Purpose - Small businesses are increasingly focusing on social media marketing to create brand awareness and acquire market share. With consumers sharing their experiences and recommendations on social media platforms, there are implications for brand perceptions, along with a scramble to spread and create brand image.
Approach - This research examines the utilization of opinion leaders by small businesses on social media and posits that association with opinion leaders enhances brand image and facilitates branding in online communities. To explore the impact of social media marketing on small businesses, as well as SME marketing limitations, interviews were conducted with opinion leaders and SMEs to collect primary data. The research used a grounded theory approach, asking participants how they utilize opinion leaders’ eWOM to enhance their brand’s image in online communities.
Findings - The research framework of this study indicated that opinion leaders are important drivers of eWOM diffusion in online communities, with all propositions supported by qualitative analysis. eWOM in online communities has a strong impact because SMEs utilize opinion leaders for brand awareness and recognition. Therefore, social media’s importance to SME ability to expand customer base through eWOM credibility and opinion leaders and to increase customer loyalty by enhancing SME popularity is increasing.
Value - This paper fills a gap in the social media marketing literature by exploring eWOM in the context of Kuwait. The analysis shows that eWOM has a substantial moderating effect on SMEs’ brand image and that it increases brand awareness.