabilities for organizations to monitor any conversations about their brands to allow them take corrective actions in case of a problem detected with a brand at the earliest opportunity possible.

Facebook also provides the capability to allow customers make recommendations about a product and a measure of the likelihood that customers can recommend a product to another individual in the community.

Other factors that influence customer engagement with brands on Facebook include the users from different backgrounds considering Facebook as a primary means of communication which allows people in communities to create connections and communicate in real time. In addition to that, findings show that Facebook provides customers with the flexibility to create communities based on their preferences, culture, and other consumer attributes that ultimately influences their engagement with brands of their choice. That is because a community has shared attributes, norms, values, and beliefs that influence their attachment toward a brand and their influences on each other toward a brand. That is in addition to the wide community of users hosted on Facebook who have strong influence on the perceptions members develop toward a brand.

An analysis of other factors that have strong influences toward brand engagement on Facebook show that the site provides organizations with the flexibility to conduct marketing of their products and appeal and influence consumer behavior, understand and establish customer intentions to return, do repetitive purchasing, and recommend the product to other customers with a strong inclination to create customer engagement. Here, organizations understand the level of engagement through the level of intensity in interactions with the products, the organizational site, and rate of sharing information with other online users.

The research provides opportunities to identify other salient factors that affect brand engagement on Facebook to be diverse based on application layout, communities that have shared beliefs and norms, communities that belong to the same class, and the positive attitude held toward a brand, and key links that allow engagement with products.

Other factors include flexibility for engagement, allow for the sharing of information, reputation of a firm on Facebook, good management and administrative support, provision of a real time social advertising platform to enable information be tailored appropriate for the customer in addressing their needs and expectations. It is crucial for organizations, when formulating marketing campaigns to identify and integrate the factors underlying customer engagement which include making the customers to feel valued, show respect and due regard for the customers time by providing services and product efficiently and effectively, establish credibility by ensuring customers have trust in the company and its products, ensure a level of consistency in product and service offerings, be reliable, and communicate effectively by providing appropriate and correct information to the customer.

Conclusion

Research has shown several factors affect customer engagement with brands via Facebook. These factors, uniquely interwoven with the internet technology and in particular, Facebook include user capabilities that enable the sharing of information. That is in addition to the real time communication capabilities provided on Facebook, ability for the user and companies to create personal and brand profiles respectively, the large number of audience Facebook hosts, varied user communities, and links to different organizational websites. Here, the plug in applications on Facebook provides the platform for engagement while allowing customers to build a community of users. Facebook provides a platform for companies to advertise their products, create links to their websites on Facebook, create brand profiles, and evaluate the rate of customer engagement with their brands, the rate at which these products are purchased online. The underlying components include interactions, involvement, intimacy, and influence, which form the core elements that define the level of commitment for a particular brand developed by customers..

Typically, the factors on customer engagement with brands on Facebook not only span the psychological impact based on the usage of the Facebook technology, but also spans other issues such as the provision of fan pages for people to post information about certain brands in real time, showcase brands, has a platform for campaigns that host information that influences customer perceptions about a brand which ultimately influences their level of engagement and decision making process. In addition to that, Facebook provides adequate space for fans and organizations to upload pictures, videos, and other tools that can be used to stimulate and enhance customer engagements with brands on the site. In addition to that, Facebook provides a preferred platform for real time communication with users and enables organizations to create appropriate content about company brands on Facebook.

The most crucial issue that an organization should consider is a customer driven brand engagement strategy. The nature of interactions on Facebook with customers should be tailored to create value, provide collaborative sharing of information. That could provide firms wanting to engage with customers on Facebook with the benefits of increased customer loyalty and satisfaction, experience across channels, and provide the organizations with the benefits associated with a strong online brand engagement with customers online.

Suggestions for Future Work

These include conducting studies to determine, once organizations have established customer engagement factors, how these factors can be sustained for business benefits for the organizations. In addition to that, it is crucial that customer engagement factors should be explored on other online platforms, and how these factors can be integrated by borrowing from traditional marketing strategies such as direct marketing.

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