WeChat Social Media Network and Its Users’ Loyalty

Introduction

Chapter Overview

The concept of social media and its role in enhancing communication is an interesting subject to researchers and scholars nowadays. In this chapter, the paper will provide an in-depth analysis of the social media, its trends, trend analysis of social media industry, and the current state of Chinese social media market. In addition, the paper will focus on WeChat, one of Chinese popular social media, to analyze the current issues of WeChat market in China in a bid to understand the factors influencing its increased motivation, loyalty and high level of satisfaction among its users.

Introduction

Development in technology has brought about new ways and platforms of communication other than the traditional means of using letters and other offline strategies (Anatoleevna, Vladimerovna & Ramisovna 2015). Today, people can communicate with one another via internet-enabled platforms such as electronic mail (E-mail) and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Such developments have given the world of communication a new approach as far as efficiency and convenience are concerned (Barnes 2002; Pun 2015).

The popularity and increase in the number of social media users can be attributed to the increased number of phone and other internet-connecting devices such as PC, laptops, Tablets, among others. The introduction of Smartphones has really changed the means and mode of communication of many people all over the world (Asur, Yu & Huberman 2000).

Description of social media

Social media refers to a collection of channels that are used for online communication (Chang & Zhu 2011). Such platforms are used for collaboration and sharing of content, interaction, and community-based input included LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, and WhatsApp and so on. Improvement in information and technology has greatly impacted the mode and means of communication of different people all over the world.

The diverse social media platforms have played a significant role in the way people communicate and interact nowadays (Nimrod 2015). According to Pun (2015), there are different internet-enabled social media platforms such as Instant Messaging (IM) which individuals can use to enhance online communication and interaction. Instant Messaging is an example of a communication tool that can be used to transmit instant text messages. Recent studies (Barnes 2002; Pun 2015) have shown that there is an increase in the popularity of IM, which can be attributed to the introduction of a wireless telecommunication technology that enhances the transfer the computer-based customer service to mobile phones.

Trend analysis of social media industry

Social media platforms have become so common around the world because of its capacity to offer users with avenues to connect with one another (Swan 2002). The social media industry has become popular due to constant posts on social sites that involve conversations, news, videos, images and discussions. In the case of China, the country’s social media industry is now a major avenue through which the young generation can connect with one another. For example, Sina Weibo and WeChat are some of the major social platforms in China (Laaksonen, Jarimo & Kulmata 2009). The social media industry of China engages over 300 million users, with most of the users spending more than 40% of their daily time on social media sites.

Current situation of Chinese social media market

China has a large number of smartphone mobile phone users (1.3 billion) which accounts for the increased use of Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) (Swan 2002). Nowadays, there is an improvement in the way people interact and connect with one another in China due to the level of technological advancement in the country that has created new platforms for interaction (Mao 2014). In spite of the fact that there is social media censoring in China, there is a high demand for online platforms that individuals can use to interact and communicate (Lin & Lu 2011).

WeChat is an example of social media platform that has become highly significant in China due to its capacity to enable effective computer-mediated communications among many users (Raacke & Bonds-Raacke 2008). According to Liu, Chen and Wei (2015), such a trend is attributable due to the growing demand for social media avenues among marketers.

Current issues of WeChat market in China

Recently, an increase in the popularity of WeChat has been noted in China (Correa, Hinsley & Zuniga 2010). WeChat is an example of MIM service that was introduced to the market in 2011 in China by the Tencent Holdings (Laaksonen, Jarimo & Kulmata 2009). According to Correa, Hinsley and Zuniga (2010), the popularity of WeChat has grown significantly over the past years. For example, in 2015 WeChat registered more than 400 million active users, which is a significant rise from 355 million users in 2013.

A study conducted by Swan (2002) has shown that the popularity of WeChat has extended to over 200 countries, including China. The key reason for the expansion of popularity of WeChat service is that it is common among the young generations, who need a reliable social media platform to interact with numerous people (Ko, Cho & Roberts 2005). Secondly, WeChat has become common among marketers, especially as a platform through which they can advertise services and products to a large customer base (Tencent 2013).

There have been numerous studies conducted in the West in regards to the use of WeChat (Lin & Bhattacherjee 2008; Lin & Lu 2011; Anatoleevna, Vladimerovna & Ramisovna 2015). However, very limited research is available in the East, especially about WeChat’s impact on consumers in China (Kim, Sohn & Choi 2011). The lack of such studies limits marketers understanding of consumers’ behavior especially in a country with a restricted internet services such as China (Reisinger 2003). In China, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked based on the China’s internet censorship policy (Lin & Lu 2011).

Research Aims and Objectives

The study will have several aims and objectives to achieve.

Aims

  1. To investigate WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty, as well as explore the relationship between motivation, satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. To analyse the trend of WeChat use in the future.

Objectives

  1. The research topic will be reviewed from existing literature
  2. Data from the literature review and the survey will be synthesized to establish users’ loyalty, motivation and satisfaction in the use of WeChat in China in order to understand reasons behind its popularity

Hypothesis

From the above aims and objectives, the study is based on the following hypothesis:

  • H1: Motivation has a positive impact on WeChat users’ level of satisfaction.
  • H2: Satisfaction has a positive impact on WeChat users’ loyalty

Structure of the Dissertation

The dissertation will be organized in five chapters as follows:

Chapter one is the introduction chapter that describes the subject of social media, looks at an analysis of social media industry in China, with a specific focus on the current situation of Chinese social media market. In addition, the chapter covers the current issues of WeChat market in China, and the aims and objectives of the research.

Chapter two is the literature review that will carry out an analysis of previous studies carried out on the subject of social media, motivation, satisfaction and loyalty of social media services with specific interest on Chinese WeChat users. In addition, chapter two will provide a summary of the chapter’s findings and areas covered.

Chapter three is the research design and methodology chapter that covers the different techniques and procedures used to collect, analyze and present data logically. As such, this chapter covers the research design, research framework, methods of data collection and data analysis, as well as looks at ethical concerns and issues associated with validity and reliability of research.

Chapter four provides the findings and results from the study. Here, all the results and findings from either secondary or primary sources which are presented for purposes of carrying a comprehensive analysis on whether or not the research objectives were achieved, and hypothesis proved.

Chapter five is the conclusion and discussion chapter, where a summary of the study is presented and results from primary and secondary sources compared to ascertain whether or not there is a relationship between motivation, satisfaction and loyalty. In addition, chapter five provides an in-depth discussion of study’s results and findings. Furthermore, this chapter discusses contribution to academia and the industry as well as suggests ideas for future research.

Literature Review

Chapter overview

The primary goal of this study is to examine the users’ loyalty, motivation and satisfaction of WeChat, one of the largest social networks in China. This chapter provides a review of past literature on WeChat, as well analyses the trend of social media and WeChat market in China in an attempt to offer insight into the factors behind increased popularity of WeChat among its users.

Introduction

The availability of smartphones in the market has allowed individuals to install different social media applications that allow communication among users regardless of the distance (Pun 2015). For example, Instant Messaging (IM) is one of the latest social media apps that have caught the attention of many mobile users. The instant messaging system is a communication platform which allows users to communicate on the go (Raacke & Bonds-Raacke 2008).

Social media has become a key player as far as the communication and interaction of different people in the world. This review of literature aims to provide an overview of the motivations, satisfaction and loyalty of social media with a lot of focus on the WeChat platform of China. Different individuals in China use social media for their businesses, research, entertainment, news, education, and for advertising purposes.

Some examples of instant messaging applications include Skype, WhatsApp, ChatOn and Viber (Bamman, O’Connor & Smith 2012). Following the development of new technologies, new communication applications are being developed each new day (Jin, Park & Li 2015). For example, WeChat is a new application that was introduced to the market in 2011, and it allows users to share messages in the form of texts, pictures, video, as well as voice. In addition, Kil (2012) pointed out that WeChat is suitable for group chats since it has low network traffic consumption.

In China, WeChat has become very popular among its users in spite of the fact that several social media platforms in China, such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked on a censorship rule (Kristensen 2013; Bamman, O’Connor & Smith 2012). As such, there have been concerns regarding the popularity of WeChat in a country where social media is restricted. The traditional view of examining how rich a certain media is as well as the presence of a given social media among users focuses on understanding the distinctive attributes present in a particular medium (Kumar & Nayak 2015; Li 2012). As such, it becomes easy to get insight into the motivation, loyalty and satisfaction that users get from the use of a given media platform.

Trend analysis

Definition of social media

Social media can be defined as the types of electronic communication, such as websites used for micro blogging and social networking, that users can enhance online communication by sharing personal messages, ideas, information and other content (Li & Oberheitmann 2009; Martin 2014). Chang and Zhu (2011) defined social media simply as a collection of channels that are used for online communication. According to Chang and Zhu (2011), social media is very useful in offering platforms through which individuals can share content and interact. Twitter, Facebook, WeChat and WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ form examples of some of the commonly used social media in the world (Mao 2014).

Social media can be considered to be the outcome of revolution of information, which has brought a lot of change on many people over the recent years as far as the flow of information and communication among people are concerned (Chen & He 2014; MIIT 2008).

As such, people use social medial for social interaction, convenience, entertainment and as a source of information (Zelizer 2011; Barth 2014). When social media was introduced to the market, people used it just as a platform to meet new friends, as well as get information on diverse topics (Martin 2014). In spite of this, social media plays a significant role as far as communication among different people is concerned (Nimrod 2015). People use social media for business, research, entertainment, news, education, as well as an advertising media (Tencent 2013).

Nimrod (2015) conducted a study in which he discovered that that there is a growing popularity of social media among mobile phone users following the introduction of smartphones that allow users to connect with one another. For example, Tencent (2013) noted that there were 355 million subscribers of WeChat in 2013, and the number increase to 400 million subscribers by 2015. On the other hand, recent studies have considered social media to be drivers of online communication (Pun 2015; Chan & Choi 2011). The introduction of internet and computers has increased the number of social media platforms in the world (Nimrod 2015).

One of the common online communication tools that have received a lot of popularity lately is instant messaging (Chin 2014; Cohen, Chase & Mulvenon 2002). This tool allows users to engage in online communication, share content and texts on the go (Hu & Leung 2003). Barnes (2002) noted that there is an increase in the popularity of IM, which can be attributed to the introduction of a wireless telecommunication technology that enhances the transfer of the computer-based customer service to mobile phones.

The trend analysis of social media development in China

Social media and its users have grown tremendously all over the world (Dabrowski, Basinska & Sikorski 2014; Gao, Larsson & Luo 2013). Guo (2014) noted that numerous people have started using services provided by different social media platforms nowadays. As it is now, there is an increased competition in the consumption of online content following the widespread growth of social media services (He & Pedraza 2015; Hillman 2010).

Hossain (2013) attributed such competition to the fact that different types of social media platforms are seeking to establish a large online customer base by attracting more attention from users regardless of the background of users. Although many studies have been conducted with regard to social media trends in the West, few studies have focused on the Chinese social media (Huang 2011; Huang, Wang, Qian & Tao 2007).

There has been an explosive growth as far as the number of individuals using social media in China is concerned (Lien & Cao 2014; Lu & Jongho 2014). Such an increase has been attributed to the fact that social media channels of Western origin have been blocked in China, as well as the increase in the rate of internet penetration in China (Liu, Fang, Deng & Zhang 2012; Minarti & Segoro 2014).

First, the development of internet infrastructure has witnessed a tremendous speed in China, with the country experiencing a wide coverage of 3G networks and the increase in the number of smartphones in use among the citizens of China (Lu, Zhang & Fan 2015). Second, local media channels have been developed following the blockage of Western social media platforms. Pan and Jordan-Marsh (2010) pointed out that the growth and development of social media in China has been instigated by the fact that most Western social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, have been blocked in China.

Such development has emulated the social media platforms of the West, but the China-based platforms have additional features (Sang, Lu & Xu 2014). Social media in China has showed a potential of growth given that the country’s user base is slowly growing following an increase in the number of people owning smartphones in the country.

Various internet issues about China have been reported, such as viral videos being surfaced and ‘human flesh search engines’ (Schwartz & Chen 2002). These are some of the many events that have filled the Chinese social media. Social media in China has tremendously grown due to a large global connectivity enhanced by social media (Skoric 2016; Sun 2008). Wang, Zheng, Freeman and Chapman (2014) noted that individuals from different regions have embraced social media and are now using different social media platforms to connect with one another, exchange ideas and share different content. There have been arguments that sharing and exchange of content via social media platforms is similar in all countries (Wang 2015).

In spite of this, the mode of content sharing over social media in China is different from other countries. Such difference is brought about by the social and cultural environment in China that is quite unique and different from most other countries’ social and cultural environment. A good example of such difference in culture and social environment is manifested in the age limit for Chinese internet users, which is quite young compared to other countries of the world (Tencent 2013). The implication of such age limit is that internet users in China will have little contribution to trending topics that target older people (Yashin 2014). In addition, the contribution of Chinese internet users is expected to be highly chaotic due to difference in age limit.

During the past decade, internet use in China has increased tremendously, which has led to growth and development of Chinese internet industry (Yashin 2014). Nowadays, China is considered one of the largest markets for internet services in the world. By the end of 2010, internet users in China were 420 million. In spite of the high number of internet users in China, the country has registered one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world (Yu & Huberman 2015).

For example, by 2010 the country’s rural areas had an average penetration rate of 5.1%, as compared to 21.6% in the urban areas of China. However, for metropolitan cities like Shanghai and Beijing, a high internet penetration rate has been observed, and reached 45.8% and 46.4% respectively in 2010. Yu and Huberman (2015) observed that the trend has since changed since by 2013, China had over 600 million internet users and an increase of 3.7% in the rate of internet penetration compared to the rate in 2012. On the other hand, the number of rural and urban internet users increased in 2013.

The increase in the popularity of social media in China has been brought about by the rising number of people using the internet in China following the increased internet popularization, and increased population in the country (Yong 2009). Yu and Huberman (2015) indicated that China has more than 630 million internet subscribers. The Chinese market comprises of several social media platforms that are used locally (Yu & Huberman 2015). For example, Weibo is considered the alternative of Twitter in China, while WeChat and Renren are seen as Chinese WhatsApp and Chinese Facebook respectively.

In spite of the high increase in the number of social media users in China, social media and internet industry in China is highly monitored by the government. High government’s involvement in the use of internet in China is based on the need for the government to ensure that there is safe internet information flow (Yong 2009). In addition, the Chinese government intends to offer guidance to people regarding legal management of different social platforms and websites, as well as ensure correct use of the internet. Most part of the internet culture is made up of online social networks. Social networking platforms, blogs, discussion groups and forums form the major online platforms commonly used by citizens in China to share information and exchange viewpoints.

The presence of many internet users in China has provided the platform for social media environment that is highly vibrant. Social media use is very high than in most other countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany and France (Zhan, Quan & Ren 2013). This can be attributed to the fact that most of internet users in China spend a lot of time on social media. As a result of an increase in social media use in the country, several companies have been introduced to focus on providing services that are better than most platforms from the West. For instance, development of Twitter was evident in China than in other countries to an extent that users could share multimedia content.

In China, Social media was introduced in 1994, whereby communities and online platforms formed the largest share of the Chinese social media platform (Zhang & Moussi 2007; Yu & Huberman 2015). However, in 1999 migration of these first platforms to instant messaging was witnessed. Later, blogging and social-networking sites were introduced (Zhang 2007). Evidently, there has been an explosive growth in China’s social media.

Chinese social media has been considered one of the most active in the world, with most of the users having several accounts (Zhao 2013; Zhang & Zhu 2013). This has been attributed to an increase in the mobile technology use within the country as far as access to different social media platforms is concerned. In addition, an increase in the social media use in China is determined by increased competition and the scramble for customers within the social media space of China (Zhao, Frese & Giardini 2010). The trend in the use of social media in China shows a possible increase by about 30% each year. The sector is highly fragmented and only based on local traffic, which makes it quite complex for marketers to penetrate the social media space of China.

However, most social media platforms in China, such as Facebook and Twitter?, are blocked by the government following the censorship rule. In spite of this, the social media market is still growing. One of the most social media platforms in China is WeChat. WeChat is an example of MIM service that was introduced to the market in 2011 in China by the Tencent Holdings (Laaksonen, Jarimo & Kulmata 2009; Tencent 2013).

According to Correa, Hinsley and Zuniga (2010), the popularity of WeChat has grown significantly over the past years, registering over 350 million active uses in 2013. According to Swan (2002), WeChat is not only used in China, but in more than 200 other countries. Such an increase in popularity of WeChat is attributable to the growth of the young generations since they highly use social media platform to interact with numerous people. Ko, Cho and Roberts (2005) noted that the popularity of WeChat has increased among social media marketers, since it offers a suitable platform to reach customers easily.

A recent research by Correa, Hinsley and Zuniga (2010) noted that there is a rise in the popularity of WeChat in China. Lin and Bhattacherjee (2008) observed that even though there is a rising popularity of WeChat among users in China, very limited studies are available, especially about its impact on consumers (Kim, Sohn & Choi 2011; Zhu & Chhachhar 2016). The lack of such studies limits marketers understanding of consumers’ behavior especially in a country with a restricted internet services such as China (Reisinger 2003). In China, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked based on the China’s internet censorship policy (Lin & Lu 2011).

Additionally, Laaksonen, Jarimo and Kulmata (2009) noted that there is an increased use of WeChat service among citizens in China, which is instigated by the need to share information and directly communicate with their audience. Liu, Chen and Wei (2015) attribute such a trend to the fact that marketers and producers are using platforms such as WeChat to sell their products and services to the online customer base. Luo (2002) agreeing to this assertion affirmed that most businesses do not rely on offline marketing strategies anymore.

Motivation

Motivation is defined as the willingness or desire that a given individual has towards doing a certain thing (Singh 2009). In this paper, the focus is on the factors that attract individuals to use WeChat. WeChat has become commonly used in China, with trends promising even a positive increase in the number of WeChat users in the future. There have been numerous concerns regarding the popularity of WeChat in China despite the country’s social media restrictions (Lu & Chu 2012).

Previous studies on the motivation and loyalty of social media users’ have showed that social media users have diverse interests and desires as far as their use of various social media platforms are concerned (Liu & Zhang 2014). Just like in the case of any other media platforms, users of WeChat are likely to have a positive attitude and a certain desire for them to continue with the use of the platform (Koermer & McCroskey 2006).

Often, many people are psychologically motivated to use social media. Previous research on the issue indicates that studies on social media mainly focus on the examination of what motivates the users to adopt a social media platform (Junfeng, Zhimei & Changzhou 2014). As such, little research has been conducted to examine the factors that influence people to continue using a given social media platform.

In an effort to understand the psychological motivators of WeChat users, this study focuses on Uses and Gratification (U&G) theory, which may be applied in various areas including both the traditional and the modern media of communication such as newspapers and the internet (Yang & Yoo 2004). The development of the U&G theory was based on the psychological and social origins of needs (Luo 2002).

The Uses and Gratification theory is very significant as far as the subject of social media is concerned. It takes into consideration the fact that users of social media are active when they know what exactly motivates them. It also explains that people have their primary reasons for choosing a specific media such as to ensure the satisfaction of their psychological needs. According to Luo (2002), Uses and Gratification theory is useful when it comes to establishing the factors that explain different behaviors of customers, like the attitudes that consumers have to a given media.

Chang and Zhu (2011) asserted that the attitude that users of WeChat have is based on individual evaluation, which may be positive or negative, or the characteristic they know about WeChat. Attitudes develop over a period of time when they are learned and experienced (Reisinger 2003). For this reason, attitudes are always different among individuals since they determine whether a consumer will like or dislike certain products or services.

The strength of the attitudes however, differs from one individual to the other. From the perspective of the marketers, they can use communication to change the attitudes of customers which are otherwise hard to change (Yang & Yoo 2004). Such communication may involve the use of advertisements or ensure the gratification of their psychological needs and expectations.

The growth and development of information technology has led to globalization, which comes with high need to interact, stimulating the rapid growth in the use of internet (Zelizer 2011; Yang & Liu 2013). It is such growth that has led to the replacement of the traditional methods of communication. Internet use has become common among many people due to the fact that it is entertaining, provides reliable information, and offers room for social interaction (Chin 2014).

Suh and Han (2003) indicated that the provision of information and entertainment are some of the factors that improve the motivation levels of customers, and social media users. Luo (2002) pointed out that there is a positive relationship between the attitudes that users have toward the web and the search for information and entertainment. Many scholars and researchers have used the Uses and Gratification theory to offer explanations on the psychological motivations that users have regarding their use of different network sites (Chan & Choi 2011; Chang & Zhu 2011).

According to Chang and Zhu (2011), factors such as the ability to meet new friends, provision of information, and conformity have similar impact of providing positive effects on both the users and the marketers. However, the motivation provided by entertainment has a considerable positive impact on the attitude of both pre-adopters and post-adopters (Gremler, Gwinner & Brown 2001). Due to the differences of culture and social life, different countries have different attitudes towards the adoption of social media. In China, a study by Chang and Zhu (2011) indicated that social gratification of users is obtained when their psychological needs are met, helping them gain a positive attitude towards the social media.

Based on the discussion above, it is evident that many users of social media and other social networking sites are motivated by the search for a platform to get information, entertainment, as well as meet new and old friends. Similarly, studies by Luo (2002) and Chang and Zhu (2011) showed that most users of WeChat are motivated by information, sociality and entertainment. In this case, the entertainment factor is attributed to the fact that WeChat offers a suitable platform that is entertaining and full of fan for its users. Second, WeChat’s information is timely, convenient and resourceful (Chu & Choi 2011). On the other hand, sociality is considered to be the act of seeking connection with old friends while at the same time maintaining the existing ones (Yang, Sato, Yamawaki & Miyata 2013). WeChat provides its users with a platform to connect, and share information with new, old and existing friends.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction is defined as the sense of fulfillment users of a particular product and/or service have. According to Suh and Han (2003) trust is one of the key determinants of the attitudes consumers have on social media. As a result of trust in a given service, users develop some degree of satisfaction. Correa, Hinsley and Zuniga (2010) argued that satisfaction from the use of online forums has a positive impact on the attitude of the users. In a study conducted by Shin (2010) on privacy, trust, and satisfaction concerns consumers have on the use of social networking sites, it was evident that satisfaction significantly determines the duration an individual uses a particular social media platform.

In a case where users are highly satisfied and where their desires a met by a particular social media platform, it is highly likely that the users will continue using the media. However, if users are not satisfied with a given media, chances of dropping such a media are often very high. The level of user satisfaction also determines the rate at which users recommend a particular social media to family and friends. Often, word of mouth communication (WOM), though is informal can be used in such recommendations (Maxham 2001). For this reason, users of social media platforms and other social networking sites get satisfaction from such media if their motivations are met. For the case of WeChat, the satisfaction of its users is determined on whether or not they get entertainment, information and a sociality platform.

Loyalty

Loyalty in any product or service can be measured by assessing the trust an individual has for the concerned product and/or service. The most adopted definition of trust is that it is exhibited when there is a high degree of confidence among different entities. Such confidence encourages the exchange of integrity and reliability among the partners. From the definition, gaining confidence, reliability, and integrity over one another is really significant to conceptualize trust and hence customer loyalty. Due to the gained trust, customers tend to support service providers who they trust. The trust and loyalty, in this paper could be experienced from different perspective; intra-organizational and interpersonal.

In the case of this study, the emphasis is on establishing the possibility of intra-organizational type of trust. It also examines the degree of trust WeChat users have with their services. Trust is essential because it helps in reducing insecurity and cognitive risks, thus encouraging long-term relationships to grow between the users and the service providers (Matos & Rossi 2008). The establishment of trust thus brings positive impacts with respect to the willingness of customers to use word of mouth communication, as well as their intention to use social networking sites (Chu & Choi 2011; Xu, Kang, Song & Clarke 2015).

As noted above, loyalty in the use of WeChat can be considered from the perspective of the trust that users of WeChat have with regard to the services offered by WeChat. According to a study by Chang and Zhu (2011), over the recent years a sense of loyalty among WeChat users has been noticed. Most social media users in China have developed a lot of interest in WeChat, not just because most Western social media platforms are blocked in China, but because of the services that WeChat offers to its users. For this reason, it can be seen that increased level of loyalty among WeChat users can be attributed to the platform’s ability to satisfy users’ desires and needs for a social media platform.

Relationships among Motivation, Satisfaction and Loyalty

Relationship between Motivation and Satisfaction

As noted earlier, Singh (2009) defined motivation as the underlying reasons that drive a given individual towards certain things. In addition, it can be defined as the reasons for a certain individual’s behavior (Lien & Cao 2014). On the other hand, satisfaction refers to the sense of fulfillment that an individual develops following the use of a given product or service (Singh 2009). As such, there is a significant correlation as far as the level of satisfaction and motivation is concerned. Lien and Cao (2014) observed that an individual whose motivations are fulfilled is more likely to be satisfied than an individual whose motivations have not been met.

User satisfaction is always defined the physiological feedback regarding a certain users expectations prior to the use of a given product or service and the practical experience gained after using the given product or service (Anderson & Srinivasan 2010). In the case of WeChat users, Wong and Mok (2000) noted that they are motivated towards the use of WeChat by its capacity to offer a reliable platform to socialize, get entertainment and resourceful information. The platform has numerous features that make is suitable for chats, and others designed for entertainment and information (Tencent 2013). For this reason, it is evident that many WeChat users are satisfied with WeChat since it fulfills their desire for information, entertainment and sociality. Evidently, motivation and satisfaction are significantly related.

Relationship between Satisfaction and Loyalty

Loyalty points to the factors that encourage or discourage an individual as far as the use of certain product or service is concerned (Wong 2009). Walsh, Evanschitzky and Wunderlich (2008) defined customer loyalty as a consistent purchase behavior or a repeat purchase behavior that is instigated by suitable attitudes regarding a given product or service. Loyal consumers of a given product or service will tend to use such a product or service for a long time. However, non-loyal consumers use a given service or product for a short duration before switching to other products (Wong, Yeung & Lam 2012).

One of the factors that determine the loyalty and trust that an individual has on a given service or product is the level of satisfaction that the individual gets from the use of the concerned product or service. For highly satisfying products and services, users will tend to develop high trust and hence become loyal. On the other hand, services that do not satisfy the needs and demands of users will rarely boost the trust of consumers (Wang & Sun 2009).

Therefore, it can be seen that users’ satisfaction determines their degree of loyalty. In spite of this, the capability of users to make choices puts them at liberty as far as their choice to be loyal to a given product is concerned (Lien & Cao 2014; Fecikova 2004). Thus, to achieve total customer loyalty products and services offered ought to fully satisfy the needs, demands, and motivations of users.

In the case of WeChat users, the degree of satisfaction determines their loyalty and trusts on WeChat. Chang and Zhu (2011) indicated that WeChat offers resourceful, timely and convenient information, quality entertainment and the ability to enhance communication and effective interaction among users. Most users of WeChat are motivated by the need for a social media platform that would provide them with the avenue to chat as well as share information with friends, family members and colleagues conveniently (Nimrod 2015). Evidently, sociality and entertainment are the key psychological factors that motivate WeChat users, and thus it can be seen that there is a strong correlation regarding the satisfaction and loyalty of WeChat users.

Chapter summary

This chapter provided the review of literature on WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and the loyalty. The concepts of social media, and the social media growth and development in China were covered in this chapter. In addition, the chapter presented an overview of the factors that explain the increased popularity of WeChat in China. An in-depth analysis of past studies indicated that even though most Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are blocked in China, the country is experiencing a tremendous growth in the number of internet and social media users. From the literature review, it was evident that there are limited studies on the subject of social media and its popularity among users.

A review of literature discovered that most users of WeChat are motivated by the search for sociality, information and entertainment. As such, the chapter showed that there is a significant relationship between users’ motivation, satisfaction and their loyalty as far as WeChat is concerned. The findings from the literature review will be compared with the survey results on chapter four. The findings from this research will be useful as an addition to the existing knowledge as far as the motivations, loyalty and satisfaction of social media users are concerned, with a special focus on the case of WeChat social media platform in China.

Methodology

Introduction

In any research study, the findings and results provided ought to be reliable and valid. Such validity and reliability is determined by how credible and accurate the collected data is. For this reason, it is important for any study to make use of suitable research design and methodology that would ensure collection of accurate and credible data. Research design refers to the systematic process through which a researcher is able to collect and analyze data in a logical manner for purposes of achieving the research aims and objectives (Mitchell & Jolly 2010).

There are various examples of study designs including explorative, experimental, cross-sectional, and descriptive researches (Gratton & Jones 2004). Such a wide variety of research designs is significant in that researchers can choose the design that fits the scope of their study. On the other hand, research methodology involves the processes and techniques that a researcher uses to collect and analyze data for a particular research problem (Kothari 2005).

In the methodology chapter, the focus will be on the research methodologies, as well as the research design employed. As such, the chapter will present the methods of collecting and analyzing data, research design used, sampling techniques, sample frame and sample size, as well as the target population for the study. The research on WeChat user’s motivation, satisfaction and loyalty will focus on what the service has achieved, and its significance among users. In addition, the study will rely on quantitative data. This will be supplemented by a survey to establish the opinion of different users of WeChat. As such, the research will employ the quantitative research design to collect data from different sources.

Secondary and Primary Researches

There are two different types of research, which include primary research and secondary research. In this case, the study will involve both primary and secondary types of researches. The choice for such a study was informed by the fact that comparing results from past literature and survey findings would suitable for more comprehensive inferences.

Secondary Research

The secondary research refers to any study that relies on already conducted research, whose data is available to the public. This type of research involves collection of data from reports already published in the internet, surveys, as well as different libraries. In addition, secondary research includes scientific reports provided by different institutions. As such, secondary research can be considered to be the type of research that is based on existing literature. Thus, the secondary data interprets the findings and results of primary research.

In this case, the study focused on past literature that covered the aspect of social media in China, as well as an overview of the factors that have led to the high popularity of WeChat services among social media users in China. Therefore, the study focused on studies that provide an overview of the motivation, satisfaction and loyalty of WeChat users. The findings from the secondary research will be compared with results from the survey carried out.

Primary Research

Unlike the secondary research, primary research refers to original and new research that provides facts, and first-hand data on a given study, as provided by the researcher. In the case of such a study, researchers make use of diverse research instruments to collect the required data. For instance, a researcher can make use of interviews, surveys, as well as questionnaires among other research tools. In this case, the study used questionnaires to collect information on WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty, with a specific focus on people who use WeChat and live in Jiangsu, China. The questions designed are meant to collect information from the sampled respondents, as a way to establish what motivates them to use WeChat, whether or they are satisfied, as well as their level of loyalty as far as the use of WeChat social media is concerned.

Reasons of Choosing the Quantitative Research Method

As outlined earlier, the primary objectives of this study was to examine WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty. For this reason, the scope of the study needed the use of a research design that would ensure that the correct and reliable data was collected. The quantitative research design was considered suitable for this research. First, quantitative research is particularistic and deductive and relies of the formulation of hypotheses. As such, the choice of such a design was informed by the fact that quantitative research is very effective when it comes to verification of hypotheses based on a set of data. Some of the advantages that the study would achieve by using quantitative research are based on the strengths of quantitative research methods.

By using quantitative research, the study was able to state the research problem more specifically, highlight the dependent and independent variables, as well as set research goals to be achieved. Quantitative research allows the collection of data that is valid and more reliable because the research design controls observations, mass surveys, alongside other sorts of research manipulations. In addition, quantitative research approach was suitable for this study since it minimizes subjectivity in terms of judgment and allows researchers to measure the effectiveness of the subjects used inn any research study.

A study by Creswell (2009) pointed out that quantitative research approach is a better method in any research because it effectively finalizes study findings by determining whether or not the hypothesis used for any study are proved or disapproved. In this case, the quantitative approach was used because the study needed to examine whether or not there is any positive impact of motivation impact on WeChat users’ level of satisfaction, as well as, whether or not satisfaction has a positive impact on WeChat users’ loyalty

Questionnaire Design

The study used questionnaire as the instrument for data collection on the subject of WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty. The choice to use questionnaire as a data collection instrument was based on the fact that questionnaires are suitable in the collection of quantitative data. In the light of Denzin and Lincoln (2008), questionnaires are good research instruments, which are suitable for use in studies requiring the gain of insights into attitudes and perceptions of the study’s respondents.

In addition, questionnaires are suitable in the exploration of outcomes, experiences, as well as personal differences regarding a given phenomenon under investigation. In this case, the study seeks to understand the factors that motivate WeChat users to continue using the service, as well as be willing to recommend it to other people. As such, personal opinion is needed in this study, and can only be captured well through a questionnaire.

Questionnaire-based Survey

The collection of data from the targeted population will use surveys in the form of questionnaires.

Types of Question

To explore the opinions as far WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty is concerned, the questionnaire will have clear and succinct list of questions to guide in the collection of the right data for the study. Therefore, the questionnaire will be guided with closed questions where necessary. These questions will be designed interviews, as they will probe to get specific information from the respondents. The guided questionnaire will thus have questions that are clear and succinct and in line with the research objectives. Depending on the logistical challenges, the questionnaires will be either face-to-face or through video-conferencing.

The information collected in the interview process will be typed, recorded, and preserved for analysis to help in establishing whether or not the study’s objectives were achieved, as well as to prove of disapprove the study’s hypotheses.

Questionnaire Design

Kothari (2005) asserted that the success of any survey depends on how well the study’s questionnaire is designed. In spite of this, there is no theory that can be used as a guide towards development of a flawless questionnaire. In designing a questionnaire, researchers are should be guided by the information to be collected (Creswell 2009). For example, Neumann (2007) observed that questionnaires can be used in the collection of exploratory information as in the case of qualitative research, or in the testing of particular hypotheses as in the case of quantitative research.

In this case, the design of the questionnaire was guided by the fact that the study needed to collect quantitative information. The study aimed to collect information on the motivation, satisfaction and loyalty of WeChat users in China. As such, the questionnaire design was based on questions that probed the respondents to provide only the necessary information as far as their motivation, satisfaction and loyalty towards WeChat was concerned. The empirical literature indicated that most social media users are motivated by entertainment, sociality, and the search for information. If such motivations are fulfilled, users tend to be satisfied and development some form of trust and/or loyalty towards a given social media service. Therefore, the research model below was very instrumental in designing the questionnaire.

Research Model.
Figure 1: Research Model.

With reference to the research model above, the study hoped to collect information that would reflect users’ motivation to entertainment, socialize, search for information, reference to network size, and perceived complementary. For this reason, the questionnaire design in the appendices section was adopted.

Pilot Survey

A pilot survey refers to a survey that a researcher carries out before the actual research study. Kothari (2005) asserted that pilot surveys are very important in any study. This can be attributed to the fact that pilot surveys are used in testing the process of research to determine the feasibility of the design, identify the variables the study plans to use, as well as make decision on the operationalization of each variables. Pilot surveys are very useful in a study because they help in testing any methodological changes prior to the actual study. In addition, a pilot survey is carried out for purposes of testing the efficiency of the research protocols and instruments for the study such as to establish where the adopted questions are suitable for the collection of the intended information.

In this case, a pilot study was carried out on a number of people in Jiangsu, China to test the clarity of the instructions and the suitability of the questionnaire as an instrument to collect information on the motivation, satisfaction and loyalty of WeChat users. From the pilot survey, it was evident that the questions were easy to answer and focused on the problem the study hoped to solve. However, the results from the survey indicated logistic issues that needed to be addressed before the actual study. For example, some respondents could not be reached face-to-face to administer the questionnaire. For such cases, video-conferencing and/or electronic mail would be used during the actual study

Data Collection

The research aimed at determining the motivation, satisfaction and loyalty among WeChat users’. To find out the factors that might be pushing social media users to use WeChat, the study adopted a number of research questions and hypotheses to act as a guide. For this reason, the study needed a type of data collection that would ensure that comprehensive data was gathered. Denzin and Lincoln (2008) pointed out that point of collection, the researcher and research approaches always influence the method of data collection. The main types of data collection methods used in the study included both the primary and secondary sources of data collection

Sampling Size

In a study, the target population refers to the total number of people or units from which a study hopes to collect information (Denzin & Lincoln 2008). The study on WeChat users’ motivation, satisfaction and loyalty targets people who use WeChat and live in Jiangsu, China. A sample refers to a section of the target population (Denk 2010). Using appropriate sampling techniques ensures that a representative sample is used. A sampling design takes into consideration the sample size, sampling techniques and the sampling frame (Neumann 2007). In this study, large size of data was needed since the study focused on a large geographical area. As such, the study relied on 300 respondents to collect data on their motivation, satisfaction and loyalty as far as the use of WeChat was concerned.

Sampling Technique

The sampling technique that was chosen for this study is the simple random sampling procedure. The choice of this type of sapling technique was informed by the fact that there was a need for a research that would be very inclusive, bearing in mind that the study aims at covering a wide geographical area, which has many people. The random sampling was ideal since its application would give all the subjects in the sample frame an equal chance of being represented in the sample. Just as pointed out by Mitchell and Jolly (2010), the simple random sampling technique is an effective sampling procedure in that it can effectively get a representative sample out of a large sample group.

In the case of the current study, the sample frame had numerous people and it was important to give all of the subjects an equal chance of being represented in the sample size. In addition, the simple random sampling method was chosen because according to Mitchell and Jolly (2010), it avoids error classification, and thus it is free from human bias by giving each unit an equal chance of being selected. Therefore, effective administration of the process leads to the realization of a sample size that has all the features of targeted population.

The random sampling technique was used in finding out the sample size. On the other hand, the purposive sampling method will be applied to identify the subjects to be interviewed. Often, the purposive sapling method is considered effective since it relies on researcher’s judgment to select subjects and units for any given study. Thus, this type of sampling technique focuses entirely on specific attributes of target population and the units or subjects to be studied as far as their suitability for a given study is concerned.

Therefore, in this case the purposive sapling method focused on the suitability of the respondents to answer questions related to motivation, satisfaction and their loyalty towards the use of WeChat. Creswell (2009) pointed out that there are benefits that a researcher gets from the use of purposive sampling such as the collection of specific information according to the study’s requirements.

For the current study, specific information about WeChat user motivational factors, their satisfaction and trust towards WeChat was needed. As such, the combined use of purposive and simple random sampling techniques provided comprehensive data for the study to draw meaningful conclusion.

Analysis

The research aimed at analyzing the motivation, satisfaction and loyalty among WeChat users. Both primary and secondary sources of data were used to provide the necessary information about WeChat. After collecting the data, different methods of data analysis were used such as Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and MS Excel. On the other hand, descriptive statistics would be carried out to ascertain the possibility of any relationship between the variables under investigation and the MS Excel will be used to present the results in the form of graphs and charts.

Reliability and Validity

Reliability points to the idea of consistency of results over time, as well as the concept of study’s total population being accurately represented in the study, while validity focuses on the truthfulness of the results in relation to the suitability of the research instrument to collect reliable data. In the case of the current study, reliability and validity were achieved through the use of questionnaires and a representative study sample. According to Kothari (2005), questionnaires are suitable data collection tools that can be used to collect valid and reliable data since they avoid researcher bias. The questionnaire provided an opportunity for the researcher to examine the opinions, perspective and experience of the respondents in relation to their loyalty and level of satisfaction towards the use of WeChat. On the other hand, the use of a representative sample ensured that the total population was effectively represented.

Limitations and ethical consideration

Ethical considerations can be identified as one of the most significant parts of a research. Before carrying out the actual study, the full consent should be obtained from relevant authorities to the study by consent form (Bryman & Bell 2007). In addition, the protection of the information of research participants has to be ensured and the results from the study kept anonymous (Bryman & Bell 2007). On the other hand, the study was limited in terms of time needed to carry out the study. In addition, the results of the study were limited to the suitability of questionnaires to collect the required information. As well, the accuracy and reliability of the findings was limited to respondents’ feedback.

Conclusion

The methodology chapter focused on the research methodologies, as well as the research design employed. As such, the chapter presented the methods of collecting and analyzing data, research design used, sampling techniques, sample frame and sample size, as well as the target population for the study. The chapter presented the reasons for the choice of quantitative research approach, and highlighted why questionnaires were used for this specific study.

In addition, the methodology chapter in this study covered the validity and reliability of the study, and outlined the limitations and ethical considerations of the study. It was evident that the reliability and validity of the study’s data and results depended on the study sample, the method of data collection, and the respondents’ feedback on the phenomenon under study.

Appendices

Questionnaire

Part Ⅰ Demographic Characteristics of Respondents

Characteristics

  • Gender
    • Male
    • Female
  • Age
    • under 18
    • 18-30
    • 31-40
    • 41-50
    • above 50
  • What is your marital status
    • Married
    • Un-married
  • Education level
    • High school or below
    • Diploma
    • Bachelor degree
    • Postgraduate degree or above
  • How much time do you spend on WeChat each day?
    • less than 30 min
    • 30 min – 1h
    • 1-2 hours
    • 2-3 hour
    • more than 3 hours
  • How long have you used WeChat?
    • less than 6 months
    • 6 months – 1 year
    • 1-2 years
    • More than 2 years
  • Average monthly income (RMB)
    • <1000
    • 1001-2000
    • 2001-3000
    • 3001-5000
    • 5001-8000
    • More than 8000
  • How many friends do you have on WeChat?
    • <50
    • 50-100
    • 101-150
    • 151-200
    • >200

Part Ⅱ Proposed Measurement Items for Factors

Please answer the following questions using the 5-point scale

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
1 2 3 4 5

Please answer the following questions based on your own opinion

Entertainment
WeChat is fun to use 1 2 3 4 5
Using WeChat is entertaining 1 2 3 4 5
Using WeChat is pleasing 1 2 3 4 5
Using WeChat is interesting 1 2 3 4 5
Sociality
I can meet new friends through WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I can find old friends through WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I can keep in touch with my friends through WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
Information
WeChat is a convenient source of information 1 2 3 4 5
WeChat is a good source of information 1 2 3 4 5
WeChat provides timely information 1 2 3 4 5
Referent network size
Most of my friends are using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
Most of my classmates are using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
Satisfaction
I am satisfied with using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I am contented with using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I am pleased with using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
Loyalty
I will continue using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I will recommend using WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
I will consider using WeChat as my first choice when contacting other people 1 2 3 4 5
Perceived complementarity
A wide range of games is available on WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
A wide range of images, skins and emotional icons is available on WeChat 1 2 3 4 5
A wide range of support tools (such as photograph sharing and file transference) is available on WeChat 1 2 3 4 5

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