Building and sustaining brand loyalty has been one of the primary fields of research for marketers over a very long period of time (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Olivier, 1997; Bennett and Rundle-Thiele, 2002). According to Keller (2008), brand loyalty can be referred to as the ultimate aspect of consumer brand quality, which signifies the supreme relationship between consumers and a particular brand as well as the level of identification between them. Given the fact that quality brand attains prominent, exclusive and positive meaning in minds of a wide consumer base, they become readily inimitable and appealing and thus, tend to win a high degree of customer loyalty (Erdogmus and Cicek, 2012). Consequently, brand loyalty fetches immense rewards for a company, in terms of higher revenue from sales, huge market share and profitability. Therefore, this helps a company to grow and sustain themselves in the competitive market place (Kapferer, 1997; Aaker, 1991).
Marketers throughout the world employ a variety of methods in order to preserve brand loyalty of their customers, which include conventional marketing mix variables, brand elements and modern marketing techniques, such as, sponsorships, promotional events, in-person marketing activities, internet and social media marketing (Kotler and Keller, 2007; Keller, 2008). The primary aim of this research paper is to focus on the impact of social media marketing on establishing brand loyalty, thereby developing a critical understanding of the same, given the fact that this concept is receiving wide attention from marketing practitioners and academia ( McKee, 2010; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2009).
In order to be able to conduct the research, the United Kingdom has been chosen as the context. Various reasons can be attributed to the decision of selecting the UK as context of this research. They are:
According to the statistics reported by the Office for national statistics, UK, it was noted that internet was used mostly for sending/receiving emails (75%), finding information regarding goods and services (66%), reading or downloading online, news, magazines or newspapers (55%) and social networking (53%) (Office for national statistics, 2013). As far as social media usage is concerned, it has been seen that in the year 2013, Twitter attracted the maximum number of users, beating Facebook, followed by other social media applications such as, Instagram and Pinterest (Social Media Today, 2013; Rose McGrory Social Media, 2014). Social media is used extensively in UK and has become an everyday habit or rather, need for residents in the sovereign state. Given this fact, this study bears a huge relevance, which will help the researcher to understand the impact of social media marketing on brand loyalty. The statistics provided above justifies the selection of the UK as a context for this research.
Social media can be defined as an activity, behaviour or practice among a group of people, who gather online in order to share knowledge, information and views, through usage of conversational media (Safko and Brake, 2009). Erdogmus and Cicek (2012) explained that social media is a means of communication that have features similar to Web 2.0; i.e. they are mutual, participatory and have user-empowering and knowledge sharing tools, that are available on the web. A company, by implementing social media marketing strategies, is able to use time and resources efficiently and establish enhanced foundation for communication with the consumer base in order to promote brand loyalty beyond conventional methods (Akhtar, 2011; Jackson, 2011). According to a study by Info-graphics, at least half of Facebook and Twitter users have said that they become more inclined towards talking about, recommending or purchasing a company's product after engaging with the company over social media (Jackson, 2011). By using different forms of social media, such as, content communities, social networking websites, blogs, virtual worlds, online gaming websites, micro-blogging sites, news sites, social book marking, online forums and many more, business can better promote their products and services, provide immediate support as and when required as well as develop an online community of brand enthusiasts (Weinberg, 2009; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2009). In addition, social media facilitates information sharing between consumers regarding different brands of products and services (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). According to Gunelius (2011), the conversation that takes place between consumers over social media provides companies with an alternative, yet cost effective, way to augment brand awareness; boost brand appreciation; and henceforth, enhance brand loyalty. Therefore, as stated by McKee (2010), social media marketing enables firms to establish brand loyalty with the help of networking, conversation and community establishment.
Presently, in order to stay competitive in the rapid growing business landscape, a sound social media marketing strategy is a fundamental requirement. Companies in the contemporary society have been seen hiring social media marketing experts and professionals so as to decide regarding the characteristics and contents of their activities and offerings over the social media world, so that feelings of consumers are influenced and brand loyalty comes as an outcome (Coon, 2010).