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IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS ON STUDENTS BRAND PREFERENCE IN CAMEROON (A CASE STUDY OF UNIVERSITY OF BAMENDA)

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IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS ON STUDENTS BRAND PREFERENCE IN CAMEROON (A CASE STUDY OF UNIVERSITY OF BAMENDA)

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

With the increasing popularity of social media, information technology is always evolving and advancing. Social media operates in a very different manner compared to conventional media. Many companies, both large and small, are increasingly utilising social media to create fan pages with the goal of selling their goods or services. This has become a standard marketing strategy in today's business world (Kapita & Silvera, 2016). Social media's extensive connection has transformed the position of consumers in traditional power structures, altering the dynamics between businesses and customers. Consumers are prone to depend on and place confidence in material disseminated on social media groups. Computer-mediated settings empower customers to exert influence over the choices of the masses by expressing their thoughts. As a result, the widespread usage of social media has enabled ordinary people to not only receive marketing messages but also to actively participate as both customers and advocates of a brand (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016). Common individuals are increasingly using social media platforms to disseminate their own viewpoints, lifestyles, encounters, and sentiments. This phenomenon has facilitated the rise of regular individuals as influential figures on the internet. Social media influencers (SMIs) are a new kind of third-party endorsers that may affect audiences' sentiments via blogs, tweets, and other social media platforms (Freberg et al., 2011). Currently, brands are allocating a larger portion of their expenditures towards influencers, which constitutes 40% of their influencer marketing budget, whereas celebrities only make up 28%. This tendency is also increasing in the beauty or cosmetic sector. Digital influencers specializing in beauty have become a prominent and influential presence, surpassing conventional advertising methods. They are reshaping societal ideals of beauty by their presence on social media platforms and promoting a wider range of diverse beauty standards. These individuals who have a significant following on social media or are experts in the beauty industry work together with cosmetic firms to use their fame in order to endorse brands, enhance product recognition, and generate income from their influence. Leading cosmetic companies increasingly use social media influencers (SMIs) to specifically reach out to customers and advertise their goods. Some notable examples are Rare Beauty, Sephora, L’Oréal, Maybelline, Kylie Cosmetics NYX, and e.l.f, among others (Tracckr, 2023). As social media use has grown, organisations are compelled to adopt modern marketing strategies like influencer marketing, vlogging, and blogging to attract and persuade clients to purchase their goods (Ladhari et al., 2020). Researchers are investigating the factors that contribute to the acceptability of social media influencers (SMIs) and seeking to comprehend why followers accept the practical and personal information about the firms they endorse. They want to apply this understanding to individuals' own purchasing choices. The understanding of SMIs may be achieved via an examination of the notion of opinion leadership, which plays a crucial role in establishing the influence that impacts consumer behaviour (Ki & Kim, 2019). The global active user base of social media has reached 4.48 billion, marking a 13.13% rise from the 3.69 billion users recorded in 2020. According to Statista (2024), the number of users in 2015 was 2.07 billion. This indicates a remarkable rise of 115.59% in only 6-7 years. This is shown by the fact that 70% of teenagers place more faith in social media influencers (SMIs) than in renowned celebrities. Additionally, 86% of women rely on social media platforms to seek guidance on various items prior to making a purchase. TikTok has launched a $1 billion creator fund to support and develop influencers. Additionally, 57% of cosmetics and beauty brands use influencer marketing. The Digital Marketing Institute predicts that influencer marketing will increase to $13.8 billion by the conclusion of 2022. Social media influencers must demonstrate credibility, authenticity, beauty, and trustworthiness, while maintaining their influence over their following. The trustworthiness of social media influencers (SMIs) has a beneficial impact on customers' purchasing inclinations (Sokolova & Kefi, 2020). The use of SMIs in marketing programmes is now being investigated due to a scarcity of literature on this subject. Therefore, the researcher sought to assess the impact of social media influencers on students brand preference in Cameroon (A case study of University of Bamenda).

Statement of the problem

The emergence of social media has fundamentally transformed marketing methods, mostly due to the impact of social media influencers (SMIs). Social media influencers (SMIs) are people who have amassed substantial audiences on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, and now play a crucial role in influencing consumer behaviour and preferences (Ao et al, 2023). Their influence is particularly significant among younger age groups, such as students, who often show great interest and involvement with these platforms. Social media influencers use their substantial and actively involved audiences to endorse products in a manner that seems more genuine and approachable in contrast to conventional advertising. The importance of this authenticity cannot be overstated, as customers are increasingly looking for true relationships and reliable recommendations. Customer engagement and purchase intentions are highly influenced by the credibility and entertainment value of influencers, as shown in a meta-analysis conducted by Ao et al. (2023). These influencers are seen as more trustworthy and relevant compared to conventional celebrities, resulting in greater levels of trust and impact on their followers' buying choices (MDPI). Due to their extensive involvement with social media, students are very vulnerable to the impact of social media influencers (SMIs). They often seek guidance from these influencers for the latest trends, inspiration for their lifestyle, and suggestions for products. The study conducted by Osatuyi and Love (2021) emphasises that influencer communications have a substantial impact on students' brand choice. Specifically, messages promoting sustainability and hybrid approaches are more favourably received compared to messages promoting consumerism (AIS eLibrary). This signifies a change in the way students perceive and prioritise the values of a company, which is strongly impacted by the information they consume on social media. Although there is an increasing amount of research on influencer marketing, there is still a need to comprehend the subtle effects of various sorts of influencer material on students' brand choices. Prior research has mostly concentrated on the overall consumer behaviour, neglecting to thoroughly investigate the distinct preferences and attitudes of student demographics. Hence, the study assess the impact of social media influencers on students brand preference in Cameroon (A case study of University of Bamenda).

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to assess the impact of social media influencers on students brand preference in Cameroon (A case study of University of Bamenda). The specific objectives is as follows:

To assess whether exposure to social media influencers affects students' preference to specific brands over time.

To assess whether perceived credibility and trustworthiness of influencers shape students' brand preference.

To identify characteristics of social media influencers that most strongly impact students' brand preferences.

To identify the relationship between social media influencers and students brand preference.

1.4 Research Questions

The following questions have been prepared to guide the study

Does exposure to social media influencers affects students' preference to specific brands over time?

Does perceived credibility and trustworthiness of influencers shape students' brand preference?

What are the characteristics of social media influencers that most strongly impact students' brand preferences?

Is there a relationship between social media influencers and students brand preference?

1.5 Significance of the study 

The study's findings will contribute to the development of the marketing strategy for the marketing manager and the creation of the marketing strategy for the self-owned brand. By comprehending the impact of social media influencers on brands, marketers can develop strategic marketing solutions to enhance brand image and position the brand more effectively. Furthermore, the study will be significant to the academic community as it will contribute to the existing literature and serve as a guide to future researchers who might want to further explore the topic.

1.6 Scope of the study

The study focuses on the impact of social media influencers on students brand preference in Cameroon (A case study of University of Bamenda). empirically, the study will assess whether perceived credibility and trustworthiness of influencers shape students' brand preference, identify characteristics of social media influencers that most strongly impact students' brand preferences, assess whether exposure to social media influencers affects students' preference to specific brands over time and identify the relationship between social media influencers and students brand preference.

Geographically, the study is delimited to University of Bamenda, Cameroon.

1.7 Limitation of the study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

1.8 Definition of terms

Social Media Influencer (SMI):  An individual who has built a significant following on social media platforms and has the ability to influence the opinions and behaviors of their audience due to their perceived expertise, authenticity, or relationship with their followers. Influencers often collaborate with brands to promote products and services in a manner that appears organic and credible to their audience (Hughes et al., 2019; Campbell & Farrell, 2020).

Brand Preference: The inclination of consumers to choose one brand over others based on perceived value, quality, and emotional connection. This preference is influenced by various factors including personal experiences, advertising, and recommendations from trusted sources, such as social media influencers (Ebrahim et al., 2016).

Customer Engagement: The level of interaction, involvement, and emotional commitment a customer has with a brand. Engagement can manifest through actions such as likes, comments, shares, and purchases. 

Purchase Intention: The likelihood that a consumer will buy a product or service. This intention is often influenced by various factors including product quality, price, advertising, and endorsements by trusted figures like social media influencers.


This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research



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