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Internet Social Networking - Research State of the Art and Implications for Enterprise 2.0.

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An overview of the literature on Internet social networking (ISN) is presented. The authors identify four dominant streams of research and review the key contributions to the field. The review reveals that the research field is fragmented and does not yet facilitate a general understanding of the phenomenon. In particular research is very much skewed towards certain user groups (e.g., students) and platforms (in particular Facebook). Further, implications for a corporate context are discussed. In doing so, three contexts of application are differentiated: Social network sites (SNSs) for 1) recruiting and professional career development, 2) relationship facilitation in distributed work contexts, and 3) interactions with end customers. The authors discuss SNS potentials, implications of existing ISN research and future research opportunities. In summary, they seek to contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of ISN and to making available the current state of ISN research for the wider Enterprise 2.0 community.
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BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Internet Social Networking
Research State of the Art and Implications for Enterprise 2.0
Social network sites (SNSs) are a recent success story. Internet social networking refers to
the creating, maintaining and interacting with one’s social network using Internet
technologies, in particular SNSs. SNSs are part of the wider class of social software, which is
increasingly being adapted for use in enterprise contexts, such as for connecting employees
or improving relationships with customers. The term Enterprise 2.0 has been coined to
describe these developments. However, transferring social software with their associated
benefits to the corporate context requires a good understanding of the associated user
phenomena.
DOI 10.1007/s12599-011-0151-y
The Authors
Daniel Richter (MScIS) (!
)
Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik
Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftsinformatik
und Interorganisationssysteme
Universität Münster
Leonardo-Campus 3
48149 Münster
Germany
daniel.richter@wi.uni-muenster.de
PD Dr. Kai Riemer
Discipline of Business Information
Systems Business School
The University of Sydney
Building H69
2006 NSW
Australia
kai.riemer@sydney.edu.au
Prof. Dr. Jan vom Brocke
Hilti Chair of Business Process
Management Institute of Information
Systems
University of Liechtenstein
Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse
9490 Vaduz
Liechtenstein
jan.vom.brocke@uni.li
Received: 2010-05-10
Accepted: 2010-12-14
Accepted after two revisions by
Prof. Dr. Buxmann.
Published online: 2011-03-05
This article is also available in Ger-
man in print and via http://www.
wirtschaftsinformatik.de:RichterD,
Riemer K, vom Brocke J (2011) In-
ternet Social Networking. Stand der
Forschung und Konsequenzen für En-
terprise 2.0. WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMA-
TIK. doi: 10.1007/s11576-011-0265-3.
Electronic Supplementary Material
The online version of this article
(doi: 10.1007/s12599-011-0151-y)
contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized
users.
©Gabler Verlag 2011
1 Introduction
Social network sites (SNSs) have gained
much attention from the public over the
past few years. Since the emergence of the
first web sites that supported some form
of creating and interlinking of user pro-
files in the late 1990s (Boyd and Ellison
2007)SNSshavemushroomed(Richter
et al. 2009c), and are among the most
frequently used sites on the Internet. For
example, Facebook as the most promi-
nent example has more than 500 million
members1and is the second most visited
website2on the Internet. The main aim
of SNSs is to facilitate relationships with
acquaintances, friends, family, or profes-
sional contacts. Hence, with the term In-
ternet social networking (ISN) we refer to
the phenomenon of building and main-
taining one’s social network on the public
Internet, which mostly occurs on SNSs,
but can be interpreted more generally as
people can use a range of other services
on the Internet to connect with others
(Richter et al. 2009c). Our focus for the
matter of this paper will be ISN phenom-
ena on SNSs, or more precisely a review
of existing research dealing with such
phenomena. SNSs are typically seen as
part of the wider class of social software
and prototype for the development of in-
tranet social network platforms in the
context of Enterprise 2.0. Both terms are
widely considered in information systems
literature (Boyd 2006b;Davenport2008;
Hippner 2006;McAfee2006b;Richteret
al. 2009b). An overview of the termi-
nology used in our study is provided in
Sect. 2(see also Fig. 1).
ISN research is a relatively new field;
first works appeared in 2003 and since
2007 the field has gained significant mo-
mentum. However, the research land-
scape remains rather fragmented with
ISN research being scattered across sev-
eral communities and with many dif-
ferent aspects of ISN having been re-
searched. Only very few articles have tried
to conceptualize the phenomenon and its
manifestation on SNSs. A coherent un-
derstanding of what typically accounts
for ISN research issues is yet to emerge.
1http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=409753352130.
2http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/facebook.com.
Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 89
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Fig. 1 Positioning of
Enterprise 2.0, Internet
social networking, and
corresponding
technologies
Against this backdrop, we want to 1) give
an overview of existing research and take
stock of what has been achieved in or-
der to promote a stronger conceptual-
ization of the phenomenon of ISN. Fur-
thermore, we want to 2) make accessible
the existing body of ISN-related research
for researchers as well as practitioners en-
gaged in theorizing or facilitating SNS-
based social networking in the context of
Enterprise 2.0.
Enterprise 2.0 as a concept subsumes
the efforts of adopting social software,
originating from the public Internet, for
use in enterprise contexts and for profes-
sional purposes (McAfee 2006b). How-
ever, as the social software phenomenon
is very closely connected to the unique
culture of user participation and bot-
tom up emergence typical for Web 2.0
(see O’Reilly 2005), transferring the phe-
nomenon from the public Internet to the
corporate context requires a good un-
derstanding of the phenomenon and its
manifestation in different technical plat-
forms. We believe that a better under-
standing of the phenomenon of ISN on
the public Internet can lead to conclu-
sions that can usefully inform the deploy-
ment and adoption of SNSs for enterprise
usage. We will refer to the phenomenon
of SNS-based social networking in enter-
prise contexts as Enterprise Social Net-
working (ESN).
Our paper proceeds as follows. We start
by defining key terms. In section three we
present an overview of our study. We then
identify key research areas that structure
the field of ISN research to date; more-
over, we review in more detail some key
contributions in each of the areas and
discuss the current state of research as
well as implications for future work. In
section five we emphasize the potential of
SNSs in an enterprise context in the light
of our literature review. We conclude the
paper with a short summary.
2 Social Network Sites, Definition,
and History
In order to introduce the concept of ISN,
we will first provide working definitions
of relevant concepts we use in our study,
as to date the terminology of concepts
relevant to ISN research appears to be
rather diverse. We then give a brief in-
sight into the short history of this emerg-
ing field.
2.1 Key Concepts
2.1.1 Internet Social Networking
ISN refers to the phenomenon of so-
cial networking on the Internet. As such,
the concept subsumes all activities by
Internet users with regard to extending
or maintaining their social network. So-
cial network theory further characterizes
the concept (Carton and Wellman 1999):
asocialnetworkisdenedasasetofin-
dividuals who establish with each other
links of some kind, such as acquain-
tance or friendship (Newman 2003). As
such, the individuals and their activities
in the social network are interdependent
and the linkages are channels for trans-
fer of immaterial resources (Wasserman
and Faust 1994). It becomes obvious that
ISN is a general phenomenon, which can
materialize in many ways and facilitated
through a range of technologies. In this
paper, we focus on ISN as a phenomenon,
but only in the context of SNSs as the
technological basis.
2.1.2 Social Network Sites
Boyd and Ellison define SNSs as “web-
based services that allow individuals to
(1) construct a public or semi-public pro-
file within a bounded system, (2) articu-
late a list of other users with whom they
share a connection, and (3) view and tra-
verse their list of connections and those
made by others within the system. The
nature and nomenclature of these con-
nections may vary from site to site” (Boyd
and Ellison 2007,p.211).Typicalex-
amples for such sites are Facebook, My-
Space, XING, StudiVZ etc. Please note
that some have criticized this definition
as being too broad (Beer 2008), since
it might include web sites that feature
the above characteristics in addition to
different sets of core features. Examples
of web sites that exhibit certain SNS
features, but are not strictly SNSs are
Yo u t u b e , Tw i t t e r, o r F l i c k r. I n t h i s p a p e r
however, we refer to SNSs as services that
have the facilitation of ISN as their core
purpose.
2.1.3 Social Software
SNSs are one type of what has been
termed social software (Bächle 2006;
Boyd 2006b;Hippner2006). Wikis, mi-
croblogging, and social bookmarking ser-
vices are other types of social software.
In an enterprise context, feature-wise, so-
cial software is closely related to group-
ware (Groß and Koch 2007), but is often
portrayed as being applied and used in a
“bottom up” instead of a “top down” ap-
proach (Avram 2006), as users generate
the content and define the rules and rea-
sons for usage (Boyd 2006b). As such, so-
cial software subsumes tools in the con-
text of the larger phenomenon of Web
2.0 (Boyd 2006b;Hippner2006;OReilly
2005). Another difference to groupware
is that social software originates from the
public Internet, where the tools emerged
and evolved, shaped heavily by its users,
while groupware typically refers to soft-
ware that has been designed to support
deliberately the interactions of people in
enterprise work groups.
2.1.4 Enterprise 2.0
The term Enterprise 2.0 describes the
adoption of social software in an enter-
prise context. Much as ISN denotes the
90 Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
phenomenon and refers to the applica-
tion of SNS as its main enabling tech-
nologies, Enterprise 2.0 refers to the phe-
nomenon of a new participatory corpo-
rate culture (with regard to communica-
tion and information sharing), which is
based on the application of various types
of social software technologies. The term
Enterprise 2.0 was coined by Andrew
McAfee (2006a,2006b). McAfee defines
Enterprise 2.0 as “the use of emergent
social software platforms within compa-
nies, or between companies and their
partners or customers” (McAfee 2006a).
Enterprise 2.0 is not just about ap-
plying social software, but it describes a
wider approach that advocates a new cul-
ture of participation, inclusion, and shar-
ing. From a management perspective En-
terprise 2.0 therefore is as much about
implementing new IT artifacts as it is
about managing corporate communica-
tion structures (Koch and Richter 2007).
Henceforth, it will be necessar y for re-
search in this domain to aim to better un-
derstand the rich set of challenges around
applying social software, such as SNS, in
an enterprise context in order to help
derive strategies to exploit its potentials,
while addressing potential change issues
at the same time.
2.1.5 Enterprise Social Networking
ESN refers to the phenomenon of social
networking in an enterprise context. As
such, we can differentiate between two
different types of ESN based on the actors
that are involved. Firstly, ESN refers to
social networking on intranet social net-
work platforms,3which can functionally
be compared to SNSs, but are only ac-
cessible in the enterprise intranet. Hence,
the set of individuals is restricted to em-
ployees of an enterprise and the links
mostly reflect professional relationships.
Secondly, ESN subsumes phenomena of
enterprise usage of public SNSs. Exam-
ples are company pages on Facebook,
where interaction takes place with poten-
tial customers, and the usage of business
related SNSs (e.g., LinkedIn) for recruit-
ing.
2.2 A Brief Look at History
The first Internet site, which resem-
bled what we perceive as SNSs today,
was SixDegrees (Boyd and Ellison 2007).
However, the first of the modern SNSs
that had notable success was Friend-
ster, which was founded in 2002 pri-
marily to serve as a dating site. But just
when it seemed that Friendster could
attract a wider audience, technical is-
sues and management mistakes ham-
pered its further diffusion (Boyd 2006b).
Soon after, MySpace was founded and
took over many users earlier attracted by
Friendster. Then, between 2003 and 2004,
most SNSs that are popular today were
founded, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or
Xing.4
To d a y, t ho u s a n d s o f SN S s ex i s t ( Ri c ht e r
et al. 2009c). Besides the popular general-
purpose SNSs like Facebook and MyS-
pace, the market for SNSs is populated
by all kinds of very specific SNSs, some
of which target very specific user groups
with only few hundred users or even less.
To d a y, t he d o mi n a n t si t e in t h e ma r k e t
is Facebook; its user base exceeds 500
million, in contrast to the 130 million
users on MySpace as the next biggest
player. With Facebook now lacking an
even competitor it seems to be heading
for a monopoly-like position.
With the major share of the market
being dominated by a handful of SNSs
it appears essential for newly established
SNSs to concentrate on niches and more
focused business models. Examples for
such services are Ning, Audimated, and
Folksdirect. Ning for example is a service
provider offering to host various third
party SNSs, while Folksdirect promises
to offer a privacy-focused environment.
How these smaller players will fare in the
market is not yet foreseeable. A timeline
of SNS market appearances is displayed
in Fig. 2.
3LiteratureReview
ISN research as a domain is still relatively
young; to our knowledge, the first pub-
lication explicitly dedicated to ISN dates
back to 2003. Since then a significant
body of research has been created. One
of the most cited articles in the field is
aliteraturereviewbyBoydandEllison
(2007), which provides an overview of
the early years of research in the domain.
Boyd and Ellison illustrated the diversity
of research in singling out certain publi-
cations and research findings. Moreover,
they framed the research field by pro-
viding relevant definitions. But since re-
search studies have mushroomed in the
past two years in particular, significantly
enriching and broadening the research
spectrum, we believe it is time for provid-
ing an updated overview of ISN research.
Indeed most of the articles we found in
our literature search process stem from
the period 2008 to 2009. This justifies
taking a detailed look at the research field
again, analyzing what has been achieved
as well as what might be missing.
In doing so, our literature review aims
to identify and describe the state of the
art of research on ISN on SNSs, as a basis
for identifying future research directions
for the field (vom Brocke et al. 2009b).
By doing so, we also want to foster and
build new ground for comparative litera-
ture reviews on ISN by making accessible
knowledge that has already been created
but also highlighting areas where research
is missing. Furthermore, we will elicit im-
plications for enterprise contexts.
3.1 Sampling: Selection of Literature
Sources
The timeframe for our literature review
comprises the years 2003 to 2009. The
first starting point for identifying lit-
erature for inclusion in the study was
the above-mentioned literature review, as
well as an associated literature list, which
one of the authors is maintaining on her
website.5We t h en c a r ri e d o ut a fu l l lit -
erature search on every journal that ap-
peared in these sources. Moreover, we in-
cluded the main journals in the field of
Information Systems and the proceedings
of the main international and European
conferences (ICIS and ECIS) in our lit-
erature search. Where possible we tried
to search in the full-text articles; for all
databases we searched in the abstracts us-
ing the following search terms: social net-
working, social network site and social
network service. Depending on the func-
tionality of the search engine we used dif-
ferent forms of string concatenations.6
3Examples for intranet social network platforms are Jive (http://www.jivesoftware.com/) and Lotus Connections (http://www-142.ibm.com/
software/products/de/de/connections/).
4For a more detailed description of the history of SNSs until 2007 please see (Boyd and Ellison 2007).
5http://www.danah.org/researchBibs/sns.html.
6A detailed description of the search process following the guidelines by vom Brocke et al. (2009b)ispresentedintheOnline Appendix.
Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 91
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Fig. 2 SNSs history
Tab le 1 Important
Publication Sources
included in the review7
It is notable that a large number of
publications appear in a relatively small
number of Journals (see Ta b l e 1), with
most of the highly ranked journals in the
Information Systems field not yet among
them. One reason for this may be that the
research field is not yet mature enough to
identify findings that yield general, the-
oretical contributions to the Information
7Only Journals are listed that contained relevant articles. In total 37 journals have been searched including the major IS journals (AIS senior
scholars’ basket of eight). A complete list can be found in the Online Appendix.
92 Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Fig. 3 Distribution of publications over time
Fig. 4 Distribution of publication by social network sites
Systems field, which would be of broader
value, or simply that the review process
of these journals is too long to have re-
sulted in publications yet. In our analy-
sis we point to and reason on evidence of
why they have not found their way into
the Information Systems mainstream lit-
erature just yet.
3.2 Overview of the Identified Literature
Sample
In this section we take a brief look at the
nature of ISN research found in our sam-
ple. In total, we have identified 297 pa-
pers over a time span of seven years that
deal with topics in the context of ISN.
Fig. 3displays the number of publica-
tions over time, highlighting its strong
growth until 2008.
Of the 297 identified publications 202
publications were included in the re-
view. The remaining 95 publications ei-
ther deal with ISN in a broader sense,
e.g., on other websites (like weblogs),
technical design issues of SNSs or social
network analysis. They do not refer to
or explain aspects of ISN on SNSs and
are hence omitted. Most of the remain-
ing 202 publications are either empiri-
cal studies focusing on one SNS or on a
group of SNSs, with studies on one SNS
far outnumbering those looking at more
than one SNS (130 to 35). Among those
SNSs by far the most studies concentrate
on either Facebook or MySpace. Other
SNSs appear to be marginalized in the ex-
isting body of research (cf. Fig. 4).
Finally, twenty publications – ten per-
cent – take a theoretical view on ISN.
Those papers that use a theory to frame
their research most often use social cap-
ital theory, which is used in five stud-
ies. Other theories, such as transaction
cost theory or signaling theory, are used
only occasionally. This is another indica-
tion that the research field is still young,
with most papers evolving around de-
scribing or explaining the technology or
various facets of the phenomenon, but
not yet theorising in more general terms.
In the following section we discuss in de-
tail those areas of research we identified
in our literature analysis.
4 Streams of Research on Internet
Social Networking
As a result of our literature review, we
identified four streams of research that
look into various aspects of the ISN phe-
nomenon: 1) Personal information dis-
closure and user privacy, 2) Nature of
links and the role of the personal social
network, 3) User self-presentation and
impression management, and 4) User
motivations for adopting and using SNSs.
We pre s e nt o u r fi ndi n g s acco r d ing t o
these subject areas. The order of presen-
tation reflects the number of studies in
the respective areas, with user privacy-
related studies accounting for the ma-
jority in our sample. A summary of our
main findings in the four areas is pre-
sented in Tab l e 2.
4.1 Personal Information Disclosure and
User Privacy
The idea of ISN on SNSs centers around
users creating semi-public profiles and
the ability to browse these profiles (Boyd
and Ellison 2007). Therefore – by their
very nature – SNSs are designed to cap-
ture, store, and make available personal
information. Consequently, while the in-
formation revealed in personal profiles
is one of the main value propositions of
SNSs, at the same time it poses a sig-
nificant potential for misuse (Livingstone
2008). Not surprisingly, with the begin-
ning of their wider diffusion during 2005
and 2006 privacy issues soon started to
dominate ISN research. In general, re-
search into user privacy on SNSs focuses
on Facebook and MySpace. While about
half of the studies looked at Facebook ex-
clusively, two-thirds included Facebook
among others. As Facebook has its roots
and most dominant user population in
the United States, and given the fact that
students and youth were the first to adopt
the service (Lenhart and Madden 2007),
privacy-related research seems to be of
special interest to the US community
(Barnes 2006).
In 2005, Gross and Acquisti (2005)
were among the first to highlight typical
privacy issues associated with the use of
Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 93
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Tab le 2 Overview of key
findings in ISN research
SNSs; they analyzed 4000 Facebook pro-
files and pointed out the potential harm
that could be caused by information dis-
closed therein. At the time, research into
the topic quickly began to grow, as did
public awareness of the topic. Interest-
ingly, research findings point to an evo-
lution of user awareness of the topic and
changes in behaviour over the past years.
Early studies revealed that especially
young SNS users seemed to be relatively
unconcerned, if not unaware, of potential
pitfalls (Acquisti and Gross 2006;Stutz-
man 2006). Barnes at the time reasoned
that “often teens are not aware of the
public nature of the Internet” (Barnes
2006). However, more recent studies re-
veal that SNS users, the more experience
they gain with ISN, the more they be-
come careful about revealing personal in-
formation (Lewis et al. 2008). Moreover,
it seems that awareness for the privacy
topic is growing (Christofides et al. 2009).
Further studies have investigated how
users react to the privacy challenges. For
example, younger users, such as students
and adolescents, seem to control their in-
formation disclosure by adjusting pro-
file visibility rather than by reducing the
information disclosed on their profiles
(Tufekci 2008). Other studies found that
users are more active today and exhibit
increasing control over their information
disclosure (Hinduja and Patchin 2008;
Jones et al. 2008). Consequently, Ybarra
and Mitchell (2008)showinastudywith
1588 young people that SNSs are a less
risky environment for sexual harassment
than chat and instant messaging. Never-
theless, SNSs disclose more personal in-
formation than any other service before.
Facebook alone hosts personal informa-
tion on more than 500 Million individu-
als. Even though recent studies have not
found SNSs to be a more risky environ-
ment than the Internet in general, the
sheer amount of data does imply a risk
for misuse. Research has to further inves-
tigate how personal data on SNSs can be
secured as well as where concrete poten-
tial for misuse exists, with one of the con-
cerns being that the platform provider it-
self exhibits a strong interest in using its
users’ information for various commer-
cial purposes.8
4.2 Nature of Links and the Role
of the Personal Social Network
The second stream of ISN research looks
into the nature and proliferation of re-
lationships and social networks within
SNSs. In doing so, studies have shown
that users inscribe different meaning to
their links with other SNS users. Specif-
ically, studies have revealed that 1) dif-
ferences exist between online and offline
relationships, 2) the size of the personal
network is judged quite differently on dif-
ferent platforms, and 3) notable differ-
ences exist between the nature and role
of relationships and personal social net-
works on different platforms (e.g., links
in Facebook and MySpace are perceived
rather differently). Such differences are
likely to result from differences in group
culture and the social micro environment
on these platforms.
What accounts as friendship offline is
not necessarily the same as having friends
online (Boyd 2006a). For example, a sig-
nificant share of users on MySpace and
Bebo appears to collect “friends” in or-
der to improve the impression made by
their own profile (British Office of Com-
munication 2008;Rosen2007), with hav-
ing more friends being regarded bene-
ficial. In contrast, on other SNSs, such
as Facebook or CyWorld, the online so-
cial network seems to reflect better the
users’ offline networks (Chun et al. 2008;
Lampe et al. 2006;vomBrockeetal.
2009a). In fact, studies have shown that
contrary to MySpace, having too many
links on Facebook can have a negative
reputation effect as this reportedly lessens
the perceived trustworthiness of a user
profile (Tong et al. 2008).
8E.g., http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/feb/01/facebook-seeks-to-exploit-user-information.
94 Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Moreover, no consistent interpretation
exists of what accounts as friendship
online (Fono and Raynes-Goldie 2006).
However, it has been shown that social
norms, which regulate the articulation
of relationships, can differ significantly
between social groups (cf. British Office
of Communication 2008;Rosen2007).
Such differences are likely to cause the
emergence of SNS usage patterns spe-
cific to those social groups. And while
many smaller SNSs exist, which target
certain social groups with differing cul-
tural backgrounds, to our knowledge al-
most no studies so far have looked into
the influence that social norms and hence
the cultural group background poses on
SNS usage. Exceptions are one study by
Byrne (2007)ontheadoptionoftheSNS
BlackPlanet and a study by Carroll (2008)
focusing on the usage of MySpace by
Puerto Ricans. Both studies are very fo-
cused on specific aspects of SNS usage
and create no general understanding of
how these SNSs are used or how cultural
differences influence adoption and use.
Hence, to date we have no clear under-
standing of how strong the influence of
different social norms and cultural back-
grounds on the adoption of SNSs is.
4.3 User Self-Presentation
and Impression Management
The third stream of research captures
studies that have investigated how users
draw on the various SNS features to man-
age self-presentation and the impressions
they leave with other users, as well as
the effects thereof. Impression manage-
ment commonly refers to methods or
strategies with which people try to influ-
ence the impressions others hold about
them (Goffman 1959). In this impor-
tant strand of ISN research, studies have
looked at various aspects of impression
management, such as 1) the nature of and
differences between self-presentation on-
line and offline, 2) how users draw on
various SNS features in going about their
impression management, 3) what the ef-
fects are of ‘good’ self-presentation, and
4) differences in user self-presentation
between platforms and vis-à-vis different
user groups.
The first publication to mention im-
pression management appeared in 2004
(Donath and Boyd 2004). According to
the authors, SNS users seem to execute
similar strategies for utilizing relation-
ships for impression management on-
line and offline. Similarly, Dwyer (2007)
found in her qualitative study that in-
dividuals seem to execute one strategy
of impression management and apply
this strategy in all communication chan-
nels they are using. Studies comparing
impression management on Facebook
and offline also reveal strong similarities
(Buffardi and Campbell 2008;Evansetal.
2008;Goslingetal.2007). However keep-
ing in mind the different nature of SNS
usage observed on sites like MySpace (i.e.
Rosen 2007) this finding is likely to be
limited to SNSs that reflect a real world
context like Facebook (see above).
Interestingly, user impression manage-
ment is not limited to 1) actively creat-
ing one’s user profile but also includes
2) friendship links and 3) page content,
e.g., comments on one’s blackboard left
by other users. At the same time however,
researchers acknowledge that in manag-
ing impressions users have more imme-
diate control over their own profile in-
formation; therefore this information can
better describe how a person wants to
be perceived (Zhao et al. 2008)orwhat
the person is looking for online. Lampe
et al. (2007)revealedinaqualitative
study on Facebook that the detail level
of profiles correlates with the number of
online friendship links. They argue that
those profile elements that help identify
common interests or similarities in back-
ground help foster the creation of new
friendships.
However, some users attempt to
present online an ideal self that is too
good to be true (Zhao et al. 2008). This
stretching of the truth can reach a level
where other users perceive it as outright
lying (Session 2009). On some SNSs ly-
ing about oneself seems to have formed a
common pattern (British Office of Com-
munication 2008). Consequently, proba-
bly due to the risk of being lied at, profile
information is not perceived as particu-
larly trustworthy.
Moreover, by using blackboards and
testimonials other users also participate
in the evolution of one’s profile as they
help co-form one’s presented identity
(Boyd and Heer 2006). Lee and Bruck-
man (2007)analyzedthedatingbehav-
ior of individuals on SNSs and found that
both the friends listed as well as the con-
versations with close friends play a vital
role in the search for a potential partner.
This corresponds with studies on the per-
ceived attractiveness of SNS users, which
looked at various influence factors of self-
presentation (Walther et al. 2009,2008).
The relationship to close friends is per-
ceived as the most trustworthy informa-
tion.
Most of the above-presented work
on impression management stems from
analyses on the usage of Facebook, MyS-
pace, or Friendster. Very few studies also
deal with other SNSs like Xing or Lu-
nastorm. In comparison, these studies re-
veal notable differences in the practices
of impression management. For exam-
ple strategies of impression management
are executed more carefully on business–
oriented SNSs such as Xing (Schaefer
2008), as users concentrate less on gain-
ing attention and more on making a
trustworthy impression to potential em-
ployers and business partners. On the
other hand, Facebook usage is much
more playful than that of Xing, but still
fairly accurate (Evans et al. 2008;Zhao
et al. 2008), while MySpace is even more
playful yet less accurate (Rosen 2007).
While impression management has been
well-researched in the core target group
of students and youth, little understand-
ing exists about what and how strategies
for managing self-presentation work ef-
fectively in other social groups or even a
business environment.
4.4 User Motivations for Adopting
and Using SNSs
Another strand of research has looked
into user motivations for adopting SNSs.
However, while there have been a num-
ber of studies in this field, almost all of
them have looked into SNS usage among
(university) students. Moreover, existing
research seems to be fairly fragmented.
Krasnova et al. (2008), by applying
human needs theory, have found that
the need for belongingness through con-
nection with others and esteem needs
through self-presentation are two impor-
tant drivers for SNS usage. Bumgarner
points out that Facebook is used by stu-
dents to stay in contact with old friends,
to get in contact with co-students, ro-
mantic partners or similar, but that most
prominently Facebook is used to facili-
tate the exchange of gossip (Bumgarner
2007). Other studies have revealed the
maintenance of contacts with old friends
and the intensification of links to co-
students as the two main motives for
using SNSs (Lampe et al. 2006;Raacke
and Bonds-Raacke 2008;vomBrockeet
al. 2009a). Lampe et al. refer to the lat-
ter motive as the need for social search-
ing, which constitutes an important us-
age pattern for students. Social searches
Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 95
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Tab le 3 Suggested
directions for general
research on ISN
utilize the SNS to find out more about
newly made offline contacts, such as fel-
low students one has met in class (Lampe
et al. 2006). Others have argued that, as
SNSs usage is said to have a positive in-
fluence on the emergence of bridging so-
cial capital (Steinfield et al. 2008), stu-
dents utilizing SNSs early in their studies
are better integrated into the social net-
work of the university later in their stud-
ies (Steinfield et al. 2008). Social search-
ing thus seems to assist an individual in
integrating into a new social (offline) en-
vironment.
Apart from these studies, which have
researched motives for engaging in ISN
among students, little research exists on
the motives of other user groups. One ex-
ception is a study on motives of profes-
sional users, which looks at Xing (Schae-
fer 2008). The study identified three ma-
jor motives in this context: (1) staying in
contact, (2) reactivation of contacts, and
most importantly (3) the management of
one’s existing contact-network.
However, apart from this, to our
knowledge no work exists on the moti-
vation of adults using SNSs. Also, exist-
ing research almost exclusively focuses on
Facebook. This certainly leaves room for
future research, especially with a focus on
professional users of SNS and their mo-
tives.
4.5 Summary: Current State of Research
and Open Questions
Our literature analysis reveals a signifi-
cant body of research in the context of
ISN on SNSs. We identified some re-
search strands capturing those ISN as-
pects that have been well-researched.
However, the current state of research is
not without limitations: 1) Existing re-
search is very much limited to studies
investigating SNS usage among students
and youth. 2) Not many studies recog-
nize differences between existing SNSs.
Many studies treat ISN across SNSs as be-
ing homogeneous, while we believe dif-
ferences exist with regards to technology
and typical use practices. 3) Moreover,
and partly as a result of the first two lim-
itations, the ISN research landscape re-
mains rather fragmented, since not many
studies have attempted to carry out cross-
literature research, which aims to draw
more general conclusions across use con-
texts and SNSs. 4) So far, only very few
studies, apart from some show case sto-
ries, look into the enterprise use of SNSs
and how ISN phenomena observed on
the public Internet might translate into
an enterprise context. We briefly discuss
future research opportunities for general
ISN research, before we look into impli-
cations for enterprise applications.
As mentioned above, most ISN studies
concentrate on students or young peo-
ple, using Facebook or MySpace in the
USA. Hence, existing research is con-
strained with regards to user population,
geographical region, and technology ar-
tifact. Such limitations are likely to ham-
per the identification of both more gen-
eral patterns across different contexts and
the specifics of ISN in certain contexts or
on other types of platforms.
Our analysis above revealed that the
culture of a user group can exert a strong
influence on SNS usage (cf. Friendster
case in Boyd 2006b and MySpace case
in Rosen 2007). Due to the prolifer-
ation of ISN among students as early
adopters (Facebook originates from this
user group) and the easy access to em-
pirical data on Facebook, this combi-
nation has been well-researched. Mean-
while however, SNSs have turned into a
mass phenomenon permeating a range
of user groups. But we know very lit-
tle about the adoption and use among
other groups. Moreover, we also know
little about how students continue using
SNSs once they make the transition from
university into work life.
Furthermore, existing research is very
much embedded culturally in a Western
context, while some preliminary work
suggests that geography plays indeed a
very important role in explaining certain
adoption and use pattern; see for exam-
ple the case of the Korean SNS CyWorld
(Choi 2006)ortheJapaneseSNSMixi
(Fogg and Iizawa 2008). But also smaller
contextual differences can cause differ-
ent patterns of adoption like shown in a
study on SNS usage among students in
Germany and Liechtenstein using Face-
book and StudiVZ (vom Brocke et al.
2009a).
To th i s d a y, v e r y l it t l e w o r k h as b e e n
undertaken to conceptualize the differ-
ences between SNSs (as different arti-
facts). The existing heterogeneity in the
market for SNSs is not reflected in the lit-
erature so far (Richter et al. 2009c). Stud-
ies including business-oriented SNSs like
Xing (Schaefer 2008;vomBrockeetal.
2009a)orLinkedIn(Thew2008)high-
light differences in the adoption of cer-
tain features compared to SNSs like Face-
book or MySpace. More cross-case re-
search is needed to investigate these dif-
ferences.
These limitations lead us to propose
two major directions for future SNS re-
search, as is displayed in Tab le 3.On
the one hand we propose to broaden
the empirical basis by carrying out re-
search across different user groups, use
96 Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Tab le 4 Suggested
directions for
enterprise-related research
on ISN
contexts, and SNSs. On the other hand
we see a necessity to also carry out cross-
literature studies in order to better cap-
italize on and exploit existing research
findings. Based on the extensive literature
on Facebook and MySpace a comparison
of findings concerning the adoption of
these two SNSs by students might serve
as an obvious example. This paper might
act as a starting point for such compara-
tive cross-literature research.
5EnterpriseSocialNetworking:
Implications and Outlook
The above-presented analysis has re-
vealed existing ISN research in some se-
lected key areas (e.g., privacy, personal
impression management etc.). However,
while some findings are certainly useful,
transferring results from the public In-
ternet to an enterprise context has to be
done very carefully. Preliminary studies
on enterprise use of SNSs have pointed
to the fact that these are open technolo-
gies in a way that they need to be appro-
priated according to context-specific cir-
cumstances (Richter and Riemer 2009).
SNSs and their features do not precipi-
tate adoption and use, so that SNS us-
age practices and benefits are likely to
be very different in an enterprise con-
text. Hence, while the existing research
on public SNS usage serves as a valuable
basis and starting point, more dedicated
research on SNSs in the context of Enter-
prise 2.0 is needed. In a professional con-
text, benefits yielded by SNSs are likely
to be very different, as some prelimi-
nary studies have shown (see above). In
the following, we will highlight potentials
for SNS application in three enterprise-
related contexts: 1) recruiting and pro-
fessional career development, 2) relation-
ship facilitation in distributed work con-
texts, and 3) business-to-customer inter-
actions. Tab l e 4displays a summary of
the identified potentials, as well as a se-
lection of future research questions on as-
pects of enterprise social networking.
5.1 SNSs in Recruiting and Professional
Career Development
Some initial studies have looked into the
use of SNSs by business professionals for
advancing their own career opportuni-
ties, as well as by businesses wanting to
hire and recruit business professionals.
As such, certain SNSs that cater for a pro-
fessional audience, such as LinkedIn or
Xing, can be viewed as marketplaces for
the exchange of skills. Schaefer (2008)has
shown that users on such platforms ac-
tively engage in building and maintain-
ing a professional contact network with
the aim to advance one’s career opportu-
nities; also see Thew (2008). On the other
hand, as people typically disclose a range
of information about themselves (Stutz-
man 2006), SNSs also yield significant
potentials for businesses wanting to re-
cruit new expertise. This is well-reflected
in the intensive usage of such SNSs by
R&D companies (Thew 2008), which are
in constant need to identify and con-
tact people with specific skills. The use of
SNSs for this purpose is facilitated by the
more or less correct self-representation
people apply on these professional plat-
forms.
More research is needed to better un-
derstand such practices and how they can
be incorporated systematically in corpo-
rate human resource strategies, e.g., what
renders recruiting activities in SNSs suc-
cessful? On the other hand, the potential
and role for professional career develop-
ment, e.g., by building social capital, also
need to be understood in more systematic
ways. This offers ample opportunities for
future research.
5.2 SNSs for Relationship Facilitation
in Distributed Work Contexts
Complementary to the professional use
of public SNSs, companies increasingly
engage in setting up dedicated SNS plat-
forms on their Intranets for facilitating
internal network building. Work in con-
temporary organizations has been de-
scribed as highly knowledge intensive
(Davenport 2005;Drucker2000), with
organizations being increasingly depen-
dent on the performance of knowledge
workers, who are often involved in many
different distributed projects and virtual
teams (Bultje and van Wijk 1998). At the
same time it has been argued that vir-
tual collaboration in distributed setups
is often precarious (Breu and Heming-
way 2004;Introna2001)leadingtoprob-
lems of information transfer (Davenport
2005;Steineldetal.2009)andhinder-
ing the emergence of necessary shared
Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 97
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
understanding of group matters (Riemer
and Klein 2008). In this context, SNSs of-
fer an apparent solution for facilitating
the creation and maintenance of social
structures containing social capital and
as channels for information transfer be-
tween individuals (Burt 1992;Granovet-
ter 1983;Steineldetal.2008).
However, surprisingly little (empirical)
research exists in this area investigat-
ing ISN phenomena in this context. One
study has shown that internal SNSs can
help employees in identifying topics of
mutual interest that can create a common
basis for communication between distant
co-workers (DiMicco and Millen 2007).
Other studies have pointed to the poten-
tial of SNS usage for maintaining and ex-
tending one’s social capital within the or-
ganization (DiMicco et al. 2008;Stein-
field et al. 2009). For such purposes, cru-
cial features for Intranet SNSs are said to
be those that help employees in identify-
ing potential new contacts (e.g., through
searching by common interests), thereby
forming valuable weak tie social capital
(DiMicco et al. 2008;Farzanetal.2009).
Some businesses have been on the fore-
front of piloting the use of SNSs in this
context, among them IBM, SAP, and Ac-
centure (DiMicco et al. 2008;DiMicco
and Millen 2007;Richteretal.2009a;
Richter and Koch 2009).
Furthermore, ndings derived from
public SNSs suggest that SNSs can help
users to get to know and settle in to a new
social environment. Hence, we can as-
sume that new employees who join an or-
ganization should benefit tremendously
from joining an existing SNS at the same
time, as they can investigate, in an unob-
trusive way the interests and background
of their new co-workers (social search-
ing), thereby forming the basis for shared
understanding to emerge. Similarly,SNSs
facilitate the search for experts on the ba-
sis of people’s profiles, which can con-
tain detailed information on skills, ca-
pabilities, project experience and inter-
ests. Thereby, social networking opens up
new possibilities for skill-based staffing
of knowledge-intensive projects. Existing
studies however have shown that to date
SNSs do not seem to yield such behaviors
(Dwyer 2007;vomBrockeetal.2009a).
Our analysis above also points to sig-
nificant privacy concerns in conjunction
with using SNSs. Hence, it remains to be
seen whether or not (and under which
circumstances) employees would be will-
ing to disclose to the rest of the orga-
nization significant amounts of informa-
tion about themselves. As profiles in this
context are likely to only reflect the pro-
fessional (and not private) lives of the
employees, the hurdles for disclosure are
likely to be lower; nevertheless more re-
search is needed to derive a better under-
standing in this area.
At the same time, Skeels and Grudin
(2009)havestressedtheimportanceof
building dedicated intra-firm SNSs, as
employees might otherwise start using
public SNSs for communication, which
is not without problems (e.g., in regards
to confidentiality and security). The same
problem has been acknowledged in other
studies as well (DiMicco et al. 2008;
Farzan et al. 2009).
In conclusion, the integration of SNSs
into the internal information infrastruc-
ture seems beneficial and will most likely
gather increasing attention in the fu-
ture. However, as a study by Richter and
Riemer (2009)hasshown,implement-
ing SNSs on the Intranet is challenging
as it can lead to a ‘yet-another-platform’
problem, whereby people are unwilling to
adopt SNSs as a new medium. Their re-
search into how IBM achieved successful
diffusion of their SNS platform suggests
that an essential success factor might be
the incremental introduction of social
networking features to already adopted
platforms, thereby growing the new sys-
tem from inside an existing one.
5.3 SNSs as medium to engage
with consumers
Besides the above-discussed potentials,
SNSs can also be valuable for support-
ing interactions with customers. In par-
ticular, some initial works point to poten-
tials for 1) advertising (by facilitating tar-
geted approaches and viral marketing),
2) product development (by including
consumers in the design process, i.e. pro-
suming) (Klein et al. 2004;KleinandTotz
2004), and 3) market intelligence (by ob-
serving and analyzing the data generated
by users in SNSs).
Advertising has changed in the last
decade with a major influence being the
loss of consumer trust in advertising
(Clemons et al. 2007). Most notably, it
has been shown that customers tend to
vest more trust in recommendations by
other customers than in messages coming
from companies (Ermecke et al. 2009).
Consequently, new concepts such as vi-
ral marketing and word-of-mouth gained
wide-spread popularity. Today, many on-
line services allow for users to recom-
mend products or services to other users
and businesses have set up online pres-
ences on SNSs to connect with customers
and tap into their social networks by
triggering them to pass on the corpo-
rate message. However, viral marketing
on SNSs has not yet lived up to the high
initial expectations (Clemons et al. 2007).
On the other hand, research and the de-
velopment of practical approaches in this
field are still in their infancy.
In any case, SNSs are home to quite
specialized communities of users, which
opens up other opportunities as well.
By observing and studying user behav-
ior, SNSs can be used productively in
the context of new product development
and design. The integration of consumers
into design and production activities has
been described by others as the prac-
tice of prosuming (Klein and Totz 2004;
Schumacher and Feurstein 2007). Pro-
suming in the context of SNSs thus opens
up a new field of application and re-
search, which has not been targeted suf-
ficiently so far. Many companies have al-
ready created so-called brand pages in
SNSs like Facebook. However, how these
pages are being used, what potential they
yield for prosuming and how (various
groups of) consumers react to these at-
tempts remains unknown. Potentials ex-
ist to create test markets, actively (maybe
playfully) engage SNS users in design ac-
tivities or observe the public discussions
of target groups about a company’s (and
competitors’) products. This might yield
highly valuable information for the com-
pany at comparatively low cost. At the
same time however, considerable risks ex-
ist, as companies must fit in with and ad-
here to the (often unwritten) rules of the
SNS (sub) community. More research is
needed to explore these issues.
Finally, SNSs show potentials for mar-
ket intelligence purposes. As discussed
above, on SNSs users disclose large
amounts of data about themselves. While
this raises privacy issues, it is at the same
time a valuable source of market intel-
ligence data, which allows companies to
learn more about their customers, both
on an individual level and on the level of
target groups. While currently almost no
literature exists on this matter, the trend
towards utilizing the potential of SNSs
for market intelligence can clearly be ob-
98 Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
served in industry.9Practice-oriented lit-
erature further substantiates this obser-
vation (Ahonen and Moore 2005;Berk-
man 2008). This application is fuelled by
the fact that most SNSs offer APIs, which
allow companies to tap into and har-
vest customer data in a (semi-)automated
way.
6ConclusionandOutlook
We have p r e sen t e d the r e s ult s o f a c o m-
prehensive literature review on the state
of Internet social networking (ISN) re-
search, with a focus on Social network
sites (SNSs). To this end, we have iden-
tified four dominant strands of research,
which together provide an overview of
those issues that have been well re-
searched in recent years. At the same time
we identified opportunities for further
research. In particular, we have shown
that research to date is rather fragmented
and does not yet facilitate a general un-
derstanding of the phenomenon. In par-
ticular research is very much skewed to-
wards certain user groups (e.g., students)
and platforms (in particular Facebook).
More comparative research is needed tak-
ing stock of the existing body of research.
Further, we discussed implications of
SNSs application in a corporate context.
We di f f eren t i ate d b e twe e n t hre e c o n text s
of application and discussed SNS po-
tentials, implications of existing ISN re-
search and future research opportunities.
As such, our research ties in with the
larger research and application field of
Enterprise 2.0, a field which is only just
emerging.
Our research has certain limitations.
First of all we have focused our analysis of
ISN on SNSs. With that we have omitted
research on web sites that exhibit some
form of ISN (such as Youtube or Flickr),
but are not strictly SNSs. Hence our per-
spective is restricted and certain phe-
nomena that have – at least by now – only
been observed on such sites are not con-
sidered. Future research should widen the
scope based on the presented literature
sample in order to include such research.
Moreover researching the formation of
social networks on SNSs by way of social
network analysis might add understand-
ing to the body of knowledge, especially
concerning the role of network position
and structure. Furthermore, our litera-
ture review is journal-based. While we
have included major AIS conferences, as
well as those conference articles listed in
the literature collection by Danah Boyd, a
good part of relevant research might have
been published in conferences only, since
the research field is still rather young.
We ho p e t hat o u r a nal y s is c a n c o n-
tribute both to creating a research agenda
for developing a better understanding of
the phenomenon of ISN and to making
available the current state of ISN research
for the wider Enterprise 2.0 community.
After all, Enterprise 2.0 phenomena are
likely to become even more relevant over
the next few years, since today’s youth
is growing up with the new technologies
and have already included various social
software in their daily life routines, to
an extent that today’s workforce, on av-
erage, does not possess (Vie 2008). Al-
most inevitably, mediated socializing will
become even more important in the fu-
ture (Boyd 2007)andtodaysenterprises
and managers are well advised to get in
contact with this new medium and try to
understand it in order to utilize this new
technology and its aligning culture.
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Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 99
BISE – STATE OF THE ART
Abstract
Daniel Richter, Kai Riemer, Jan vom Brocke
Internet Social Networking
Research State of the Art and
Implications for Enterprise 2.0
An overview of the literature on In-
ternet social networking (ISN) is pre-
sented. The authors identify four dom-
inant streams of research and review
the key contributions to the field. The
review reveals that the research field
is fragmented and does not yet facil-
itate a general understanding of the
phenomenon. In particular research is
very much skewed towards cer tain user
groups (e.g., students) and platforms
(in particular Facebook). Further, im-
plications for a corporate context are
discussed. In doing so, three contexts
of application are differentiated: Social
network sites (SNSs) for 1) recruiting
and professional career development,
2) relationship facilitation in distributed
work contexts, and 3) interactions with
end customers. The authors discuss
SNS potentials, implications of existing
ISN research and future research op-
portunities. In summary, they seek to
contribute to a better understanding
of the phenomenon of ISN and to mak-
ing available the current state of ISN re-
search for the wider Enterprise 2.0 com-
munity.
Keywords: Enterprise 2.0, Internet so-
cial networking, Social software
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Business & Information Systems Engineering 2|2011 101
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Chapter
From a vendor’s point of view, e-commerce can facilitate new models of division of labor, which typically encompass a higher level of involvement on the customer’s, specifically consumer’s, end. In order to over one shortcomings in computer-mediated communications, numerous individualization or personalization features have been added to e-commerce applications. In the telecommunication industry, as one prominent example, increasingly self-service portals have been established which provide administrative functions such as billing status, change of tariff or billing address. More advanced features such as unified messaging are even more customer specific and are beneficial inasmuch as they are regularly adapted to the individual, situation specific needs. However, in contrast to the vendor’s expectations, these features have not been well received and adopted by customers so far (e.g. Yahoo’s personalization features (Manber et al. 2000)). We have conducted several experiments with mobile phone users, which showed two major shortcomings: firstly, many functions were not known at all and, secondly, the usability of the Web portal was very limited. These findings must be quite troubling for the vendors as ongoing innovations in the telecommunications industry are leading to a need for even more user involvement: e.g. location based services require adaptable and regularly updated consumer profiles in order to provide satisfying results. Based on the dilemma between the limited success of self-service offering to date and extended requirements in the near future, the paper will report on findings about the acceptance of customer self service portals, analyze and frame the trend towards increasing user participation in advanced telecommunication services, and discuss implications for service providers.