Social Media Acceptance in the Workplace

Gepostet von am Sep 8, 2011 in Blog, News, Research | Kommentare deaktiviert

Social Media Acceptance in the Workplace

How many e-mails have you received today? How many text messages? How often have you been called? Have you checked your Facebook or LinkedIn account yet, have you updated you Twitter feed? What about your blog – does it provide any recent content? Maybe you should check what other users are blogging or tweeting about you?

Feeling stressed yet? Well, you wouldn’t be the only one. The recent Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas provided a great opportunity for us to share our recent research on information overload and Social Media acceptance with our esteemed colleagues in academia. Of course, we’re more than happy to share some of these insights with you, too:

How does stress influence Acceptance?

It was our research objective to model how stress impacts the acceptance of Social Media in the workplace. More to the point, we were wondering, under what circumstances one decides to either embrace and use a new Social Media application or to ignore it and move on – and whether or not stress played a role in this decision.

We based our research on three assumptions: First, we think that the acceptance of Social Media is highly relevant in today’s knowledge professions – as are Social Media per se. Twitter, Blogs and Facebook have managed to gain considerable ground in knowledge professions, and they increasingly shape knowledge workplaces by changing work routines and communication modes. Second, we assume that knowledge workers use an application or platform once they find it useful, on the one hand, and easy to use, on the other hand. Third, we are convinced that emotional factors such as feelings of stress or overload play a crucial role when looking at the willingness to accept and use Social Media at the workplace. We assume that a stressed individual is likely to make her acceptance depend on different factors than does her not stressed counterpart.

Our research is based on data retrieved in an online survey among 1300 European marketing and communication professionals. The data was collected in 30 European countries with the support of the European Association of Communication Directors. The results prove that stress in the form of overload, invasion of work into the private domain, and uncertainty plays a key-role when it comes to Social Media acceptance at work. But let me tell you how we got there:

A thought experiment

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Imagine you were doing whatever you do now, just 20 years ago. If you were a PR specialist or a Marketing executive in 1991, you would have had a very limited array of communication tools and channels at hand. You could have called your clients by telephone, you could have framed a campaign or press-communiqué that was either sent out by regular mail or – if you were really good – gained some TV coverage. Today, the options you have at hand seem incomparably more abundant – and they are inexpensive and allow for an immediate interaction with your clients, partners and investors, too. The conversation you enter every day with your stakeholders never rests – 24 hours a day, blogs are being commented on, Facebook profiles updated and tweets posted.

So little time, so much to do

This new communication environment is marked by various challenges. For one, you have more channels and more content available than ever before. The immediacy of the conversation in the Social Web pushes you into tighter time schedules, and the fact that every individual with an internet connection can possibly contribute to your conversation makes your own limits painfully obvious: In this new information environment, you simply lack the time and the attentional resources to cater to every demand and answer to every musing of your publics. In this challenging situation, overload, invasion of work into the private domain and uncertainty are bound to become issues. This generates a considerable stress potential.

A Social Media Acceptance Model

But in how far does this have an influence on Social Media acceptance at work? Does a stressed professional react differently to the introduction of a new Social Media application than his not-stressed coworker? Which circumstances promote or inhibit the acceptance of Social Media at the workplace?  In order to answer these questions, we relied on the renowned Techology Acceptance Model (TAM) coined by Davis & Venkatesh which posits, that the acceptance of a new technology largely depends on its usefulness as well as its ease of use. Usefulness and perceived ease of use in turn are influenced by a series of factors (e.g. job relevance, perceived enjoyment, perception of external control, image). The TAM is one of the most widely-cited models to predict technology acceptance, but as of today, it still fails to account for Social Media or stress. In our research project, we tried to account for both these variables. Based on recent findings in technostress research, we define stress a construct marked by overload, invasion of work into the private domain and uncertainty due to changing information environments.

To determine how stress impacts on Social Media acceptance, we first, adapted the TAM to the context of Social Media, deriving a Social Media Acceptance Model. Then, with the help of multiple group analysis, we divided our sample into two groups. One consisting entirely of stressed participants and another group of not stressed participants. As we compared the Social Media Acceptance Models of both groups, we found that stress indeed impacts on all relationships in the model. Participants with high values of overload, invasion and uncertainty (i.e. stressed participants) base their decision to use or reject a Social Media application on different premises than do their non-stressed colleagues.

Stressed participants refuse – even if they find it useful

For example: Stressed participants are more likely to use a new application or platform, when they perceive it as being relevant to their actual job. Also, stressed participants are less likely to use a new Social Media application at work, even if they find it useful. This is somewhat alarming since it may prevent them from keeping up to date, thus creating more stress. If professionals start to reject useful tools because they are too stressed to cope with them, this may hinder their professional development and prevent them from taking part in the relevant conversation going on between stakeholders and peers.

Not stressed participants focus on fun and well established applications

Not stressed participants on the other hand are more likely to use a new Social Media application, if they enjoy working with it and derive fun from it. Participants who are not stressed also rely heavily on the opinion of their superiors and peers. If their immediate surrounding encourages the use of a new application, non-stressed participants are more likely to embrace it and give it a try. Since the success and failure of a Social Media application depends precisely on how it is perceived by a team or community, it makes indeed very much sense to stay socially sensitive and focus on applications that seem to be accepted by the immediate environment as well.

If you find the research interesting, here you find the full contents of the presentation we held at the Academy of Management Conference: