This study aims to address the following questions: What is enduring about consumer behavior on social media given that digital and social media (DSM) technologies change rapidly? Why do millennials use social media to the extent they do? The authors’ review revealed that a prevailing theoretical approach that may help answer these questions is inadequate. The technology acceptance model (TAM) from information systems was grafted into marketing to explain consumer technology adoption. TAM predicts Facebook adoption effectively, as demonstrated in the authors’ first study, but does not go beyond that in explaining the why’s behind its use. In a second study, the authors used the means-end approach (MEC) complementarily to unearth the why’s of millennials’ use of Facebook.
The authors used a mixed-methods design combining the structural modeling of TAM with the probing one-on-one interviews and laddering of MEC.
The authors found that the laddering process both widened and deepened TAM’s scope. It not only confirmed the importance of the TAM attributes, perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness, but it also revealed others, in determining adoption. It was also able to dig deeper from these to uncover a mesh of fundamental values that millennials used Facebook to satisfy, such as belongingness, pleasure, social acceptance and inner harmony, in their quest for inner and relational contentment. The authors also found negative aspects that kept consumers away, such as its lack of privacy and the overwhelming nature of unwanted video in its feed, tying these back to important values.
The authors build on prior exploratory work relating to DSM use and uncover psychological drivers of consumer behavior on social media, by blending TAM in a consumer context, and the MEC approach. The TAM-MEC framework used here offers a technology-independent template for other DSM research, by focusing on how and why consumers use media socially.
Managerially, the authors discuss the building of sustainable marketing strategy on enduring consumer values rather than on transient attributes or technologies. The authors also discuss potential areas of vulnerability for Facebook, such as its increasing use of video and live content, which creates negative consumer sentiment and which may drive consumers to competitors.
By blending the quantitative TAM and the qualitative MEC, something that has not been done before in marketing, this research provides trustworthy answers to the research questions. In so doing, this study also contributes some cohesion to the fragmented DSM research field, as called for recently in prominent journals, by anchoring DSM study in well-established theories in marketing.
Ambrose, G.J., Meng, J.(G). and Ambrose, P.J. (2020), "Why do millennials use Facebook? Enduring insights", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 171-197. https://doi.org/10.1108/QMR-03-2018-0036
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