Participating in the Conversation: Exploring Usage of Social Media Networking Sites

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In the last 10-15 years, use of social networking sites has exploded in the United States and globally. Users range from tech-savvy young adults to baby boomers and older adults seeking ways to reconnect with family and friends (Anderson, 2009). In this study, we examine one of the important user groups, college students, and their attitudes toward using social networking. Drawing upon the Theory of Reasoned Action, Theory of Planned Behavior, the Composite Model of Attitude Behavior Relations and the Technology Acceptance Model, we develop and test a model to explain college students' intentions to use social networking. Our findings shed light on factors that have contributed to the rapid increase in social networking.

Social media allows users to go from simply content consumers to content producers by publishing information. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 (1), and that allow the creation and exchange of user generated content." According to Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) there are six types of social media: collaborative projects, blogs and microblogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds. Our focus in this study is social networking sites, which are applications that enable users to connect by creating personal information profiles, inviting friends and colleagues to have access to those profiles, and sending e-mails and instant messages between each other Kaplan and Haenlein (2010).

Popular examples of social networking sites are MySpace (created in 2003) and Facebook (created in 2004). Facebook is ranked as the third most popular online brand in the world, with over 54% of the world's internet population visiting Facebook (Neilsen, 2010). In April 2010, social networking sites were visited by three-quarters of global consumers who went online, which is an increase of 24% over April 2009 (Neilsen, 2010). The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago, almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes in April 2009 (Neilsen, 2010). In July, 2010, Facebook surpassed having 500 Million users worldwide (Zuckerberg, 2010). It took the site about three months to climb from 300 to 350 million users and only about two months to gain another 50 million, then another three months to make it to 500 million. MySpace is still a top 10 website in the United States, with about 57 Million unique visitors and over one-quarter of the US internet population still interacting with MySpace on a daily basis (Prescott, 2010). Among college students, Anderson Analytics (Anderson, 2009) in their annual American College Student Survey found that Facebook was viewed as "cool" by 82% of males and 90% of females. According to Anderson, Facebook is the hands-down winner with the 18-25 year olds.

The following sections of the paper outline model development, methodology, results, and discussion.

MODEL DEVELOPMENT

We developed the model in Figure 1 to provide a framework for examining factors influencing consumer usage of social networks. Drawing upon the Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Fishbein 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen 1975), Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen 1991), and Composite Model of Attitude Behavior Relations (Eagly & Chaiken 1996), this model illustrates how beliefs are expected to influence a user's attitude toward a social network and how that attitude is expected to influence the user's intentions to engage in different social networking behaviors. A similar model, the Technology Acceptance Model and has proven useful in understanding consumer usage of technology (Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw (1989) and consumer usage of technology-based customer interfaces (Curran, Meuter, and Surprenant 2003; Curran and Meuter 2007).

Antecedent Beliefs

The model includes five beliefs which are hypothesized to influence attitude toward the social network. …