This research study has a number of inter-related objectives set within the context of social network marketing.
1. Identify the forces driving marketing to Social Network websites and the barriers to the successful delivery of Social Network marketing.
2. Evaluate critically the most popular Social Network structure.
3. Explore marketers� views and practices related to Social Network marketing, including drivers and barriers to Social Network marketing.
4. Formulate recommendations to marketers pleased to integrate Social Network marketing to their marketing project portfolio.
An important aspect to this research work relates to Objective 3: the opportunity to learn Social Network marketing strategy. Recently social media marketing has generated much discussion and demand in terms of research and utilization. Social Network marketing is proving to be an essential transformation rather than a revolution. Therefore, this research gives us an opportunity to make a selection of marketers� views on social network marketing. The views of different marketing pros are noteworthy not only to the study of social network marketing but to a richer understanding of issues of marketing tactics. After a complete review of the literature (chapter 2), we identified a gap in existing research. In that, there was ample evidence on the need to provide guidelines for marketers on how to measure success/failure of social network sites. For the standard to achieve academic integrity, it ought to be based on research. An important contribution of this research project, will be the research and analysis of empirical data, on how marketing experts prepare for Social Network marketing venues and the lessons to be learned from such preparation. Objectives 1 and 2 were initially addressed in the previous section, in the form of a review of studies in the department of social network marketing; Objective 3 takes this analysis one step further through the collection and analysis of empirical data obtained from marketing experts. Importantly, although a focus of the practical work will be to gather information on marketing experts trying to cope with social network marketing, information will also be collected on their views on perceived drivers and barriers to Social Network marketing. This provides us with the opportunity to explore why companies become involved in social network and what they think being an obstacle to social network marketing. The researcher hope to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding social network marketing, by comparing the view from the reviewed publications and facts from the real word. Consequently, it will provide useful facts in relation to social network marketing.
The Research Methods section provides details of the research strategy adopted to address the research issues identified above, together with the process of collecting data for analysis, including location and sample collection, and the evaluation procedure to be adopted. In addition, the reader will be directed towards the thorny issue of inherent limitations and problems with the chosen research strategy and its implementation.
3.1 Research Philosophy
A research philosophy is the way to organize your research. In its simplistic form, the way data collected about a case and review. Research is usually based on assumptions about how we see the world and how best we can understand it. Philosophers have been arguing about the best way we can understand this world for at least two millennia now. Therefore, it is obvious that nobody knows how better understand the world we leave. Yet we consider the two dominant philosophical schools of thought: Positivism and Post-Positivism.
3.1.1 Philosophy of positivism
A researcher with a positivist view of the world is someone who holds that reality is true and free of the observer and so can be measured and predicted (Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991; Remenyi et al. 1998). Measuring the temperature at which different types of metals melts could fall into the category of positivist research (since the melting metal is not influenced by human observation). What the positivist researcher is saying is that his method of analysis is not influenced by the unpredictable conduct of human beings, as a result, his findings are more reliable (e.g. such-and-such a metal melts at such-and-such a temperature, full stop). Positivist research is common in the world of science (mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.), and uncommon in the arts-based research department (e.g. sociology, history, history of art, etc.), where the latter typically involves and influenced by human relations and scrutiny. The emphasis on quantifiable data is the reason that positivist research associate with quantitative research. However, the two concepts, although similar, are not exactly the same. For example, providing students with questionnaires to complete, with a view to obtaining quantifiable data, is an example of quantitative research; but is not a case of positivist research, because the questionnaire responses based on human participation, therefore, human impact.
3.1.2 Philosophy Interpretative
Interpretative researchers, on the other hand, hold to a remarkably different view of the world than positivist researchers. Interpretative researchers believe that there are many, equally valid, interpretations of reality, and that, further, these interpretations based on time and context. A student who accepts the �ontological assumption associated with interpretative/constructivism that multiple realities exist that are time and context dependent, want to carry out their research using qualitative methods so that they can gain an understanding of the constructs held by people in that context� (Mertens 1998). If your research concentrated on, say, interviewing your fellow students on their views of their dissertation tutors, then you would be engaging in interpretative research. Students would provide a variety of views, some praising their supervisors, others offering criticism, with a range of views expressed on why students like/dislike their supervisor. For interpretative researchers, human involvement and monitoring and the context and time these occur are critical to their research. The emphasis on human interpretations of events leads interpretative research to be identified, correctly, with qualitative research.
3.2 Research strategy
Saunders et al. (2000) summarizes the use of research strategies accordingly: what matters is whether a strategy is right for your research, and not the label attached to it . . .� Objective 3 of this research sets out to �explore marketers� views and practices related to social network marketing, including drivers and barriers to social network marketing�. This will be implemented through the collection and analysis of empirical data. The question is what research strategy should be adopted to meet Objective 3.
The empirical research in this study interest an in-depth study (�Explore marketers� views...�), within a social network venue. This extends to how marketers tackle social network marketing including drivers and barriers. The primary focus, in terms of marketers, will be trained marketers involved in social network marketing. Which paradigm of research strategy is best suited to facilitate an in-depth study of a contemporary issue that promotes concentration and supports the concept of obtaining different marketer perspectives to achieve a richer understanding of a phenomenon (in this search social network marketing)?
Historical research, as a strategy, is not appropriate to this research project, since it associated with looking at non-contemporary phenomena (this research interest in a contemporary phenomenon, social network marketing). Experimental research is also inappropriate, as it concentrates on causal relationships and, in attempting to obtain objectivity, separates phenomena from its social context (this empirical research centres on social network marketing within the context of a social network venue). Similarly, survey-based research, using postal or e-mail surveys, fails to address the researcher�s objective of dealing with a variety of social network marketing issues (drivers and barriers) in depth. Action research has appealed, in that it involves in-depth analysis of a problem that is present and can best be solved by direct collaboration between the researcher and those involved in the problem area. Such an approach is iterative in nature, whereby information is collected, analysed, problem revisited more data collected and analysed further. This goes on until an agreed solution to the problem achieved. However, this research work is not concerned with one single practical problem that can be tackled in this way. The researcher is interested in exploring marketer�s views, not in solving a clearly defined practical problem. Thus the emphasis on securing a variety of marketers� perspectives, not on testing a hypothesis iteratively to find a solution to a problem.
A researcher with a critical perspective of the world, views that reality is historically based and influence people consciously and subconsciously by social, cultural and political context. This researcher accepts that the world has much difference and restricting forces that are historically based. Aspects of his research project may overlap with such sentiments (e.g. drivers and barriers to social network marketing). However, the main focus of his research to understand better social network marketing and provide guidance in this field to the social media community at large.
Mertens (1998) holds that a researcher�s philosophical views of the world will impact on the nature of qualitative research strategy that she will choose for her research. In summary, researcher with a positivist view of the world, someone who believes that truth is objective and independent of the observer and so can be measured and predicted. A positivist would be interested in testing theories and drawing inferences from a tested sample. In this research, the researcher interacts with those participating in the research (marketers using social networks venues for marketing). Interpretative researchers believe that an understanding of the world can only be accessed through social interaction. Such interaction in turn, understood in terms of the context of the interaction (time and venue). Therefore, after identifying the essential elements of both approaches, the researcher recommend using the doctrine of positivism and Interpretative philosophy to be able to obtain a more in-depth study of social networking marketing.
The research strategy to be used to implement the empirical research is exploratory research. What is exploratory research strategy, and why is it appropriate for this research? Exploratory research is an extremely popular strategy among marketers; use to gain an understanding of a phenomenon. It is used to gain an understanding of a phenomenon or to help develop the definition of a phenomenon. It is also used to identify meaningful variables to be studied. For example, just because we know that blackberry phones exist; does not mean we know how they work. Exploratory analysis can take several forms: pilot studies, focus groups, surveys, secondary data analysis, pilot studies case studies, and projective methods.
According to this definition, Exploratory concerned with an understanding a phenomenon or how to develop the definition of a phenomenon. Exploratory research is more flexible and less structured. This approach works well when a marketer does not understand an issue or an issue is new, and it is difficult to distinguish the research direction. An Exploratory research approach facilitates this researcher�s desire to explore deeply into companies response to social network marketing. Time and energy devoted on aspects of social network marketing.Research is exploratory when you use preliminary report as a condition of your study. Indeed, social networking marketing is a recent development and has not been yet properly studied it has little or mentions in the academic literature. The exploratory approach in this Project attempts to obtain general information about social networking marketing, and its current practice that is not yet fully understood by the marketers.
Given the nature of this research is an in-depth study of a contemporary phenomenon (social network marketing), in a complex environment (social network), where a variety of marketers perspectives sought, and where the principal studies philosophy based on positivism and Interpretative understanding of the world � a strategy that meets the needs of this research is exploratory research.
This researcher is attempting to shed light on what is happening in a setting (Saunders et al. 2000); adding information to the rich understanding of social network marketing research. The exploratory research approach facilitates this goal. Aspirations to incorporate social network marketing are not confined to a variety of social network. Social network marketing can attract the attention of and adopted by any form of business. In other words, the findings from the experimental study of social network, regardless of the business, may be of interest and importance to any business keen on using social network as a new way of marketing.
The contribution of this research project to social network marketing knowledge pool is developed from a synthesis of the preliminary study research and the findings of the Literature Review. It is not expected that the fruits of this research will be representative of all businesses undertaking social network marketing. It expects that in the fullness of time, as more case studies implemented by other researchers, the contribution to the social network marketing academic community will be progressively amended and appropriately enriched.
3.3 Data collection
The Exploratory research relies on secondary research and considered being a qualitative study. Bell (2005), states that qualitative research approach is adopted by researchers concerned to get personal interpretation of the world. Qualitative researchers look for understanding rather than statistical interpretation of the world. the central ambitions of the empirical aspect of this research are to understand what is happening in social network venue, why is it gaining so much popularity, and above all, to seek independent perspectives from marketers associate in social network marketing. To understand instances of social network marketing business and explanations requires an in-depth probing that is more than just the accumulation of facts and figures. In the process of collecting qualitative data, attempts will be made to collect quantitative data. Examples of this include the number of social network marketing initiatives in enterprise, the number of companies involved, the number of marketers involved, and so on. It is then hoped that such an approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative methods, will assist in understanding the issues developed in the section on �Issues and Review of Related Literature�. Nonetheless, the primary focus of this research strategy is the collection of qualitative data.
Selecting the process by which to collect empirical data is just as valuable as choosing an appropriate research strategy. According to Malhotra and Birks (2003), appropriate data collection method contributes to the success of research studies. This research is interested in capturing qualitative data. As such, the use questionnaires, although useful in gathering quantitative data, would not satisfy the researcher�s desire for accurate information from marketers on their understanding of and views on social network marketing. That, in turn, would make it difficult for the researcher to compare and contrast his findings in any meaningful way with the findings from the literature review. Any suggestions or strategy on a way forward, with regard to social network marketing, would be significantly weakened by the lack of qualitative data from exploratory research. Qualitative data will be obtained primarily through the mechanism of a pilot survey. This will open the opportunity to discuss, with the various marketers, social network marketing issues in depth.
3.3.1 Qualitative research (pilot study)
In social science research pilot study is used in different ways. It is sometimes referred to feasibility studies, which are "small-scale versions, or test runs, done in preparation for the primary research" (Polit et al., 2001: 467). However, a pilot study can also be the pretesting or 'trying out' of an analysis tool (Baker 1994: 182-3). The qualitative research phase of this study, gives valuable insight into the research topic and helps define the quantitative phase. The initial section of the data collection process involved conducting a pilot study at the LinkedIn social network venue. This networking venue is chosen because it was exclusively build for business professional.
The aim of the pilot study is to achieve an in-depth and qualitative insight into social network marketing. The review of relevant literature established that social network marketing is an area of increasing interest in the wider marketing community. Therefore, the results of this study will be of interest to those wanting to integrated social network into their marketing portfolio. In the case of this research, a pilot study is referred to as a small-scale research in order to obtain preliminary data and develop relevant questions for the next stage � the survey.
Thus, the analysis starts with qualitative data collection, an analysis on a relatively unexplored topic � social networking marketing. The results use to develop a future quantitative phase of the survey, questionnaire. Therefore, the first phase of a pilot involves using in-depth interviews with marketing industry experts through LinkedIn, in order to determine the issues to be addressed in an extensive questionnaire survey. Interviewing different marketing experts will allow for cross-comparisons of responses, encouraging different perspectives of similar social network marketing issues to emerge.
3.3.2 Questionnaire design
This research main focus is to examine existing social networking marketing, and learn how the new Internet opportunity can help marketers to promote their products and services to consumers. To achieve this goal, a questionnaire was developed to serve as a central data collection tool. According Easterby-Smith (1991) self- administrated questionnaire is the most appropriate method to collect data for analysis within a short time. To obtain the relevant information with a questionnaire Maylor and Blackmon (2005) suggest that the design is the primary parts. Three main areas (wording of the questions, appropriate categorization of variables and general appearance) where considered in designing a reliable and impartial evaluation.
The designed questionnaire consists of three main parts. The first part was designed to collect basic classification information such as size of the company, sector of activity. The second part of the questionnaire was to obtain general marketing questions (e.g. the expectations towards marketing budgets, information on key marketing activities). The last section dealt specifically with the research questions (social networking marketing experience, tactics used, and budgets dedicated). In this study we use Closed questions; both dichotomous and multiple choice were chosen to receive defined answers. Some of the questions have a combination of both closed and open ended design. However, this approach was chosen to make a room for the respondent to identify any additional concerns.
3.3.3 Target population and Sampling design
The choice of an appropriate sampling method is an essential component in obtaining coherent and related information (Maylor and Blackmon, 2005). Five steps where suggested by Malholtra (2003) for sampling design: define the target population, determine the sampling frame, determine the sampling frame, and determine the sample size perform the sampling process.
In this Research we target marketing professionals, who have expertise in social networking marketing. This population was targeted considering the purpose of this research. The most popular social network site for business professional LinkedIn, chosen as our source for data collection. The LinkedIn search functions allow determining the total population of a sector of professionals, taking into account the range of expertise and location. We did a search and found out about 1000 social network marketing professionals from United Kingdom and other European countries. This constituted the population of interest and created the sampling frame for this research. As Maylor and Blackmon (2005) states that an accurate sampling frame reduces the chances of sampling error. Non-probability sampling, which involves, a subjective selection of respondents was chosen in this Research. It is chosen because it is easier and faster to implement, effective with small sample sizes, and key respondents are clearly targeted.
Since we use non-probability sampling, no statistical techniques were required to determine the size of the sample. Therefore, it is entirely subjective with the considerations of only:
- The likely response rates: the response rates in LinkedIn tend to be very high due to the personal closed communication process, therefore the sample can be smaller;
- The degree of the variability: is generally low within the sample frame, therefore the sample doesn�t need to be big;
- Timings: due to the restricted timeframe of the research the smaller sample is used.
The above factors considered representing the target population. Consequently, a sample of 5 respondents were chosen for the qualitative research (the pilot study), and a sample of 60 respondents for the quantitative part of the initial research stage.
3.3.4 Data Collection Procedure
The questionnaire piloted among professional marketers who had been asked to complete the questionnaire in a pre-test. Their feedback used to improve the questionnaire. Questionnaire distributed through LinkedIn and by email. It was first delivered through LinkedIn and then by email to marketers who agreed to provide their email address to fill in the questionnaire. Since the distribution is online based, the questionnaire administered in a soft-copy format. Sixty questionnaires distributed among marketing professionals, who were identified earlier, to explore their experiences and attitudes towards social networking marketing. They are asked to respond to 20 survey questions designed, taking into consideration the results of the pilot study.
To ensure that marketers respond, the following actions are taken:
? A �thank you/reminder� letter approximately 5 days after the full
? A reminder of closing the questionnaire on the final day.
3.4 Ethical issues
This research is conducted in adherence to the ICC/ESOMAR International Code of Market and Social Research. Maintaining the confidentiality of the general public and users of market research is the primary objective of this Code. Therefore, for the purpose of this research the researcher behaved in a responsible and appropriate manner and observed the principles of fair competition. The respondents were notified that any personal information they disclosed was not intended to be used for identification purposes and served merely as a system of classification of responses. The identity of respondents is not revealed in this study. The co-operation in this Project is entirely voluntary. A respondent was entitled to withdraw from this research at any given time.
The respondents were provided with the following information:
? The identity of the researcher;
? The purpose for which the results are used.