An exploration of the technical, social and macro-societal pressures influencing the adoption of online social networking services by organisations

MacKenzie, Kim Simone (2011) An exploration of the technical, social and macro-societal pressures influencing the adoption of online social networking services by organisations. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Measuring the business value that Internet technologies deliver for organisations has proven to be a difficult and elusive task, given their complexity and increased embeddedness within the value chain. Yet, despite the lack of empirical evidence that links the adoption of Information Technology (IT) with increased financial performance, many organisations continue to adopt new technologies at a rapid rate. This is evident in the widespread adoption of Web 2.0 online Social Networking Services (SNSs) such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These new Internet based technologies, widely used for social purposes, are being employed by organisations to enhance their business communication processes. However, their use is yet to be correlated with an increase in business performance. Owing to the conflicting empirical evidence that links prior IT applications with increased business performance, IT, Information Systems (IS), and E-Business Model (EBM) research has increasingly looked to broader social and environmental factors as a means for examining and understanding the broader influences shaping IT, IS and E-Business (EB) adoption behaviour. Findings from these studies suggest that organisations adopt new technologies as a result of strong external pressures, rather than a clear measure of enhanced business value. In order to ascertain if this is the case with the adoption of SNSs, this study explores how organisations are creating value (and measuring that value) with the use of SNSs for business purposes, and the external pressures influencing their adoption. In doing so, it seeks to address two research questions: 1. What are the external pressures influencing organisations to adopt SNSs for business communication purposes? 2. Are SNSs providing increased business value for organisations, and if so, how is that value being captured and measured? Informed by the background literature fields of IT, IS, EBM, and Web 2.0, a three-tiered theoretical framework is developed that combines macro-societal, social and technological perspectives as possible causal mechanisms influencing the SNS adoption event. The macro societal view draws on the concept of Castells. (1996) network society and the behaviour of crowds, herds and swarms, to formulate a new explanatory concept of the network vortex. The social perspective draws on key components of institutional theory (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983, 1991), and the technical view draws from the organising vision concept developed by Swanson and Ramiller (1997). The study takes a critical realist approach, and conducts four stages of data collection and one stage of data coding and analysis. Stage 1 consisted of content analysis of websites and SNSs of many organisations, to identify the types of business purposes SNSs are being used for. Stage 2 also involved content analysis of organisational websites, in order to identify suitable sample organisations in which to conduct telephone interviews. Stage 3 consisted of conducting 18 in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews within eight Australian organisations from the Media/Publishing and Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum (GLAM) industries. These sample organisations were considered leaders in the use of SNSs technologies. Stage 4 involved an SNS activity count of the organisations interviewed in Stage 3, in order to rate them as either Advanced Innovator (AI) organisations, or Learning Focussed (LF) organisations. A fifth stage of data coding and analysis of all four data collection stages was conducted, based on the theoretical framework developed for the study, and using QSR NVivo 8 software. The findings from this study reveal that SNSs have been adopted by organisations for the purpose of increasing business value, and as a result of strong social and macro-societal pressures. SNSs offer organisations a wide range of value enhancing opportunities that have broader benefits for customers and society. However, measuring the increased business value is difficult with traditional Return On Investment (ROI) mechanisms, ascertaining the need for new value capture and measurement rationales, to support the accountability of SNS adoption practices. The study also identified the presence of technical, social and macro-societal pressures, all of which influenced SNS adoption by organisations. These findings contribute important theoretical insight into the increased complexity of pressures influencing technology adoption rationales by organisations, and have important practical implications for practice, by reflecting the expanded global online networks in which organisations now operate. The limitations of the study include the small number of sample organisations in which interviews were conducted, its limited generalisability, and the small range of SNSs selected for the study. However, these were compensated in part by the expertise of the interviewees, and the global significance of the SNSs that were chosen. Future research could replicate the study to a larger sample from different industries, sectors and countries. It could also explore the life cycle of SNSs in a longitudinal study, and map how the technical, social and macro-societal pressures are emphasised through stages of the life cycle. The theoretical framework could also be applied to other social fad technology adoption studies.

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ID Code: 46655
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Irvine, Helen & Barraket, Josephine
Keywords: business innovation, crowd behaviour, swarms, institutional theory, internet technology adoption, network society, the organising vision, social networking services (SNSs), value creation and value capture, Web 2.0
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 26 Oct 2011 05:46
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:45

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