How does Facebook Influence and Impact the Consumer Behavior? Analyzing Facebook’s effects on Students depending on their Age, Gender and Education Level.
Facebook has appeared as a new and very popular media which influences every section of the society in various different manners. There are many businesses being run or marketed through Facebook. So, it also holds an impact on consumer behavior. This paper analyzes the impact of Facebook on consumer behavior. It takes students category to analyze how within the student community the influence of Facebook varies from student level to age group and gender. The results show that teenagers or High school kids are influenced the most in the student category. However, there is not much significant difference on how the consumption behavior differs based on the genders.
Internet social networking platforms especially Facebook has turned the marketing tactics upside down. On one hand, it has come out as a convenience for both customers and producers. On the other hand, it has given them great challenges too. Nonetheless, Facebook seems to have great influence and impact on the consumer behavior. The pages, groups, communities and Advertisements on Facebook seem to be very successful in shaping consumer behavior in a particular way. It has risen has a very different media. They are very vibrant, active and aggressive in their approach. Thus, they also influence the modern consumers in a new and very effective manner. This paper shall analyze how Facebook influences and impacts consumer behavior. It analyzes students’ category only for analyzing facebook’s impacts. It looks at the different age groups, gender and student level within the student community, and analyzes deeply how it influences them by shaping their consumption behavior. The results show that teenagers or High school kids are influenced the most in the student category. However, there is not much significant difference on how the consumption behavior differs based on the genders.
A lot has been written on consumer behavior of this growing internet media. These internets offer a new form of media, which impact and influence the consumers in a rather different way. They make things simpler in some way, and difficult in another. In this literature review, we shall analyze what is so different about Facebook and other modern forms of internet media. After that, we shall try to analyze the target consumers. For that purpose, first objective would be to understand why they use Facebook and other social media. This would lead us to analyzing how and why Facebook manages to influence them in buying a particular brand or product. The review would also analyze how variations are seen across different age groups and genders.
Hennig-Thurau et al. gives a detailed analysis of what Facebook and other fast spreading internet media offers to its users that their influence in the lives of people has been so significant. They argue that it has changed the customers’ engagement with the product and brand. They give six features of this new form of media, which are very important for understanding and analyzing the media as well as the consumer behavior shaped by this media.
Digital: Henning-Thurau et al. argues that the new media, which includes Facebook, is digital. This implies that the distribution costs are lower. Hence, one can make as many copies of a product, which in this case is advertisements and other campaigning and marketing instruments, as possible and distribute them to as many people as the company wants. At times, even unknown and unpaid people become your marketers, and pass on and share your ads with their community or social groups. Therefore, the digital-ness of the new media has totally changed the understanding of the media and demands a change in marketing as well. It has digitalized consumers’ engagement with the brand or products (312).
Pro-active: On the second, Hennig-Thurau et al. argue that the Internet media is pro-active. This means that consumers now play a pro-active role in each and every aspect of the value creation and destruction of the brand or the product. Anybody can anytime write a review, and present the brand as excellent or rate it as worst; either ways it matters to the company a lot. Hence, they need to tackle this pro-active consumer engagement with the product, brand and company (312).
Visible: The consumers have become ultra-visible through this media. What they post, read, comment, like, etc. is now visible easily. Not only that, through GPS and IP address, one can understand the demographical situation of the consumer too (312).
Real Time and Memory: With the help of this new media, consumers can express their real-time thoughts, reviews, comments, suggestions and recommendations all at the same time. Moreover, this media gives memory feature too with the help of which, a person’s real-time recorded review or comment remains save for a long time. Hence, other users or consumers can also get influenced by that (312).
Ubiquitous: This new media has no boundaries. Print media is very limited; electronic media goes a step ahead of it and reaches national and some extent of international level. However, internet media is a birth of global world and reaches every home and every nook of the world, i.e., acts globally (312).
Networks: Finally, the new media has networking feature. As mentioned above, consumers share their experiences with people. Their posts, reviews, comments, likes are all shared with the social network, group or community they are part of on the internet. Their friends get their real time experience through these networks. And without any doubt, Facebook leads the world in networking and in other features at the moment (312).
Hence, since there is a massive change in this new form of media, there are also massive changes and shifts in its affects and impacts on the consumer behavior. In the next section, this influence and impact would be analyzed.
Why People Use Social Networking:
Park et al. gives a detailed research about why people use social networking sites especially Facebook. They base it all on gratification and argues that people get gratified through these networks in four different ways: socializing, entertainment, identity or “self” seeking and information (729). Consumer behavior motivations can also be driven by these four factors. All these four factors turn out to be significant in their relation with using Facebook and other social networks. However, depending upon the demographics of the user, the degree of significance may vary. Nevertheless, the relation between social networking and these four different types of gratification is significant and defines for us why people use social networking (729). However, what is more interesting in the Park et al. research is that information seeking on internet and social media sites are meant more for civic and political purposes than for entertainment (729).
Similarly, Diffley et al. research argues that there are primarily two main reasons or motivations for using social media. The first reasons are to communicate with others for starting, maintaining and developing interaction with people they know, communicate with already and wish to communicate with them even more, respectively. Similarly, the second reason originates from the first one, i.e., through communication one may initialize, maintain or upgrade relationship with others (48). Therefore, as Martinka argues, that social networking gives a kind of authority by empowering and enabling them in their interactions with others without any boundaries. Social media through opens up gateways for new possibilities and offer its users stability and diversity by removing all cultural, social, national, linguistic and distance boundaries (17).
Effects of Social Media Advertisements on Consumer Behavior:
Advertisements are seen as one of the most powerful tools of the era. The do not only heavily influence the consumers, but at times, even bring about a shift in their consumption behavior. Malik et al. calls advertisements to be a “driving force for any business” (117). These Advertisements target a particular audience and shape their buying behavior of a particular brand or good. They act in such a way that they not only tempt the customer to buy a particular product, but also improve their perception about the brand image and make them loyal customers of the brand. The research of Malik et al. found a significant relationship between advertisements and customer’s intention of buying a particular product (119). In other words, an effective advertisement enhances the chance of that a customer would be tempted to buy the product, and at times, even end up buying the product. These advertisements can be in form of the media; their results would be significant. They leave a strong impression on the mind of the consumer and impact them strongly.
Many different media are used for advertisements and it works everywhere with some degree of variation in its effectiveness depending upon the demographics. However, the results still remain significant. Even ComScore recent report justifies the claim that Facebook ads influence the consumption or buying behavior of individuals (McBride n.p). The ComScore report showed companies experienced significant rises in sales because of their Facebook advertisements. Starbucks, Amazon and many other have multiplied their profits just because of campaigning through social media, in particularly, Facebook (Lipsman et al. 11). Thus, Facebook has turned out to be a very effective social media for marketing and shaping consumer behavior. Its pages, communites and paid advertisements all are very valuable in impacting on or influencing consumers’ buying behavior. Therefore, advertisements posted on Facebook play an important role and affect the consumer’s buying behavior.
Consumer Behavior in Social Networks:
Behavior Variation based on Consumers’ Age:
This section of review is primarily based on Martinka’s research. Martinka cites Drell for his work on usage of social media. Drell based on his research formulates two different categories of social media users for picturing their consumer behavior. The first category is of high sharers. High sharers are those online users, according to Drell, who are younger people, both male and female. They turn out to be more loyal to brands. They are very active users of Facebook and other social media. They not only give reviews about the brand and products they use, but also share them so actively that in a way, they do company’s job of marketing the brand. However, they comprise of only 20% of the consumers present on internet (Martinka 18). The second category is of low sharers. The probability for them to be brand loyal is lesser than for the high sharers. They are not that active in writing reviews, commenting and liking brands. They are the 80% grown up online consumers (Martinka 18).
Drell, as cited by Martinka, study showed that the influence on these social media communities was so strong and so significant that 31% of the buyers were influenced by these communities, ads and activities on the social media for the brand product, and 26% showed no response to the social media influence (19). The influence could also be analyzed by seeing that 20% of people, according to Drell, use social media for researching a product before they go on to buying that product (Martinka 18).
However, a clearer and more defined age categorization was done by Greenleigh. Greenleigh’s study has been found cited in Martinka. He took people from age mid teens to mid 30s and called them Millennials. Greenleigh defined these Millennials saying that they are extremely social so much so that they remain connected with communities every second, and curiously observe and interact with other people and know what they do, buy or enjoy (Martinka 19). These millennials’ trust on social media is strong that they are highly likely to prefer a stranger’s advice here over their friends or families’. The percentage for that is 51%. Furthermore, 84% of Millennials come to social media communities before buying a particular brand or product (Martinka 19). Hence, it could be concluded from both Drell and Greenleigh that social media is more attractive for young people. It influences and impacts them more. Its magic works very strongly on influencing people aged from 15 to 35’s buying behavior.
Behavior Variation Based on Gender:
Men and women use social media in a different way and hence, the influence or impact it has on their consumer behavior is also different. Thompson and Lougheed study, cited in Martinka, showed that women spent 62% of their internet using time on Facebook while men spent 44% (19-20). This shows that women use more Facebook and social media networks than men. Initially Thompson and Lougheed had a hypothesis that women might use Facebook less because they need language or full effective communication with facial interaction and body language for building relationships (Martinka 19-20). However, this hypothesis was proven wrong and women turned out to use Facebook more than men. The reason for that explained by Thompson and Lougheed is that Facebook provides a community in which relationships can be built (Martinka 19-20). However, their use still gives anxiety and stress to women more than men as this communication is not as effective as mentioned above.
But it is still effective enough that women without Facebook and internet experience more stress and anxiety than men and with Facebook (Martinka 19-20). So, it could be concluded that women use Facebook more than men as an effective community and interaction building source. Also, plenty of researches have shown that women shop more than men and their consumer behavior is more driven by identity, entertainment and socializing motivations (Sriviroj 7). Hence, if we combine Park’s ideas of using Facebook with Sriviroj’s collected research about why women shop, we may argue or hypothesize that women shop more than men. They are more likely to be influenced by social media communities and marketing of companies than men.
So, to conclude, we have comprehended from this literature review that social media is very different from traditional media and it offers various new features to its users including real-time response, memory, visibility, being ubiquitous and much more. And when these offerings are combined with people’s usage reasons of communicating, interacting and relationship building, it gives picture of how consumer behavior through social media especially Facebook be influenced and shaped. Women are more likely to be influenced and similarly, younger people too would get more influenced by it. Literature generally has focused on global influences of Facebook on consumer behavior. However, we ask the same question, i.e., how consumption behavior of people of different age and gender are influenced and impacted by Facebook among students. Thus, our research specifically focuses on students.
This section explains, different research methods, and which one we opted for in our research and why. Similarly, it talks about how the primary and secondary research was done. How the data was collected. And what were some of the ethical values undertaken for the research.
Quantitative and Qualitative Research Method:
Generally, there are two research methods, quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research method is the in which a theory is given and based on that we form a hypotheses, collect data and examine it. And with the help of research examination, the hypotheses is accepted or rejected. Therefore, quantitative research method is more concerned with specific quantity based results that may affirm or reject a hypotheses coming from a general theory. So, it is like deductive methods that move from general theories to particular and specific results and confirmations (Curwin and Slater). However, in the qualitative research, the journey is in opposite direction; it goes from specific to general. It follows the inductive path. A particular fact or result is given and based on that, the researcher forms a theory, which is general and applicable to broader public or population. It takes an analysis from sample to population. It inquires more about the quality aspect while taking little support of quantity (Denzin et al.). Therefore, in the light of this understanding of various research methods, if we talk about our research methodology, it is going to be a mixture of both the research methods. It would begin as quantitative or deductive research method as takes hypotheses, and examines it closely and obtain results after gathering and analyzing data. However, when particular results are obtained, analysis would become qualitative, and at that point, the research method would become qualitative.
Primary and Secondary Research:
For the purpose of secondary research, online journal articles, reports and other material was read and analyzed for not only understanding the consumer behavior, but also to examine to role of media and fast growing Internet, especially Facebook, in shaping consumer behavior. This secondary research mainly comprises of our literature review. And based on the secondary research our research hypothesis is formed. After that for the purpose of primary research, we a small questionnaire was made and distributed on the internet among friends and friends of friends. A total of 85 research surveys were collected and based on that the results were obtained. The respondents were all students; 25 high school students and 60 college students till masters level. There were 40 women and 45 men in our respondents. The people from 15 to 20 age group were 34; 20 to 25 were 36; and 25 to 30 were 15.
The survey questionnaire asked various questions. Its first part was about some personal information, which would remain confidential. This purpose information was to obtain some demographical idea and understanding of our respondents. The second part had different questions about people’s usage of Facebook and how often they end up buying what brand or product they see on Facebook. How many different brand communities they are part of on Facebook or how many such pages they might have liked on their Facebook. And so on! Some of these questions were to be rated from one to five (one being strongly agree and five being strongly disagree). And a few questions were in the form of multiple choice questions. And a couple of questions were meant to obtain general thoughts of people for qualitative analysis.
It was disclosed to correspondents that the survey was for research purposes and its data would be used in analysis. A pledge was also asked to be signed for giving an honest and truthful view of the picture. Moreover, for their privacy, it has been assured that all their personal information would remain confidential.
So, based on the aforementioned research methods, we did primary and secondary research, collected data while using the ethical values. So, the results and analysis of our data is discussed in the next section.
Results and Analysis:
Based on the research methodology the results were obtained. In this section, we will give the hypothesis about each argument and then present the results obtained through research. Finally we will give interpretative and qualitative analysis by explaining the results and theorizing why the results have been in this way.
- Our first hypothesis was about age that people who are between 15 and 35 uses Facebook more as a communicative, interactive, entertainment provider and information getting tool. Hence, people from this age group get more influenced and impacted in their buying behavior by Facebook than people from older age group.
- Our second hypothesis was that since women are more obsessed with communicating and interacting and building relations, and they also shop more than men, hence, women get more influenced by Facebook communities and ads in their shopping behavior than men.
Since our survey had asked age as from 15 to 20, 20 to 25 and 25 to 30, so the resuls obtained were as follows:
- In the gender, there is a significant difference in how much Facebook men and women use. On average, female students use Facebook around 3.4 hours and for men for men, it is 2.8 hours. So, there is about forty minute’s difference in the time usage. However, there has not been a significant difference in buying behavior. Average for women to buy or intend to buy a product after learning about it on Facebook is 60% and for men it is 58%. But women buy clothes more (45%) and men buy technology more (55%).
It has been affirmed by our research that younger people buy more than older ones. However, what more has been obtained from our research is that people within 15 to 25 age group buy even more than students of 25 to 30. This percentage increases even more when move to 15 to 20 age group only. So, the stance and research result of Greenleigh and Drell as cited in Martinka has been reiterated by our research in a more refined way. The refined results say that they younger the age group, the influential Facebook would be. One of the reasons for that could be that the people of age group 25 to 30 have many other sources, so the overall influence of Facebook on them is lesser. People of that age group go out more, have more experience, so not only their own minds are emotionally stronger and more capable, but also they confront more media sources, communities and advertisements than the younger people do. Hence, what Facebook does to their consumption behavior is not as big of an influence in the overall picture. But for students from 15 to 20, especially high school kids, who are mostly under the influence of their parents, do not go away much, their community circle is not that big, and so on. For them, Facebook has more importance and more role to play than any other media or factor. Hence, Facebook ends up influencing them more than it influences any other group.
Another interpretation for this could be Facebook is itself just 10 years old. So, the coming generation has been given to it at a very young age. But for the older generation, they were already teenagers and influenced by other media when Facebook started to make its place in their lives. Hence, for younger kids, Facebook was given to them as the media while for those in 25 to 30 now, they got it as a media. Hence, this difference of importance degree might have played on the minds of the different age groups differently. That is why younger people use Facebook more and are influenced by it more as compared to the people ranging from 25 to 30.
However, if we talk about gender differences, it should be our results have been different. Thompson and Lougheed showed that women use internet more (95), our research is in agreement with that. However, through Sriviroj (7) and Park’s (729) research combination, we had hypothesized that women shop more than men and influence of Facebook on women would be greater for buying a particular product or brand. However, our results have shown that very little difference, of only 2%, between Facebook influencing women’s buying behavior and men’s buying behavior. A reason for that could be in our respondents being students and most of them were young. High school is not the age level where significant gender difference become clear. However, if we analyze our results only for the age group of 25 to 30, then the influence on women would be greater than the influence on men. However, this would be such a small sample size, in our case, that we cannot talk further about it. So, to conclude the analysis of our results it could be said that our research results although, endorse the overall results found in literature review, however, because of increased sub-divisions and deeper analysis about age and gender difference, it has a significant importance.
We analyzed in the research that Facebook offers a totally new and very improved form of media. It increases consumers’ visibility, makes them apparently ubiquitous, brings their real time responses and so on. After that we analyzed that communication and interaction building are the foundational and major reasons for using Facebook. However, at more metaphysical level, the gratifications may change and turn to identity seeking, socializing, and so on. But, it still gives a special affect on consumer behavior. It shapes and influences them in many ways; through pages, communities, groups and advertisements. Our research was focused on students and we found that students depending upon their student category, high school or college, age group and gender show variations regarding the influence of impact Facebook have on their buying behavior. Thus, unlike other researches, we did not take Facebook as global entity and apply the results globally. We took it for a particular section of society and applied it their only. However, much more could be done for making the research better. But the point is that Facebook does influence the consumer behavior significantly, and presents serious challenges too for not only consumers, for being deceived by fake products, and for producers, for dealing with consumers in a different and an effective manner.
First of all, our research sample was small to be generalized to whole population of students. Moreover, the respondents were not culturally and ethnically diverse enough. These two are very significant factors, which do not make our research speak out for the whole population. Also, although, we have made a division of high school and college, but knowing income level, college and degree would also have helped in getting an even better analysis. However, we believe it still effectively represents the social and cultural context in which the research has been done.
Recommendations and Future Implications:
Despite the limitations, the research definitely opens up new gateways for research in consumer behavior because of Facebook. It has been shown previously that younger people are influenced more by Facebook. However, digging more deep into the age groups of younger people and their occupation definitely gives a better and more metaphysical view of consumer behavior as influenced and impacted by Facebook. Therefore, we recommend increasing sample size and analyzing the topic in more detail for knowing how Facebook influences consumer behavior at student level.
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