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Influence of SME’s social media advertising techniques on consumer’s purchase intent.

Social media use has become a veritable marketing tool for businesses, especially the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) that have little capital and resources. With the growth of SMEs and the proliferation of goods and services, the need to outshine competitors and win consumers necessitates aggressive advertisements on social media, since they cost little to no cost. As such, consumers are exposed to a plethora of adverts on daily basis. The aim of this was to identify the social media advertising techniques that influence the purchase intention of social media users in southwest Nigeria. A survey research method was adopted, and an electronic questionnaire was administered to 2,638 social media users via Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Data analysis was done using frequency tables, charts, and chi-square. Findings revealed that almost all the participants were active on one social media platform or another and 99.35% were active on Whatsapp, making the platform the most used social media in the region. Also, promotional advertising technique was found to have the most influence on users’ purchase intention, and age and gender did influence the proneness of the users to advertising techniques. It was concluded that SMEs should not use one-cap fits all when implementing advertising campaigns on social media; the demographic characteristics of the target audience must be put into consideration.

In almost every market in the world, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) dominate the business sector. Their contribution to the economy is significantly high because according to they constitute about 90 percent of all the businesses in Nigeria and employ more than 80 percent of the workforce (Vanguard, 2018). Despite their contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), they usually face a shortage of capital and they mostly rely on their personal purses to fund their businesses because they hardly get loans from banks (Karanja, Muturi, Mukabi, Kabata, Wahome & Kayogo, 2013). The limited capital available to SMEs does rub off on their business communication and campaign activities and they hardly use the conventional media to promote their businesses due to the high cost of advert placement on radio, television, and the prints (Banerjee, 2015; Ahmad, Salman & Ashiq, 2015). Sequel to this, the use of social media platforms becomes handy.

Since their emergence, the internet, and various social media have revolutionized the way business enterprises promote their brands, reach out to potential customers and existing one as well as persuade consumers to patronize their goods and services.  Social media are “internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan & Haenlein. 2010:61). The platforms allow users to create their own content and share it with whoever they wish to share with. Unlike conventional media, social media accounts are free to own and manage by every individual, group, and business organization. In this study, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, and YouTube are the focus because they are the most popular social media platforms in Nigeria (Statista, 2020) and they fall within the definition given by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) as internet applications that allow users to generate and share contents.

Social media provide alternative channels for SMEs to reach varieties of internet users to promote their businesses at very low rates, which allows them to generate business leads that may translate to increased sales (Jagongo & Kinyua, 2013). Presently, SMEs have vast platforms to promote their businesses and sell their goods and services to a global audience that are not restricted by geographical barriers: something which would have been back-breaking for them if they want to use the traditional media. For them to take advantage of the numerous benefits of the social media platforms in the technology and information-driven global market, SMEs and marketers are fervently integrating the use of the platforms in their marketing strategies and operations (Vooveld, 2019).

As such, SMEs in South West Nigeria, just like in other regions and the world, use various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram to promote their businesses, create visibility, generate leads, and make sales (Kinyua & Jagongo, 2013). Adamu, Ibrahim, and Lawan (2019) add that digital media help businesses to favorably compete with other enterprises, both locally and internationally. They further add that social media create easy ways of engaging in business activities for SMEs all the time.

With Nigeria’s population reaching about 200 million people, the country has 85.49 million internet users and 27million social media users as of January 2020 (Kemp, 2020; Statista, 2020). Given their benefits to businesses, a huge amount of money is being expended yearly on digital brand communication by business owners. Statistical (2021) report shows that an estimate of 89 million dollars was spent on social media advertising in 2020 and it is projected to rise to 110 million dollars in 2021.

Because of the aggressive use of the media by SMEs, especially with the coronavirus pandemic that has pushed most SMEs to engage customers via the digital platforms, causing information overload on the platforms; the users are over-exposed to thousands of adverts and information, creating little room for acquaintance with a particular advert or business promotions.  Sequel to this, Alalwan (2018) notes that business owners and markets face the challenge of designing and implementing effective social media advertisement to influence consumers’ purchase intense and it has become difficult to determine the influence of adverts on social media users (Peng, Wang & Xie, 2016). This has therefore attracted interest from researchers to examine the influence of the platforms on consumers over the years.

Duffet (2015) however notes that despite the large number of studies conducted on social media, none of the studies has established which technique of advert is most appealing to social media users. Similarly, Adamu et al (2019) also recommended that future studies should examine the factors that influence social media business patronage among the non-students population. It is against this background that this study seeks to assess the use and influence of social media advertising by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on social media users in South-West Nigeria to identify the advertising technique that is most influential or appealing to customers on the social media space.

This study further attempts to:

  • Determine which social medium is mostly used by social media users in South-West Nigeria,
  • Evaluate which type of social media advertising has the most influence on the users in South-West Nigeria.
  • Examine the influence of users’ demographic characteristics on proneness to social media advert techniques.

Findings on these set objectives will fill the void in the literature by identifying the social media advertising techniques that most influential social media users in South-West Nigeria. The results will be a useful tool for marketing managers and business owners to properly plan their social media advertising campaigns and will also help to identify how businesses can use social media platforms to attract customers in South-West Nigeria to their businesses.

Literature Review

Before the emergence of the internet and social media platforms, the traditional media – radio, television, and prints – had been in use but they are asymmetric channels of communication that do not give room for immediate feedback and interactivity. Social media are Web 2.0 enabled digital platforms with interactivity to a very high extent (Alalwan, Rana, Dwivedi & Algharabat, 2017) and they allow users to engage in endless interpersonal interactions.

 

In the business space, social media facilitate interaction, engagement, and relationships between business enterprises and potential consumers. With the presence of both the SMEs and consumers on the digital platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp, and others, consumers can perceptually and behaviourally engage with business organizations (Kim & Kim, 2018) and exchange ideas, information, goods, and services can take place (Zhu & Chen, 2015). The engagement is not only on relationship, inquiry, and interaction but also with advertisements from the organizations. According to Tuten and Solomon (2017), social media enable customers to engage with advertisements by SMEs in manners of making comments, sharing, and also showing interest in the advertised products and services, especially when the adverts are targeted at specific online consumers. The relevance of the digital space to business formation and operation makes Banerjee (2015:1) submits that “Ignoring the Internet is total madness. Being active on the Internet is indispensable to growth and for being relevant. It helps your business to be truly global and truly multi-generational”.

One of the major uses of social media for business promotion is to influence consumers’ buying behavior and in recent years. Many studies have been conducted to examine the influence of social media advertising and marketing on the consumers, the most used social media platforms, and the most influential advertising techniques. However, they have returned inconsistent findings. Uzuegbunam and Obikeze (2015) (cited in Ekweme & Okoro, 2018) found Facebook as the most popular social media platform among Nigerian youth and advertisers and the youth have a very high exposure to advert on the platform. The study by Nyekwere, Nnanyelugo, and Azubuike (2014) revealed that 70% of business organizations in Nigeria are embracing social media to communicate with their customers and 35% of them affirmed success with the use of the platforms. Facebook and Instagram were found to be the most prominent social media used for business promotion.

Duffet’s (2015) study found that advertising on Facebook has a positive influence on the intention-to-purchase and purchase. Gbadeyan and Boachie-Mensah (2016) reported that social media use has significantly influenced the business profitability of SMEs. Cherotich (2016) found out that most SMEs use social media, specifically Facebook, as a marketing strategy. Ekweme and Okoro (2018) establish that businesses in Nigeria have embraced social media advertising and they developed the RIAER model – Research, Identify, Action, Evaluation, and Repeat - when initiating social media advertising. The authors further revealed that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are used by SMEs for business promotion but the first two were the major platforms used.

While also identifying Facebook as the most used and effective social media for advertising, Naido (2011) also reported that social media use for business aids brand image, attitude, and consumer engagement. Similarly, Olotewo (2016) found Facebook as the most prominent digital platform for business promotion and influenced brand success for emerging businesses. Facebook was the most used platform reported by Grizane and Jurgelane (2017), followed by Instagram and Draugiem/lv. The study also found that although the benefits of social media use had not been fully exploited, the businesses derived certain benefits from the use, and it also impacted consumer behavior. Gbadeyan and Boachie-Mensah (2016) reported that the use of social media platforms enhances brand awareness and affects the profit of an organization.

Even though little has been done to identify the advertising techniques that influence the purchase intent of social media users, studies conducted on other media channels have also shown inconsistent findings. While Urwin and Venter’s (2014) found that shock appeal is influential on consumers’ behavior, Romanova and Smirnova (2019) identified personal involvement, seeking common ground, self-representation, and appeal to desire as most used persuasive advertising techniques in commercials. An experimental study conducted by Hamada (2020) reported that humor had the most influence on the students followed by facts and figures while religious and shock appeals had the least influence. A study by Akcay and Dalgin (2016) revealed that using sexual appeal in advertisements affected the target audience. With the findings of these studies, there is still needed to identify the techniques of social media advertising that influence consumers’ purchasing behavior (Logan et al., 2012; Tuten & Solomon, 2017; Alalwan, 2018) and this is what this study seeks to identify.

It has also been discovered that consumers’ demographic characteristics do influence their purchasing decision and reaction to marketing promotions (Tintin, 2013; Viilcekova & Sabo, 2013; Alooma & Lawan, 2013). However, the results of research conducted have also been inconsistent. Alooma and Lawal (2013) reported that the only occupation that influenced consumer patronage, Laoviwat, Suppapanya, and Yousapronpaiboo (2014) found sex, education, and income to have a significant relationship. Viilcekova and Sabo (2013) found that gender had no relationship with consumer patronage of foreign brands, but age and education did. Swarna (2012) however found gender to have a positive relationship with consumer behavior. Gupta and Denbleyker (2015) found a positive relationship between education and consumer reaction to marketing promotions. Because of these findings, the current study will examine if social media consumers’ characteristics do influence their proneness to advertising techniques on social media.

Methodology

This study is descriptive in nature. Data for this study were collected using a survey. The survey becomes appropriate because it is an unbiased and objective way of data gathering and the study is quantitative in nature. The study population is social media users/customers, between the age of 18 and 55 years, across the six states in South-West Nigeria. This population is chosen because this study deals with social media advertising and this form of advertising is targeted mainly at social media users. Additionally, the current coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult to adopt the use of a physical questionnaire. There is no official figure or database for social media users in South-West Nigeria within the selected age range. An electronic questionnaire was generated and administered to users of social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram - in the region. The e-questionnaire was submitted to scholars in business management and communication for scrutiny to ensure the items align with the objectives of this study. A total of 3,150 users were sampled within the data collection period. Data analysis was done using both descriptive and inferential statistics. Frequency tables and charts were used for descriptive data while Chi-Square was used to identify the significant relationship.

Result

We administered the electronic questionnaire to a total of 3,150 social media users in the region, but 2,638 responses were recorded. The data analysis presented in Table 1 revealed that participants between ages 18 and 25 were the majority. Both the male and female genders are significantly represented but the females are in the majority with 52.39%. Furthermore, more than half (53.37%) of the respondents are unmarried while private workers dominate the study with 27.60%.

Table 1.

Demographic characteristics of the respondents

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

Actively used social medium platforms in South-West Nigeria

Table 2 shows that 86.77% of the respondents are active on Facebook, 75.59% are active on Twitter, 82.18% are active on Instagram and 99.35% are active on Whatsapp while 52% are active on YouTube. The figure also reveals that the females are more active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Whatsapp than the males, who dominate Twitter.

Table 2.

Active social media platforms of respondents

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

Table 2 shows the level of activeness of the respondents on the five social media platforms. As revealed, Whatsapp and Facebook are used very often by the majority of their active users while others have users that often use them.  The implication of this table is that majority of the social media users in South West Nigeria can be described as very active on the platforms.

Table 3.

Frequency of social media use

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

 

In table 3, respondents were told to select the social media platform they use most. WhatsApp accounted for 38.24% of the total selection while only 1.93% said they use YouTube most times.

Table 4 shows that similarities exist in the level at which respondents are exposed to advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp but they are slightly most exposed to advertisements on Instagram while Twitter users have the least level of exposure to advertisements.

Table 4.

Social media advertising techniques with the most influence on the users’ purchase intent in South-West Nigeria

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

Data presented in Table 5 below shows that the majority (71%) of social media users in South West Nigeria had for once been influenced by advertisements on social media. This indicates that social media advertising can influence their purchase intent.

 

Table 5.

Participants Influenced by advert on social media

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

 

Table 6.

Advert techniques that influence purchase intent

Techniques

Frequency

Percentage %

Promotional ad.

1009

38.25

Facts and stats

318

12

Humour

281

10.65

Bandwagon

266

10.08

Testimonial

210

7.96

Sex

167

6.33

Emotional

157

5.95

Celebrity Endorsement

143

5.42

Shock

87

3.30

 

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

 

Arranged in order of selection, it is apparent in Table 6 that the promotional advertising technique is said to have the most influence on the purchase intent of social media users. Shock is the least chosen advertising technique. This is an indication that social media users in South West Nigeria will be most influenced by an advert that offers gifts or add value to the consumers more than any other advert technique.

Examine the influence of social media users’ demographic characteristics on preference for advert types in South-West Nigeria.

As shown in Table 7 below, only the age and gender of the respondents show a significant relationship with the advertising techniques that influence the purchase intent of the social media users while other demographic profiles show no association.

Table 7.

(Significance level: 0.05) Relationship between consumers’ demographics and advert techniques

Demographics

Chi-square

p-value

decision

Age

58.543

0.000

Significant

Sex

69.699

0.001

Significant

Marital Status

12.444

0.729

Insignificant

Education

13.245

0.168

Insignificant

Occupation

13.657

0.082

Insignificant

 

Note: Fieldwork, 2020

Discussion

The findings of this study have shown that almost all the respondents in this study are active on Whatsapp, with 99.35% of them ticking the social media platform. This may be adduced to the ease of use, instant messaging, and other features of the platform. Facebook is the second most used platform (86.77%) followed by Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube respectively. This aligns with the social media user’s data in Nigeria as identified by Statista (2020). Also, most of the participants (38.24%) are picked Whatsapp as the platform they are most active on. Significantly, the majority of the participants are very active across the social media platforms they use. This finding confirms the current statistics released in Nigeria with Whatsapp topping the log of social media use in the country. However, this study revealed that social media users in South West Nigeria are more active on Twitter than YouTube, but Statista (2020) reported otherwise. This finding also provides support for the study by Osuchukwu and Nguzoro (2020), which revealed that 100% of the Librarians sampled were active on WhatsApp, followed by Facebook. The finding negates earlier studies that identified Facebook as the most used social media platform (Duffet, 2015; Olotewo, 2016; Grizane & Jurgelane, 2017). This may be attributed to the period the studies were conducted because Whatsapp recently gained popularity among internet users.

This study revealed that 71% of the social media users in southwest Nigeria have been influenced by advertisements on the platforms at one point in time. This indicates that the majority of people are influenced by advertisements in the media. It was also found that the level at which the participants are exposed to advertisements across the social media platforms are similar, especially on Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram. This finding confirms that there are a plethora of advertisements on the social media platforms that the users are exposed to on daily basis (Alalwan, 2018; Adamu et al., 2019). This can be attributed to the fact that the media are less costly for the SMEs to advertise on (in comparison to radio, TV, and prints) and they are active round the clock. With these, SMEs take advantage of the platforms to promote their businesses to the teeming users on the platforms. This informed why this study was conducted to identify the advertising techniques that most influence the users’ purchase intention. It was revealed that promotional technique is the most influential advertising technique on the purchase intention of users of social media platforms in South-West Nigeria with 38.35% of the total selection. This negates what was reported by Hamada (2020), which found humor as the most influential technique, and Akcay and Dalgin’s (2015) study that ads using sexual appeal would convince the target audience irrespective of their gender. Offering respondents gifts or add value to their purchase has been found to influence their purchase decision and intent by various studies (Shimp & Andrews, 2013; Aghara, Nwaizugbo, Oparah & Ifeanyichukwu, 2018). Rana, Dwivedi, Lal, Williams, and Clement (2017) also submit that social media users are prone to engage in an ad if they perceive it as more valuable. Lin and Kim (2016), Jung (2017), and Bannister, Kiefer, and Nellums (2013 also provided evidence that consumers respond favorably to an advert with perceived usefulness.

Finally, this study found that only the age and gender of the social media users in South West Nigeria show a significant relationship with the advertising techniques that influence their purchase intent users (with 0.00 and 0.001 p-values respectively) while other demographic profiles show no association. This implies that SMEs must put into consideration the age and gender of the social media users when advertising on the platforms. It has been proven that consumers’ demographic characteristics do influence their reaction to advertisements (Alooma & Lawan, 2013) and business enterprises should not use a one-size fit all approach to the advertisement and consider the target audience's characteristics. Also, it was revealed that female participants are more active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Whatsapp than the males, who dominate Twitter. These findings are evidence that consumers react to social media advertisements based on personalization, preference, and requirements (Laroche, Habibi, & Richard, 2013; Zhu & Chang, 2016).

Conclusion

Social media platforms use has become a necessity for business owners, especially SMEs in this 21st-century business world. It is very clear that they aid business exposure, promotion, connection with potential consumers, facilitates relationships with customers, generates leads, and increases sales. Businesses have taken advantage of the huge benefits of the new media to advertise their products and services at little or no cost, thereby exposing the users to advertisement overload. This study found that 71% of the users in South West Nigeria are influenced by advertising on social media and it was considered necessary to identify the advertising techniques that influence the users’ purchase intent. This study can conclude that the promotional advertising technique is the major technique that influences the purchase intent of social media users in S/W Nigeria. It is recommended that businesses must put into consideration the age and gender of the users when implementing advertising campaigns on social media platforms. Whatsapp has over the years become a household mobile app with many unique features; there is a Whatsapp business app for business owners to use for business promotion. This should be taken advantage of since most social media users are active on the platform. It is also recommended that advertisers should first identify the peculiarities of their target audience before embarking on any advertising campaign on the social media space. This study did not focus on any particular product/service categories. It is suggested that future researchers should put into consideration specific product categories as it is observed that the categories products and services belong to may influence how consumers respond to promotions targeted at them (Luo, 2016).

Author: BABATUNDE C. AKINSOLA

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