BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Telecommunication environment has really become competitive lately regarding its growth in this 21st century. As a result of population high growth in technology and readily access to information globally and mostly consumers are overwhelmed with the very choices of telecommunication they should use regarding the strewed telecommunication environment. The rapid growth in technology and information sharing has propelled owners and management of business organizations to redefine customer attraction and retention strategy. The effect of social media on brand preference had been invested severally by both prolific writers and emerging writers (Zhang, 2015). The brand preference of customers has been long linked with the social media. Researchers have discovered that technology has become a vital component in expanding markets and have defined entire marketing strategies around global access to technology. At the same time, advertising and promotion often base on the psychological, emotional, and social factors affecting consumer buying behaviours, elements that must be incorporated into technology-based marketing (Quelch & Jocz, 2008).Through customer satisfaction, consumers build loyalty towards a particular brand and influence their buying behaviour both directly and indirectly. As a result, even in the presence of global expansion and new technologies, companies need to look at the four essential “Ps” of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion (Quelch & Jocz, 2008). Rust, Moorman and Bhalla (2010) maintain that while many companies have access to a variety of types of technologies that could enhance consumer interest, expand brand recognition and improve general marketing, many underuse technologies as a base for relating with customers. These researchers, though, seem to suggest that large adoption of information technologies and social media platforms are going to be the trends in the future (Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla, 2010). Rather than relying on short-term advertising through technology, proficient companies are incorporating social media mechanisms to improve the relationship with consumers. Companies constantly focus on three of the most widely used social media channels for use in product awareness and branding: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (Muntinga, Moorman, & Smit, 2011; Shi, Rui, & Whinston, 2014).Telecommunication in Nigeria includes MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile. Accordingly, the Author reported that mobile and fixed telephones as well as internets form part of the main economic activities in Nigeria (World Bank, 2012). Telecommunications as of 2012 has been on a very progressive journey and has been able to cover quite a distance in a very short period of time. There are at least four (4) current telecommunication companies in Nigeria, notably among them include Mtn, Glo, Airtel and 9mobile, all these compete with each other in the industry and therefore make their possible best to attract more customers and satisfy its customers. More Often, consumers consciously do not know what they go through in making a decision of their choice of a particular product and when this happens it comes to the state where consumers need a shortcut to finally choose a product and the available shortcut made to the consumer is Branding. This way a branded product makes it much easier for any consumer to choose from and be satisfied with the product chosen by him or her. The increased competition in the industry has resulted in a lot of communication tools employed by the companies to help in succeeding in the era of competition, one of the tools commonly used in the telecommunication companies like MTN, Airtel, Glo, and 9mobile is social media. The consumer mostly goes through about five steps in taking one purchase decision. These are: problem recognition; information search; evaluating of alternatives; purchase decisions; purchase and post purchase evaluation. Consumer decision-making varies with the type of buying decision in which every consumer exhibit in purchasing a particular product and the feeling attached to the product or brand, and the loyalty felt towards it. Recently, companies understand the value of the use of methods to engage consumers in a way that continually reintroduces the product, increases the appeal of products, or points out social components to product experiences. Social media websites have become the pivot of information sharing on products, including the introduction of new product lines, the creation of brand awareness, and methods to adjust consumer preference (Muntinga, Moorman & Smit, 2011). Social media provides the unique privilege to use word-of-mouth marketing to a widespread audience, supporting consumer-to-consumer communications and advancing brand awareness through a large-scale social network (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki, & Wilner, 2010). Social media can be defined as "consumer-generated media that covers a wide variety of new sources of online information, created and used by consumers intent on sharing information with others regarding any topic of interest" (Kohli, Suri, & Kapoor, 2014, p. 1). “According to e-Marketer (2013), almost one in four people worldwide use social network sites - a number of about 1.73 billion people. By 2017, the global social network audience is estimated to be around 2.55 billion people” (Schivinski, Christodoulides, & Dabrowski, 2016). When examining social media as a tool for marketing, most researchers include both mobile and web-based technologies that focus on ways that users “share, co-create, discuss and modify user-generated content” (Kohli, Suri, & Kapoor, 2014). This is seen by most to be a paradigmatic shift in the way organizations market their products, because companies are focusing on consumers more than ever before to guide their marketing process and create the discourse around branding (Kohli, Suri, & Kapoor, 2014). Unlike print or television advertising, social media is not an advertising platform in and of itself, and as a result, organizations can face difficulty with determining how consumer information and engagement affect the branding process. Customers are now encouraged to interact with brands, share vital information with other customers and create their content that reflects their brand preferences. The more consumers are engaged in this process, the more likely they are to encourage others to explore specific brands (Christodoulies, 2009).Hence the study examines the effect of social media on brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, Benue state.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Increasing focus on global development and the expansive use of technology in marketing, advertising and promotion have led to shifts in the way in which companies focus on consumers (Quelch & Jocz, 2008). Telecommunication companies as a service provider needs to provide services that really satisfies consumers’ expectations in ensuring that the company survives economically. In order to achieve this feat, they need to understand the effect of social media on consumers’ buying behavior in order to help them evaluate the service being offered. Unlike print or television advertising, social media is not an advertising platform in and of itself, and as a result, companies can be challenged with determining how consumer information and engagement impact the branding process. Positive comments in social media venues can have a positive impact, but negative comments can also be a part of the brand dialogue and may not be able to be controlled by the companies using social media for marketing (Ho-Dac, Carson, & Moore, 2013; Kohli, Suri, & Kapoor, 2014). At the same time, consumers participate in the discussion and exchanges that influence the branding process, all the while paying very little attention to their participation in the branding or marketing process (Kohli, Suri, & Kapoor, 2014). Therefore the effect of social media on brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, Benue State is examined.
AIMS OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine the effect of social media on brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, Benue State. Other specific objectives of the study include;
H0: There is no significant relationship between social media and brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, State.
H1: There is a significant relationship between social media and brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, State.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The outcome of this study is expected to contribute significantly towards telecommunications companies on the effects of social media on brand preference of their service users. This is to rejuvenate and reminds telecommunication companies about the perception and attitude of their target customers on the very branding strategies they have been deploying. Thus, there will be an insight into what product actually influences consumers of branded telecommunications product to help them develop the best strategies in winning the heart of its consumers. This study would also be of immense benefit to students and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study is restricted to the effect of social media on brand preference of telecommunication service providers in Makurdi, Benue State.
LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Consumer Behavior: is the process whereby individuals decide whether, what, when, where, how, and from whom to purchase goods and services, Consumer behavior includes both the mental and physical activity necessary for making decisions in the marketplace.”
Social media: is referred as "activities, practices, and behaviour among communities of people who gather online to share information, knowledge, and opinions using conversational media Kaplan and Haenlein (2009), social media helps in spreading the information instantly to the vast online audience
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