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1.

Introduction
The topic for the proposed dissertation will be about the relationship marketing approaches practiced by the organizations in social networking websites. Social networking sites have become a part of students everyday life. Increasingly, students are becoming a part of these social networking sites to communicate, exchange ideas, and also to an extent, associate with some commercial organizations that they are interested in. The emergence of online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as a form of social media made organizations to utilize these sites to address current and potential customers. Social media has become an increasingly important platform for marketing activities and marketers are targeting teens and young adults using the social networking sites, to promote their products (Market Watch 2008, cited in Cha, 2009). Mangold and Faulds (2009) opine that social networking sites have enabled a person to communicate with thousands of other people about products and also the organizations that produce or provide those products. This study looks at student attitudes towards relationship marketing practices adopted by the organizations in the context of the online social networks, Facebook and Twitter.

1.1Problem Outline
Essentially, the biggest problem faced by many organizations, in the context of social networking websites, is to identify the potential audience. It is not about just identifying the potential audience; it is about identification of a particular user group from the overall user base who are interested in forming commercial relationships in the online social world. Another obstacle is establishing and maintaining a relationship between a targeted consumer and a company. In order to overcome these issues and efficiently use these social networks as a marketing tool, organizations need to understand how customers get involved with the networks, the reasons for communicating with organizations on the online social media, and what is required from the organizations so that the relationships are sustained by the consumers. As the social networking are relatively in the early stages of becoming a primary communication tool, there is enough opportunity for the commercial organizations to use this media as a major means of communicating about their products and services.

Consumer preferences towards advertising have changed and they prefer the modern sources of communication than relying on traditional media such as radio, television, newspapers etc (Vollmer and Precourt 2008 cited in Mangold & Faulds, 2009) The customer base of social networking sites is expanding very rapidly. Many organizations are becoming a part of these social networking sites with a view to promote their products and services. Clearly, marketing managers have a strong opportunity to seize this increasing consumer interest. As students are very dominant user group in online social network, this study attempts to examine Liverpool John Moores University students (consumers) view on relationship marketing on social networks.

1.2 Purpose
The purpose of the research is to study the willingness of university students to engage in relationships with organizations on the online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Aims and Objectives: The specific aims and objectives of the study are to answer the following research questions: Motive: Finding out the reason to be associated with a particular organization on a social networking site. Promotion: Reason behind promoting a particular organizations products and services to their friends and colleagues. Consumption: Whether they actually consume the products and services of the organizations that they are associated with. Types of Organizations: The different types of organizations that they tend to associate with. Prolonged Usage: Factors that drive users to maintain and sustain relationships with commercial organizations on online social networks. The research aims to offer insights into whether the social networking sites are used by students to just maintain communication with colleagues and friends or do they also use the sites to establish and maintain a relationship with commercial organizations?

2. Literature Review
The researcher would like to introduce the reader with the relevant literature that is being used for the project.

2.1. Relationship Marketing


Relationship Marketing, being a very broad subject, has been discussed by many authors from different perspectives. Relationship marketing is about establishing, maintaining and enhancing relationships with customers and partners so that profit is attained and the objectives of the related parties are met (Gronroos, 1990, 1994 cited in Storbacka, Strandvik and Gronroos, 1994). Morgan & Hunt (1994) propose that: Relationship marketing refers to all marketing activities directed towards establishing, developing, and maintaining successful relational exchanges (p.22) Morgan and Hunt (1984, cited in Mishra & Li, 2008) contend that building trust and commitment is very essential component in relationship marketing. Further, they suggest that communication is very vital to successful relationship building and organizations need to focus on communicating valuable information to the consumers and stake holders. Building on this theory, the researcher would like to explain how the organizations use social media to communicate with consumers and how they can build the trust and commitment from the consumers. However, Andersen (2001) argues that several contributions to relationship marketing have not taken into consideration, the fact that relationship marketing is a process. Further, he argues that these contributions have ignored the dynamic aspects of relationship marketing and the way in which communication strategies are adopted to various stages of relationship marketing process. Reichheld & Schefter (2000, cited in Liang, Chen and Wang, 2008) criticizes the relationship marketing efforts of most online suppliers by saying that they are not really concerned about the customer relationship management. The present research tries to address the issue of communication and attempts to explain the communication strategies adopted by organizations in reaching the targeted customer base and also try to explain the relationship management efforts undertaken by the organizations. Despite the extensive study of relationship marketing by various authors, Yau (1995, cited in Yau et al. 1999) criticize that these studies on relationship marketing were overly

simplistic because of their emphasis on a uni-dimensional perspective (focussing on a single dimension such as trust, bonding, empathy or reciprocity).

2.2. Online Social Networks


When talking about relationship marketing on the social networks, a brief introduction about the social networks is essential. Online social networks are internet enabled websites wherein organizations and consumers become a part of those social networks (such as Facebook and Myspace). Specifically, organizations have their own profile (or page) set up in the social networking site. This profile describes about the organization, and it seeks to establish a virtual relationship with various online consumers (students, in this research context). The organizational profile on the social networking site also communicates about any promotions or marketing campaigns, research and developmental efforts, undertaken by the company. These online social networking sites, according to Aleman and Wartman (2009), are social media with a vast range of tapped and untapped potential for commercial, political and cultural uses globally. The aim of this research is to find out whether students promote the products or services of a particular organization to their friends and colleagues. This aim is answered by drawing on the literature of Hartline, Mirrokni and Sundararajan (2008) who propose externality as the impact that a buyer has over another buyer. Further, they suggest that externalities that cause increased sales and revenue are called as positive externalities. According to Szmigin, Canning & Reppel (2005) online network communities created an opportunity for organizations to expand their communication strategies with consumers, particularly in terms of relationship building. Harris and Rae (2009) identify that organizations, by utilizing social networks, could build customer relationships and raise their brand awareness at a relatively low cost. The aim of the researcher is to find out if consumers actually consume the goods and services of these brand communities online. By studying the theory of Harris and Rae (2009) about brand awareness, the researcher tries to answer the aim of whether consumers get influenced by brand communities in purchasing their products and services.

2.3. Brand Communities


James (2009, cited in Kelly, Kerr, Drennan 2009) identify that social networking sites provide an opportunity for the organizations to target consumers using personalized content based on their behaviours and preferences and thereby establishing a two-way communication. Andersen (2005) terms the presence of organizations in social networking websites as brand communities. In addition, Andersen goes on to discuss that more and more organizations are forming as brand communities on social networking sites and use these communities as a way of enhancing relationship marketing. Limited research has been conducted on internet based brand communities and these communities being used as relationship marketing tool (Fischer, Bristor & Gainer, 1996; Kozinets, 1999; Rothaermel & Sugiyama, 2001 cited in Andersen, 2005). The present research attempts to examine these brand communities and the various relationship marketing procedures adopted by these communities. Claricini and Scarpi (2007, cited in Sicilia and Palazon, 2008) suggest that virtual communities have not been the subject of much research and therefore, deserve special attention.

2.4. Virtual Communities


Sicilia and Palazon (2008) identify three important values that virtual communities facilitate to their users:They are Functional Value, Social Value and Entertainment Value. The present research focuses on the functional value that is derived out of the brand community on the social networking sphere. Virtual communities create a forum for individuals to give and receive information about a topic that they are interested in. In the present research context, this relates to the information exchange among students about a particular organization. In other words, it talks about the functional value that students derive by becoming a member of a particular organization that has got presence on the social networking sites. Preibusch et al. (2007) suggest that marketing strategy in a social networking site requires two atleast two things. First requirement is to identify the user group who are highly internet savvy and who are primarily interested in communicating with friends and colleagues. In the present research context, this group would be the LJMU student group who are internet savvy and who use internet and computers to a large extent in their academics and whose primary purpose is not interacting with organizations over the social networking site, rather primarily communicating with friends and colleagues. So identifying this user group and targeting them is essential for a successful marketing communication to take place. Second requirement is to use the information present in linkage patterns to discover and target high-value customers.

Relationship marketing and social networks have been studies quite extensively, as separate topics. However, Li & Bernoff (2008 cited in Mangold and Faulds 2009) contend that limited research has been done on how to incorporate social media into the organizations marketing strategies and further say that marketing managers are finding ways to accomplish this task. The present research attempts to study both the concepts of relationship marketing and social networks, and tries to explain how organizations could try to incorporate social media into their marketing communications.

3. Methodology
This chapter will introduce the reader to the research methods that are going to be used for the study. Before deciding upon the method of research to be adopted, researcher has performed the Learning Cycleexercise (adapted from Kolb and McCarthy in Kolb, 1984) to know his preferred style of research. The researcher belongs to the right hand side of the Kolbs learning grid (Divergers and Assimilators), therefore suggesting that the preferred style should be inductive (See Appendix 1: Learning Style Assessment for the result) According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007), in an inductive research: Theory would follow data rather than vice versa as with deduction (p.118) The aim of the research is to identify student attitudes towards relationship marketing adopted by organizations on online social networks. The proposed research would be a mixed method study implying that both the quantitative and qualitative research methods are going to be employed. A questionnaire would be used to enable students (respondents) to answer multiple choice questions and it would be analyzed quantitatively; subsequently, a focus group would also be conducted which is of qualitative nature. In order to get answers to research questions, a questionnaire will be used to collect descriptive primary data. The aims of the research (i.e. types of organizations the users tend to be interested in and motivation behind seeking out relationships with commercial organizations on social networks) are covered through the questionnaire along with general sample attributes. The question concerning the factorsthat drive users to sustain relationships with commercial organizations on the social networks is studied qualitatively by way of conducting a focus group. Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003) identify two major advantages of choosing to use multiple methods in the same research project. Firstly, different methods can be used for different

purposes in the study. Accordingly, in this research, during the initial stages, a survey will be used to collect descriptive primary data relating to research questions. At a later stage, a focus group will be conducted to allow a discussion and feedback on the variables that were not looked at, during the survey. The second advantage of mixed methods is that it enables triangulation to take place. Yin (1994 cited in Johnstone, 2004) argues that triangulation is an inductive process and can engage in various quantitative and/or qualitative information. In this research, focus groups may be a valuable way of triangulating data that was collected through the questionnaire. The intention to conduct a focus group is based on the idea that they provide an opportunity for discussion and promote self-disclosure among the participants and to gain a general feedback about the topic (Krueger & Casey, 2009). The focus group is primarily intended to discuss about the results of the survey analysis and whether the members believe the results to be a true portrayal of their behaviour. The idea behind conducting the focus group is to verify the findings obtained through the survey analysis rather than to generate ideas and themes for survey variables. McClelland (2007) suggests that focus group is an in-depth discussion about a single topic and focussing on that topic throughout the duration of the discussion, aiming at promoting self exposure and to get beyond the public self. Building on this assertion, in the proposed focus group, discussion would be held on students attitudes towards relationship marketing in connection with online social networks. The rationale behind choosing this approach is that it enables to understand how the group opinions (about social marketing and online social networks) are formed and exchanged within a group, and how marketing on social media is perceived by the members (students). According to Gill & Johnson (2010), the mixed methods approach (where quantitative and qualitative methods of data gathering are integrated within a single project) is gaining considerable importance in the management field. Mixed methods approach is presumed to have considerable benefits since any method has its own advantages and disadvantages and therefore research design benefits from offsetting strengths of one method with the weakness of others and vice versa (ibid). In recent years, some of the strongest advocates of qualitative research such as Denzin, Lincoln, and Guba, have made some statements that appear to give credence to the mixed

methods approach (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie & Turner, 2007). For example Guba and Lincoln (1994 cited in Johnson et al, 2007) noted that: Both qualitative and quantitative methods may be used appropriately with any research paradigm (p.105) Sieber (1973 cited in Johnson et al., 2007) suggests a sound basis or reasoning for mixing both the quantitative and qualitative methods, as such a combination can be effective at the research design, data collection, and data analysis stages of the research process. The present research tries to use this argument, because during the research design stage, quantitative data can complement the qualitative data by identifying both the representative sample group as well as outliers (non-suitable respondents).

3.1 Methodology Conclusion


In conclusion, it is decided to use a mixed methodological approach for this project. Previous research conducted on Facebook by Lampe, Ellison and Steinfield (2008) employed mixed method approach. They have studied the changes in usage patterns and perception of Facebook, and have used surveys and interviews to assess the students attitudes. This present research will follow the procedure adopted by the above authors, by implementing mixed methods. Despite the arguments supporting the view of triangulation (mixed methods), there has been some criticism as well. Giddings (2006) suggests that: The claim that mixed methods is the third methodological movement is based on the erroneous assumption that mixing qualitative and quantitative methods will produce the best of both worlds. (p.202) On the other hand, it is argued that although survey and focus group techniques are derived from different theoretical approaches, there is nothing fundamental in the methods themselves that prohibits their combination (Wolff, Knodel & Sittitrai, 1993cited in Morgan, 1993a) and moreover, the survey research component strengthens external validity or representativeness that are the inherent limitations of small-scale , in-depth qualitative research (Campbell & Stanled, 1966; Cook & Campbell, 1979 cited in Wolff et al., 1993)

4. Methods
The following methods will be used to collect data for this research:

4.1. Questionnaire Survey 4.1.1. Questionnaire Design:


The survey questionnaire would consist of 14 questions. The first few questions would be of demographic nature (concerning the age and gender). The next set of questions would be screening questions (to find out if respondents belong to any online social networks such as Facebook, Twitter etc). The other set of questions would be specifically related to Facebook, such as their usage of the networks, their knowledge and attitudes towards Facebook, and also their attitudes towards relationship marketing adopted by organisations on social networks. Final question would be an open-ended question seeking any comments from the respondents (positive or negative), related to the commercial organizations presence in social networks. Following are the sample questions that would be a part of the main questionnaire-- Do long time users of social networks have different usage patterns than the new users?Do experienced users tend to maintain a long term relationship than the new users, with the commercial organizations on social networks? In order to answer these questions, a T-Test would be performed to find out if there are any significant differences in the means for the two groups. A value of p<0.05 is consideredto be statistically significant. Yin (1994) argues that defining the research questions is the most important step to be taken into consideration in a research study and sufficient time and patience should be allowed for this task and as such, care was taken within the questionnaire design to ensure it is not very long and time consuming to answer and in addition, design issues such as appearance of the questionnaire, its layout, and readability were taken into consideration to reduce the nonresponse and increase response rate (Wilson, 1996) Preece (1994) suggests that questionnaire should be as short as possible as it facilitates ease in evaluation and most importantly, sustains the interest and cooperation of the respondents. Questions were designed keeping in view the purpose of the research and care was taken to avoid unambiguous questions and technical terminology.

The survey design was based on similar study conducted by Gross and Acquisti (2005), Lampe et al (2008) and other researchers. The researcher intends to conduct a pilot study prior to the finalizing the survey questions and design.

4.1.2. Pilot Study


Pilot study exploration is a small-scale trial prior to the main investigation to assess the adequacy of the research design and of the instruments to be used for data collection (Wilson 1996).A few students having familiarity with the online social networks would be chosen for the sample study, as they would be the representative of the target population that the main research intends to cover. The idea behind this pilot study is to ascertain whether participants understand the questions phrased and also to know the approximate time taken to complete the questionnaire. In order to check the internal consistency and reliability and of the questionnaire, Cronbachs alpha test would be performed using SPSS software. It is suggested that a value of 0.85 or more is usually considered to represent sufficient reliability and anything less than 0.70 would mean the measure is suspect (Kervin, 1992)

4.1.3. Sample Selection for Questionnaire


The target population would be the undergraduate and postgraduate students (both male and female) from different age groups, regions and studying different field of programmes within the Liverpool John Moores University (Faculty of Business and Law) and the sample population would be derived from this broad target group. Sample population is being selected from the university as it is understood that social networks such as Facebooks market penetration is very impressive among the colleges and universities (Acquisti & Gross, 2006). The proposed sampling technique would be a Simple random sampling. This rationale behind selecting this technique is that it allows all cases in the population to have an equal chance of appearing in the sample and further, all possible samples of a given size n (i.e., all possible combinations of n cases) have got an equal chance of being selected (Kervin, 1992). In addition, according to Sekaran (2003), simple random sampling has the least bias and offers the most generalizability. As it would not be practically possible to collect data from the entire target population, a sample size of 120 participants would be chosen from the target population. The questionnaires would be randomly distributed to the students within the Aldham Roberts Learning Resource Centre (LRC). The library setting is chosen as it would be convenient to get access to a number of students in the same place and moreover, there would not be any time constraints while filling the survey, as opposed to a class room setting,

where non-response to the survey could be high, as the students might leave the class once the lecture is completed.

4.2. Recruitment of Participants for Focus Group


The focus group would consist of 6 participants, out of which, 2 participants would be the students who answered the questionnaire and 2 students who were not a part of the survey. These 2 students would be included to allow for triangulation and also to allow new insights not related to the survey. The sample size of 6 participants was supported by in a work by Kruger (1995 cited in Twinn, 1998) who argues that, in order to maximize the quality of data, 6 to 8 participants would be the most appropriate. Focus group participants would not be selected through a simple random selection as it is necessary to have some sort of awarenessabout the topic being discussed. This approach to specifically include survey participants in the focus group is suggested by Morgan (1996) who argues that qualitative follow-up methods, including focus groups is to recontact survey respondents for illustrative material that can quoted in combination with quantitative findings. As mentioned in the methodology, the primary purpose of the focus group is to verify the survey results and not to generate new ideas and themes for survey variables.

4.2.1Focus Group Setting


It is suggested that the date, time, and place are convenient for the participants (Krueger & Casey, 2009) and accordingly,participants will be requested about the availability; focus group would be conducted in one of the discussion rooms in the library and would be videotaped (the permission to record would be asked in the interview consent form). Also, permission would be taken from the library management to conduct the focus group discussion. The researcher would be acting as the moderator in the focus group to keep the discussion within the boundaries of the topic and also to encourage brainstorming and free expression of ideas and opinions (Saunders et al., 2007). As the researcher cannot conduct the session and video-record at the same time, he would like to take help from his colleague who would be recording the session and take notes, if necessary. The researcher understands that it takes effort to participate in the focus group and participants need to sacrifice some time out of their schedule to be able to participate; hence, the researcher intends to introduce some sort of non-monetary incentives (such as a gift voucher) to encourage active participation and involvement.

4.3. Data Analysis and Focus Group Transcription


Questionnaire has been adopted to gather the data from several items such as age, gender, usage of social networks, attitude towards relationship marketing, willingness to associate with a particular organization etc. Statistical analysis tool SPSS would be used to analyze the collected data and to test the frequencies and correlation among the above mentioned items. QSRNvivo would be used in order to transcribe the data collected through focus group, and also to analyze and organize the focus group data. Nodes within the interview transcripts will be developed so that the researcher could ascertain and triangulate the resultant themes.

5. Personal Suitability
The researcher holds a bachelors degree in business studies from Nagarjuna University (India) and marketing is one of the core modules. The researcher is a long time user of online social networks and regularly communicates with his friends and colleagues through the social networks. He is also a member of some commercial organizations on the online social media and actively takes part in the discussions conducted by those organizations online. These discussions are intended to obtain feedback about the companys products and services and occasionally, informing about any announcements and new products introduced by the company. The researcher would like to make a career in the marketing field and these results would help him to identify the factors that consumers consider before they make a decision whether or not to become a member of a particular organization. Also, the research results would give some insights into the appropriate and effective ways of directly communicating with the consumers on the social networks. The research results would help the researcher to identify the importance of brand value and brand image, and the factors that could increase the brand awareness on the social networks.

6. Project Management and Resources


The project would commence in the first week of July, 2010 and finish by the end of November, 2010. A project plan draft is presented in the appendix (produced using Microsoft Project). The research has no plans to take any holiday and as such, the total available time from July till November will be devoted to the completion of the research project. Time has been identified as the biggest resource requirement as the whole project is a step-by-step process and each stage is dependent on the other. Accordingly, sufficient time (5 months) has been allocated in the project plan. The other resource would be the learning

resources such as access to secondary sources of information such as electronic journal databases, texts, which are available in the university library.The researcher expects certain costs by way of drinks and refreshments during the focus group as a way of motivating and encouraging participants to actively involve in the discussion. Finally, a video recorder would be borrowed from the university to record the focus group.

7. Ethics consideration
The respondents of both the questionnaire and the focus group will be informed that the survey is a confidential survey that is based upon respondent anonymity and does not involve the disclosure of identities to others except for research purposes. A participant consent form will be given along with each questionnaire seeking participants consent to participate in the research. The consent form would state the issues about anonymity, confidentiality, right to withdraw information, data storage and destruction. Similar procedures would be followed for the focus group as well. All the data within this research will be solely used for academic purpose.

8. Limitations
The present research does not aim to explain about consumer attitude towards online marketing tools such as email campaigns, online adverts, and banner ads on specific websites, Web 2.0 strategies, blogs, e-commerce, etc. It is specifically concerned with the students attitude towards relationship marketing practices adopted by the commercial organizations on online social networks. Also, the study is restricted to only two online social networking sites namely, Facebook and Twitter, as they are perceived to be the largest online social networks. These sites are chosen as they are a large number of student population involved in these websites.

9. Protocol
A brief introduction about the research project would be included in the questionnaire and will be given to the participants in person. In the questionnaire, individuals will be informed that the research is being carried out under the principles of 'Informed Consent'. Completed questionnaires will be collected and filed for entry into SPSS. In the focus group, participants will be informed that the focus group would be recorded and their privacy and confidentiality

will be maintained; further they will be informed about the option to terminate the focus group at any point of time during the discussion.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 1 1.1Problem Outline ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 1 1.2 Purpose ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ . 2 2. Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 3 2.1. Relationship Marketing ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 3 2.2. Online Social Networks ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 4 2.3. Brand Communities ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 5 2.4. Virtual Communities ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 5 3. Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 6 3.1 Methodology Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 8 4. Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 9 4.1. Questionnaire Survey ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 9 4.1.1. Questionnaire Design: ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 9 4.1.2. Pilot Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 10 4.1.3. Sample Selection for Questionnaire ................................ ................................ ......... 10 4.2. Recruitment of Participants for Focus Group ................................ ................................ .. 11 4.2.1Focus Group Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 11 4.3. Data Analysis and Focus Group Transcription ................................ ............................... 12 5. Personal Suitability ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 12 6. Project Manag ement and Resources ................................ ................................ ...................... 12 7. Ethics consideration ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 13 8. Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ . 13 9. Protocol ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 13 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 15

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Learning Style Assessment:


AC-CE =2 AE-RO =-14 Goi by t score, t e preferred style of research is Inducti e.

(Adapter from Kolb and McCarthy in Kolb, 1984)