Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Impact of Opinion Leadership on Purchases through Social Networking Websites

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

The Impact of Opinion Leadership on Purchases through Social Networking Websites

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Social media are online platforms that allow people to form a community to create and share content to communicate and to build relationships [27], [33], [50], [54]. Text picture audio and/or video can be used depending upon the type of social media platform [69]. There are several kinds of social media such as social networks, blogs, wikis, podcasts, forums, virtual game worlds, and content communities [40]. Facebook is the most commonly used social network with 67% of online users using it in the United States [19].

Social media is predominantly used for communication [20]. College students use social networks for socializing and for legitimacy in presenting themselves as an entity with personal and professional attributes [68]. Also, social media helps college students shape their social and professional identities through self-presentation of both social and professional information in their profiles [30].

Social media is used not only as a platform to make connections and share user-generated content but also to evaluate products, make recommendations on purchases, and link current purchases to future purchases through status updates and twitter feeds [23]. Consumers search for information on social media before making a purchase decision. Companies view consumers' social media activities to better understand their product brand image and to identify potential customers [31]. Also, companies use social media to influence consumer behavior for purchase decisions through electronic word of mouth [12], [32], [34], [65], [71] or word of mouse marketing (i.e., mouse representing the computer mouse) [14], [38]. Social media offers a wide reach since it is accessible by the general public. Therefore, companies are looking for ways to harness the robustness of social media in creating awareness and in enhancing their customer relations.

Internet users spend about 7 hours more per month on average on the social media website of Facebook than they spend on search engines and websites of Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Microsoft, Wikipedia and Amazon combined [58]. Therefore, using Facebook to market a brand offers good potential to businesses. Facebook and other social networks now offer features and functionality that are similar to the feedback and reputation mechanisms of sites such as eBay and Amazon. This versatility allows social networks to become full fledged recommendation systems [29]. Facebook allows many social plug-ins including a like feature where people can like a particular posting or photo; the wall feature which is similar to a bulletin or chalk board where users post updates on their wall or on their friends' walls; and the newsfeed feature which is a list of stories or content from people that users follow. In our research, we study the role of opinion leadership and opinion seeking on Facebook for product advertisements through the features of news feeds and wall postings.

2 Literature Review

This section reviews the literature on opinions, Theory of Planned Behavior, demographics and friends.

2.1 Opinions

In an information economy where information is a prime component, information dissemination in the form of opinions on products and services play an integral role in influencing decision making. Informal communication that occurs over the Internet/social media about the ownership, usage, or characteristics of a product or service, is referred to as electronic word of mouth. The two parties in the information dissemination process include the source or the opinion leader, and the recipient or the opinion seeker.

Opinion leaders exert an influence on the opinions of others [65]. They earn the trust of users [56], [59] and lead them to perform a purchase and/or click online [38]. The credibility of a message can depend on the credibility of the opinion leader [12]. Research on opinion leadership looks at the types of opinion leaders in terms of those with a single area of expertise or multiple areas of expertise [18], [26], the characteristics of opinion leaders [11], [67], [77], whether opinion leaders are experts in the field of advice [65], and the role of opinion leaders in diffusion of innovation [26], [67], [73]. …

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