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

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The use of social networks has risen dramatically over the last few years as users have reached out to friends, new acquaintances and businesses through this new means of communication. If firms are to successfully utilize social networks as a channel through which they reach their customers, they must fully understand the reasons that these customers choose to use social networks. Using the relationship between attitude and behavioral intentions established in the Theory of Reasoned Action and applied to technology use by the Technology Acceptance Model, this research examines constructs that influence consumer attitudes toward social networks and their intentions to use, continue using, and recommend social networks. The findings indicate that the level of enjoyment derived from using social networks is the strongest positive influence and that the drama associated with behaviors of others on the social network can be the strongest negative influence. These findings also show that the constructs of ease of use and usefulness made popular by the Technology Acceptance Model play no significant role influencing user attitudes or intentions with regard to social networks.

INTRODUCTION

In the last 10-15 years, use of social networking sites has exploded in the United States and globally. Users range from tech-sawy 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 Internetbased applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 \ 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 My Space (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. …