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Social capital and engagement in Nigerian small business marketing.

James, Imaobong Nsikak



Alistair Anderson

Lin Xiong


This study explores social capital and engagement in Nigerian small business marketing. It examines how Nigerian small business owner-managers develop and use social capital in the network of relationships to overcome marketing constraints. Social capital can be viewed as a marketing asset available in network relationships. The process perspective of social capital enables understanding of the formation and use of social resources in networks. Social resources in networks are accessed through relationships built on trust and commitment over time. Although small businesses in Nigeria contribute to the nation's economic and social development, they operate under severe resource constraints. These constraints are mainly due to business size and limited resources, such as limited market impact, limited marketing skills and expertise, and limited access to resources. However, small business' inherent advantages, such as strong drive and enthusiasm, enable social connections with networks. This study builds on and develops engagement as an advanced form of relationship marketing in Nigerian small businesses. The concepts fit the context of a developing country with low resource availability and limited access to marketing resources. However, despite the increasing use of the concept "engagement", empirical-based understanding of processes underpinning engagement in small business context remains underexplored. A qualitative research approach is adopted to investigate the processes and dynamics of Nigerian small business owner-managers' engagement with various networks for marketing. The complex nature of the phenomenon requires a range of qualitative techniques for data collection and analysis to understand the meaning of small business owner-managers' actions during networking. Qualitative data were obtained through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with small business owner-managers in Nigeria. The thematic data analysis approach was adopted using the constant comparative analysis method to compare emerging themes and categories. This approach provides a description and understanding of data interpretations. It explains how Nigerian small business owner-managers engage with multiple networks in a long-term relational exchange relationship for marketing. The research findings identify engagement as a dynamic and iterative process resulting from network interactions, the strength of network ties, network interdependence and stability. This study's novelty lies in explaining the formation and use of social capital by engaging various networks in small business marketing. It further explores and develops the concept of engagement as a much stronger network relationship to involve networks in marketing. This study proposes a research model that explains the social capital formation and engagement processes of various networks in small business marketing. It develops and demonstrates small business marketing beyond transactions and offers theoretical contributions to the concept of social capital formation and use in small business engagement marketing. Finally, this study proposes recommendations for practice, theory and suggestions for further research.


JAMES, I.N. 2021. Social capital and engagement in Nigerian small business marketing. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2021
Publicly Available Date Sep 7, 2021
Keywords Marketing; Relationship marketing; Social networks; Social capital; Small businesses; Entrepreneurship; Nigeria
Public URL
Publisher URL
Award Date Apr 30, 2021


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