Diffusion of social media: An empirical study of user groups and adoption

Julia Lauren Judge & Rikke Kristine Østergaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

By examining how diffusion of social media differs from the process as presented by Rogers’ (2003), the following research question is posited; how does social media diffuse? The thesis takes an empirical approach, with results founded upon both quantitative and qualitative data, gathered through 128 questionnaires, 13 interviews and six case studies. The data is collected from an international, broad sample of social media users and companies, and is coded and analysed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. A user typology is developed, resulting in five social media user groups. These groups act as the infrastructure that founds the discussion of the following subjects; the innovation decision-process; adoption and rejection; networks; user-generated content; user activity and the bell-curve. Combined with supportive literature addressing subjects, including service management (Normann, 2010), diffusion of information technology (Moore, 2000) and networks (Burt, 1992), the findings are extensively discussed and applied in the context of social media. The study puts forth that the social media decision process includes a stage of ‘trial’, and that the process of adoption occurs within a community, rather than as an action carried out by an individual. It is further deduced that the five user groups do not join or adopt social media in a sequential manner, due to several barriers and a chasm, that disrupt it from doing so. As such, it is suggested that creators of social media approach users based on communities of interest or demographic, defined as ‘communities of commonality’, rather than on the basis of their technical adeptness. Lastly, a series of potential areas for further research are suggested, including the exploration of social media platform types; varying behaviours and relationships; and the dynamics of the communities of commonality.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages248