Understanding Affordances of Enterprise Social Media in the Workplace


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date27 Jun 2017


As enterprise social media (ESM) have become increasingly pervasive in the workplace, organizations and information systems researchers have begun to highlight the potential of ESM for organizations. Despite this show of interest, researchers have only paid little attention to the specific functions of ESM to date. This thesis attempts to specify the different technological affordances of ESM and link them theoretically with different outcomes. The author performs two related sub-studies to achieve this objective.

In study 1, the author empirically investigates how four genres of ESM affordances (i.e., visibility, association, editability, and persistence affordances) affect social network ties (i.e., instrumental and expressive ties), which in turn influence the in-role and innovative job performance of employees. Using a survey of 266 ESM users in workplaces as basis, the author finds that visibility, association, editability, and persistence affordances are positively associated with instrumental ties. However, only association and editability affordances are positively related to expressive ties. Although instrumental and expressive ties are positively related to in-role and innovative job performance, instrumental ties exert more compelling effects.

Given that the most specific ESM genre developed for use is visibility affordance, the author further explores the visibility feature of ESM in study 2. Drawing on communication visibility theory, the author examines how communication visibility (i.e., message transparency and network translucence) affects the knowledge management behavior (i.e., knowledge sharing and hiding) of employees and consequently influences their creativity. Using regulatory focus theory as basis, the author further examines how promotion focus and prevention focus moderate the effects of message transparency and network translucence on knowledge sharing and hiding. Data collected from 263 ESM users in workplaces provide substantial support for the proposed model. Results reveal that message transparency does not affect knowledge sharing and hiding. By contrast, network translucence exerts a significant positive effect on knowledge sharing and hiding. Promotion focus positively moderates the effect of message transparency on knowledge sharing, but it exerts no moderating effect on the relationship between network translucence and knowledge sharing. In addition, prevention focus negatively moderates the effect of message transparency on knowledge hiding, but it positively moderates the effect of network translucence on knowledge hiding. Knowledge sharing exerts a significant positive effect on employee creativity, whereas knowledge hiding does not affect employee creativity.

This thesis advances the theoretical understanding of the role of ESM affordances in the workplace. The findings can guide organizations on how to exploit ESM affordances to improve the job performance of employees.

    Research areas

  • Enterprise social media, social network ties, communication visibility, regulatory focus, knowledge sharing, knowledge hiding, in-role job performance, innovative job performance