Adoption of Social Media Marketing in the Higher Education Industry in Malaysia. An Empirical Study

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2018

18 Pages



With the introduction of personal computers, the Internet, and e-commerce have in fact created a tremendous impact on how businesses operate and market their products or services nowadays. The introduction of social media technology is accelerating and has become a trend for youngster and business partner today. The purpose of this study was to investigate how social media marketing was implemented and adopted in the higher education institutions in Malaysia. Specifically, this study focused on the positive influence of using social media marketing and the benefits the Social Media Marketing system had provided to institutions which had accepted and utilized this new innovation. This study also aimed to determine the concern factors of adopting the Social Media Marketing system into current company management systems. An integral part of this research was to develop and to empirically test a model of the adoption of Social Media Marketing in the context of higher education institutions in Malaysia which based on the concepts of Rogers [2003] the Innovations Diffusion Theory (IDT), and Ajzen and Fishbein [1975] the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA). This research used a questionnaire to assess the higher education institutions in Malaysia on their cognition and perspective of the relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability of the Social Media Marketing; as well as to assess their attitudes and subjective norm toward their behavioral intentions of using the Social Media Marketing system. Research findings revealed the attributes of innovations mentioned above were significantly positively associated with the adoption of Social Media Marketing. According to the research results, managerial implications and opportunities for future research were discussed.

Keywords: Social Media Marketing, Innovations Diffusion Theory, Theory of Reasoned Action, private education, Social networking.


In an era where technology prevails, we have experienced a radical shift in how business is conducted and how people interact. Consumers today want to be more informed about the products before they make the purchase. Most importantly, business today is being transformed from a transactional relationship to a social relationship. It is now more critical than ever that successful businesses use engagement marketing principles to plan for successfully engaging their prospects and customers before, during and after their purchase cycle, and that the basis for this engagement is high-quality and relevant information. The tools and approaches for communicating with customers have changed greatly with the emergence of social media; therefore, businesses must learn how to use social media in a way that is consistent with their business plan [Mangold and Faulds, 2009]. This is especially true for companies striving to gain a competitive advantage. Social media allows participants to unite by generating personal information profiles and inviting friends and colleagues to have access to those profiles [Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010]. Thus, social media is the environment in which social networking takes place and has altered the way in which consumers gather information and make buying decisions. For this reason, it is practically impossible to design a marketing strategy without considering social networks and that the social networks are extremely capable of informing and influencing purchase decisions, as many users now trust their peer opinions more than the marketing strategists.

People in Malaysia spend at least five hours on internet every day, and 65% out of the population like to spend it on social media sites (MCMC, 2016). In Malaysia, private businesses especially private education industries have followed the social media marketing trend to take advantage of this new technology in order to gain competitive advantage. These companies are attracted by the number of potential benefits social media marketing offers, such the use of social media has exploded in a way that traditional mass media never did; it took 38 years for the radio to attract 50 million listeners, 13 years for television to gain 50 million viewers and just one and a half years for Facebook to reach 50 million participants (Nair, 2011). Research also suggests that 70 percent of consumers now visit social media sites for brand or product information and almost half of these consumers will make a purchase decision based on this information (DEI Worldwide, 2008). Smith (2009) stated that “wherever people are online they are actively engaged with a wide variety of social media platforms, from blogs to social networking to video sharing” and that Asian internet users are the most active users (p. 559).

Customers are using social media to research products and services, as well as to engage with businesses and other customers who may offer them valuable opinions (Garretson, 2008). Customers now have the power to talk back at the brand and broadcast their opinions of the brand. For this reason, therefore, marketers have no choice but to treat them differently and with greater respect.

The general problem that inspired this research was to determine how the social media marketing technology can be adopted smoothly and successfully in the higher education industry in Malaysia. The diffusion of social media marketing in higher education application in Malaysia, and how the Theory of Reasoned Action toward social media marketing adoption of Malaysia higher education institutions were studied. Using two fundamental theories - Diffusion of Innovation Theory and the Theory of Reasoned Action, significant results were explained in later chapters.


This section provides an overview of literature regarding the definition of social media, social networking, what is social media marketing, benefits and limitation of social media marketing, the higher education industry and the usage of social media in Malaysia, the fundamental concepts and theories. The literature review also describes Rogers (2003) the Innovation Diffusion Theory (IDT) and Ajzen and Fishbein (1975) the theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) which the researcher used as a foundation theories for creating his own research model.

2.1 Defining Social Media & Social Networking

Social media are tools for sharing and discussing information. It can be described as a kind of online media which encourages every member for feedback and contribution. It is a social instrument of two way communication facilitating the sharing of information between users within a defined network via web 2.0 (O'Reilly, 2005).

Social media is described by Nair (2011) as online tools where content, opinions, perspectives, insights and media can be shared. Social media can also be described as online resources that people use to share content, including videos, photos, images, text, ideas, insight, humour, opinion, gossip and news (Drury, 2008). Zeng et al. (2010) similarly defined social media as a conversational, distributed mode of content generation, dissemination and communication among communities. Hansen et al. (2011) also define that social media is a catchall phrase intended to describe the many novel online sociotechnical systems that have emerged in recent years, including services like email, discussion forums, blogs, microblogs, texting, chat, social networking sites, wikis, photo and video sharing sites, review sites, and multiplayer gaming communities (p.12). Fundamentally, social media is about relationships and connections between people and organizations and is the modern tool for marketers who try every means to get their message out to their target markets.

Social media is considered as a medium or source which allows people to produce, share or exchange content and information in cyber communities and network (Burke, 2013). Social media has advanced from simply providing a platform for individuals to stay in touch with their family and friends. Now it is a place where consumers can learn more about their favorite companies and the products they sell. Marketers are utilizing these sites as another way to reach consumers and provide a new way to shop. “Technology related developments such as the rise of powerful search engines, advanced mobile devices and interfaces, peer-to-peer communication vehicles, and online social networks have extended marketers’ ability to reach shoppers through new touch points” (Shankar et al. 2011, p. 30).

The wide range of consumers utilizing social networks means that most target markets can be reached (Cha, 2009). This provides an effective platform for businesses to promote their brand and products to potential consumers. Advancements within social media sites have created consumer communities that are defining new ways in which companies and customers can interact with one another to share information on brand products. Alternatively social networking service can be defined as a web-based service focus on building relationships and network among people in a platform.

Hence, social networking is an act of engagement. Groups of people with common interests, or like-minds, associate together on social networking sites and build relationships through community or in other words as Cohn (2011) explained that social media is to help people to make connection whereby social networking enhance the connection. Social media is a very broad online resources and social networking is one of the sub categories of social media (Joshua Perdue, 2010). Furthermore, social networking enables word of mouth to promote products beyond what advertising alone does (Hill, Provost & Volinsky, 2006). Social networking sites are being utilized to enhance a company’s brand appeal and increase their target market because “new technologies allow for more personal, targeted communications, as well as increased consumer participation in the creation of marketing and brand related information” (Cappo 2003; Jaffe 2005).

2.2 What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is a form of internet marketing that implements various social media networks in order to achieve marketing communication and branding goals and how your business can profit from that understanding. More and more of your customers, whether for personal use, business-to-consumer or business-to-business reasons use social media in every aspect of their daily life.

The term “Social media marketing” is used to define the trend of using social media to communicate promotional and brand building activities to targeted audiences through social media websites whereas traditional marketing tactics include, but are not limited to, television advertisements, radio advertisements, print advertisements, billboards, etc.

Social media marketing is define as the channel for social media such as social networking sites to promote or advertise a company and sell its products (Barefoot & Szabo, 2010). Social media marketing is a new and fast growing trend which enables the businesses to reach out to targeted customers easily.

According to Weinberg (2009), the main advantage of social media marketing is cost-related. The financial barriers to social media marketing are quite low compared to others. The majority of social media sites are free to access, create profile and post information. Whereas traditional marketing campaigns can cost millions of dollars, many social media tools are free even for business use. Mangold and Faulds (2009) recommend that social media should be regarded as an integral part of an organization’s integrated marketing strategy and should not be taken lightly.

2.3 Benefits of Social Media Marketing

According to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites. According to Social media marketing industry report (2016), the top two benefits of social media marketing are increasing exposure and increasing traffic. A significant 89% of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses. Increasing traffic was the second major benefit, with 75% reporting positive results. In fact, companies should take advantage of the tools social media gives them when it comes to connecting with their audience and every post make on a social media platform is an opportunity for customers to convert. As far as marketing is concerned, the key to success is knowing your customers. Social media makes this easier than ever. Social networks allow you to see what your potential customers are talking about while getting to know them. Businesses should use these networks to gather consumer information to better cater to their needs and provide them with the information they’re looking for. Social media marketing enables companies to achieve a better understanding of customer needs in order to build effective relationships.

As Solis and Breakenridge (2009) argued that organizations lost a 100% control over organizational messages when social media first emerged years ago. People are discussing their brands, products and services, right now, across multiple forms of social media, with or without them . Businesses are also able to access these people and spend less money than they would have been with older forms of technology, as social media advertising can be bought at cheaper rates. Social media puts customers back at the centre of the organization and gave marketers a new set of tools to listen to them and to encourage them to engage with the brand (Smith, 2011). Rather than marketing a product to thousands of people out of which only a handful may purchase it, businesses are able to market to specifically the people who would be willing to purchase the product. In this way, businesses increase the chances that their advertising is effective with social media.

Company such as Pepsi which has been around for decades has also had to evolve with the social media age. As Qualman (2010) mentioned Pepsi bypassed a Super Bowl advertisement for the first time in 20 years in order to shift these millions of dollars into social media marketing. The level of commitment towards social media marketing from Pepsi demonstrates how business is shifting towards this new mode of media and away from more traditional advertising techniques. A business wants their message to reach as many people as possible. To maximize this reach, a business needs to have a presence where customers are hanging out; and increasingly they are hanging out on social networking sites (Halligan, Shah, & Scott, 2009).

Another example, Starbucks enables its customers to provide feedback and submit suggestions to help shape the future of Starbucks via its “My Starbucks Idea” site (Starbucks, 2011). Users are allowed to submit their own suggestions to be voted on by other Starbucks consumers, vote on other people’s ideas, discuss ideas, and even see what actions Starbucks is taking on the most popular ideas. Starbucks empowers its consumers by directly asking them what they want. By publicly acting on this information, Starbucks strengthens its relationship with consumers. According to social media marketing industry report (2016), more than half of marketers who have been using social media for at least 2 years reported that it helped them improve sales while nearly all marketers (more than 88%) who have been employing social media marketing for one year or longer reported that it generates exposure for their businesses. Most importantly, more than half of those who spend at least 11 hours per week on social media efforts saw a benefit of reduced marketing expenses.

2.4 Limitations of Social Media Marketing

The transparency of the web makes online information available to all audiences; however it also reinforces the need for consistency in the planning, design, implementation and control of online marketing communication (Hart et al., 2000). The first preliminary consideration and probably the most important one is that social media marketing requires a significant time investment (Barefoot & Szabo, 2010) and that somebody has to be responsible to monitor each network, respond to comments, answer questions and post product information the customer deems valuable (Barefoot & Szabo, 2010). In addition, Marketers conducting certain types of social media marketing campaigns, particularly promotions and user-generated content campaigns, should have rules in place that include specific prohibitions regarding trademark and copyright infringement and impersonation (Steinman & Hawkins, 2010). Furthermore, Soliciting user-generated content in connection with a marketing strategy comes with some risk of incurring legal liability for content created by an individual participating in the campaign Marketers can, however, take certain steps to minimize legal risks associated with marketing campaigns that involve the dissemination of user-generated content through social media (Gommans et al., 2001).


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Adoption of Social Media Marketing in the Higher Education Industry in Malaysia. An Empirical Study
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Dr. Leong Wee Phin is with MAHSA University and has been involved in the field of education for more than 26 years. He has been a principal, head of academics, international business director, and director of operations, as well as a member of the teaching faculty at private colleges and universities in Malaysia. His current research interests focus on risk management and human resource management. He has also supervised more than 80 students at the MBA level.
Keywords: Social Media Marketing, Innovations Diffusion Theory, Theory of Reasoned Action, private education, Social networking.
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Dr. Wee Leong (Author), 2018, Adoption of Social Media Marketing in the Higher Education Industry in Malaysia. An Empirical Study, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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