The technologies and functions of social media have significantly changed interaction on the Internet. These changes affect the perceived attractiveness of websites. Prior research regarding classic Internet offers has only partly considered these specifics. The determinants of attractive social media websites and corresponding online instruments remain under-investigated. Therefore, this study describes a conceptualization of website attractiveness in the context of social media and its relevance for potential usage. The research model was empirically tested by a standardized user survey (n=237) with the help of a structural equation model. The results show that social media website attractiveness is determined by the 2nd-order dimensions interaction orientation, social networking and user-added value. Moreover, a link to the intention to use social media offers can be established. Overall, the results shed light on the key aspects of users' expectations towards the integration of social media into electronic commerce and provide insights into how the corresponding social media instruments are to be evaluated.
Keywords: Web 2.0, social media, attractiveness of websites, structural equation modeling
The user's handling of the Internet as a medium, as well as his own self-image, have undergone major changes in the past few years. The increasing emphasis of interactive, social and networked phenomena of this technology is summarized under the term Web 2.0 [Hoegg et al. 2006, p. 12] or social media, which is used interchangeably [Constantinides & Fountain 2008]. Applications of social media have had an impact on a large variety of areas of life even if they are not directly linked to internet usage like public health surveillance or organizing vacations [Parra-López et al. 2011; Yang et al. 2011]. Furthermore the relevance of social media applications can be verified based on the number of users and the intensity of use. On the one hand, social media platforms are growing at an above-average rate. For example, Facebook shows a monthly increase in users of nearly 10 % in markets not fully penetrated, such as Brazil or India [SocialBakers 2011]. On the other hand, the term of use for social media offers is longer than that of classic web contents [Nielsen 2010], so that, for example, there is a higher potential for online advertising revenues. However, for marketers in the field of electronic commerce an integration of social media features is challenging, since it is often unclear which features are accepted by the users. Furthermore, it is hard to determine which instruments yield corresponding returns in terms of corporate image. To address this knowledge gap is a central motivation of this article.
The development of the terms social media and Web 2.0 has been characterized by a lack of conceptual clarity from the start [O'Reilly 2006]. The phenomenon of Web 2.0 which is often interchangeably referred to as social media has been analyzed in various fields of research such as computer science, business management, or sociology. As a result an extensive, uniform and precise definition has hardly yet been made [Song 2010]. It shows, however, that various fundamental dimensions are almost continuously used in relevant scientific literature. This includes concepts like networks, platforms, applications, interaction, user profiles, information distribution and active participation [Boyd & Ellison 2007, p. 210; Koh et al. 2007, p. 68; Park 2007, p. 175; Allen 2008]. In accordance with [Kaplan & Haenlein 2010, p. 61] social media is defined as "a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content". In that regard, web 2.0 refers to the basic technical platform of social media and user generated content refers to its underlying purpose. Therefore, this definition integrates technological, action-theoretical as well as interaction-related aspects which are classified on subject-related, functional as well as teleological levels. …