|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||Communication Sales Social media Social media marketing|
Social media refers to websites, applications, and all online platforms that lead to connections and content sharing among people all over the world over the internet (Bowen, Ozuem, & IGI Global, 2016). It comes with online chats, voice calls, video calls, and content-posting for general viewing and reading by other users. Examples of the platforms include Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, among others. Social media use has dramatically grown in recent years, and researchers, business people, governments, and other parties have gotten interested in understanding its impacts in the society and how to regulate and commercialize it best. Social media impacts lives in terms of behaviors, morals, and even lifestyle decisions. This paper analyses the effects of Social media peer communication on consumer purchase intentions as elucidated by Wang, Yu, & Wei, (2012).
The biggest group of social media users are teenagers, who develop emotions and connections to people, events, products, and lifestyles by interacting with peers online (Bowen, Ozuem, & IGI Global, 2016). Social media is a crucial socialization agent on customers' buying decisions, among other factors like family and education. In a process called consumer socialization, customers get knowledge, attitude, and skills about products from peers online, and rely on these lessons for their purchase decisions. Peers on social media thus play a significant role e on the purchase behavior and product selection patterns of customers. In the 2012 survey, Wang, Yu, & Wei collected data from 292 participants who use social media for product information purposes.
In their study, they aimed at giving results that could help marketers and researchers to appreciate the position of social media on product turnover. They also aimed at providing practical implications of the buyer socialization progression and showing a newly discovered role of the socialization theory - in the online atmosphere. The socialization theory suggests that interaction among customers define their emotion, behavior, and general attitude. Lastly, they wanted to portray the role of consumer traits, such as the desire to be unique, on the weight of online peer communication influences on customer buying decisions (Wang et al., 2012). There are two models of the customer socialization theory, a social learning model and a cognitive growth model.
The former talks about the environmental socialization agents such as family and friends from whom learners borrow skills and behavior. The model helps to understand how socialization works among adults, who mostly learn from external sources and unrelated people. The later discusses the mental development stages of an individual as they grow. Peer communication enjoins a person's cognitive growth and gradually influences their attitudes and behaviors and, ultimately, their preferences and purchase decisions. Through blogs, chats, and instant messaging, social medial boosts socialization by making it simple, easy, and convenient (Bowen, Ozuem, & IGI Global, 2016). Given the increasing numbers of new social media users, information and beliefs spread fast. Thus, the massive network delivers lots of information and knowledge to people around the world about products.
The writers postulated that the socialization cascade could happen in three ways, modeling, reinforcement, and social interaction. Modeling involves consumers learning traits, emotions, and behavior from peers (socialization agents) by imitation - because they envy the agent. Reinforcement is where the consumer starts or stops to behave in a certain way or to make some choices because their socialization agent could reward or punish them if they made the choices. Lastly, the social interaction mechanism applies to those reactions that involve both modeling and reinforcement mechanisms (Wang, Yu, & Wei, 2012). On social media, all the mechanisms play simultaneously when the people we know or don't know post reviews, experiences, discussions, suggestions, and comment about certain products.
Socialization by modeling is a type of assimilation, where a person strives to identify with the group by changing their ways to develop a virtual community of stereotypically interchangeable individuals. The consumer then gets fully assimilated into the group's practices and strives to keep identification with it (Bowen, Ozuem, & IGI Global, 2016). They put the group's values at a higher priority compared to other interactions, and they seek to maintain it and extend to other people with similar ideologies. Social media boosts the connections, thus creating a positive relationship between peer communication and peer-group identification (Rana, 2019).
To further show that consumers' buying choices get affected by their interaction with socialization agents, Wang, Yu, & Wei (2012) relate it to the concept of consumer involvement, which is the customer's perception of the relevance of the product to their desires. These desires usually get influenced by socialization agents such as social media. Peer communication influences lead to sharing and adoption of consumption information about purchase intention, product mechanics, perceptions, and product involvement. Since social media encourages an intimate back-and-forth interaction between sellers and customers, unlike traditional advertising (Wang et al., 2012), it promotes product involvement because he buyer also sees comments from peers about the intended product.
The researchers hence put across the first set of hypotheses. Firstly, that there is a positive correlation between purchase intention and product attitude. Other researches have mostly focused on factors such as packaging, pricing, company image, advertisement, etc. at measuring purchase intentions. Secondly, they say that social media consumption-related peer communication correlates to product attitude and product involvement positively. Lastly, product involvement positively correlates with product attitude. Peer influence may take two forms, the normative type or the informational type. Normative is where a person who had chosen to belong to a particular class or category of people gets bound to conform to their norms and attitude, thus their purchase preferences (Wang et al., 2012). Informational influences are the types where someone leans about products by either observing others' speech and behaviors or by consulting them.
Normative learning happens in decisions like the choice of clothes to wear, drug abuse, and the choice of fun destinations (Bowen, Ozuem, & IGI Global, 2016). Both forms of learning get boosted by social media, which reinforces norms, expectations, and beliefs of groups via peer communication. Thus, peer communication influences consumers' purchasing decisions directly through conformity learning and indirectly through informational socialization. Through the connection networks that develop online, the consumer will grow a like or dislike for certain products just from copying peers or relying on their opinions (Wang et al., 2012). However, how quickly or easily the behaviors spread depends on the tie strength with peers. It means that the closer and more intimate one is to their peers, the more comfortably they will conform to their norms, thus purchase preferences.
One factor that may shift the effect of peer interactions on buying choices is the consumers' desire to be unique. If a customer buys a product that they feel makes them unique, they may not promote it via word of mouth or may give dishonest information about it - to remain unique (Rana, 2019). Further, high uniqueness consumers are hard to be influenced into conforming to group norms or relying on others' information and ideas for purchase choices. Customers with lower desires for uniqueness show a higher response to peer communication socialization via social media (Wang et al., 2012). Thus, since there is a positive correlation between "identification with peer group" and "tie strength with peers", understanding the impact of the desire for uniqueness on this relationship is critical. This study promoted the understanding of the interaction between consumers and socialization agents and can be an essential guide for future researchers. Similarly, companies that are looking into integrating social media into their promotional systems must know the importance of peer communication influence. This knowledge will enable them to understand how to respond to public online customer queries, how to organize their posts, and how to target their online content. Companies must maintain active communication to grow and sustain product interest among them. The organizations should also create virtual online communities whose activities allow the sharing of information about the company's products to develop and promote excitement among users (Wang et al., 2012).
The article provides many lessons to current and future marketers who intend to use social media. It offers information about how companies can classify visitors to their online pages, and use this classification to grow product interest. When they understand their occasional visitors well and innovate measures to make them frequent visitors, they can build them into free brand ambassadors who spur interest in others to learn more about the company and its products.
In conclusion, one of the best strategies is to use peer communication as a tool by generating reviews from trusted individuals about the company's products. When occasional site visitors meet positive reviews, and through interaction with other visitors, their interest to learn more will get spurred. Frequent visitors can also be used to generate curiosity about products. However, it is essential to understand that online Marketing and peer communication must be backed up with efficiency, speed, and honesty in doing business.
Bowen, G., Ozuem, W., & IGI Global,. (2016). Competitive social media marketing strategies.
Rana, N. P. (2019). Digital and social media marketing: Emerging applications and theoretical development. Cham: Springer.
Wang, Xia et al. "Social Media Peer Communication and Impacts on Purchase Intentions: A Consumer Socialization Framework". Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol 26, no. 4, 2012, pp. 198-208. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2011.11.004. Accessed 19 Feb 2020.
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