The use of social networking sites (including Facebook) is growing rapidly in the marketing, consumer, and social sectors. The websites have revolutionized the marketing sector tremendously with more emphasis on “consumer behavior” (Van Der Heide, D’Angelo & Schumaker, 2012). This proposal intends to unveil how Facebook advertising techniques influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when they are making decisions on what to purchase. A social network site is defined as virtual groups/provisions on the internet that enables various users to network and exchange different interests and events (Waters & Ackerman, 2011). Members of these sites communicate through email as well as prompt messaging provisions among others. Presently, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo are the most popular social networking sites. Facebook is a social network site offering various utilities to its operators while facilitating social communication between them.
The major elements of Facebook include status updates, friend’s space, individual information, and news feeds. Currently, Facebook alone has well over 500 million users worldwide including Saudi Arabia (Harris & Dennis, 2011). Therefore, it has become very promising to make advertisements on these sites to be able to reach a wide audience. Social networks offer a rapid and stress-free means not only to exchange information but also to share experiences globally. This has enabled social networking sites to help their users in several ways far more than the traditional purposes for which it was created. These sites have allowed various products to be marketed to so many people. In addition, the products have become easily accessible and making purchasing decisions have also been eased by the guidelines provided. Besides, making advertisements in social networks such as Facebook is very affordable to users. Due to its importance, social network sites have attracted a lot of attention from various researchers who are trying to find the influence of these social network sites on the lifestyles of different people (Ahn, 2011). This study, which tries to find how Facebook advertising techniques influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase, is an example of such a research.
Notably, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that have adopted the use of social networking in advertisements. According to Arab Media Outlook, the use of social network sites for advertisements has grown tremendously over the past five years, with Facebook registering an increase of 80% users in the Arab world (Grasmuck, Martin & Zhao, 2009). Again, an analysis that was done by digital marketing agency known as ODM group revealed that 74 percent of consumers depend on social networks in making purchasing decisions (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007). Facebook is the most popular social network site over the internet (Lee, 2012). It has not only enabled users to interact in the social arena but also sharing of experiences and information in the consumer sector (Chad, 998). In Saudi Arabia, this site has attracted so many young people who spend considerable time on it daily. Therefore, most businesses and corporations in Saudi Arabia have found it very significant to make their advertisements here in order to reach millions of users. Research, reveals that Facebook is the most effective site in mobilizing consumers to discuss a certain commodity. It is exclusive since users can connect with strangers to get valuable information on the internet, unlike outdated ways (Storey, 1994). Saudi Arabian young consumers have a better opportunity to communicate with others through emails or prompt message services on new products available in the market and their features/advantages/benefits. In most cases, consumers believe in their peers as compared to marketers who get payments for promoting a particular product. According to research, consumer purchasing decision is better influenced by their peers than any other resource like advertisement (Lewis, Kaufman & Christakis, 2008).
The introduction of social networking sites has increased incredibly in the recent past. The use of such media has also increased among the youths. Various companies and business institutions have vowed to employ this novel technology for marketing purposes. The young Saudi Arabian consumers (aged between 18-27) are massively embracing Facebook to socially network. Nonetheless, it is still controversial to find how Facebook advertising techniques influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase. This can be subjected to research for validation.
This research aims to execute an exploratory study on how Facebook advertising influences the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase. This is a critical focus based on the value of this topic and how the information can be used to strategize other marketing provisions in the context of consumer behavior and purchase decisions (Tong, 2008).
The mentioned aim is attainable through the execution of the following underlying objectives:
- To critically understand the characteristics and the general marketing techniques of Facebook as a social networking site.
- To critically understand the characteristics, definitions, applications, benefits and drawbacks in the subject of social media especially Facebook.
- To critically evaluate the influence on the young consumer’s behavior on decision making.
- To expansively comprehend the underlying advertising techniques employed by Facebook users especially among the young.
- To critically examine the consumer behaviors among the young in regard to online marketing
- How does Facebook advertising influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase?
- Which age group majorly use Facebook in Saudia Arabia
- What are the impacts of the social media on marketing in Saudi Arabian?
- What are the marketing techniques employed by businesses to reach this market segment?
According to a research study that was conducted by Otago University in New Zealand on the Influence of Facebook Friends on Consumers’ Purchase Decisions, 84.9 percent of consumers end up purchasing a product based on commendations from Facebook networks (Grasmuck, Martin & Zhao, 2009). Indeed, in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world, most consumers tend to seek product information from their Facebook friends, which impact significantly on their purchasing decisions. These indications suggest that Facebook friends can play a very important role in inducing consumer consciousness and purchasing behavior (Küster & Vila, 2011). Therefore, even though most corporations make advertisements on this site, they look forward to the endorsements of Facebook users who will then recommend the product to their friends. In this way, most people often purchase the product since they trust their friends’ recommendations. With regard to listening, companies use consumer perceptions in 80 percent of sales and purchasing decisions (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007). Most companies that are successful in making Facebook advertisements are keen on consumer interactions, while trying to understand different perceptions and other trends that impact their awareness as well as behaviors. Facebook provides a very good source of information about consumers. Companies and other businesses can recognize and classify their target clients on social networking sites, depending on private information like age, sexual category, interest and experience. Such information becomes very useful to the companies as it helps them to post relevant materials, inform advertisements and links, to those operators ” (Van Der Heide, D’Angelo & Schumaker, 2012).
Facebook advertising is very important for promotion of products not only in Saudi Arabia but also globally. Consumers spend much of their time on Facebook, therefore when companies capitalize on this, they are sure to reach out to several people. Facebook is effective since consumers recommend products to their friends thereby significantly their purchasing decisions.
According to Harris & Dennis (2011), Facebook is arguably the largest social network website, and has the largest number of users and visitors, with most of them having different preferences. Some users simply access Facebook to link up with celebrities to connect themselves with the entertainment world. This provision can be ceased in the marketing arenas to study the influence on the young consumers purchasing behavior. In Saudi Arabia and beyond, others use Facebook to connect with other people they know which can be friends or relatives. This can in turn influence their purchasing trends. Saudi Arabian Companies have created accounts to connect with other Facebook users, relatively called ‘facebookers’ (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007). Young Facebook users are able to view new products and company profiles through other accounts, as groups, as pages or as posts found on the Facebook user walls. The interconnection between Facebook and other social media network has also allowed the connection of other non-Facebook users with Facebook products. Facebook has been able to capture large groups of users in Saudi Arabia (Valenzuela, Park & Kee, 2009). Additionally, Facebook is controlled by an adult policy where underage users are not allowed total control over their accounts; parental advisory is used.
In marketing, Facebook has graphical use with accounts having a large capacity to store many files including photos. This feature is preferred by young Facebook users and has been a shift away from the conventional means of communication in many organizations as a result of the migration of advertising budgets to online channels (Debatin, Lovejoy, Horn & Hughes, 2009). Global recession from 2008 has also contributed to the growing focus on online advertising as a result of the diminished share of advertising budget for print and broadcast media in many organizations (Ahn, 2011). According to Ahn (2011), 52% of Europeans are regularly online at home while 36% and 28% of European internet users watch less TV and read newspapers and magazines respectively. In the Facebook context, Constantinides and Fountain (2008) identified five categories of social media namely: Blogs, social networks, content communities, forums and bulletin boards, and content aggregators. Some of the most dominant social media are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (Debatin, Lovejoy, Horn & Hughes, 2009)). In terms of definition Universal Maccann International (2008) defines social media as online applications, platforms and media which aim to facilitate interactions, collaborations and the sharing of content. The importance of social media was also emphasized by Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe (2007) when the author described them as the facilitator of asynchronous, immediate, interactive, and low-cost communications. Other research efforts aimed at describing the values and benefits of the social media come from Boyd and Ellison (2007); Hart et al (2008) and Ofcom (2008) who summed it up as an important means of communication for enriching the user’s experience in a fun and colorful way. In the context of application and benefits for organizations, large-scale corporate organizations have started to realize the impacts of the social media as a means of gaining large share of voice in a market. Since the advent of the popular social media, a number of organizations within their lifecycles have used social media to establish strong networks with their customers. For example, Debatin et al. (2009) argue that Starbucks has used the Facebook site to attract at least 1.7 million potential clients, while Ford Motor Company has attracted purchases through MySpace, YouTube and Facebook media. Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe (2007) also mention big corporate brands like iPhone, CNN, Starbucks, Apple and iPod have consistently dominated social online space. Universal Maccann International (2008) reports that 36% of active internet users had more positive thoughts for companies with online presence, while 32% of internet users trusted online community’s opinion on products. Within a generic organization context, Constantinides and Fountain (2008) argue that social media, in a long term have the potential of offering strategic and operational benefits to organizations where an online feedback process can be established to feed into new product development process. In Saudi Arabia, Facebook has managed to gain prominence with various users able to interact and share ideas on products (Stefanone, Kwon & Lackaff, 2012). For example, Küster and Vila (2011) argue that organizations traditionally use the web to advertise and promote products in order to influence the consumer’s behaviors. However, in sharp contrast to traditional purpose of attempting to attract purchase interests, Küster and Vila (2011) argue that marketers do not use social media primarily to attract sales but to influence consumer behaviors.
Concurrently, large-scale organizations have been able to harness the benefits of social media for promoting purchases (Küster & Vila, 2011). All of these show the enormous contribution of social media to the marketing metrics of organizations around the world in terms of the measurable benefits that accrue through the use of social media especially Facebook. Much of the research efforts detailing the contributions of social media have focused more on a large scale, and other traditionally large organizations (Tsoukas, 1989). Apart from the fact that few research efforts have identified the subject of social media’s use in Saudi Arabia, most of the cited works within this proposal have examined the marketing link between social media and consumer behavior. Precisely, the marketing provisions that Saudi Arabian marketers use to influence the young consumers’ behavior in the purchase decision incorporate online brand management, engaging Facebook users with information about the new products, marketing viral content that promotes brands/services, creating influencer campaigns, and using social bookmarking promotions to influence consumer behaviors.
Proposed Research Methodology
The proposed research will purposively choose the young consumers (both males and females aged 17-20) in Saudi Arabia to investigate how Facebook influences their decision-making when planning for purchases. The Focus group is university students (focusing on 12 universities out of 40 universities) in Saudi Arabia. After this purposive selection, there will be an application of random sampling procedures with equal chances and opportunities given to all the possible partakers in the proposed research. Application of various statistical formulas and inferences in determining the sample size requirement will be applicable. Basically, this is because the proposed study population is set to be of some considerable number in total. The exclusion and inclusion criteria will therefore depend on whether the target respondent is a Facebook user or not. The sampled group within the Saudi Arabian context will be chosen due to their intensive involvement in Facebook and other social media. Due to this factor, they are reportedly bound to experience notable challenges within the system and particularly, on the topic of how Facebook advertising influences the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase.
Materials, Equipment, Instruments used in data collection
The research will divide the sampled young Facebook users in Saudi Arabia into basic groups for easy investigations. In this approach, the investigator will apply diverse methodologies to unveil the Facebook advertising techniques used and how they influence young consumers’ behavior in making decisions on what to purchase. Consequently, the concept papers shall be introduced in the late times to avoid confusion and fallouts from the already set groups or study sub-sets. Each student shall receive a questionnaire containing questions on how social media impacts young people’s behavior as potential consumers. This will happen with specific interest on Facebook (Branthwaite & Patterson, 2011). Basically, it can be noted that structured questionnaires will be applicable as the main tools or instruments in the proposed investigation. The first portion will be applicable in determining the level of comprehension of these students in the social network areas as well as the general individual comprehension of Facebook and social network marketing concepts (Leikin, 2010). Each participant shall be required to explain their experiences with Facebook in the context of decision-making while doing purchases. Notably, all sections shall bear a score.
Both the qualitative and quantitative approaches of research will be applicable in the proposed study. This mixed methodology will be critical in enhancing the triangulation objective and determining the best applicable strategies of how Facebook advertising techniques influence the behavior of Saudi Arabian young consumers in making decisions on what to purchase. The quantitative approaches shall considerably involve the application of such mechanisms like the structured questionnaires involving the basic and general questions. The combined approach of both the qualitative and quantitative methodologies is generally widely applicable for most studies across different investigative fields. This is mainly because the approach has the competency to offer the unique and powerful depths of the distinct outcomes and results. The need to offer specific attention to the outlined aims as well as objectives and critical research questions largely emanates from the investigation. The alternative for the mixed method of research will therefore be based on these important study goals and objectives. Structured equation modeling will be applicable for the quantitative approaches within the proposed investigation (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).
The use of structured and unstructured surveys will also be crucial. The use of focus group discussion methods will help in the investigation and discovery of the respondents’ discourse capacities in using Facebook. This will be done within groups to enhance positive contributions and be able to identify the various existent disparities amongst them in regard to Facebook use. Sampling procedures are important for undertaking scientific investigations (Uma, 2011). The proposed investigation recognizes the significance of the application of purposive sampling procedure to enhance the process of obtaining the necessary data (Farrow & Yuan, 2011). Additionally, cross-sectional analysis will be used in strengthening the processes. The use of secondary information from books, journals, and internet sites will be extensively explored to unveil the prospected Facebook marketing techniques and influence on the consumer behavior.
There will be consideration of internal validity factors in all procedures. Closer observation and monitoring of the contrast and treatment groups will be critical in identification of the notable variances (Lewis, Kaufman & Christakis, 2008). The analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data will follow the two matched and compared pairs within the research. The exploration of secondary materials and administration of the will follow an informed consent procedure to ensure all the ethical and legal measures are observed (Uma, 2011).
Findings and Discussions
The application of social media in marketing has spread considerably. Facebook has applied various marketing techniques to influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase. Nonetheless, this is yet to be unveiled by the proposed research (Grasmuck, Martin & Zhao, 2009). Notably, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that have adopted the use of social networking in advertisements. According to Arab Media Outlook, the use of social network sites for advertisements has grown tremendously over the past five years, with Facebook registering an increase of 80% users in the Arab world (Valenzuela, Park & Kee, 2009). Again, an analysis that was done by a digital marketing agency known as the ODM group revealed that 74 percent of consumers depend on social networks in making purchasing decisions (Ahn, 2011).
The use of Facebook is growing rapidly in the marketing arenas. The website has revolutionized the marketing sector regarding consumer behaviors. This proposal intends to investigate how Facebook advertising techniques influence the behaviors of young Saudi Arabian consumers when making decisions on what to purchase. This might in turn influence their behaviors as a consumer in the realms of decision making and product preferences. Notably, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that have adopted the use of social networking in advertisements. Arab Media Outlook indicates that the use of social network sites for advertisements has grown tremendously over the past five years. Facebook has equally registered numerous young users in the Arab world (Grasmuck, Martin & Zhao, 2009). Facebook has not only enabled users to interact in the social arena but also sharing of experiences and information in the consumer sector. Research, reveals that Facebook is the most effective site in mobilizing consumers to discuss a certain commodity. The site is exclusive; its users can connect with strangers to get valuable information regarding novel products.
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