Blog is short for weblog, a term that came into use in the early years of the twenty-first century. Weblogs refer to specific pieces of information posted online by individuals wishing to share their thoughts, experiences, and concerns with others. The phenomenon of blogging changed the way consumers receive information updates. Blogs are usually the first sources of information on what celebrities are doing.
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Blogging is part of the current self-publishing wave that is overturning how people access written matter. Bloggers have carved a niche for themselves as part of the sources of information on the internet, which includes celebrity eWOM. Unlike conventional publications, blogs are not subjected to stringent grammar and style rules. Bloggers are free to decide on the level of strictness of the language they use in their blog.
Many blogging platforms exist for online users who are interested in posting blogs. The two most common blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger. These two providers allow bloggers to maintain blogs free, as long as the blogger retains the name of the service provider in their web address.
Otherwise, a blogger who wants a unique web address pays for the service. Some blogs allow readers to register in order to receive notifications each time there is a new blog posted on the site. Many bloggers concentrate on celebrity eWOM as the subject matter of their blogs.
In the recent years, marketers have started using blogs as part of their online marketing options. This comes from the ability of blogs to attract and retain the interest of customers in niche markets. Blogs do not have the feel of conventional advertisements. They look like articles or opinion pieces in news magazines. In this regard, a blog that reviews products gives marketers the opportunity to reach customers without being afraid that the customers will be repulsed.
Customer repulsion is the phenomenon where customers ignore or tune out of advertisements that run on conventional media. The use of blogs for marketing is called article marketing. Popular blogs have articles on celebrity lifestyles. The main principle that guides article marketing is branding. An article may not ask consumers to buy a product. However, it can be written to compare the performance of two products.
This is what creates brand space in the minds of consumers. If the article talks about celebrity lifestyles, it forms part of eWOM on luxury living. Therefore, the next time that such a consumer goes to buy the product, the consumer is likely to choose a brand encountered in an article or a blog. Blogs also have a sense of authenticity because they contain real life experiences. Bloggers share their experiences with readers, who use these experiences to make purchasing decisions.
A good example of how blogs are affecting online marketing is the proliferation of travel blogs. Travelling is usually difficult for many people because of the need to make decisions without prior experience. The first time that someone visits a different country as a tourist, the person does not have a clear picture of what to expect.
In such situations, official websites and promotional materials made by tour agencies do not command the confidence of the consumer, because of the obvious conflict of interest. The simple reason for this is that the consumer feels that the materials carry only the best information about a tourist destination.
Customers therefore turn to blogs to get information relating to the personal experiences of other consumers. Travel blogs are written by people who have travelled to certain destinations, or by those who have a keen interest in travelling. Readers value the personal experiences of other people when they are making their own travel decisions.
One of the issues this research project hopes to clarify is the impact of blogs on purchasing behaviour. The reading of blogs, especially blogs that analyse celebrity lifestyles play a big role in consumer decisions. Blogs tend to use an informal communication style to connect with a target audience. This means that street language and other informal uses of language is not a hindrance to blog readers.
In fact, the use of informal language in blogs makes it easier for the target group to identify with the blog. The high level of impact of blogs on public opinion is the same reason that underlies the hypothesis that they play a huge role in the making of buying decisions. Blogs that talk about celebrities have a huge impact on lifestyle decisions of their followers. Just like Instagram, blogs provide followers of celebrities with a glimpse of opulent lifestyles.
The only difference is that blogs use words rather than pictures. Blogs are an important part of eWOM because they present a unique perspective regarding people’s experiences with products and services. Blogs are not sources of objective information. They are sources of subjective experiences that represent the immediate reality of individual bloggers.
The three main issues that the project will investigate include the role of expertise in making blogs and Instagram influential. In addition, the project will determine the trustworthiness of Instagram compared to blogs and their impact on purchase intentions. The research questions for this project are as follows:
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- What is the effect of Instagram on fashion brands toward purchase intentions?
- What is the effect of blogs on fashion brands toward purchase intentions?
- What is the relationship between celebrity eWOM and purchase intentions?
- What is the impact of eWOM from celebrities’ Instagram compared with celebrities’ blogs on consumer purchase intention in the fashion industry?
Based on these questions, the hypotheses of the research project are as follows. First, there is a positive relationship between Instagram usage and purchase intentions among young women in Thailand. The research project should arrive at a positive correlation between Instagram usage, and purchase intentions among young women in Thailand. The second hypothesis is that there is a positive relationship between exposure to blogs and purchasing intentions.
The basis of this hypothesis is the establishment of such a relationship in the travel industry. The third hypothesis is that there is a positive relationship between celebrity eWOM and purchase intentions. The fourth hypothesis is that celebrity blogs and celebrity eWOM plays a big role in purchase intentions among Thai consumers.
The research philosophy guiding this project is positivism. Positivism encourages the use of tools and techniques that can prove the existence and the extent of a phenomenon. Positivism has three main suppositions in regards to research. First positivism supposes that there is an objective reality . Secondly, positivism supposes that it is possible to know the objective reality. Thirdly, positivism supposes that it is possible to describe this reality.
The belief in the existence of an objective reality does not cut across all research philosophies. Some research philosophies do not believe in the existence an objective reality. These philosophies assume that research only unearths the aggregate perceptions of the subjective realities of the respondents.
This position eliminates the possibility of knowing an objective reality because there is no way of proving its existence. On the other hand, positivism holds that objective reality is discoverable by use of scientific measurements. The beauty of positivism is the ability to use descriptions to express this reality. Researchers who use positivism as their guiding philosophy use mathematical and statistical descriptors to express their findings in relation to objective reality.
According to Bryman and Bell (2011) positivism has five main principles. The first principle of positivism is phenomenalism. This principle invalidates anything that cannot be experienced using the senses. The only way to know objective reality is to use the senses to discover and quantify it.
In the context of the research project underway, this principle informed the development of the research questions. These questions will be guiding the process of uncovering the experiences of the respondents. By aggregating these experiences, it will be possible to know the objective reality in regards to the use of Instagram and blogs in eWOM.
The second principle of positivism is deductivism. Deductivism underlies the need to develop a hypothesis in research. The development of hypothesis starts with theoretical reviews that aim at revealing gaps in knowledge. Researchers develop hypotheses to fill the theoretical gaps and then conduct experiments to verify the hypothesis. This then leads to the proving or disapproving of the hypothesis through the development of new theory.
The proof of the hypothesis relies on deductions made after conducting an experiment, hence the name deductivism. This hypothesis developed in this research project focused on how Instagram and Blogs influence celebrity eWOM. This project will culminate in the development of new theory regarding the use of Instagram and blogs in marketing.
The third principle of positivism is inductivism. An essential element of positivist studies is that they gather facts relating to the phenomenon under investigation. These facts them inform the process of identifying objective reality. In other words, the process of gathering facts provides an inductive mechanism for identifying objective reality. The design of the questionnaire relies on this principle to ensure that the views captured will be as close to objective reality as possible.
Positivism seeks to promote objectivity in research. This means that the research must be done in a value-free manner. This principle ensures that research results from positivist studies are true, rather than right. A researcher does not make moral judgments or try to find whether something is right or wrong.
The whole point is to find out whether a phenomenon exists, its extent, and the implications. In this research project, the objective of the project is to find out how Instagram and blogs promote celebrity eWOM. In keeping with positivism, the project does not concern itself with moral arguments such as whether it is right for marketers to take advantage of this phenomenon.
The last principle of positivism is that it requires a clear distinction between scientific statements and normative statements. This means that the researcher is careful to make a distinction when expressing the results arising from a research project, and when making statements that capture general expectations.
The implication of this to the research project is that the language that will be used to report the findings, should clarify the difference between issues arising from the process, and those that represent the orthodox position.
Research design is the logical framework, rather than the logistical framework for a research project. The objectives of this research project seek to find out the impact of Instagram and blogs on celebrity eWOM. This means that there is need to explore how the two internet tools facilitate celebrity eWOM.
The best way to do this is by conducting a survey that covers the people who respond to celebrity eWOM. The details of how the target group was chosen are presented in the section on sampling methods below. This research project will use a survey research design to achieve the stated objectives.
The reasons underlying the choice of survey as the research design of the project are as follows. First, this project is a phenomenological study. There is need to study the extent of Instagram and Blogs on celebrity eWOM because of the implications this can have on marketing. Since the research project is seeking to find out something that affects a large population, a survey is the best method of carrying out the investigation.
Secondly, a survey will make is possible to test the specific elements that constitute the influence of celebrity eWOM on Instagram and blogs. The survey will deal with four overall research questions.
The answers collected from the survey will answer these questions in a clear manner that will influence the usefulness of the research project. Thirdly, a survey will provide the researchers with a standard means of evaluating the data collected. This is ideal because of the specific nature of the research questions.
The strengths of a survey as a research design paradigm are as follows. First, survey findings are easy to generalize . Since every respondent answers the same set of questions, it is easy to tell what a larger population would say in response to the same specific inquiries. Secondly, multiple choice questions in close ended survey questionnaires make it easy for respondents to participate in the process.. The research findings from this project will inform online marketing strategies.
The use of a standard questionnaire will increase the confidence of marketing strategists in the research findings. Thirdly, it is easy to replicate surveys. This advantage comes from the use of a standard questionnaire and consistent sampling. This means that the decision to use a survey will make it possible to repeat the process in other markets when needed.
Finally, survey results fit easily into the existing body of research. This means that future studies on Instagram and blogs, will have a stronger basis for development based on the findings of this research project.
The main weaknesses that bedevil survey research are as follows. First, the process is prone to errors. This means that a lot of effort is needed upfront to eliminate the potential for errors in the research process. The limitation associated with this situation is that some errors cannot be known until later in the research process. Compared to descriptive studies, the researcher can make adjustments in the process of data collection to tune the research project to the realities on the ground.
A survey research lacks this option. Secondly, a survey research, especially one that seeks to collect quantitative data, forces respondents to take discreet positions. In reality, people’s positions and perceptions fall in a range. In some cases, some people develop positions while answering research questions because there was no prior instance where they thought about the issues raised in the questionnaires. The third weakness of surveys is that they capture data in a time bound manner.
This means that a survey conducted today may no longer be accurate after a short time because of the dynamics of change. This project will study Instagram. However, there is no certainty that in the next two years, Instagram will have the same influence it commands today. Changes in the environment can render a survey meaningless in a short period.
Data for this project will be collected using a questionnaire. The questionnaire will have four main sections, each dealing with one of the research questions. The respondents will answer the questions in one sitting. The questionnaire is composed of closed ended questions. This decision was taken to ease data collection and analysis. Closed ended questions are easier and faster to administer, hence the research project will be concluded on time.
The distribution of the questionnaire will be done online. The questionnaire will be on an interactive form capable of registering the responses of the respondents into a database. The online questionnaire is hosted on Google drive. Google drive is Google’s cloud service. The respondents will get the link to the questionnaire via email and via social media. However, they will not have access to the database where all the responses will be registered.
The main advantages of using an online questionnaire are as follows. First, the administrative costs of managing the questionnaire are minimal, compared to hardcopy questionnaires. This arises because there will be no need to print the final questionnaire for distribution, or to put in place measures for collecting the filled questionnaires.
This will reduce the overall cost of data collection. Secondly, the data will go straight into a database, thereby eliminating the logistical requirements of data entry as an element of the research process. As soon as a respondent fills the online form, the data will be saved on the Google drive hosting the questionnaire. The third advantage of this method is that the data will be secure as long as no one breaches the Google drive account. Hardcopy questionnaires are difficult to keep securely.
It is costly and cumbersome to maintain the hard copies of research questionnaires. This makes them more difficult to secure. The fourth advantage of the online questionnaire is that the database is in a portable format. It will be easy to transfer the entire database to data analysis software.
The problems that will arise based on this data collection method are as follows. Google drive is a password-protected service. This means that the data will be vulnerable to hackers and other people who can access the Google drive account. While Google invests in securing its systems, there is no assurance that the account cannot be breached. On the overall, the data will be relatively secure compared to local storage in the hard drive of a single computer.
The second disadvantage associated with an online questionnaire is that the respondents will not have any supervision while filling the questionnaire. Respondent should not collaborate when filling questionnaires. This means that if the respondent chooses to involve another person in the process, there will be no way of knowing that this happened.
This can bias the results. The third disadvantage of the online questionnaire is that there will be no physical backup of the data. In addition, it is possible to manipulate the database stored in Google drive. Any changes to the data can go undetected.
The mitigation measures that will be employed to reduce the risks associated with the online questionnaire are as follows. First, an effort will be made to impress upon the respondents not to collaborate when filling the questionnaire. This will be done when sending the questionnaire to the respondents.
In any case, respondent supervision can be provided by asking them to fill the questionnaire in the presence of a research assistant. Secondly, the database will be hosted on a separate account from the one that will be used to view it. This will ensure that no changes or mistakes arise from unintentional altering of the data in the database.
The target population for this project is the young Thai women aged 18-30. This population represents the most impressionable group in fashion issues. At this age, the women have the independence to make fashion decisions and the ability to act on those decisions. This population is also active on social media. The second characteristic of the target population is that they belong to the middle class in Bangkok.
The literature reviewed showed that the middle class is very fashion conscious because of the desire to make a social statement based on their consumer habits. This means that the target population represents the segment that is most active on social media, in terms of seeking fashion information.
The sampling method chosen for this research project is simple random sampling. This sampling method is based on the needs of a research project, and is often useful in cases where the issues under investigation do not have a significant dependence on the sample chosen.
Simple random sampling gives every member of a target population an equal chance of being captured in the research project. The basic theory governing random sampling is that a section of a population that is chosen randomly will have the same characteristics as the entire population. Usually a margin of error is calculated and presented along with the results obtained from the project.
The decision to use simple random sampling was arrived at based on the following reasons. First, the use of social media is phenomenological. This means that it cuts across the sample population. A random sample will capture all the necessary aspects of social media usage in the overall population. Secondly, simple random sample is ideal in this situation because the phenomena under investigation affect the whole population.
There is no need for more specialized sampling to achieve results that are more accurate. In other words, a different sampling method would yield specialized results that may not apply to the entire population. Thirdly, the use of random sampling is not complicated.
The benefit to the research project is that it will reduce the work that other sampling methods usually entail. In this sense, it will be possible to expedite data collection in order to move to data analysis and development of the research report. Finally, random sampling calls for the calculation of a margin of error. This margin of error makes it possible for people applying the results to make informed choices.
The limitations associated with simple random sampling are as follows. First, in very large populations, it is difficult to verify the accuracy of simple random sampling because of small changes in the profile of the population. For instance, there may be subcultures within the Thai women targeted for the exercise that do not conform to the general characteristics of the target population. A case in point would women who attend certain schools.
Secondly, random sampling is vulnerable to sampling bias. The sample may contain members who have distinctive characteristics that lead to differences in population characteristics. A researcher can also pick the actual respondents based on other factors such as convenience, provided the respondents meet the universal criteria.
In this experiment, is may be possible to find the full number of respondents needed for the research from one university, or one neighbourhood. While those results will be very accurate in reference to the immediate community, they will not be easy to generalize because of sample bias.
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