Social media has gained attention for the past decade due to the increasing usage and the convenience of the internet and smartphones. This paper aims to study the main factors contributing to the acceptance of social media platforms by reviewing past literature on adoption models such as the Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers, 1995) and Diffusion in Social Media (Judge and Ostergaard, 2013). The paper examines the factors of adoption proposed by past literatures on technology and social media. Then, based on the literatures, this paper suggest that the network of an individual is the most important factor in the adoption of social media. However, the authority factor proposed by Rogers (1995) should not be underestimated.
Social media is a term that is very familiar with people around the world these days. However, the term came out just 40 years ago, in a handbook regarding network etiquette in 1982. As smartphone users increase annually (Statista, 2018), combined with the ease of access to the internet, usage of social media has become more convenient, and users can access social media mobile application whenever and wherever they want.
Social media today is becoming inseparable from our daily lives. As of 2017, the average time spent on social media daily is 135 minutes, a 50 percent increase compared to 5 years ago (Statista, 2018). In addition, these statistics also show that the number of users has also increased over this same amount of time. As of 2015, 76 percent of the US population uses social media, compared to seven percent 10 years ago (Chaffey, 2018). Social media has changed the way individuals and large organizations communicate over the last decade. People can stay connected no matter the distance and gain information from anywhere across the globe.
There are a wide variety of social media platforms that have been introduced over the past decade, including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, and QQ (Statista 2018). The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors contributing to the acceptance of social media platforms.
To understand the factors affecting the acceptance of social media platforms, I looked at the factors of acceptance of technology defined by a renowned theory, the diffusion of innovation by Everett Rogers (1995). Diffusion of innovations is a theory that explains what factors attribute to the acceptance of technology and categorizes the general population into 5 groups of innovation adopters. The four main elements that defines the diffusion process are the innovation, communication channels, time, and social system. However, not all innovations go through this process, and many innovations that seemed beneficial to people were not adopted immediately or at all. One example would be the Dvorak Keyboard, which instead of our standard QWERTY keyboard, places letters we use more in the home row. Thus, what are the variables that determines the success of an innovation? In addition to the 5 main variables, what I thought was interesting was that the authority could also influence the acceptance of innovations. In the case of social media, we have a live example in front of us currently. Social media in China is shaped by its government, it has banned internationally used social media, and people can only use China’s version of Google, YouTube, and Facebook, namely Baidu, QQ, and Weibo.
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Judge and Ostergaard (2013) proposed gaps in the innovation diffusion if applied to social media, stated: “As Rogers (2003) delimits his theory using agricultural technologies, we regard the fundamental differences between the products used in Rogers’ theory and those of social media, as the root of incompatibility in predicting the diffusion of social media.” Instead of the 5-stage process of adoption by Rogers (1995), Judge and Ostergaard (2013) introduced a in my opinion, a similar model of the adoption process for social media (the diffusion in social media). Instead of deciding right away whether or not to use the platform after being persuaded, Judge and Ostergaard’s model indicated that users will sign up and try the platform before fully committing to it. In most cases, signing up for social media platforms are free of charge (even though we all know it really is not “free”), encouraging users to explore the content.
The above model proposed by Judge and Ostergaard is used to explain from an individual’s level. Another phenomenon that they found was the bandwagon effect. If friends of an individual are already using a platform, then they are more likely to use it. An interviewee of the research done by Judge and Ostergaard explained that they are more likely to choose a platform that has poor usability, yet where their networks and friends are present, over a platform with good usability, but with fewer community members.
Judge and Ostergaard (2013) also shed light on the reasons why users might reject an already matured social media platform. A renowned case is Myspace, launched in 2003 with 18.5 million active users at its peak (Evans and Schmalensee, 2010). Everyone in the US are using Myspace until Facebook entered the market in 2008 and took over as the leading social media platform. Judge and Ostergaard (2013) referred to the discontinuance of Myspace due to three factors: activity, network, and content. Users liked the content (users will have to use real names) that Facebook offers, and slowly moved to Facebook. With more people using Facebook, the bandwagon effect took place and the whole community migrated to Facebook. Lastly, inactivity on Myspace eventually lead users to close their accounts. I believe the bandwagon effect is not a linear line, but rather like Roger’s S-curved diffusion process, since the migration was not slow and steady, rather it took off after a certain point in time. In the case of Myspace, I believe content was a factor that triggered the movement, but ultimately, it was the user’s network, community that set it off.
Social media has only risen to popularity this past decade, due to the rise of Internet and more importantly, mobile phones. Users can now share, upload, and view new content anytime and anywhere they want. From the reading by Tufekci in class, I learned that even social movements are taking advantage of social media. Although Rogers’s (1995) diffusion of innovations is the foundation of the explanation of adoption in various fields, in the case of social media, I believe the factors proposed by Rogers are indicators, not determining factors. On the other hand, I believe an individual’s network plays a greater role in the adoption of social media.
In addition, Kietzmann et al. (2011) proposed a framework that defines social media by using seven functional building blocks: presence, sharing, relationships, identity, conversations, groups, and reputation. Most of these elements have to do with the interaction and connection with other people. For example: presence has to do with the extent to which users know if others are available; conversation is the extent to which users communicate with each other; and reputation is the extent to which users know the social standing of others and content. Hence, I believe this indicates that the main factor attributing to the acceptance of social media is the network of the user. However, there is one factor proposed by Rogers (1995) that can affect the network factor: the authority element. It is a factor that can alter a nation’s acceptance model, and thus, should not be underestimated.
- Chaffey, D. (2018). Global social media research summary 2018. Smart Insights.
- Evans, D. and Schmalensee, R. (2010). Failure to Launch: Critical Mass in Platform Businesses. Review of Network Economics.
- Judge, J. and Ostergaard, R. (2013). Diffusion in Social Media.
- Kaplan, A. and Haenlein, M., (2010). Users of the world, unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media. Business of Horizons (2010).
- Kietzmann, J., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I., Silvestre, B. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, Volume 54, Issue 3.
- Rogers, E. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations. Fourth Edition.
- Statista (2018). Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2017 (in minutes).
- Statista (2018). Most popular social networks worldwide as of October 2018, ranked by number of active users (in millions).
- Statista (2018). Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (in billions).
- Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas: the power and fragility of networked protest.
- Wasserman, T. (2012). Google+ Users Spent just 3.3 minutes there last month. Mashable.