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The Role of Trust in Understanding the Impact of Social Media Marketing on Brand Equity and Brand Loyalty

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In this era, social media platform is integrated into the marketing strategy. This new technology sets out new mechanisms and communication tools that companies can rely on to interact and engage with actual and potential customers. This study aimed at exploring the impact of social media marketing activities (SMM) on brand loyalty via brand trust and brand equity. Based on an online survey of 287 users who follow telecommunications companies on social media located in Egypt, data was collected and analyzed using structural equation modeling. The results revealed that SMM activities comprise only three dimensions; trendiness, customization and word-of-mouth. These attributes of social media marketing directly influence brand loyalty and indirectly influence brand equity mediated by brand trust. The study emphasis the role of trust and provide guidance toward measuring the effectiveness of social media marketing.
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The Role of Trust in Understanding the Impact of Social
Media Marketing on Brand Equity and Brand Loyalty
Reham Shawky Ebrahim
Business Administration, Faculty of Commerce, Tanta University, Tanta, Egypt
ABSTRACT
In this era, social media platform is integrated into the market-
ing strategy. This new technology sets out new mechanisms
and communication tools that companies can rely on to inter-
act and engage with actual and potential customers. This
study aimed at exploring the impact of social media market-
ing activities (SMM) on brand loyalty via brand trust and
brand equity. Based on an online survey of 287 users who fol-
low telecommunications companies on social media located
in Egypt, data was collected and analyzed using structural
equation modeling. The results revealed that SMM activities
comprise only three dimensions; trendiness, customization
and word-of-mouth. These attributes of social media market-
ing directly influence brand loyalty and indirectly influence
brand equity mediated by brand trust. The study emphasis
the role of trust and provide guidance toward measuring the
effectiveness of social media marketing.
KEYWORDS
Social media marketing;
brand trust; brand loyalty;
brand equity; brand loyalty
Introduction
The proliferation of social media has significantly changed the marketing
practices. This quickly expanding marketing channel on social media, that
accesses 2.77 billion internet users around the world, has redefined new
ways for companies to reach, interact and engage with customers.
Companies are investing in technology to enhance their social media pres-
ence, in the next five years marketers are expecting to expand social media
spend by 71 percent of marketing budget (CMO, 2018). They are adding
social media as an integral part to the marketing strategies, and perceive it
as a less costly platform on which marketers can perform integrated mar-
keting activities with minimum efforts (Kim & Ko, 2010).
Social media marketing (SMM) is the augmentation to traditional and
digital marketing communication tools (Tuten & Solomon, 2017), which
monitors and facilitates customer communications, collaborations and
interactions with the company, its brands and other customers, and
CONTACT Reham Ebrahim rsh.ebrahim@yahoo.co.uk Business Administration, Faculty of Commerce,
Tanta University, Said St. Tanta Qism 2, EL GHARBEYA،Gharbia Governorate, Tanta, Egypt.
!2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING
https://doi.org/10.1080/15332667.2019.1705742
encourages their engagement. It also describes customersview of the com-
panys multiple marketing activities on the social media platform (Yadav &
Rahman, 2018). SMM is a challenge to marketing managers, that can be
used as a powerful driver to customersresponses that can positively influ-
ence their intentions, behaviors, and purchase decisions (Chen & Lin, 2019;
Dann, 2010) and a major factor in brand building and creating long-term
customer relationship (Kim & Ko, 2010; Sano, 2014). The social media
offer various opportunities and benefits for successful brand management,
a major challenge is measuring the impact of marketing managers practices
on social media (Godey et al., 2016; Schultz & Peltier, 2013). Kim and Ko
(2010) identify five major forces: interaction, entertainment, trendiness,
customization and word-of-mouth, that captures engaging consumersper-
ceptions of various marketerspractices on social media and characterizes
social media marketing activities (Yadav & Rahman, 2018). These activities
stimulate consumersexperiences and will have impacts on the brand
equity and subsequent purchase intentions and behaviors (Chen & Lin,
2019). In the context of social media, consumer responses toward various
interactions are subject to trust; that plays a significant role in delivering
the impact of online activities and translating marketersefforts to equity
and loyalty (Tatar & Eren-Erdogmus, 2016; Warner-Søderholm
et al., 2018).
Despite the growing stream of studies on social media; however, to date
the study of the impact of such practices on brand value and customer
relationships is still concealed (Seo & Park, 2018). Previous studies on
social media can be categorized into four main categories: brand commun-
ities, E-WOM, network analysis, and product-harm crises (Gensler,
V
olckner, Liu-Thompkins, & Wiertz, 2013). Alalwan, Rana, Dwivedi, and
Algharabat (2017) divided these groups into subgroups including: first,
studies addressing the role of social media in predicting advertising activ-
ities, second, studies examined the role of social media in customer-
relationship management, third, the studies that analyze the impact of the
informative role of social media on consumer behavior, fourth, research
focus on the factors influencing customer adoption of social group, and
finally the studies that focus on social media from the perspective of organ-
izations. Therefore, there is still a lack of studies that examine social media
marketing from the perspectives of branding literature (Godey et al., 2016).
Accordingly, this study addresses the gap in the literature and investi-
gates the effects of social media marketing activities and consumer positive
behavioral responses toward the brand, in particular brand equity
and loyalty.
This paper is organized as follows: the next section is a discussion of the
literature review to define the meaning of the main concepts. Then the
2 R. S. EBRAHIM
conceptual framework is proposed and the hypotheses are generated. The
third section reviews the research methodology and the fourth section
presents the results of the study. Finally, the last section includes the con-
clusion of the study, theoretical and practical implications, and the limita-
tions of the study with avenues for future research.
Literature review
Social media marketing
Social media is defined as a group of internet-based applications that build
on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow
the creation and exchange of user generated content.(Kaplan & Haenlein,
2010, p. 61). The strength of social media is derived from the platform of
Web 2.0 that provides the technical infrastructure which facilitates the
engagement of the user and enables the generation and distribution of con-
tent (Berthon, Pitt, Plangger, & Shapiro, 2012). In the online context, both
social media and social networks are used interchangeably, however, there
are differences between them. Social networking refers to the use of social
media as a means to connect with people (Alalwan et al., 2017).
From this perspective social networks are conceived as the web-based
services that allow an individual to (1) construct a public or semipublic
profile within a bounded system, (2) formulate a list of users with whom
he/she share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connec-
tions and those made by others within the system (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).
Social network is thus a channel in the community zone of social media
that focuses on the collaboration, conversation, and sharing among users.
Although all social media channels allow for networked relationship, how-
ever, interaction and collaboration ae the main theme of social network.
The social network sites are the online hosts that allow members to create
their own private profile such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (Tuten &
Solomon, 2017).
There are many forms of virtual existence on social network such as
friendship between individuals, group communities, and business relations
between companies. People going online are looking to share their experi-
ence and interests, build relations, and discuss ideas with others (Zaglia,
2013). The social network theory postulates that human behaviors are
embedded in these online interpersonal relations (Granovetter, 1985),
therefore, it is likely that the behaviors of members are influenced by social
network practices (Valck, van Bruggen, & Wierenga, 2009). The speed of
communication and the numerous information sources attract marketers to
shift from traditional media to social media to create awareness and stimu-
late consumer preferences toward brands (Duffett, 2015). The utilization of
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 3
social media channels in the marketing context provides a new landscape
for brand marketing communication; it gives power to consumers and
offers a personal channel and link for user-generated content and social
interaction (Chi, 2011).
Several attempts have been made to provide a definition of social media mar-
keting, still no collective agreement has been reached, as illustrated in Table 1.
Early in the literature, social media marketing was defined as brand communi-
cations placed in an online social networking context. It is characterized by social
connectivity and user interactivity in the brandattempt to communicate with its
consumers and prospects(Chi, 2011, p. 48). Also, Dwivedi, Kapoor, and Chen
(2015, p. 5) defined social media marketing as as a dialogue often triggered by
consumers/audiences, or a business/product/service that travels in a circle
amongst the stated parties to set in motion revealing communications on some
promotional information, or to learn from one anothers use experiences, eventu-
ally benefitting either or all of the involved parties.Generally, social media mar-
keting can be defined as the process that utilizes social media technologies and
channels to create, communicate, and deliver marketing offerings that enhance
the companys stakeholdersvalue (Tuten & Solomon, 2017; Yadav & Rahman,
2017,2018).
From the different emerging definitions for social media marketing
(SMM), it can be extrapolated that, firstly, SMM utilize the social media
platform and use it as a marketing tool to create a two-way communication
to engage with customers and deliver valuable offers thus gaining higher
brand/product or services attention and encourage consumer participation,
secondly, SMM enables interaction, content sharing and information diffu-
sion (Chang, Yu, & Lu, 2015). Thirdly, SMM addresses user responses
toward the brand or the social networking sites are ranging from beliefs or
perceptions (Chi, 2011; Dwivedi et al., 2015), attitudinal responses such as
satisfaction (Sano, 2014), or behavioral responses such as word-of-mouth,
purchase intention and loyalty (Kim & Ko, 2012,2010).
Therefore, social media marketing activities can be defined as effective
marketing communication methods that capture engaged consumersper-
ceptions and understanding of activities on social media marketing by five
dimensions namely; entertainment, interaction, trendiness, customization
and word-of-mouth (Chen & Lin, 2019; Kim & Ko, 2010,2012; Yadav &
Rahman, 2018).
The forces of social media marketing have been addressed in a number
of studies with various settings. Kim and Ko (2012) examine the relation-
ship between SMM, drivers of customer equity namely; value equity, brand
equity, and relationship equity, and purchase intention of luxury fashion
brands. In this study, the SMM activities are identified as entertainment,
customization, interaction, word-of-mouth, and trendiness. The results of
4 R. S. EBRAHIM
the study revealed the positive impact of only three social media marketing
activities; entertainment, interaction, and word-of-mouth on purchase
intention through the customer equity drivers; value and brand equity.
These dimensions of SMM of luxury brands were examined in different
studies. In the same context of luxury fashion brand, Gautam and Sharma
Table 1. Definitions of social media marketing.
Study Social Media Marketing
(Felix, Rauschnabel, &
Hinsch, 2017, p. 121)
A pure communications tool to push content to customers, the community, or
employees. This defender approach, which the informants did not generally
recommend, typically focuses on one or a few stakeholder groups.
(Seo & Park, 2018)It allows companies to communicate with consumers easily and quickly. From
the company perspective, their mere participation on social media generates
positive effects to the same extent as traditional advertisements. Interactions
with potential as well as existing customers enable companies to communicate
positive brand images
(Alalwan et al., 2017,
p. 1179)
A dialogue often triggered by consumers/audiences, or a business/product/
services that circulate amongst the stated parties to set in motion a revealing
communication on some promotional information so that it allows learning
from one anothers use and experiences, eventually benefitting all of the
involved parties.
(Tuten & Solomon, 2017)Is the utilization of social media technologies, channels, and software to create,
communicate, deliver, and exchange offerings that have value for an
organizations stakeholders
(Yadav & Rahman, 2017,
p. 3; 2018)
A process by which companies create, communicate, and deliver online
marketing offerings via social media platforms to build and maintain
stakeholder relationships that enhance stakeholdersvalue by facilitating
interaction, information sharing, offering personalized purchase
recommendations, and WOM creation among stakeholders about existing and
trending products and services
(Ismail, 2017, p. 137) Perceived social media marketing activities is an effective tool developing
relationship with customers, and building brand loyalty within the social
media-based brand community.
(Choi et al., 2016,
p. 772)
‘‘Engaging with customers through SNSs is commonly known as social media
marketing and brings several benefits to companies, such as creating word-of-
mouth, positively affecting customer equity, enhancing customer loyalty to the
company, and increasing purchase intention of the companys products
or services
(Chang et al., 2015,
p. 777)
‘‘Social media marketing, which uses social networks such as Facebook to enable
content sharing, information diffusion, relationship building, and fans cohesion
(Pham & Gammoh, 2015,
p. 325)
‘‘Companys process of creating and promoting online marketing-related activities
on social media platforms that offer values to its stakeholders
(Chan & Guillet, 2011,
p. 347)
‘‘A social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what
they need and want through a set of Internet-based applications that enable
interaction, communication, collaboration of user-generated content and hence,
sharing of information such as ideas, thoughts, content, and relationships
(Chi, 2011, p. 46) ‘‘Social media marketing provides meaning and connection between brands and
consumers and offers a personal channel and currency for user-centered
networking and social interaction
(Barefoot & Szabo, 2010,
p. 13)
A subset of online marketing activities that complete traditional web-based
promotion strategies, such as e-mail newsletters and online
advertising campaigns
(Dann, 2010)
(Chen & Lin, 2019)
The commercial marketing events or processes that use social media in an
attempt to positively influence consumerspurchase behavior
(Taubenheim
et al., 2008)
‘‘A way of using the Internet to instantly collaborate, share information, and have
a conversation about ideas or causes we care about
(Tuten, 2008, p. 9) A broad category of advertising spending, including advertising using social
network, virtual worlds, user-generated product reviews, blogger endorsement,
RSS feeds of content and social news sites, podcasts, games, and consumer
generated advertising
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 5
(2017) support the mediating impact of customer relationship on SMM
and purchase intention relationship (Mohammadpour, Arbatani,
Gholipour, Farzianpour, & Hosseini, 2014). In the study of Godey et al.
(2016), they assess the influence of SMM activities on brand awareness and
brand image, and in turn their impact on consumer behavior. The findings
support the significant influence of entrainment, interaction, and trendiness
on both brand image and brand awareness. However, the results varied
among different groups from different countries. Finally, the study supports
the effect of SMM activities on building brand loyalty. The study of Bilgin
(2018) examined also the relationship between SMM, brand awareness,
brand image, and brand loyalty but on the five highly scored brands on
social media in Turkey. This study supports the findings of Godey et al.
(2016); however, it argues that SMM may not be effective enough to create
a positive brand image in consumers mind and enhance brand loyalty.
Since consumers who are following brands on social media have a certain
image in their minds and may even be loyal to it. However, Ismail (2017)
reveals in his study that SMM activities can enhance customers loyalty to
the brand and influence the brand and value consciousness.
In different contexts of the the tourism industry, Sano (2014) addresses
the impact of SMM activities on consumer attitudes and behaviors. The
SMM were measured by four activities: interaction, trendiness, customiza-
tion, and perceived risk. The results show that SMM activities, customiza-
tion is the most important dimension, influence customer satisfaction
which in turn has a great influence on purchase intention and word-
of-mouth. This study also clarifies how SMM can impact consumer behav-
iors, illustrated by the behavioral intentions to buy or recommend the
service. Social media increases the relations capital of companies via
enhancing its relationship with customer which positively influence the
purchasing intentions (Mohammadpour et al., 2014). Chan and Guillet
(2011) investigated the reasons behind the poor performance of companies
in doing social media marketing. Among these reasons are the lack of
interactions between the companies and their guests, the inaccurate content
and incorrect information posted on the social media sites and being unre-
sponsive to customers, and the difficult accessibility. These factors not only
lead to poor performance of the company but negatively affects its identity.
The social media communication either generated by the firm or user the
company enhances the brand image and the overall evaluation of the brand
effectively than the traditional marketing tools such as advertising (Bruhn,
Schoenmueller, & Sch
afer, 2012).
Seo and Park (2018) added the dimension of entertainment to the four iden-
tified by (Sano, 2014) and assess the effects of SMM activities on brand equity
and consumer responses, illustrated by electronic word-of-mouth and
6 R. S. EBRAHIM
commitment toward airlines. Their study supports the importance of the five
activities; however, the relative importance was highest in trendiness followed
by customization, and the significant impact on both brand awareness and
brand image.
From prior studies it can be concluded that the dimensions of social
media marketing activities are five: entertainment, interaction, customiza-
tion, trendiness, and word-of-mouth (Gautam & Sharma, 2017; Godey
et al., 2016; Kim & Ko, 2012; Mohammadpour et al., 2014). Entertainment
represents the hedonic aspect; the fun and pleasure acquired from social
media usage. The contribution of users to brands on social media platform
is described by the dimension of interaction. Trendiness, represents the
degree that the information provided through social media is new and up-
to-date. Customization represents the extent to which the service satisfies
different tastes of customers based upon their demands (Seo & Park, 2018).
Word-of-mouth refers to the informal communications among users that
hold opinion exchange and recommendations (Sano, 2014) This last
dimension of word-of-mouth have been replaced with a perceived risk that
refers to the ability to lessen consumersconcerns and anxiety (Seo & Park,
2018). While, Bilgin (2018) add advertisement to represent online advertis-
ing and promotional campaigns as an important component of social
media marketing activities. Yadav and Rahman (2017) develop a scale to
measure social media marketing activities in e-commerce industry and the
dimension of entertainment was substituted by the informative attribute. It
is worthwhile, that the relative importance of social media marketing activ-
ities is varied.
The role of social media marketing activities in increasing the brand
awareness and creating a positive brand image, which in turn affect con-
sumer loyalty has been investigated in a number of studies. However, these
studies either focused on the luxury fashion industry or the tourism sector.
Also, only a few studies investigated the direct impact of social media
marketing activities on consumer responses and how it can change
users behavior.
Brand equity
Following the marketing view of brand equity, there are many definitions;
however, there is a consensus among the definition of (Srivastava &
Shocker, 1991) that brand equity is the incremental value of the brand. In
the context of marketing decision-making based on consumer, customer-
based brand equity is defined as the differential effect of brand knowledge
on consumer response to the marketing if the brand(Keller, 1993, p. 8).
Customer evaluates the brand equity through its strength or the brand
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 7
associations and value or the perceived brand utility relative to its costs.
Customers perceptions of the brand value influences its performance and
increases the financial gains of the firm (Lassar, Mittal, & Sharma, 1995).
As proposed by Keller (1993), brand equity is composed of four dimen-
sions: brand awareness, brand image, brand associations, and perceived
brand quality; however, this study focuses on the overall brand equity that
assess the added value of the focal brand perceived by consumers relative
to other brands (Yoo & Donthu, 2001).
Brand trust
The construct of trust involves a calculative process based on the role of an
object to continually perform its role and the relationship between costs
and rewards (Doney & Cannon, 1997). Brand trust is defined as the will-
ingness of a consumer to rely on the ability of a brand to perform as enti-
tled. It thus involves the benevolence of the firm to work in the best
interest of its customer to enhance the facets of trust including safety, reli-
ability, and reliability (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). In an uncertain
environment, trust exists as an implicit set of beliefs that no one is taking
advantage of the situation particularly when rules cannot guarantee others
expected behavior. In virtual communities, the absence of workable rules
raises the importance of trust (Ridings, Gefen, & Arinze, 2002).
In the online context, the role of trust; an individuals confidence, on the
social media platform has been addressed in a number of studies. The per-
sonality characteristics and traits play an important role in individualsper-
ception of trust in the online context and accordingly shape their
intentions and behaviors. Pentina, Zhang, and Basmanova (2013) assume
that the match between users personality and social media is related to
trust in the site. the results of their study confirm that trust plays an
important role on social media since it is related to usersbehavioral
responses such as intentions to continue using the social network in the
future and recommend it to others.
In a very recent study by Warner-Søderholm et al. (2018), they proposed
that usersperception of trust varies depending on their gender, age, and
time spent on social media. The construct of trust is measured by five
dimensions: benevolence, integrity, competence, identification, and concern.
The findings suggest that users perceptions of integrity; depict the ethical
and moral ideologies held by a human, differs with regard to gender, age,
and frequency of social media usage. Accordingly, female and young users
have high expectations with integrity (Warner-Søderholm et al., 2018). This
dimension of trust is related and used to assess affective trust that concerns
with ones emotional ties and concern for the welfare of others. While,
8 R. S. EBRAHIM
cognitive trust focuses on the benefits over risks. The interaction orienta-
tion of social media fosters the affective trust more than traditional web-
sites (Calefato, Lanubile, & Novielli, 2015). These communications either
firm-created or user-generated increase brand trust and enhance the rela-
tionship with customers (Khadim, Hanan, Arshad, Saleem, & Khadim,
2018). However, in the tourism sector, Schmidt and Iyer (2015) assumes
that consumers perceive brand communities as more trustworthy than the
companys traditional public relations efforts. The firm-created content
should be in line with the brand image, if the firm increasingly accommo-
dates to the customers language style, it will negatively affect trust (Jakic,
Wagner, & Meyer, 2017).
The characteristics of online environment are also considered drivers
of trust. In this essence, Kim and Park (2013) examine the mediating
role of trust in the relationship between social commerce attributes and
behavioral intentions. The study provides a support that users tend to
trust social commerce if it provides a favorable online environment in
terms of communication, reputation, transaction safety, size, information
quality, and word-of-mouth referrals. Also, Tatar and Eren-Erdogmus
(2016), examine the impact of social media marketing in the sector of
tourism on brand trust and brand loyalty. The findings support that
social media experience is an important driver of trust, this experience
is assessed by a clear website, online interactivity, website security, and
collaboration.
Khong et al. (2013) posit that trust on social media platform is also built
through consumer empowerment or the presence of both psychological
and structural conditions though usersperceptions of enhanced ability to
share information and simply access and perform transactions on social
media. Consumers share commonalities and information with others who
are influencing their decisions and trust. Virtual communities are consid-
ered part of the network effect influencing trustworthiness and trust.
Consumers have great trust on community members who are responsive
and confiding information and personal experiences with others (Ridings
et al., 2002). Social media is a platform where consumers are sharing per-
sonal information and experiences with others.
Brand loyalty
Early views of brand loyalty focus on the behavioral perspective; the pur-
chasing pattern or the repurchasing probability (Srinivasan, Anderson, &
Ponnavolu, 2002). However, this perspective solely cannot measure loyalty,
the purchasing action is a misleading indication of loyalty. therefore, the
other attitudinal aspect of loyalty is proposed to refer to consumers
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 9
psychological predispositions including attitudes, preferences and commit-
ment toward a brand. Therefore, attitudinal loyalty draws the factors
underlying the biased behavior of repeat purchase (Tatar & Eren-Erdogmus
2016). Focusing on the two perspectives, brand loyalty is defined as the
deeply held commitment toward rebuying the brand in the future regard-
less to the situational factors (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). Based upon
this definition, the behavioral loyalty tends to lead to high market share,
while the attitudinal loyalty leads to higher relative brand value (Taylor,
Celuch, & Goodwin, 2004).
Several studies have addressed the drivers and consequences of brand
loyalty in the online context (e.g., Khadim et al., 2018; Srinivasan et al.,
2002; Tatar & Eren-Erdogmus 2016) The drivers of loyalty on the online
environment are unlike the traditional or the offline context, it requires the
firm to focus on several factors related to the online context such as con-
nectivity, interactivity, customization, convenience or ease of use, cultiva-
tion or relevance of online information and community (Srinivasan
et al., 2002).
Conceptual framework and development of hypotheses
The proposed framework (Figure 1) focuses on the relationship between
social media marketing activities and consumersresponses; brand equity
and brand loyalty and the mediation role played by brand trust. Social
media is evolving on the platform of Web 2.0 characterizes by interactivity
(Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). The marketing communication tools have been
developed and then shifted from the traditional focusing on push messag-
ing to tradigital marketing channels that improve interactivity but retain
the vertical flow of power in both the communication and distribution
Figure 1. Proposed conceptual model.
10 R. S. EBRAHIM
channels. Both the traditional and tradigital marketing are based on the
interruption-disruption model. While, social media channels focus on pull
messaging or attraction orientation (Tuten & Solomon, 2017). Social media
marketing is more like an augmentation to traditional and tradigital market-
ing communication tools rather than a substitute or replacement (Tuten &
Solomon, 2017). Consumers are thus shifting from the traditional media to
social media that empowers them and gives them a voice (Bruhn et al.,
2012). They are using social network sites to search for information about
the brand, interact with other brand users and share their experiences
(Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki, & Wilner, 2010). The effectiveness of social
media is then reflected on the overall performance of companies and
enhance their competitiveness (Chan & Guillet, 2011). It is difficult to assess
the return of companiessocial media activities; however, its effectiveness
can be measured through the behavioral responses of users (Pentina et al.,
2013). Social media is related to relationship marketing with the focus of
connecting with customers (Knoblich, Martin, Nash, & Stansbie, 2017) that
creates value to the business (Chahal & Rani, 2017). This framework pro-
poses the perceived social media marketing activities as communication
tools used to stimulate the value of the brand and consumer behavior.
In the traditional marketing, companies are using communication tools to
stimulate consumers perception and associations toward the brand.
Through the social media companies can raise awareness, reach new cus-
tomers and enhance their brand image, which contributes to the brand
value (Godey et al., 2016). The various and diversified activities of social
media marketing are thus assumed to influence the different components of
customer-based brand equity (Pham & Gammoh, 2015). The influence of
social media marketing activities on customer equity is supported (Godey
et al., 2016; Kim & Ko, 2012; Seo & Park, 2018; Yadav & Rahman, 2017).
Social media marketing is considered an effective tool for developing
relationships with the customers (Choi, Fowler, Goh, & Yuan, 2016; Ismail,
2017). Additionally, such interactions will build trust and eliminate the
uncertainty that might prohibit the customers from engaging with the
brand (Khadim et al., 2018), and make online transactions (Chahal & Rani,
2017). Social media is perceived by consumers as sources of information,
its trustworthy is functional to marketing practices. Tatar and Eren-
Erdogmus (2016) supported in their study the positive influence of social
media marketing charactersitics on brand trust. Companies are utilizing the
social media platform to communicate, interact and engage with customers,
delivering value and experiences, and thus enhance their behavioral
responses toward the brand. Consumersperceptions of the marketing
activities practiced on the online context can enhance their reposes. The
positive effect of social media marketing activities on brand loyalty has
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 11
been demonstrated empirically (e.g., Ismail, 2017). These online practices
are the brand stimuli shaping consumers experiences and enhancing their
relationship with the brands which in turn influence their responses
depicted by preferences, intentions and loyalty (Laroche, Habibi, Richard,
& Sankaranarayanan, 2012).
H1: SMM activities will have a positive direct impact on brand trust.
H2: SMM activities will have a positive direct impact on brand equity.
H3: SMM activities will have a positive direct impact on brand loyalty.
In the online context, trust is highly required compared to face to face
interactions. It reflects consumerswillingness to engage in online interac-
tions and participate in social media (Pentina et al., 2013). In relationship
marketing, trust is required to initiate and maintain a relationship, it
evolves from prior experiences and contributes in building knowledge
and brand associations. Accordingly, it reinforces the companys assets
exhibited by the brand equity (Ambler 1997; Delgado-Ballester &
Munuera-Alem"
an, 2005). Users with high levels of trust are more likely
willing to engage in social media and denote higher involvement in
brands social media activities which ultimately contribute to the brand
value (Chahal & Rani, 2017). The beliefs on the social media attributes
influence consumers behaviors, trust is considered as mediator of the
relationship between social media marketing activities and behavioral
intentions (Kim & Park, 2013).
Yoo and Donthu (2001) perceive early the rebuying intentions and being
loyal as a dimension of the brand endowed value. However, Chaudhuri and
Holbrook (2001) argue that brand equity refers to consumer willingness to
pay price premium for a valued brand; thus, it demands great favorable
attitudes leading to behavioral loyalty as an outcome. The two aspects of
brand equity: the firm-related view emphasizing the financial value of the
brand or the consumer-based referring to perceptions of brand associations,
are followed by behavioral intentions. There is a positive relationship
between brand equity and brand loyalty stimulated by consumers trust on
the brand value (Keller, 1993; Lassar et al., 1995).
H4: Brand trust has a positive direct impact on brand equity
H5: Brand trust has a positive direct impact on brand loyalty
H6: Brand equity has a positive direct impact on brand loyalty
Research methodology
Data collection
The primary data was collected using self-administrated online question-
naire, all the items were developed and adapted from the literature review.
12 R. S. EBRAHIM
The items were revised by a panel of experts and non-experts, through a
pilot test, to assess the face and content validity of the measurement items.
The questionnaire consists of two main sections; the first section investi-
gated personal information and background information of users on social
media, and the second section, divided into four subsections, measured the
items of the constructs for testing the hypotheses. The constructs are clearly
defined prior the measurement items, are displayed separately on different
sections and then published online using SurveyHero. The settings of soft-
ware were adjusted to remind participants of any unanswered questions
before being exposed to the next. The study targeted Egyptian users on the
social media context, over the period of three months from August to
October of year 2019. The link of the survey was sent to selected users and
posted on social media pages of the Telecommunication companies. At the
beginning, the response rate was relatively low, so the survey was sent
again to another batch of users.
The sample size was determined by depending on the requirements of
the statistical tool used in the analysis; SEM and accordingly a sample size
of 200 is accepted. A total number of 287 valid responses were obtained,
constituting including 157 male and 130 female respondents and encom-
passing social media users of different ages, education and occupation lev-
els. The standard mean of age is 2.5 where the majority of respondents,
69.5% were under 40. A summary of the sample characteristics is provided
in Table 2. The respondents were asked to choose one of the four telecom-
munication companies they are fan of or follow on any social media chan-
nel. 70.7% of the respondents are on Facebook and Twitter. All the
variables were measured using 7-point Likert scale with the same anchors
ranged from (1) very strongly disagree to (7) very strongly agree. In order
to measure respondents perceived activities on different social media chan-
nels and its provided value, the study depended on the eleven-items scale
of social media marketing activities developed by (Kim & Ko, 2012). This
scale addresses the five identified dimensions of SMM activities. Brand
trust is measured by 5-items adopted from (Chahal & Rani, 2017). The
4-items measuring brand equity are based on Delgado-Ballester &
Munuera-Alem"
an (2005) and brand trust is captured using 4-items
(Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001).
Data analysis
Exploratory factor analysis
This study used SPSS version 22.0 and AMOS version 18 to analyze the
data and test the hypotheses. To test the dimensionality of social media
marketing activities, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with principal
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 13
component analysis (PCA) and VARIMAX orthogonal rotation was used.
According to Field (2005), items should be deleted if it has low communal-
ities less than 0.5 or load on two or more factors with values greater than
0.4 are subject to deletion. All the eleven items of social media marketing
activities loaded successfully on five factors. By conducting EFA on other
constructs, the results show that all items loaded on three factors represent-
ing brand trust, brand equity, and brand loyalty. Only one item used to
measure brand equity and another item used to measure brand loyalty
were deleted because of low communality. The reliability of the factors was
assessed using Cronbach alpha to measure the internal consistency, the
results ranged from 0.784 to 0.93 indicating that all the factors are
highly reliable.
Table 2. Sample characteristics.
Demographics
Frequency Percentage
Gender
Male 157 54.7
Female 130 45.3
Age
1820 89 31
2130 73 25.4
3140 38 13.2
4150 58 20.2
5160 22 7.7
60þ7 2.4
Median age in Egypt is 24.6
Gender ratio in Egypt is 1.02 (CAPMAS, 2019)
Education
Bachelor degree 183 63.8
Master degree 22 7.7
Doctoral degree 9 3.1
Other 73 25.4
Occupation
Employed 151 52.6
Non-employed 19 6.6
Student 85 29.6
Housewife 32 11.1
Social media usage period
Less than a year 27 9.4
15 years 69 24
610 years 146 50.9
More than 10 years 45 15.7
Frequency visit
Daily 12 4.2
Weekly 6 2.1
Monthly 40 13.9
Every 3 months 14 4.9
At need 208 72.5
Never 7 2.4
Social media site
Facebook 141 49.1
Twitter 62 21.6
Instagram 37 12.9
LinkedIn 16 5.6
YouTube 31 10.8
14 R. S. EBRAHIM
Measurement model
The validity of the measurement model was assessed using confirmatory
factor analysis (CFA), maximum likelihood estimation techniques. The
measurement model includes all the constructs in the conceptual model;
SMM activities, brand trust, brand equity, and brand loyalty. The first run
of the measurement model show satisfactory fit indices, with v
2
¼298, df
¼84, p¼.000, AFGI ¼0.834, GFI ¼0.9, NFI ¼0.9, IFI ¼0.9, and CFI
¼0.91. The root mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) is above
the upper confidence interval of 0.05. The low value of SRMR is less than
1.0 close to 0.09 is a favorable value representing a reasonable fit of a good
model (Kline, 2015). Also, all factors yield acceptable standardized loading
except these two dimensions of SMM: entertainment and interaction. After
the deletion of these two dimensions, all the standardized loadings are
above 0.5 and the constructs displays good composite reliability of 0.7 and
above with significant t-values. The convergent validity of all the constructs
in the measurement model was validated as indicated by the summarized
results on Table 3. The results also show that the AVE is greater than the
squared inter-construct correlations loading indicating acceptable discrim-
inant validity, as shown in Table 4.
Structural model and hypotheses testing
The SEM is specified by 6 structural relationships depicted by 6 path esti-
mates linking the relationships between the four constructs identified in
the proposed model. The results yield an adequate level of fit with X
2
¼
156, df ¼48, p¼.000, AFGI ¼0.87, GFI ¼0.92, NFI ¼0.9, IFI ¼0.92,
RMSEA¼0.08 and CFI ¼0.94. By diagnosing the path estimates, hypothe-
ses were supported by critical values less than 0.05 level of significance at t-
value ¼1.96. Table 5 provides a summary of hypotheses testing. With
regard to the three paths representing the impact of SMM activities on
brand trust (H
1
), brand equity (H
2
), and brand loyalty (H
3
). SMM activities
exerts a direct positive significant impact on brand trust and brand loyalty
with a path estimate of 0.23 and 0.17 and at a significance level of
p¼0.000 and 0.000, respectively. Accordingly, the results provide support
for H
1
and H
3.
However, the data reveals the insignificance of the path esti-
mate of 0.071 at p-value ¼0.218 between SMM activities and brand equity;
thus, rejecting H
2
. The analysis reveals the significant positive direct impact
of brand trust on both brand equity (0.627, p¼0.000) and brand loyalty
(0.231, p¼0.005). Therefore, hypotheses H
4
and H
5
were supported. As
anticipated in H
6
brand equity positively and significantly influence brand
loyalty. Further analysis of the data indicates the existence of mediation, it
shows the significance of the indirect impact of SMM activities on brand
equity mediated by brand trust (0.15, p¼0.009). Thus, it suggests the full
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 15
mediation of brand trust on controlling the relationship between SMM
activities and brand equity. The indirect path estimate between SMM activ-
ities and brand loyalty via brand trust is also significant at p<0.05. The
impact of SMM activities on brand loyalty is partially mediated by brand
Table 3. Validity and reliability test for measurement model.
Constructs Mean Std. dev.
Stand. Reg.
weights CR
Cronbach
alpha
Social Media Marketing 0.74 0.720
Trendiness 0.504 0.864
The contents shown in the social media of this company is
up to date
4.5 1.04
The use of social media by this company is trendy 4.4 1.15
Customization 0.938 0.784
The information that I need can be found in the social
media of this company
4.1 1.08
This companys social media provides customized service 4.2 1.03
WOM 0.625 0.848
I would like to pass along information on the companys
services from its social media to my friends
4.1 1.19
I would like to upload contents from the social media of the
company on my blog, Facebook page, Twitter.
4.1 1.20
Brand trust 0.93 0.930
This company is honest 4.6 1.04 0.861
This company works for my happiness 4.5 1.09 0.889
This company works hard to satisfy me 4.5 1.14 0.901
This companys promises are real 4.6 1.11 0.857
Brand equity 0.83 0.821
Even if another company has the same offers as this one, I
would prefer the offers of this company
4.7 1.04 0.751
If there is another company as good as this one, I prefer
this company
4.7 1.00 0.887
If the services of another company is not different from this
company in any way, it seems smarter to purchase
this brand
4.7 0.93 0.727
Brand loyalty 0.87 0.877
I intend to keep purchasing the services offered by
this company
4.7 0.97 0.830
I am loyal to this company 4.6 1.04 0.848
I consider myself to be loyal to this company 4.7 0.98 0.840
Table 4. Correlation matrix.
Constructs SMM Brand trust Brand equity Brand loyalty AVE
SMM 1 0.552
Brand trust 0.21 1 0.865
Brand equity 0.22 0.63 1 0.74
Brand loyalty 0.3 0.46 0.48 1 0.77
Table 5. Summary of SEM results.
Constructs Hypotheses Standardized path estimate Sig
SMM H
1
: SMM !BT 0.24### 0.000 Supported
H
2
: SMM !BE 0.07 0.218 Rejected
H
3
: SMM !BL 0.17#0.006 Supported
BT H
4
: BT !BE 0.63### 0.000 Supported
H
5
: BT !BL 0.23#0.005 Supported
BE H
6
: BE !BL 0.30### 0.000 Supported
###p<0.000 (99%).
#p<0.05 (95%).
16 R. S. EBRAHIM
trust; since, the impact of SMM activities on brand loyalty dropped from
0.17, p¼0.006 in direct relationship to 0.12, p¼0.04 with the control of
brand trust.
Discussion
Theoretical implications
The findings of this study provide several insights that contribute to the
growing body of literature in social media marketing by addressing the role
of SMM activities in enhancing important branding goals including brand
equity and brand loyalty. Firstly, the measurement and conceptualization of
SMM is still challenging (Godey et al., 2016). The used measurement scale
of SMM activities developed by Kim and Ko (2012) was supported by sev-
eral studies in the prior literature validating the five dimensions of social
media. The holistic impact of these dimensions defines the activities moti-
vating users toward the use of social media. However, the results obtained
in this study specify only three dimensions, namely trendiness, customiza-
tion and WOM. From the consumer point of view, users are engaged in
the online of platforms to get tailored services and obtain latest information
while they share their experiences and other recommendations. Secondly,
SMM enhances brand loyalty, the three identified attributes of SMM are
among other drivers of loyalty in the online context (Srinivasan et al.,
2002). Loyal customers with positive attitudes holding revisiting intentions
toward an online platform are triggered by updated, trendy and informa-
tion-based media. unlike previous studies, the direct relationship between
SMM activities and brand equity is insignificant. Thirdly, the role of trust
in social media is emphasized in this study by the significant direct impact
of SMM activities on brand trust. Also, trust has a mediating role in the
proposed conceptual mode; a full mediation role in the relationship
between SMM activities and brand equity and a partial mediation in the
relationship between SMM activities and brand loyalty. Social media mar-
keting is a communication tool used to engage consumersand deliver
valuable information about the brands. Due to breaching of user privacy
and sharing information trust has a focal role in the use of and the inten-
sity of participation in social media (Pentina et al., 2013). Therefore, con-
sumers need to trust the digital content, trust is subsequently developed
through their various experiences in social media. Consequently, trust is a
key factor in creating positive brand associations and long-term relation-
ships. In the relationship marketing, trust is the catalyst for establishing
and maintaining long-term relationship, and the proxy to equity that leads
to the unique, differentiated brand value carved in consumersmind.
JOURNAL OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING 17
Managerial implications
Social media marketing is an integral part of online marketing strategies
that enhances the brand performance. it is associated with customer-
relationship marketing and its positive influences on customer loyalty and
therefore generating more sales and profit. This study draws managerial
attention to the effectiveness of social media marketing in engaging cus-
tomers and encouraging their emotional and behavioral responses. The
findings of the study identify the mechanisms upon which marketers
depend in engaging their customers. The identified attributes of SMM are
thus offering insights to these mechanisms. The primary concern of compa-
nies is to personalize the same service activities delivered to the customers
per their preferences. Therefore, users can be identified within their brand
communities and exhilarated toward other activities. Social media is an
important source of information that influences consumers purchasing
decisions. The companies should utilize the social media and other online
applications to provide consumers with the latest, relevant and freshly
information. This information is thus inspiring and motivating customers
toward their brand choice (Yadav & Rahman, 2018). The social media
facilitate the sharing of experiences, exchange of opinions and recommen-
dations among customers and contributes heavily in the acceleration of
other aspects related to WOM. The management of social media marketing
will cultivate the brand community upon which customers rely on as an
important source of information in decision-making. This motivating sys-
tem will ultimately create the interactivity of users. The positive effects of
these mechanism are subject to the customersdegree of confidence or trust
in the published online content. Companies must consider controlling the
digital content and other online publications, and are willing to share their
experiences and exchange opinions. To increase the trustworthy of the gen-
erated content customers can be invited by the companies to share the rea-
sons behind selecting the brand and provide them with further suggestions
for improvements and developments.
Limitations and future research
This study is not without limitations. The study depends on non-
probability sampling technique and the focus on one geographical area;
Egypt. The sample size is relatively small; however, it is demographically
representative which may provide confidence in the generalizability of the
results. Few items have been dropped from the measurement thus ques-
tioning the validity of the used measurement scale of social media market-
ing activities. Additionally, the study examined the impact of social media
marketing activities and ignore the distinguishable characteristics of
18 R. S. EBRAHIM
each media platform. These limitations can be considered in further
future research.
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Trust is the foundation of all communication, yet a profound question in business today is how can we psychologically understand trust behaviors in our new digital landscape? Earlier studies in internet and human behavior have shown a significant connection between social media use and user personality (Hughes, Rowe, Batey, & Lee, 2012). Still, the connection between type of online user and their trust values is an under researched area. Today, millions of people globally read newsfeeds and information via their digital networks, but we do not know enough about human behavior related to which specific users of social media actually trust the news they read online. In this study we apply items from five different validated scales to measure trust to investigate to what degree a users’ perception of trust varies depending on their gender, age, or amount of time spent using social media. Using a convenience population sample (n = 214) significant differences in levels of trusting behavior were found across gender, age, social media newsfeed preferences and extent of social media use. The findings suggest that women and younger users have the highest expectations for integrity, trusting others and expecting others to show empathy and goodwill. Implications of the results are discussed.
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