Social media have provided modern opportunities to the customers to be part of social interconnection on the internet. Customers use social media, such as online communities, to generate content and to get linked the network with other users. The study of social media can also identify the advantages to be gained by business. A multidisciplinary model, building on the technology acceptance model and relevant literature on trust and social media, has been devised. The model has been validated by SEM-PLS, demonstrating the role of social media in the development of e-commerce into social commerce. The data emerging from a survey show how social media facilitate the social interaction of consumers, leading to increased trust and intention to buy. The results also show that trust has a significant and direct effect on intention to buy. The perceived usefulness (PU) of a site is also identified as a contributory factor. At the end of the paper, the author discusses the results, along with implications, limitations and recommended future research directions.
The advancements of the internet in recent years have made new systems available to business: social media such as online communities being a good example. The general availability of the internet has given individuals the opportunity to use social media, from email to Twitter and Facebook, and to interact without the need for physical meetings. This has been facilitated by Web 2.0 applications. Web 2.0 is a new achievement, which has transferred the internet to a social environment by introducing social media, where individuals can interact and generate content online. Web 2.0 has emerged to give users easier connectivity and participation on the web. With the rise of social media and online communities, individuals can easily share and access information. Online communities and social networking sites (SNSs) are effective web technology for social interactions and sharing information. SNSs take centre-stage in e-commerce in the current environment, where consumers make social connections and participate in cyberspace. Today’s consumers have access to many different sources of information and experiences, which have been facilitated by other customers’ information and recommendations. This is an important point as customer involvement through social media is a key factor in marketing. Social media offer different values to firms, such as enhanced brand popularity, facilitating word-of-mouth communication, increase in sales, sharing information in a business context and generating social support for consumers. In addition, the networking of individuals through social media provides shared values, leading to a positive impact on trust. Today, with the expansion of social media and SNSs, a study of consumer behavior on these platforms is a research agenda because social media are likely to develop marketing strategies in firms through trust-building mechanisms and affecting customers’ intention to buy online products. The main thrust of this paper focuses on examining the role of social factors on trust, which can influence an individual’s intention to buy. An understanding of this issue can aid in identifying factors that establish trust and social commerce intention through SNSs. This paper has four objectives. First, the study examines how social media – namely online forums, communities, ratings and reviews – can influence trust in e-commerce. Second, it looks at the relationship between trust and intention to buy. Third, this research examines the relationship between trust and perceived usefulness (PU) of a site on intention to buy. In conclusion, it examines the direct and indirect influence of social media on trust and intention to buy. To these ends, the study presents the following questions.
- Do social media in social networking sites affect the user’s trust?
- Do PU and trust affect the user’s intention to buy?
- Which factors [PU (Perceived Usefulness) or trust?] are more important in determining the user’s intention to buy?
To answer these questions, the study borrows from technology acceptance model (TAM) constructs, along with concepts of trust, social media and social support to build up an interdisciplinary model. The purpose of this research is to investigate the role of social media and how they can influence the consumer’s intention to buy and impact on a user’s trust in a social commerce environment.
The paper is organised as follows. First there is a literature review provided to identify the issues and gaps in the current literature that have driven in the study. The next section provides the research model and hypotheses, the paper continues with research methodology and the structural model. Finally, theoretical and managerial implications for the study are presented, along with limitations, future research directions and conclusions. In the Literature review and theoretical background we have discussed about the advances in the internet and the emergence of Web 2.0, the interconnectivity between individuals has expanded on the internet. This development enables customers and businesses to cooperate on the internet. This has emerged through social media, which enable consumers to generate content and have social interactions online via social platforms. Moreover, on those platforms where consumers have social interaction, members can become familiar with one another, providing a possible source of trust. As we all know large number of social media platforms have been developed that smooth the progress of sharing information and generation of content in an online context. There are many numbers of social media that facilitate these activities, such as Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Individuals apply different social media tools, such as online forums and communities, recommendations, ratings and reviews, to interact with other users online. In fact, individuals are attracted online to exchange information and receive social support. In this kind of Virtual worlds as electronic environments are very important development of Web 2.0, it’s a new way of generating and sharing the information on the internet. They facilitate human interactions for social and commercial purposes.
With the up gradation in the internet and the arrival of Web 2.0, the connectivity between individuals has expanded on the internet. This development enables customers and businesses to collaborate with each other on the internet. This has emerged through social media, which enable consumers to generate content and have social interactions online via social platforms. There are a number of social platforms that are providing information sharing. For instance, Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, is one of the most popular platforms and has the facility for users to collaborate on information sharing. Other platforms with the ability to generate reviews and ratings, such as Amazon.com, enable the customers to review and rate their products. In addition, members of these platforms are cooperatively interdependent. By using social media, consumers can create content and offer valuable advice to others. This new development has seen online communities and an electronic network of individuals emerge on social platforms where members share information globally and quickly. With the hike in social networks, a new era of content creation has emerged, where individuals can easily share experiences and information with other users. The next generation of online businesses will be based on communities – a good tool for new customer attraction. Online communities offer an opportunity to organizations to have a better customer relationship management system, for instance, giving rise to a new development where businesses can improve performance. Moreover, on those platforms where consumers have social interaction, members can become familiar with one another, providing a possible source of trust. This can greatly influence users’ intention to buy. Consequently, it is important for companies to have a business model adapted to social commerce. Social commerce is a new stream in e-commerce, which encourages the social interaction of consumers through social media. Social media provide opportunities for businesses to become more appealing universally. Although social commerce and social media are key phenomena in e-commerce and the marketing literature, few studies, if any, have examined the concepts of trust and users’ intentional behavior. In the next section the literature related to the model of study maps out the theoretical foundation of the research.
Perceived usefulness (PU) is one of the main contrive of the technology acceptance model (TAM). Users’ acceptance of computing facilities was one of the initial developments of this theory. The theory has been since developed by many scholars in different localities. TAM argues that constructs have a strong influence in the acceptance of systems by a user. The original definition of perceived usefulness by Davis is ‘the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance’. It is one of the main reasons why people are receptive to new technology. The constructs introduced by TAM can be applied in a wide range of ways. These can also be used to predict consumer behavior in e-commerce. TAM is among the most popular theories in Information Systems (IS) as it emphasizes the intention to use a system. Its instruments have been validated in different research. In the present study, only perceived usefulness and intention to buy have been selected as main factors to develop the proposed model. One of the main reasons for omitting perceived ease of use from the present study is that, it is argued, this construct has an indirect effect on user acceptance through PU (Gefen & Straub 2000). Previous researchers have been consistent in arguing that PU has a positive direct effect on acceptance of a system. There are different aspects that define PU in an e-commerce environment. For instance, the quality of a website in terms of system, service and information quality has a significant impact on perceived usefulness, which in terms encourages consumers to buy. Businesses can concentrate on information, service and system quality to improve their websites, and also enhance perceived usefulness in their consumers.
The Use of Social Media Platforms to Generate Social Support
Today, large number of social media platforms have been developed a smooth progress of sharing information and generation of content in an online context. There are a number of social media that facilitate these activities, such as Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Individuals apply different social media tools, such as online forums and communities, recommendations, ratings and reviews, to interconnect with other users online. In fact, individuals are attracted towards online exchange of information and receive social support. Reviews are one of the key area that has emerged from social media. Customer reviews are widely available for products and services, create great value for both consumers and companies. In fact, consumers are actively encouraged by firms to rate and review products and services online. These activities produce electronic word of mouth. This word of mouth, produced through social media, which helps consumers in their purchasing decisions. Research shows that customer reviews has been grown quickly on the internet. Amazon.com is a good example of using customer reviews, with almost 10 million available. Online communities and forums are other examples of social media. Online communities are now a place to share information and gain knowledge about products and services. Recommendations are another tool which is widely used by potential customers. Research has shown that potential consumers are more interested in other users’ recommendations rather than simply vendor-generated product information. Hence, such interactions, provided through social media, helps to increase the level of trust and reduce perceived risk. Virtual worlds as electronic environments are another important development of Web 2.0, a new way of generating and sharing information on the internet. They facilitate human interactions for social and commercial purposes. One of the main characteristics of virtual worlds is learning by doing, which enables users to learn and practice in the virtual space. However, with the wide use of social media where individuals can easily post information and accounts of their experiences, the quality of content posted by anonymous users has become a barrier. The anonymity of some users is a concern in deciding on the quality of information provided and the content shared by consumers. Towards these ends, when individuals join online communities and participate in a group, they seek social support and friendship in the community. The perceived care, love and support of members of a group are defined as social support. Research shows that online communities and SNSs generate both informational and emotional support. Emotional and informational supports are two dimensional social support in an online context. Twitter is a good example, where individuals provide social support for other users. It may also attract many individuals to come online to search for information through these social media. Moreover, the study of social media is useful to see how individuals form their social interactions on the internet. These social interactions have been facilitated by social media such as online forums, communities, ratings, reviews and recommendations, all of which produce online social support. These are likely to increase the trust in e-commerce for vendors and buyers alike.
Trust is a mainspring in developing e-commerce. In a business-to-consumer relationship, trust on the e-vendor is important in assessing risk in the transaction. Trust plays an important role in e-commerce. There are different definitions of trust, which are based on different dimensions of benevolence, integrity, ability, competence and empathy. There are also two-dimensional measurement scales for trust, competence and benevolence competence, leading to brand trust. However, all definitions and dimensions refer to risk and uncertainty in the online environment. Benevolence and credibility are the two main dimensions of trust upon which this research is based. Credibility-based trust refers to the belief that the other party in a transaction is reliable and relies on reputation information, while benevolence refers to repeated seller-buyer relationships. Therefore, in this research, trust is taken in the context of transactions over the internet through SNSs and online communities.
Trust in peers on the network and trust in the SNSs themselves will also be considered. In the context of online communities, trust can facilitate the interaction of individuals and encourage them to stick to their current network.
The study conducted a survey on individuals in order to validate the suggested model. The study was conducted through online and paper questionnaires. The participants are mostly resident in the India, Delhi, and Mumbai (85%), although the research attracted some international participants.
This research developed a questionnaire, using a 5-point Likert-scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. The items which are in the questionnaire were adopted from previous research to increase the validity of the study. Trust, one of the key constructs of the model, has been investigated in many previous research papers. In this study, trust measures trust in SNSs and peers in these networks. Social interaction measures the activity of individuals through online communities, forums, ratings, reviews and recommendations. Perceived usefulness, the other construct of the research, was measured by the potency of a site’s technology. This included ease of navigation and ease of searching on the website. The dependent variable of this study is intention to buy. This construct measures the user’s willingness to purchase on SNSs and their intention to buy through SNSs.
The author has developed an online questionnaire and invited participation through email. The target individuals were members of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The author excluded non-member participants. A total of 500 emails and 300 paper questionnaires offered 237 usable questionnaires for use. Participants ranged from 18 to 45 years old: 60% men and 40% women.
The present study uses a structural equation modeling (SEM). SEM is the most popular approach in social science. In SEM, the author uses the partial least square method (PLS) – a good way of managing the complex data in a low-structural situation. PLS is very accurate when theoretical information is minimal, as in the areas of social media and social business. SEM-PLS is a good method to assess the validity and reliability of developments. PLS is also suitable for testing the new models. This research proposes the new model to develop a theoretical foundation for social business through social media. The study uses the re-sampling method for significance testing and assist of 500 re-samples and 237 cases per sample in order to assess the path to significance, which provides the basis for the confidence intervals allowing estimation the factor stability.
Discussion and Conclusions
Recent upgradation on the internet and the development of social media has facilitated the connectivity of consumers. Customers have social interactions through social media such as online forums, communities, ratings, reviews and recommendations. These developments have introduced a new terms in e-commerce, called social commerce, which empowers customers to generate content and influence others. These interactions provide different values for both business and consumers. Both are involved in the creation of value. The present study commander constructs from the technology acceptance model, and integrates them with trust and social media concepts to propose a model to examine the role of social media in e-commerce and social commerce adoption. The model has been endorse through a PLS-SEM method, indicating that social media has increases the level of trust in consumers and indirectly encourage intention to buy from social networking sites. The results of data analysis reveal that social media empower participants to generate content through online communities, reviews and recommendations. Consumers, facilitated by social media, generate online social support for their peers. Consequently, these interactions establish trust in the networks used.