Thursday, 31 March 2016

Uses and Risks of Microblogging in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (by Soureh Latif Shabgahi)

Microblogs, such as Twitter and Yammer, have become very popular for both personal and professional pursuits. Some authors have claimed that social media can radically transform organisations. However, there is a lack of empirical research that evaluates that claim. My thesis investigated the uses and perceptions of risks of microblogging in UK based Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The research adopted a qualitative methodology because of the intention to explore how participants understand microblogging. Twenty one semi-structured interviews (either face-to-face or on the phone) were conducted with participants in SMEs based in South Yorkshire, UK. A thematic approach was taken to analysing the interview data.

Most of the organisations approached adopted microblogs by a process of trial and error. Smaller organisations did not make much use of the platforms for direct advertising i.e. selling products to others. The participants focused more on other uses. Internally, microblogs were chiefly used by individuals to collaborate remotely with their co-workers and to ask or respond to questions. Externally, microblogging was mainly used to enable users to exchange information, to communicate more with customers and to build relationships with clients. A visual representation was developed to illustrate the uses of microblogging in SMEs. Participants in the study particularly valued microblogging for its limited functionality, its cost effectiveness and because it could be used via mobile phones.

Most participants perceived microblogs to be highly risky, i.e. to expose the organisation and employees to danger. The commonest type of risk was seen to be the danger of damaging the reputation of the business. The majority of participants talked about controlling what types of information should be shared on the platforms and controlling who should engage with microblogging. To illustrate such feelings around risks, two visual representations were developed.

This research is the first in-depth study about the uses of microblogging in UK based SMEs. It was found that microblogging did not radically transform organisations. It was seen as a useful form of communication for SMEs, but no more than that. The limited financial resources and professional expertise that SMEs have, was key to how they adopted the technology. As regards practical implications, something could be done to address the trial and error approach to using microblogs found to be typical of smaller organisations. For example, managers could be given training courses on how to best use microblogging. To improve management of risks, more concrete expert advice could be developed and organisations would benefit from sharing of model policies.

1 comment: