Motivations of Early Adopters of Technology - The case of Social Networks
Type of dissertation 30 hpSpring term 2013Supervisor: Ian Richardson, PhDThe Motivations of EarlyAdopters of TechnologyThe case of Social NetworksLeonel Silva
2AbstractThis is an exploratory study concerned with the motivations of earlyadopters of on-line social networks. In order to collect data, semi-structuredinterviews were conducted with early adopters of a recently launched internet-based social network – “Joining”.The findings suggest that the characteristics of early adopters arechanging, since they are less “tech savvy” than previously believed. They areless interested in becoming early adopters per se and more interested inexploring different possibilities to fulfil their needs. They are very demanding, andcan quickly switch to another social network, making the time frame to servethem very short.This paper seeks to spark some new ideas related to early adoptionamong consumers and attempts to look at early adopters in a different way. Theyare the first group of consumers that any product or service finds, and knowinghow to motivate them can be crucial for a successful idea. The study represents,therefore, an opportunity to expand knowledge of early adopter consumers andhow they interact with social networks: - two important areas of interest foracademics and practitioners.Keywords: Social Networks, Social Media, Consumer Motivations, EarlyAdopters, Technology Marketing
3AcknowledgementsI would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends andcolleagues for their support during these two years and especially my last 6months with my thesis. It was a very challenging period and it was great to countwith the support of everyone.This thesis was possible thanks to the early users of Joining in theNetherlands that were very helpful. Special thanks to Evert Schraven, Joining’sfounder, who supported me during these months and allowed me to use Joiningas a case in point for this study.I am also thankful to Prof. Ian Richardson, who guided and helped me toget the best thesis possible. Thanks and good luck for all the rest of the thesisgroup, and my program colleagues!Stockholm, June 2013Leonel Silva
4Table of Contents1. Introduction ............................................................................... 61.1. Technology Marketing........................................................................................................61.2. Literature ............................................................................................................................61.3. Research Question.............................................................................................................71.4. Motivation ...........................................................................................................................81.5. Sample ...............................................................................................................................81.6. Methodology.......................................................................................................................81.7. Findings..............................................................................................................................92. Literature Review .................................................................... 102.1. Introduction.......................................................................................................................102.2. Diffusion of innovations ....................................................................................................112.3. Early Adopters..................................................................................................................152.4. Consumer motivation literature ........................................................................................172.5. Networks/Social Networks................................................................................................192.6. Research Question and Theoretical Framework .............................................................213. Research Design ..................................................................... 233.1. Research Methodology ....................................................................................................233.2. Sample .............................................................................................................................233.3. Interviews .........................................................................................................................243.4. Interview Guide ................................................................................................................253.5. Data collection..................................................................................................................263.6. Limitations ........................................................................................................................274. Findings ................................................................................... 294.1. Introduction.......................................................................................................................294.2. Findings............................................................................................................................305. Discussion ............................................................................... 395.1. Determinants ....................................................................................................................395.2. Patterns ............................................................................................................................405.3. Outcomes .........................................................................................................................41
56. Conclusion............................................................................... 456.1. Theoretical implications....................................................................................................456.2. Future Research...............................................................................................................466.3. Managerial Implications....................................................................................................477. References............................................................................... 49Appendices.................................................................................. 52Appendix I: Interview Guide ....................................................................................................52Appendix II: Case study Joining..............................................................................................53List of TablesTable 1: Customer Purchase Decisions ............................. 11Table 2: Adapted Use-Diffusion Model ............................... 13Table 3: Big Five Factors..................................................... 17Table 4: Participant’s List .................................................... 27Table 5: Findings’ Domains and Themes ........................... 30List of FiguresFigure 1: The Adopters’ Curve ............................................ 15Figure 2: Theoretical Framework ........................................ 21
61. Introduction1.1. Technology MarketingTechnology marketing has become more important than ever in thesepast years. The increasing importance is directly related to phenomena such asglobalization and wide access to computers (especially with the emergence ofthe internet). This change has not gone unnoticed by academic researchers, orpractitioners. There is a big focus on understanding technology from a marketingpoint of view, in order to successfully launch more products and services atbusinesses and consumers. The promise of technology is, itself, nothing new.Schumpeter in 1942 refers to the fact that technology is not a zero-sum game,because it creates unlimited opportunities for development.“Technological possibilities are an uncharted sea. We may survey ageographical region and appraise... that the best plots are first taken intocultivation, after them the next best ones and so on. At any given time during thisprocess it is only relatively inferior plots that remain to be exploited in the future.But we cannot reason in this fashion about the future possibilities of technologicaladvance. From the fact that some of them have been exploited before others, itcannot be inferred that the former were more productive than the latter. Andthose that are still in the lap of the gods may be more or less productive than anythat have thus far come within our range of observation... There is no reason toexpect slackening of the rate of output through exhaustion of technologicalpossibilities.”Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, p.118, 1942Technology increases the possibilities of bringing new solutions to ourproblems. So it is interesting to analyse the first group of consumers that adoptthese new technologies. They will be the ones triggering the rest of the adopters,making an idea to succeed or fail.1.2. LiteratureThis work was divided into six sections, starting with this introduction,reviewing the literature background, designing and explaining the researchprocess. Then the findings are presented and discussed, reaching our conclusionwhere some managerial implications are introduced. The token of this study wasaround perceptions of consumers when adopting a new social network. The
7motivations that build the decision of adoption are the most interesting, thoughchallenging aspects to investigate. This has been a neglected area of study,probably due to difficulties in gathering data, or the complexity of the subject. Thefirst section shows what has been discussed in theory for the past years in fourareas. Firstly, the Diffusion of Innovations literature gives a rich overview ofhow innovations develop and pass from one person to another. Severalcharacteristics interfere on the diffusion and are reviewed and evaluated.Secondly, the Early Adopters literature analyses both academically and forpractitioners how important it is to understand what drives these users. They arethe first users that start to build the adoption curve, and are highly important,since they begin the wave of adoption (Rogers, 1995) and impact the innovationimprovement and diffusion (Moore, 1991). Thirdly, Consumer Motivationsliterature directs this study towards the consumer’s perspective. Business tobusiness is a valuable field of study, and has been more covered than thebusiness to consumer side. This way, it is an interesting opportunity to go furtherwith the understanding of consumer’s motivations as individuals. Finally, theNetworks literature provided the final connection needed to build a coherentpiece of theoretical background. Since the case in point was about SocialNetworks, literature about this theme was needed to frame the study. These fourareas might seem separated, though they have all been used to build aconsistent piece of work. They will be connected in order to understand howearly adopters join social networks. There should be strong motivations behindthe decision of adopting a new social network before others, and what movesthese first users became the subject of study.1.3. Research QuestionThe research question of this study has the purpose of understandingthe motivations that moved adopters to join new social networks with no priorcontacts. Explain why the first members appear with no apparent connection toanyone. From the motivations, two sub-questions followed: The first one was tounderstand if there was any particular difference between utilitarian and non-utilitarian motives, and the second one to know if being an early adopterinfluenced the decision of adopting before others. Most of the times – if notalways – users do not clearly state their motivations thus it is important to be ableto read “between lines”. Four areas for further research were also presented, onthe last section of this work, as well as some managerial implications of thisstudy.
81.4. MotivationThe decision to research about the adoption of social networks arosefrom the current discussion around this topic and the relevance it can have forfuture studies. Currently, thanks to the internet, several virtual social networksappeared thus expanding from the traditional physical view of social networks. Inthe past years many studies have tried to understand several aspects of socialnetworks, such as its causes and consequences. Nevertheless, it has beenoverlooked the fact that social networks have not changed in essence, but only informat. So not only from a sociological perspective this theme can be studied.This new format opens many possibilities for businesses to adapt their models,and also new companies to appear, taking advantage of this uncharteredterritory.1.5. SampleIt is usually difficult to get access to early social networks, since they arevery secretive for competition purposes. In this case the researcher had accessto the information, due to its work in the organization. This proximity made iteasier to reach the participants for interviews and to analyse data from theplatform. Joining, a very early stage start-up with less than one year was used ascase in point. Very few people knew about the platform before signing-up, and itwas a very recent social network. This proved to be the perfect landscape for thisstudy, because it enabled to interact with early adopters in person, and askdirectly about their motives. The fact that the researcher was close to thenetwork, allowed to perfectly understand all the characteristics of the platformwhen interacting with the users.1.6. MethodologyAn interpretative study was followed in order to avoid losing social andcultural aspects that are important to understand the motivations of earlyadopters (Myers, 2011). The framework for research and discussion was basedon prior work from Shih & Venkatesh (2004) with some adaptations to fit morespecifically this group of users. The research question served to guide the study,and the sub-questions led to answer more specific aspects. In this case utilitarianand non-utilitarian motives were analysed as well as if early adoption was acause to join a social network. The author applied a qualitative methodology, inthe form of semi-structured interviews, with an inductive analysis of the data.
91.7. FindingsA set of ten findings are presented on Table 5, and explainedthoroughly. These findings emerged from the data collected and were thenanalysed with the aid of the theoretical framework. This led to the discussionsection where some suggestions were presented to explain the findings. Forinstance early adopters tend to be explorers, seeking for new solutions to solvetheir needs. They also tend to be less tech savvy as previously early adopterswere described. In addition to that, early adopters are very demanding, quicklychanging their interests and switching for alternatives.
102. Literature Review2.1. IntroductionOnline networks have spread throughout the World Wide Web in thepast years. They are now part of the landscape that anyone encounters whengoing online. Belonging to one or more online networks is part of people´s livesthat carefully curate them, choosing the right information to be shared. There aredifferent networks for different purposes, professional (LinkedIn), hobbies(Meetup), dating (Match.com), pets (Catmoji) amongst others. Inside eachnetwork users can choose who has access to what, separating the informationavailable for friends, colleagues, and family members (e.g. Google Plus Circles).It is relatively easy to understand why someone would join Facebooknow - currently the biggest online social network. All the friends are there,everyone “pulls” to come; there are events, photo sharing, and discussions thatjust happen inside Facebook. Not being there is not very comfortable for ahealthy social life. This paper does not want to discuss why someone wouldenter an existing online network, but more interestingly why someone wouldenter a “non-existing” online network. Non-existing, in the way that it does nothave a large network of members and with the risk that it will not provide withwhat it promises. Therefore, this paper wishes to participate in the discussion ofthe motivations of adopters of new social networks. Why do they participatebefore others? What attracts them? What are the gains?The focus of this study will be based on four areas of academicliterature. Firstly, the diffusion of innovations theory mostly based on Rogers(1995) and the Technology Acceptance Model, since it is important to understandhow something new (an idea, a product, a service) flows from one person toanother. What are the drivers, what influences the speed of diffusion? Secondly,the concept of early adoption and early adopters, who are they, what are theircharacteristics, so we can better understand who are the first users of a network.In what way they differ from later adopters? Do they influence them? Why arethey so important?; Thirdly, consumer motivations literature is reviewed tounderstand more in a consumer point of view what are the psychological reasonsto consume; Lastly, networks literature are presented focusing on social
11networks, since this was the object of the study and important to frame the casein point.Yeo (2012) discusses why users interact or participate in social media.This work aims to understand the motivations to first interact, before anyone elseparticipates and before there is a clear understanding of what the platform iscapable (technically and socially). Current research presents a rather brashperspective of the discussion, as if users did not personally interfere in theinteraction with online platforms. It is suggested by Yeo (2012) that muchemphasis is put on how companies can attract more users, instead of trying tounderstand what drives consumers to feel attracted.2.2. Diffusion of innovationsIn order to understand what the diffusion of innovations is we will divideit in what is diffusion and what is innovation. Concerning the first, it is the processthat “an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time amongthe members of a social system” (Rogers, 1995:5). The second is “an idea,practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit ofadoption” (Rogers, 1995:12).During the process of adopting an innovation, Rogers (1995) argues thatusers go through five steps: 1) knowledge; 2) persuasion, 3) decision, 4)implementation, and 5) confirmation. The main goal of the user is to gather themost information possible before adopting a product or service. The idea ofreducing the risk is what drives the user, increasing the possibility of adoption ofa product or service. Mohr et al. (2010:236) based on Rogers (1995), proposethe following table:1 Relative Advantage2 Compatibility3 Complexity4 Trialability5 Ability to communicate productbenefits6 ObservabilityTable 1: Six Factors Affecting Customer Purchase Decision. Source: Mohr et al. Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations, 2010.Basically what is presented here is a description of an innovation. Itshould provide an advantage compared to other options, including the option of
12not adopting anything at all and staying the same. The innovation should be easyto use, without requiring much effort in adapting to it, rather having it alreadyadapted to the user. It should also be complex enough to clearly solve a specificneed, but again not making it too hard to be used. The possibility to try it out, orat least to see it before adopting, is another characteristic that should be present.Finally, it should be easy to share its benefits with others and to easilyunderstand what the user gains. Innovations to be successful should “offerimprovements over previous ideas, consistent with needs of adopters, easy touse, allowing experimentation, and visible to others so they are adopted morequickly.” (Hixon et al. 2012:102). This is perhaps the most widely analysedtheory, and Rogers work has influenced many papers (Lu, 2009; Ding & Han,2009, Garrison 2009, Hixon et al., 2012, Campbell et al., 2012).2.2.1. Use-Diffusion ModelSome researchers put in question the Adoption-Diffusion Theory fromRogers (1995). Shih & Venkatesh (2004:59) label it as “the adoption-diffusion(AD) paradigm [whilst] an innovation reaches a critical mass of adopters, thediffusion is accelerated, and innovation is considered successful”. They continueby pointing out that the AD paradigm is not complete without analysing the user-diffusion (UD) processes. The well-known “S-shaped” theory that many authorssuggest (Rogers, 1995; Mohr, 2011) that the life cycle of a product depends on1) introduction, 2) growth, and 3) maturity, do not take into account the levelindividuals use a product or service. They focus only on the timing of theconsumption.The UD model is built from three key components 1. UD determinants;2. UD patterns; 3. UD outcomes (Shih & Venkatesh, 2004). There are fourdeterminants that affect the UD patterns: 1) household social context, where theuser operates; 2) the innovation technological dimension; 3) the personaldimension, i.e. if the person is tech-savvy; and lastly external factors, such asexternal communication and media exposure (Shih & Venkatesh 2004:61). TheUD patterns explain how the users influence the adoption of a product. It has twomain variables, one is the Rate of Use, how much time an individual spends withthe product; and the other one is the Variety of Use, what ways the individualuses the product. Finally the UD outcomes are related to how satisfied anindividual is after using a product or service. Shih & Venkatesh (2004) argue thatthe more intense a user, the more satisfied he or she is. This might not be thecase, if the low usage of an innovation brings a positive experience to the user.For instance, having an innovative tool that allows one to quickly deactivate a
13bomb brings more satisfaction for not having the need to use that innovation.Nevertheless, Shih & Venkatesh (2004) conclude that the UD outcomes can bein the form of the 1) perceived impact of the technology; 2) satisfaction with thetechnology; 3) interest in future technologies. So depending on how these threeoutcomes appear, one can understand the willingness of users to adopt or not aproduct based on its usage.2.2.2. UD Adapted ModelTo answer the questions of this study the UD model was adapted:Adopter´s Determinants Patterns OutcomesHousehold socialcontextRate of use Perceived impactTechnologicaldimensionSatisfaction with the networkPersonal dimension Variety ofuseInterest in futuredevelopmentExternal factorsTable 2: Adapted Use-Diffusion Model. Original in Shih & Venkatesh (2004)1. Adopter´s determinantsa) Social context based on three axes. The first is the householdcommunication, which refers to how close the family members andfriends are concerning information sharing. The second is about thelimited resources to spend on technology (i.e. time, money, etc.) Thethird axis is the prior experience with technology, and knowledgefrom previous experiences;b) Technological dimension concerns the sophistication of thetechnology. How evolved and easy to use it is, and how users feelabout it;c) Personal dimension takes care of two aspects. How innovative is auser, and how frustrated he or she might be with technology. Thiscan affect the willingness to adopt;d) External factors are peer or social pressure. For instance friends atschool that are always talking about innovations. Part of the networkeffects.
142. Patternsa) Rate of use is how much time the user spends with the network;b) Variety of use is which different manners and purposes can anetwork be used.3. Outcomesa) Understand the impact of belonging to these networks, i.e. thebenefits that they can achieve;b) How satisfied are the users with the network, and how well it fulfilsits service. This can help understand if the expectations are in linewith what is offered by the network;c) The interest in future developments of the network, can allow us tounderstand more in depth the motives of the users. If the user wantsto be the first ones to adopt a network, in order to take futurebenefits of its expansion for instance.The adopter’s determinants characterize the users, making it animportant tool to understand adopter’s motivations. If the users are highlyeducated, tech averse, and have low social skills, this can bring interestingresults to the analysis. Also the pattern of usage can allow us to understand howcommitted the early adopters are with the network. And finally, the outcomes willenable a cross check or filtering for the real reasons of participating in thenetwork.2.2.3. Other studiesSome authors (Robertson & Gatignon, 1986; Jung, 1990; Lee et al.2002) propose additional methods of analysing innovation diffusion taking intoaccount the competitive landscape, functional reasons such as perceived risk,technology availability, and organizational structures. Most of the diffusion debateis around the producer’s side (Bunduchi et al, 2011) considering adoption andimplementation of innovations a sole task of organizations. They overlook theimportant role of consumers, as individuals, in this process.Other authors (Sandström et al, 2008; Ding & Han 2009) also point outthat most literature focuses on industry level, rather than brand level. For thepurpose of this study, this will not be a limitation since the subject of study is theindustry and not a specific brand.But the current dominant paradigm is still the TAM - TechnologyAcceptance Model. It “links user acceptance of new technology to consumerperceptions of innovation usefulness and ease of use” (Parry et al., 2011:955).Perceived usefulness is the level a user thinks the innovation can solve his or her
15needs. Ease of use is the level of complexity adopting an innovation requires.One should not overlook the total cost of innovation adoption, which is not onlythe monetary price but also the effort the individual spends to use it (Parry et al,2011).2.3. Early AdoptersRogers (1995) offers a categorization of users that adopt a newtechnology. The first 16% are the innovators and early adopters. These arepeople that are committed to new technologies, and always try to be at theforefront. According to Moore (1991) the early adopters are the group that willallow innovations to cross the chasm between the early market and themainstream market. At the mainstream level, first the early majority accounts to abig percentage of the users (34%) that usually turn to be the cash cow ofinnovative companies. The second part of the mainstream is the late majority thataccounts to the same relative number of users, but this time less committed totechnology and very price sensitive. Lastly, in the curve there are the laggardswho are usually the sceptics of new technologies.Fig. 1: The Adopters’ Curve. Source: Based on Rogers (1995) Diagram from IdeaCouture by Morgan GerardFollowing Rogers (1995) adoption curve, early adopters become the firstgroup of users innovations have to face. Mohr et al. (2011:241) refer to them as“visionaries in their market”. Because of that, usually the production ofinnovations is done in parallel with these users. As Bunduchi et al. (2011:507)state “lead users and early adopters tend to become involved in innovationduring the early stages of evolution, when the take-up is generally slow.”
162.3.1. CharacteristicsEarly adopters are generally described as “younger in age, willing totake risks, more positive about the usefulness of an innovation, very social, andare often viewed as opinion leaders in relation to the new innovation.” (Hixon etal., 2012:102). This group can be used to polish the final innovation, and to get intouch of what the mainstream market is willing for. The early adopters struggleagainst the uncertainty of new technologies, which is one of the factors thatimpede later adopters to embrace an innovation. They “develop and contribute toa collective knowledge base concerning instructional technology. Early adoptersmake an innovation visible to the mainstream and decrease its uncertainty. ” (Lu,2009) They are opinion leaders, and can influence the mainstream users toembrace it (Rogers, 1995).Non-early adopters, or late adopters of technology, search for additionalinformation to reduce risk. They look at early adopters as “testers”, and trust theirexperience. Bennet & Bennet (2003:60) say that “offering demonstrations of howthe technology can be utilized” is very important to promote adoption.2.3.2. ExpectationsUsers also build expectations about what the new innovation can andcannot give. Early adopters can be used to show specifically its advantages.Thus, it is highly important to discover what types of information consumers useto build their opinion. This opinion will affect the decision of accepting or rejectingan innovation (Motohashi et al., 2012). Motohashi et al. (2012) continue, bypointing out four assumptions. 1) innovativeness is different from firm to firm; 2)early adopters are distinct from the late adopters, with specific characteristics; 3)the different categories of adopters can interact/communicate with each otherwith relative ease (Park, 2004); and 4) early adopters are effective opinionleaders, and capable of influencing other adopters.This way, early adopters are defined by the first users of a newtechnology, which can affect the adoption of the innovation by other users. Thereasons that motivate the action of adopting before others will be studied furtheron this paper.
172.4. Consumer motivation literature“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”Ryan & Deci (2000:54)Yeo (2012) discusses the motivations of consumers by pointing out theMetatheoretic model of motivation and personality (3M) from Mowen (2000) thatuses four traits to analyse behaviour. They are the following (Yeo, 2012:298): elemental traits (e.g. the Big Five factors); compound traits (e.g. need for play, need for information); situational traits (e.g. susceptibility to influence); and surface-level traits (e.g. healthy-diet lifestyles).Even though this model may be seen too complex and difficult to use inorder to achieve a proper analysis, Yeo (2012) and Baumgartner (2002)recommend the use of a framework with broader personality traits. This focusbrings us to the “Big Five” personality dimensions (Yeo, 2012:299):Extraversion Tendency to be sociable, talkative, confident, and enjoy change andexcitement.Agreeableness Tendency to be trusting, sympathetic, and cooperative.Conscientiousness Degree of organization, conformity, diligence, and socially prescribedimpulse control in an individual.Neuroticism Tendency to experience chronic negative emotions and to displayrelated behavioural and cognitive characteristics.Openness Willingness to consider alternative approaches, be intellectuallycurious, and enjoy artistic pursuits.Table 3: Big Five Factors from Yeo (2012:299)These reflect different personality, and behavioural characteristics ofconsumers. In connection with the personality traits, there are motives thatinvolve the consumers. These can be presented in two types:● Utilitarian - rational and task-oriented (Babin et al., 1994)● Non-Utilitarian - concerned with experiential aspects such as pleasure andescape (Yeo 2012:300 from Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982).In the same study Yeo (2012:306) continues that the motivation tocontribute with content for websites like Amazon and Wikipedia have self-oriented or utilitarian motives (“self-expression, and personal development”) andother non-utilitarian oriented motives such as hedonism (“social affiliation,altruism, and reciprocity”).
182.4.1. Early adopters motivesConcerning early adopters’ motives, Lu (2009:82) quotes Geoghegan(1998) who advises that “relative advantage is the most important factor in earlyadopter acceptance”. The following 4 factors of Rogers (1995) - complexity,compatibility, and trialability - affect in a much broader extent the mainstream,who tend to be a “more deliberate, pragmatic, and sceptical group.” (Lu 2009:82).Early adopters can build on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations(Mohammad & Som, 2010) to be attracted to adopt an innovation. The intrinsicmotivations relate to true motives that express honest interest or joy on thatparticular aspect. For instance, playing football, simply for the fun or adopting atechnology just for the pleasure of playing with it. On the other hand extrinsicmotivations are motives that express interest in a resulting indirect outcome, forinstance, to play football just to make a lot of money. Another example is to adoptan innovation with the purpose of becoming famous for being the first one to useit. So the main difference is the instrumental value that extrinsic motivations have(Ryan & Deci, 2000).2.4.2. Word-Of-MouthWord-of-mouth (WOM) has been studied by many authors (Godes, etal., 2004; Keller & Fay, 2012; Berges & Schwartz, 2011) as highly influencingconsumers towards positive or negative feelings about a product or service.WOM can be described as the power of information communicated betweenadopters and potential adopters. Due to the development of the internet, andglobalization in general, consumers are increasingly connected with each other.It is quick and easy to search for reviews about a specific product or even aninnovation. Users share their information publicly very quickly through blog postsand tweets, making the WOM flow in extremely high speeds all across the globe.The fact that many social networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) rely onuser generated content increases the amount of information that is sharedamongst users. Katona et al., (2011) believe that the traditional revenue sourcesof these online networks are having poor results. This is moving the attention to“influencers”, users that influence a large amount of other users in onlineplatforms. One can make the difference between personal and virtual WOM -pWOM and vWOM (Parry, et al. 2012). The former refers to exchange ofinformation between people, during conversation mainly amongst acquaintances,whilst the latter is the exchange of information online usually without knowing theperson. pWOM does not mean it cannot be online, in fact instant messagesystems can allow friends to communicate through a computer. So the main
19difference is between interacting with friends or strangers. vWOM tends to bemore powerful thanks to the almost unlimited sources of information that areavailable to the user.Late adopters feel unsafe with new products or services so they tend tolook at early adopters as an assurance before stepping into something new(Katona et al. 2011). The late adopters tend to follow early adopters, since thelatter provide valuable user information to the former, thus making them feelsafer in adopting an innovation. References are very important for thisconservative group of adopters (Godes, 2012). WOM can be very important toconnect these two groups of users.2.5. Networks/Social NetworksIn literature it is very common to see the term networks used extensivelyin many areas. Social networks, business networks, biology networks, spatialnetworks are just a few examples. What tends to be more difficult is the rawdefinition of a network. Håkansson and Ford (2002:133) define it as a “number ofnodes that are related to each other by specific threads.” They continue bydescribing a business market as a network. Business units, such asmanufacturers and service providers are the set of nodes, whilst the relationshipsbetween them are the threads. Meaning that the better relationships - due topartnerships, investments - the stronger these threads will be. Networks existthanks to relationships, the link between two nodes is basically a relationship,and the interaction between the nodes may change the threads. There might betangible and intangible relationships (Håkansson and Ford, 2002) which willresult in more or less complex interactions between the nodes.2.5.1. NetworksThe complexity of networks can help firms get a lead in their market.Alliances can increase the strength of particular threads, gaining advantageagainst competitors. But this is never a one-way decision. At least two nodeshave to be connected, and both parties can share efforts, and gain benefits. So ifone fails, the other one will lose too, there is a dependency relationship. Oneparty cannot completely ignore the other. Håkansson and Ford (2002:134) pointthis out as the first network paradox which states that “the stronger the threadsare, the more important they will be in giving life to the node, but the more theywill also restrict the freedom of the node to change.” The second networkparadox is that one party is simultaneously influencing and influenced. A node is
20not valuable without the thread, but the thread is useless without the nodes. So anetwork always affects both nodes, meaning that none can be egocentric to apoint to not believe it is not influenced. The third paradox of a network is that themore a network is attempted to be controlled, the less it effectively is. This resultsin the fact that in a network many nodes exist, which develop strong and weakties. These exist because each node has different threads that connect todifferent nodes. In practice the goal to control a network might result incrystallization, and the development of other threads connecting the nodes. Amore anecdotic evidence of this is Microsoft and Nokia trying to control theirnetwork, which ended up stopping their evolution whilst other parties developedin other ways.2.5.2. Network-marketingNetwork-marketing is a concept coined by Katona et al. (2011) referringto the possibility of identifying influencers and forecast early consumer’s adoptionpatterns. There are three factors that influence user’s adoption using theNetwork-marketing concept:1. Network effects - the power of the structure of connections betweenalready adopters and potential adopters;2. Influencer effects - influential power of the current adopters;3. Adopter effects - adopter’s individual characteristics, bothdemographic and the adopter’s global network position.Additionally Katona et al., (2011) found that the diffusion of adoption isalso influenced by many other effects that arise from the network interaction ofindividuals. The “number of connections an individual has (degree effect) (…)and the density of connections in a group” (Katona et al., 2011:426) affectadoption. Meaning that not only the more connections a user has with currentadopters can affect the decision of adoption; but also the number of adopters inspecific groups (circle of friends, work) can do so as well. A tighter group canalso enforce a quicker adoption than a loser social group (clustering effects).Ritvala & Salmi (2010:906) also refer to the different levels of power innetworks, where not the number of connections matter, but the value eachconnection has. Some adopters can influence more strongly others to adopt asocial network. This is the case of some bloggers and popular personalities thatdo not just rely on the number of connections they have, but also on how theyare connected in their network. Curiously, Katona et al., (2011:426) say “that theaverage influential power of individuals is lower the larger their social network is”.This describes the fact that having many followers is not a guarantee of socialinfluence.
212.6. Research Question and Theoretical Framework2.6.1. Research Question“What are the motivations to join a social network before anyone else?”The mix between the concepts of social network and early adopters ispurposeful. The idea is to understand what the reasons that move early adoptersto join a new social network are, before any network effects take place. In orderto go deeper in the main question, two sub questions follow:1) Is there any relevant difference between utilitarian and non-utilitarianmotives?2) Is being an Early Adopter influencing the decision to adopt?With this study motives will be clustered in utilitarian and non-utilitariangroups, and then their importance will be analysed. In order to reach the answersfor this study we will use this research question, with the relevant sub-questions.An adaptation of the work of Shih & Venkatesh (2004) and their Use-Diffusionmodel will serve as the framework.2.6.2. Theoretical FrameworkThe framework follows the Use-Diffusion model (Shih & Venkatesh(2004) which will influence the entire master thesis. One might ask adoption orusage? It is hard to separate these two concepts, but this study will focus on theusage of early adopters of social networks. This is due to the fact that by simplyadopting a new network that will not show the true motivations and interestsbehind it. The actual usage (even if it is low or high) is a better factor of analysisand make sure that the actual users will provide a more valuable input thanrandom adopters.Figure 2: Theoretical Framework (adapt.)
22This study will cluster the early adopter’s motivations into Utilitarian andNon-Utilitarian motives. The latter relates to a more pleasure side, mainlyemotional aspects, of the decision to adopt. Whereas the former is more on thereason side of the decision, is the adoption instrumental, is the adoption a meanto something more? It is probable that the motives can encompass both areas.Nevertheless, it is intended to verify if there are significant differences betweenthe groups or if one is more relevant than the other.Clustering these motivations is interesting to find if there are differentdrivers for these early adopters. In addition to that the ability to understand howdifferent motivations are from each other and their different levels will bring us toa new level of comprehension of early adopters’ behaviour.
233. Research Design3.1. Research MethodologyThis will be an exploratory study about early adopters’ motivations, withan inductive approach. An interpretative method will be followed in order to allowa more flexible analysis of an almost “uncharted” space for early adoptersmotivations. This qualitative method will help analyse a smaller number ofinterviews in more detail. Hence avoiding losing “many of the social and culturalaspects” (Myers, 2011:9) of the individuals, which are very important to discovertheir motivations. As Myers (2011:8) puts it “qualitative data can help usunderstand people, their motivations and actions, and the broader context withinwhich they work and live”. Thus, a pure positivistic approach was not followedbecause it could miss the opportunity to find unseen motives of the earlyadopters. The researcher shares Myers (2011) view that the best way to “accessreality is through social constructions such as language, consciousness, sharedmeanings, and instruments.” As the study will have an inductive nature, theresearch will rely on the social construction of the reality instead of a definedpositivistic view of it. There is a lack of research about early adopters’motivations and the unstable nature of this group makes it harder to have anydefined reality (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2008).3.2. SampleFifteen early adopters of the recent social network Joining wereinterviewed. The early adopters were chosen using a random selection betweenthe first one hundred active early users. Active users are those that areregistered members in the Joining platform, and 1) planned an activity or 2)joined an activity. This way we will remove the members that joined with noreason at all and give emphasis to those members that are effectively interestedin using Joining. The choice will fall not only on active users, but also on the firsthundred. We can then guarantee a selection of the “first of the first” that joined,hence reducing to a residual rate the network effects. Technically, a list wascreated with the first one hundred active users of Joining in sign-up date order.Each participant then received a number, and the 5th was contacted. If after
24reaching the 100th there was still space for more interviews the 5th-1 would becontacted, and so on. Following this, we could assure that the selection ofparticipants was done in a completely random manner in order to reach the mostunbiased group possible. The result was a group of the earliest active membersthat could share their expectations and experiences. The interviews were held inthe English language, since many of the users of Joining are expats - working orstudying in English. Thus, it is assumed that they are comfortable with thelanguage.The researcher stopped interviewing on the 15thparticipant because theamount of new information each user was bringing was starting to repeat itself.Thus, a level of saturation was reached. There were three reasons to chooseJoining as the social network of study. First, as it is a very recent social network,with less than a year it was easier to find and contact early adopters. The factthat still very few people know about it, avoids network effects to be alreadypresent in their decision. Second, this particular network has low resourcesallocated to communication of the platform, which means that the majority of theearly adopters searched for it and not randomly joined without any relevantinterest. Finally, the author of this paper has direct access to these users, sincehe is one of the launching members of this organization. This enabled to reachthe users faster and also to understand better how this social network works.The interviews were anonymous, with only three demographiccharacteristics. Of a total of 15 interviews, 60% of the participants were femaleand the rest male. The average age was of 27.8 years old, which the youngestwas 24 and the oldest 37. The members did not know who the other participantsin this survey were. As the participants were part of the first 100 active users,everyone had signed-up within the first months of activity of the website. None ofthe users were previously related to the researcher, or had joined the platformonly because he or she was connected with someone from the Joining team.This strongly validates the information gathered from this study. The findings arerelated to how users expected and effectively interacted with the platform.3.3. InterviewsThe interviews were conducted by the thesis author, and their durationwas between 15 and 30 minutes. They took place wherever the interviewee feltmore comfortable, in some cases at their homes, others at a café, library, andalso through Skype. Asking the interviewees to choose the environment ensureda more relaxed environment and made the meetings much more informal. Arecorder was used, as well as a notebook. The notes were used to follow up
25some aspects that the interviews could point out. These notes allowed goingmore in depth in some topics brought up by the participants.The five grand questions asked followed the Theoretical Framework:1) Technological Background and past experiences in social networkplatforms. This way we could assess and contextualize the participant’s profile;2) Getting to know. The second questions allowed understanding howthe participant got to know Joining. Also we could know what were the immediateexpectations and thoughts about this new platform;3) Getting to sign up. After knowing about the platform, what reasons didthe participant have to sign up and use Joining. This is important to understandthe motivations of registering in a new social network;4) Getting to use. Here we could find the motivations of becoming anactive user, which led to start joining and planning activities. We could assess thebenefits that the user found when using Joining and if it was what he or sheexpected.5) Perception of being an Early Adopter of Joining. With this final grandquestion, the participants could share their knowledge of being an early adopter.In addition, it was also assessed if knowing that they were early adopters didinfluence their behaviour on the platform.These grand questions are based not only on the theoretical frameworkbut also on the literature review that served as a secondary source of data.Although framed in five questions, the interview was not a fixed script. The goalwas to have a conversation with the participant and let him/her comfortable toexplain his/her motivations. These grand questions served as themes that helpedkeeping the conversation on track, but still allowing to discover new findings.3.4. Interview GuideIn order to structure the interview an interview guide has beendeveloped (Appendix 1). It is not only used to structure but also to avoid potentialproblems that could arise. One of these is related to possible lack of trust, sincethe interviewees do not know the interviewer, which can limit the transfer ofinformation. The ambiguity of the language may be another issue, since theinterviews will not be held in the native language, which might bring difficulties inexpression (Myers & Newman, 2007). Nevertheless, as the language of theplatform is English it is assumed that the participants are fluent.Some other practical suggestions were followed to develop the interviewguide (Myers, 2011:133): “[having] short, clear questions that lead to detailedresponses”. Ergo the interviewer can get the most information possible and have
26the participant comfortable in sharing his/her experiences: “questions that askparticipants to recall specific events or experiences in detail encourage fullernarratives”. This is another way to let the interviewee comfortable with theconversation and get the richest possible outcome: “a few broad open-endedquestions work better than a long series of close ended questions”. It is veryimportant for a semi-structured interview to allow open-ended questions and letthe session flow. If new information arises from the conversation it will strengthenthe study.3.5. Data collectionIn order to collect data from Early Adopters, a set of interviews wasprepared to reach the early members of a new social network. Five grandquestions were prepared, which could be combined, and allowed theinterviewees to freely speak about their motivations. These grand questions wereorganized as semi-structured questions that offer consistency without taking thefreedom of adding new questions (Myers, 2011). The decision of not havingunstructured questions was made due to the risk of losing control of theinterview. Also unstructured questions would be very time consuming. Theresearcher was merely a facilitator that guided the participants and sought for the“real” motives underlying users’ adoption.The interviews would start with a brief explanation of some formalities ofthe research: The fact that it was an academic study, the thesis topic,confidentiality terms and exchange of contacts. It was important to let theparticipants know about the methodology in order to avoid short and directanswers. After understanding that an interpretative method was being used theyagreed to be as explanatory as possible with their answers. The first questions ofthe interview were direct, for demographic purposes - age, gender, and currentoccupation. After that the interviews could start to talk about their relationshipwith technology and social media in general. These broad themes had the clearintent of allowing free space for the participants to explore what areas they foundmore relevant. Depending on what the participant would talk about, some otherideas for discussion were introduced. This guaranteed that the interview wouldfulfil its purpose. Below is a list of the participants:
27Number Age Occupation1 24 Teacher2 24 Engineer3 37 Lawyer4 28 Engineer5 27 Business Developer6 25 Project Manager7 28 Engineer8 29 Financial Specialist9 25 Teacher10 24 Student11 25 Consultant12 31 Engineer13 31 Engineer14 25 Student15 34 EngineerTable 4: Participant’s ListThe interview guide was never showed to the participants to avoidinfluencing their answers. It covered the users’ technological background andinterest, usage of social media, and the particular use of Joining. It also analysedtheir relationship with this new social network and the fact they were earlyadopters. In the end all the interviews were transcribed, and analysed gatheringthe major themes that appeared from the respondents input. The interviewtranscripts are available upon request.3.6. LimitationsThere are of course limitations to this study, as in any other. Some ofthese limitations are related to the lack of resources to make a wider and morecomplete study. Other limitations are related to the difficulty to really understandwhich motivations drive adopters. The fact that some adopters might cover oreven unwillingly hide their motives can be a complex issue to solve. The earlyadopters might have also “second interests”, that are not purely related to theadoption of the social network. They could be about friendship, or have financialgains on it. The concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can help minimizethis limitation.
28The fact that the researcher is himself working in the organization beingstudied might be an obstacle for a less biased overview of the situation.Nevertheless, as it is impossible to be unbiased, the fact that the researcher isclose to the data brings benefits that clearly overcome the liabilities. Some of thefindings derived from the experience and closeness of the researcher to the data,not only from the interviews, which strengthens the whole study. As theresearcher is active in the technology industry, many times social networks andonline social networks appear interchangeably. It can be discussed that onlinesocial networks are more specific than social networks, but for this study there isno benefit on separating both, therefore it will continue to be usedsimultaneously.Another aspect that can call attention is the fact that products, services,ideas, innovations, and technologies appear very often interchangeably as well.The scope of this study is not to understand the differences between thesewords. The state of the development, their characteristics or specifications will beignored in this paper. They all refer to the same for the sake of simplicity. It is notbeing said that simplicity overcomes rigorous writing however, their differencesare not important for the message of this master thesis.
294. Findings4.1. IntroductionThe perception of the participants in the study about being an earlyadopter of Joining was very interesting. 50% of the respondents perceivedthemselves as early adopters. Some even clearly stated that they knew theywere one of the first users of the platform, even though that information wasnever public. The other half did not have any clue, and were even surprised withthat fact. From the ones that knew, most of them guessed it was a new platformbecause they had never heard about it before - (“If it was older I would probablyhave heard about it.” – #8). There is no clear indication on the Joining platformabout the number of registered members and the launch of the platform wasmade softly with no big apparatus. However, there were some signs pointed outby the participants that they knew they were early users. Firstly, the counter ofnumber of planned activities on the homepage would give the feeling that therewas not much activity. Secondly, in some cities, especially in smaller ones, therewere not many planned activities. Lastly, when activities were planned, not manypeople joined them, reinforcing the early stage of the website. Another aspect ofrelevance is that even though this is an online social network, one third of therespondents perceived him or herself as a conservative user of technology. Theother two thirds are considered active users of technology, mostly for workpurposes. It is safe to conclude that this group was not technologically savvy andgenerally not heavy users of social networks.Whilst interviewing the participants, three domains were covered: 1) Therelationship with technology, with a special focus on social networks; 2) Theexperience with Joining, and how they interacted with the platform; and 3) Howthey perceived the Early Adoption. From these domains, several themes werebrought up. These themes emerged from the set of responses, and from theresearcher’s interpretation of the data. Whilst analysing the data, the authorclustered the responses in ten themes, and three domains. These three domainsshowed three key findings from the interviews’ data. The first is that almost noneof the participants are heavy users of technological and/or social networks. Theyare comfortable with technology, especially because they have to use some toolsat work, but they are neither expert users nor influential individuals. The second
30key finding was that most of the users came to the platform thanks torecommendations of friends or other people. They needed some kind of proof ofthe trustworthiness of the platform to join. The third key finding was that themajority of the members did not have any special feeling about becoming anearly adopter. In fact, being an early adopter was seen as a consequence, ratherthan a cause to join, for most of the interviewees. The majority ended upsubscribing to Joining due to personal reasons, such as moving from one city toanother, or being an expat. In “normal” conditions most would not have joined it.Below these findings are covered in more detail.4.2. FindingsDomains Themes QuotesRelation withtechnologyThe importance ofbeing new“If something catches my interest, in thesense that I think it will really be usefulfor me yes! I am not somebody who willgo for the latest thing, just because it is anew gadget” - #3“Or my camera, as long as it is agood camera, it doesn’t matter itis the latest, and a DSLR is aDSLR.” - #11 referring to asecond hand cameraListening to others"Not only reviews on the web, but peoplethat I trust. If they tell me you shoulddefinitely buy this particular brand, thistype of product is good. I go further fromwhat is written on the internet, it is morelike a human contact you know..." - #8“I would like to see reviews first,before I try out or use it.” - #9The main reason touse social networks“I use different social networks withdifferent motivations” - #2“Im a member of all socialnetworks” - #6Joining as anexample of earlyadoptionFirst wave” [I noticed I was an early adopter] a littlebit. Because the number of activitieswasn’t as huge as I had expected. But Ididn’t have an idea if I was the user 100,user 10 or 1000000.” - #8"I would react the same way. Forme, because I have a clearreason to use joining, I want toplan activities. So yes it doesn’tmatter if I am joining early orlater. For me it doesn’t matter." -#9Being recommended“I have to say that I hardly find websiteson my own.” - #10"For me it is important to have arecommendation ,especially inthis kind of online... oh whencomparing joining I call it anonline dating for friends and so Iwould never go to an onlinedating unless a friend of mine, Imean I have never been there,but unless a friend of minerecommended it or so." - #11
31The Message“Everything is location based. So I cansee it can be useful for me if I want to tryor try to discover some events which arenew to me it is very convenient.” - #13“I like the fact that it is very clearwhen you just look at thehomepage you can see a lot ofthings at once. And it is simple, itis not cluttered you just look andit is very obvious” - #1The Feeling “I liked the looks of it!” - #1“The reason I signed-up was thatit was genuine.” - #5Downside”I wouldnt use that much since I donthave many connections” - #4“Like the restaurants. If they arenot busy when it is supposed tobe... It is clear that it doesn’tattract the people. For me withouttrying it is the best judgement. Iwas more cautious probably... Iwould have joined more eventsstraight away. In the end I wouldexpect more events to happen. Ifyou search for one city it reallynarrows down.” - #10Becoming anEarly AdopterDiscovery“I started immediately; I just filled myprofile, my picture, everything about me,my interests. Because I thought I’d liketo try to use it. (...) So I started to searchif there was something to do inRotterdam and I found something, but atfirst I didnt like something. Another timeI didn’t have time. At a certain point Iliked and then I joined.” - #7"Of course if there aren’t manypeople, you think would there beenough to do? Or to connectwith? If people don’t knowabout... well you don’t know youjust try." - #7Not Tech Savvy“Definitely, definitely the late majorityadopter. Especially from the industry Iam interested in. I feel that I shouldreally be a sort of an early adopter atleast.” - #10"I would say I use it for the basicthings. Checking email,WhatsApp, but I am not so intotechnology that I use very fancyfeatures. More the basic." - #14Table 5: Findings’ Domains and Themes4.2.1. The importance of being newJoining was launched in the end of August 2012, with a low profilepromotion. Due to several reasons (mainly financial and technical) it was a softlaunch, so not many people got to know that the platform was new. Theparticipants generally stated that being a new platform does not interfere on theirdecision of subscribing or not to a platform:"If something catches my interest, in the sense that I think it will really beuseful for me yes! I am not somebody who will go for the latest thing, justbecause it is a new gadget" - #3However, their level of activity can be in fact influenced by theknowledge, or not, that it is a new website. Being a new platform brings risks,and not knowing anyone that is also participating in it makes it less interesting tobecome active:
32“It doesn’t matter [to be new] as long as I can get to know it istrustworthy and people have used it. For me the fact that it was new didn’t matterbecause I got to know it from some friends. If it was something completely new,with no connection or recommendation from these people… For example if I hadseen an ad in the tram station or at the grocery shop I would probably have had alook but not necessarily joined.” - #14Thus, being new presents more risks than benefits. Some memberspointed out the high price of new technology (“I believe new technology comeswith a big premium.” - #10). Whilst others referred that older technology candeliver the expected results, and still perform very well. ("My [old] camera, aslong as it is a good camera, it doesn’t matter if it is the latest one, and a DSLR isa DSLR.” - #114.2.2. Listening to othersWhen promotion is low, and network effects are difficult to take off sincethe network is still small, there are very few ways to grow. One of these few waysis through recommendations. Most of the participants value recommendations asthe most important aspect when adopting a new technology, or more specificallya social network. The fact that someone, supposedly, more expert than them canshare their knowledge is highly valuable. However, in some casesrecommendations value differently from where they come from:"Not only reviews on the web, but people that I trust. If they tell me youshould definitely buy this particular brand, this type of product is good. I gofurther from what is written on the internet, it is more like a human contact youknow..." - #8So for some of the respondents knowing who is recommending is moreimportant than their search. The closest and more direct the recommendation is,the more willing the participants will be to adopt a technology or join a network:“For these people [friends] to have recommended it to me I assumedthey had used it for a while.” - #11Furthermore, a combination of comments can also increase timeefficiency, since it diminishes the time one spends searching for information. It iseasier to read from several comments, rather than testing all the possibilities oneby one:“The comments of the website are a collective thing from lots of differentpeople. They are quick to read so you can kind of see what it is about.” - #15
334.2.3. The main reason to use social networksGenerally all the respondents assumed that they will only adopt atechnology if it is useful for them. In very few cases the researcher found moremundane reasons related with the “coolness” of something. One participant evenpointed out:“I am in to it [new technology], but not enough to pay the premium theyask” - #10One of the goals of the interviews was to assess the level of “coolness”that a member gives to a particular choice. From the participants, it is safe to saythat it is not enough to like something, to actually use it. Adopting a newtechnology requires spending money, time to understand it, and commitment totake the most out of it. Thus, if a new technology does not score high on its“practical utility”, the members will not adopt it.Nevertheless, the participants are very opened concerning socialnetworks, probably due to the fact that there are less entry barriers in the onlineworld. It is usually easy, and most of the times free to join social networks. Thus,many participants join many social networks:"Im a member of all social networks" - #6However, they do not consider themselves heavy users, most of thetimes the participants join a social network, use it for a bit and then leave. This isa way to assess its “practical utility”. So most of the users join a platform, use itfor a bit and then if it is useful they continue, once it becomes useless theyimmediately leave:“Another example is Joining. I feel like I want to see more people,expand my social life. So it is very much purpose driven.” - #34.2.4. First waveAs pointed out previously only half of the respondents knew they wereearly adopters. But even from this half, only very few were 100% sure about it.This fact makes us believe that early adoption was not a motivation to join thesocial network. When asked if they knew for sure they were early adopters, ifthey would have had a different reaction all of the participants clearly stated thatthey would not have changed their behaviour. Thus, they would not have joinedsooner or later than they did:"I would react the same way. (...) because I have a clear reason to useJoining, I want to plan activities. So yes... it doesn’t matter if I am joining early orlater. For me it doesn’t matter." - #9
34Some responses were quite curious, because even though not havingany particular pleasure to be one of the first, they do not tend to join with themainstream, preferring instead to not join:“I usually don’t join in the first wave, but more the second wave, thirdwave. Or else I don’t adopt at all.” - #154.2.5. Being recommendedRecommendations are very important, and to join this new socialnetwork they played a crucial role. When questioned about how they got to knowabout Joining, all of the participants referred to someone. Or that they had read apost about an activity there, or that someone directly told them. So even though,the network is quite small, some network effects were present.With very low promotion, the only way people could get to know aboutthe platform was through others. People that they knew, or as in many cases,people that would just post on other networks:“I went to this expat blog or some kind of network and there I saw anactivity from Joining and someone else before had mentioned it to me... a Dutchperson, whose name I can’t remember now” - #15“Basically a friend of mine (...) had a friend in The Hague that usedJoining. So it was random, because I don’t think I would have found it on theinternet, really.” - #11“One of my friends told me and I went to the link. And there I sawJoining. I swathe potential right away” - #134.2.6. The MessageThe transcriptions confirmed that the users got very clearly themessage, and utility of the website. Most came back, because they found ituseful for their needs, and even recommended to others. When asked about theirexperience entering for the first time the website almost all of the respondentssaid that they understood it was a place to meet people for social activities. Withseveral activities going around in a sliding bar on the homepage, the users couldeasily click and join these events. But before they could join, they had to sign-up,and so they did. The participants made clear that the process was quick andsimple. Some respondents even pointed that, even though there were not manymembers the concept was so good that sooner or later it would start to havemore people:“I like that it is very clear when you just look at the homepage and youcan see a lot of things at once. And it is simple, it is not cluttered you just look
35and it is very obvious. You just click through and if something catches your eyeyou just click it” - #1“It is just starting. I saw the potential. Give it some time; I am quite surethat people will find more about this website. They will see the benefits of it. So Ijust gave it some time. And it has grown a lot.” - #134.2.7. The FeelingThe feeling that the user got from the platform, was another aspect thatcame up from the transcripts. Many participants pointed out the looks of thewebsite, and how it convinced them about its value:“Because it looked like a nice website and the perfect place for socialevents.” - #3Most of the websites that provide a similar experience to meet newpeople, are based on forums or outdated websites. So the image of the Joiningwebsite also helped to form the perception of the utility of such a platform. Withthe light blue colour, and friendly interface the website inspired trust to thesemembers. The fact that the website shares many design features from other well-known websites, shows maturity and trustworthiness:“I like the layout of the website, it is quite straightforward. It is also clearand very user friendly.” - #9“Yes. I found the website very clean and clear. So it was very easy toget the message.” - #3“From the layer of the website, my first experience it seemed much moreuseful and matured than I think it actually was. It is nicely designed.” - #154.2.8. DownsideThe transcripts also showed some disappointment about the smallnetwork. Social networks benefit from connections: If a new member does nothave connections, or it is hard to connect with others, their experience tends todecrease, according to the data collected. The majority of the participantsadmitted that the network wasn’t a reason to decide whether to join or not. It isseen more as a certification of the website, especially to become active. So, inorder to be practical to plan or join activities most of these members preferred ifthe network of connections was bigger, or if it could increase more easily:“I think it was more when I saw there were not that many activities, that Ijust didn’t use it that much. The relationship was directly related to the number ofactivities.” - #2
36Some of the transcripts however, suggest an interest in continuing to bean exclusive platform and that it is easy to make connections. Since the idea ofJoining is to bring people physically together it is easier to make contacts thatdon’t extend to the Joining website:“I feel comfortable to plan an activity over there because it is not reallymainstream. If it becomes really big and everybody can access that... It raisessome types of worries.” - #7“I don’t think [a large network would benefit], because it is relatively easyto bring people together. It is just to make a connection. No, I don’t think it wouldchange my expectations.” - #114.2.9. DiscoveryThe research participants affirmed that most of the times they signed-upfor new platforms that they had not heard before, they did it for discoverypurposes. They wanted to know what it was, and see if these websites could beuseful for them or not. Most of the times signing-up is made by impulse, butbecoming active is a more complex process. Participants also mentioned thatthey entered the website, checked the activities in their city, and left:“I searched for Rotterdam and looked at the activities.” - #12“I searched for the current events offered... there weren’t many thatinterested me. When I got back I saw an event that got my attention. […] it was aphotography event in Rotterdam. When I saw that event I registered in thewebsite, and signed up for the event. That’s how it all started.” - #13“From my experience, there aren’t many members in Joining especiallyin my area.” - #9It was a process of exploring what the website could bring them. Joininghas a Learn More page completely dedicated to its benefits, and what it is madefor. This page is generally seen by all the users that try to search for activities,who are still not logged on. So when a non-member tries to go around thewebsite, he or she is redirected to this page or is asked to register:“I searched more or less on Joining. I read through the website to knowa little bit about what Joining is. And I browsed activities at that time beforejoining.” - #9So even after signing-up, the discovery period continues. Memberscontinue to look for activities in their city, or try to see which contacts are alreadyusing it. When asked about when the participants signed-up and effectively usedit - joining or planning an activity - they tended to separate these two moments.Firstly they would sign-up, almost instantly, by impulse. The second moment
37came when they felt they could benefit somehow of these activities. In someresponses these benefits were about meeting new people, trying new activities,and also promoting activities.In addition to that, some responses showed that this Discovery period ischaracterized by different behaviours. In the first moment after signing-up there isa period of a more passive behaviour. The participants say they search but don’tinteract that much, just try to understand what is happening on the website. Thesecond moment, right before joining or planning, is characterized by a moreactive behaviour. Becoming eager to meet people, to comment on pages, andinvite friends.“When you come to a new place, including a cyber-place, in thebeginning you don’t know exactly what is going on. And I think many otheradopters, not only from Joining but other networks too, are a bit more passive inthe beginning.” - #34.2.10. Non-Tech SavvyAnother aspect that can be found on the results is that even though twothirds of the respondents consider themselves active with technology, it was notobvious that they had any special interest with technology. Very few cases hadan IT background, and the majority clearly stated their computer expertise arousefrom work experience:“Concerning computers I know how to work with them! I am good with allthe programs I use for work.” “I am [present on social media channels] but mostlyfor work. For example Joining, I created an account because I am working for aninternational comedian and that’s why I try to be online, in expat organizations.” -#6Not being a tech-savvy group can be seen as a limitation or aninteresting finding from the data. The data from this group of respondentssuggests that non-tech savvy users are quite active on social networks bysearching, interacting, and reviewing. The fact that they did not need any specificskills allowed them to browse around the website and use it as they wish:“First of all because it is easy to [plan activities] on the website” - #3It is not a prerequisite of an early adopter to be extremely tech-savvy,and this suggestion lowers down the expectations that only tech experts can bepart of this group. It is easier now to participate in early platforms, and these non-tech experts become very valuable since they are a closer match to themainstream market group, usually the cash-cow for any organization. It becomeseasier to search online, and as practically everyone in the western world has
38connection to the internet it is also easy to take advantage of these socialnetworks. Due to the relatively low age of the respondents, many are digitalnatives, people that grew up with several types of technology especiallycomputers and internet. They tend to be very comfortable and familiar with high-tech, easily learning about new improvements. Again, not only IT experts willbecome early adopters, more and more people will enter this group.
395. DiscussionThe following section will discuss the findings, using the theoreticalframework discussed previously. The Determinants - Patterns - Outcomesadapted diagram will enable us to understand the motivations of early adoptersof social networks. The analysis will take into account the consumer perspectiveof adopting the recent social network Joining. Finally a connection with the theorywill be made to strengthen the discussion.5.1. Determinants5.1.2. Internal FactorsAfter analysing the results of the study, the determinants of the groupshowed well-educated, young, and active technological users. This groupcharacterization is important because it allows describing a potential group ofearly adopters of social networks. The fact that this group shares thesecharacteristics cannot be overlooked when studying early adopters. Thedeterminants influence the more or less likelihood of some phenomenon tohappen. The social context of the group suggests that a young, educated, andtech aware group of people is more likely to try new social networks. However,the fact that they become early adopters is not a special motivation for them.From a consumer point of view new social networks are highly reviewed in orderto understand their usefulness. The fact that these consumers are usually highlyeducated demonstrates that they are very demanding with the platforms theyuse. Even though almost none is a tech expert, most are active with differenttypes of technology. This makes them aware of what is available, and at easesearching for alternatives. In the theory section, we have seen that earlyadopters are more risk taking, and Joining’s early users tend to follow that pathto.Even if social networks benefit from Network effects, this study showedthat it was not critical to build an initial base. This was mainly thanks to Adoptereffects. Their demographic characteristics made them a more risk taking group,reducing the importance of having other connections already in the platform. In
40some cases, participants even realised the prospect that the platform would soongrow, so the size of the network was not an issue.5.1.2. External FactorsAs Joining is present only live in the Netherlands and Belgium, two ofthe most developed and safe countries in the world might have also influencedadoption. Only activities in these two countries can be placed on Joining,enhancing the chances of people to adopt the network. The adopters’determinants also evaluate the personal context. As Joining is a platform to meetnew people, most of the respondents were expats. They all wanted to build anetwork of friends in their new city. Following this token, Joining was exactlymade for that. So this aspect of being an Expat increased the likelihood ofadopting such network in an early stage.Even though Joining is a recent social network, and not many resourceswere used to promote it, recommendations still played an important role inbringing people to the website. Prior experience of some users enabled others tojoin. By sharing planned activities on other social networks, or by word-of-mouth.Organizers of activities would benefit if more people joined their activities, so theywere happy to share on their network the links. These made it easy for morepeople to get to know about Joining, and to reinforce the reliability of theplatform. It was perceived from the findings that physical word-of-mouth wasstronger than virtual word-of-mouth. When the participants heard about theplatform from someone they met they would be more strongly motivated to join,as compared to when they would just see the link on Facebook or a Blog.Naturally when current users recommend to others, the latter will be more likelyto become active. The experience on Joining increases when more people joinactivities, and more activities are planned. If friends join too, that is even better;nevertheless other social networks are more established in connecting friends.5.2. PatternsAs previously stated in the theoretical section, the usage pattern helpunderstand the commitment and interest of using social networks. From theparticipants involved two groups stand out, since there are two clear groups withdifferent behaviours. On one hand, the Joiners, who are simply interested injoining and searching activities in their city or nearby cities. They might alsointeract with other users by posting comments on activities, and sendingmessages to organizers. They also visit regularly the website to find out if new
41activities were planned. However, they generally have some aversion to planactivities. On the other hand the Planners, mostly interested in one aspect of thewebsite - to plan activities. They use the platform to promote their activities,usually by earning some kind of reward or payments in the end of the activity.They tend to plan several activities, and have a less personal approach. Nodemographic aspects were found that could help us identify who are Joiners andwho are Planners before they actually used the platform.So depending on the variety of the use of the platform, two types ofusers can be found. Their rate of use is also different. Joiners tend to come morefrequently to the website, and spend less time simply checking their cities’activities. The Planners, come less times but spend more time when they come.They plan activities, which take more time than searching and they respond tousers that are interested in their activities. Nevertheless, the variety of use isgenerally the main differentiator in the usage pattern. It is important to have ahealthy ratio between Joiners and Planners. For the former, they need plannedactivities to join so a wide choice is beneficial. For the latter, knowing that manypeople can join is also beneficial. If Planners plan activities, and no one joins, themotivation to plan again decreases. Their driver (e.g. financial, status) is strongerwhen the number of potential users that can join is bigger.5.3. Outcomes5.3.1. IntroductionThis discussion section is based on the adapted methodologicalframework that was used to guide the research. It proves useful to understandthe connections between individual choices, societal pressures, and background.Following the diffusion of innovation literature that aims to help us understandhow users adopt a new technology, we can see how the data gathered relates tothat. The early adopter’s literature classified users according to the moment ofadoption. In addition to the time horizon, the type and frequency of use was alsoanalysed. Clearly adopting a social network before others, and more than others,affects early adoption. Concerning the relation with consumer motivationsliterature, we were able to correlate user’s adoption with specific motivations.Although these motivations were not all the time obvious, the interpretative viewenabled to discover some interesting points for further research. The fourth areaof theoretical research was about networks. And this literature together with thedata collected proved very useful to understand the relations between members.Social networks become richer with more users, but they still are able to grow
42from almost zero. The majority of the members of Joining are expats which makethem more willing to meet new people.5.3.2. Utilitarian vs. Non-Utilitarian motivesTwo of the main questions of this research were concerning earlyadoption and utilitarian and non-utilitarian motives. It was quite clear that everyuser had a specific reason to join the network. They did not state, however, thatearly adoption was a factor that motivated them to join the platform. They joinedat this early stage, because it was when they heard about it. Nevertheless, theirexperience was affected by this fact, making them more or less active due to thelow number of users, and activities. More specifically about utilitarian and non-utilitarian motives, the two groups of users had different results. Joiners wereboth motivated by irrational and rational motives. The former was related to thefact that they wanted to simply have a good time, not expecting any particularoutcome besides a hangout. They would just create a profile to gather withpeople and have a good time. There were also, in the latter case, motives ofincreasing professional networks by joining networking events. Thus, Joinerswere both emotionally involved, but also in some cases rationally interested inthe hangouts. The planners are mostly interested in getting dividends of theiractivities, so they use the platform as an instrument to reach other outcomes.These outcomes can be in the form of getting more people to bars, to sell moretickets for shows, to promote theatre plays, or to increase the status of an eventorganizer.5.3.2. Early AdoptionAs social networks need members to grow, the fact that there are somenodes that come first, with no apparent connection, is quite interesting. Socialnetwork adopters, especially on Joining, tend to try out different platforms. Usingone does not mean they will not use another one, or that they will simply stopsearching for more. They are looking to satisfy a need, but a need that can beconstantly changing. Also due to the low barriers of entrance - usually theseplatforms are free or have free trial periods - it is easy to change from one toanother. Users are very demanding because of the many competitive platformsthat exist, and also because they usually have experience with other platforms. Ifthey don’t find what they want on platform A, they can easily try B, or C. Thesame happens with Joining - members try to find activities with people that theycan meet, and have a good time with. If they find this on Joining they will besatisfied, or else they will try on another website. So exploring is an important
43reason for users to try out new platforms. Joining’s early users tend to researchabout the utility of the platform, through recommendations, or reading reviewsabout it on a website. They tend to read the Learn More page of Joining, andvery frequently send e-mails for feedback, compliments and suggestions toimprove. Ergo any user can assess how genuine the platform is, and know if itcan be useful or not. Motivation requires someone to be interested in something:Joining members are interested in meeting new people, try new activities, orpromote their events. It is quite straightforward for users to get this message.Following this token, it is easier to find motivation to use the platform. However,the concept may be good but it depends on a variable that is not at all controlledby the organization. The number of people joining and planning is random, andthat can affect the motivation of the early members to continue to use it.5.3.3. ExpectationsTo more comprehensively understand the motivations of joining an earlysocial network users have to see potential of current benefits or future growth.Since users form expectations according to what the innovation can and cannotgive, it is important that the platform provides a clear message. This messagecan be direct or indirect, for instance a direct message would be a list of benefitsin the form of a booklet or a web page. Whilst an indirect message, more difficultto control, would be the feeling the users have in the design or images used.Another reason to adopt an early stage network is that it can be used toget close to the organization behind it. It is possible that some users join beforeothers to get a closer connection to the management of the platform. This canhappen for several reasons. Getting close to the founders or team managing theplatform can enable people to get privileged information that can be used forstatus purposes but also for monetary gains. The possibility of future employmentor partnering can be another motivation to participate early on these socialnetworks. It can also be the case that users have a pure sense of helping out astart-up and enjoy taking part of the testing period. Even though not directlystated by the interviewees, it is possible to conclude that the users tend to getclose to the social network team. For an early stage social network as Joiningthis is valuable since feedback comes quicker and iterations are more often.There is a correlation between the motivations and the behaviour of the earlyadopters. The more motivated these users are the more active and close theybecome to the Joining team. The reverse does not have the same relationship.So most of the times, users with no connection at all with the platform are the
44most willing to test and give feedback with the interest of exploring and gettingcloser to the organization.
456. ConclusionThe final goal of this study was to answer the question about what arethe motivations behind adopting early stage social networks. Deriving from thismain question, two other questions were brought up. The first was if there weredifferences between the motives, if they are more or less utilitarian andinstrumental for the users. The second question was to explain if the fact of beingan early adopter had any influence in the motivation of joining early stage socialnetworks. Following an interpretative method, with an inductive mind-set it wasable to build up some results from the data gathered. This data was collectedthrough semi-structured interviews with the first active users of the Joining onlinesocial network website.6.1. Theoretical implicationsThis study intended to prove the theoretical implications of earlyadopters’ motivations. Studies concerning early adopters have been scarce, andhopefully with this work, more will follow. Especially from a consumer’s point ofview, this issue deserves a more in depth interest and thorough discussion.Consumer motivations are dynamic and change over time, the analysis of thefirst group of adopters can be very rich to understand the causes andconsequences of specific choices. Social networks are a central theme of oursociety, the way we behave with each other, how we interact, and finally how welive our life. Now, more than ever, we consume social networks: we consumewhat social networks bring us, we “sow” for future benefits, we curate them withall the instruments we now have at our reach. Social networks are around us,and even though they were always present we see an increase of possibilities tocreate or multiple more. With this in perspective, the choice of analysing socialnetworks from an early consumer’s point of view proved to be very useful.Ten topics were found from the research, which can be clustered in thefollowing three topics: 1) Perception; 2) Interaction; 3) Experience. The firstinvolved the perceived meaning of social networks for users. The rationalebehind what the value of a social network can be plays an important role inmotivating users to join one. We could see from this work that recommendations,
46the message, and image of the platform create an idea about the benefits thatusers can get from the social network. Independently of the actual benefits, theexpectation of future gains is a very strong driver to join. Thus, it creates aninterest of promoting the social network and making it grow. Trust is built from theperception that is created prior joining the platform. This was an aspect pointedout by many respondents that they could feel that it was a genuine platform, withtrustworthy goals. Secondly, the interaction was vital to become active on arecent social network. As seen in the theory section, a social network needsnodes to be connected. In order to become active, these nodes have to be ableto find each other. Interaction here shows the importance of connecting thesenodes. In the end if users can’t find others, they will not use or even leave thenetwork. Therefore it is important to find ways of increasing the interaction of theusers, and just giving the opportunity to interact will be enough. In the research,users could connect with each other through their Facebook profile which wasembedded on the Joining profile. This feature was not clearly stated anywhere,however most of the users found it and made use of it. In a chronological order,first users get to know about a social network, then join it and finally they use itand become active. This last point is related to what users experience from thesocial network. Most of the experience of joining an early stage social network isrelated to the interest of discovering new things. As an explorer, these users tendto test and try out different things, different combinations, and travel all aroundthe platform. They tend to be very demanding, since there are many otherplatforms that they can use. Also the perceptions created in the beginning, makethese users expect outcomes that sometimes might not occur.6.2. Future ResearchThe starting point for this study was the lack of importance that previousresearch has made concerning the motivations of early adopters. However, thislandscape motivated the author to seek aspects of interest about this theme, andas a final note that has been achieved. After selecting a case study andinterviewing random participants, the results found can be validated. This can bea first step for future studies in the Technology Marketing field. The intendedresults of this piece of work were achieved. As a first achievement, we were ableto start a discussion around the importance of early adopters from a consumer’sperspective. That can allow academics and also practitioners to understand themotivations that drive consumers towards early stage social networks. In additionto that achievement, a second one was also achieved concerning morespecifically the motivations behind early adopters. Despite not having found a
47relevant difference between utilitarian and non-utilitarian motives, the first stepsare given to further these findings. Even though there were some individualreasons, it was clear that some of the motives could be seen as a collectiveforce. Finding these motives can help us understand more what drives earlyadopters, and from there extrapolate to other fields.Future research can be explored through multiple dimensions. Theauthor would refer four specific themes for further understanding. The first wouldbe to expand the study to products instead of services. Social networks can, insome cases, be seen as services thus it would be interesting to analyse howearly adopters behave when adopting physical products before others. Wehad the opportunity to discuss early adopters of social networks, but earlyadopters of specific products (e.g. cars, clothes, food) could help forward theknowledge about consumers. The second and third themes are related to eachother. We could discuss the importance of early adopters throughout the lifeof social networks. How important are early adopters to sustain social networksgrowth and maturation? Do they play an important role in helping these socialnetworks to continue strong? Will they grow more easily if early adopters stick toit? These questions lead to the third theme which is about the consequences ofearly adopters leaving the social networks. What happens to the network afterthe first users leave? What kind of impact can we expect from that? The fourthand last recommended theme is about the new demographics of earlyadopters. As seen in this study Joining’s early adopters are not so tech savvy,does that mean that the general profile is changing? A more in depth research iswelcome so we can discuss further if the DNA or ID of an early adopter isdifferent now with the proliferation of technology.6.3. Managerial ImplicationsFor managerial purposes the results found can be used as a startingpoint for further studies. The theoretical framework can easily be adapted to helpmanagers understand the motivations of their early adopters. Many practitionersuse social networks as the base of the success of their ventures. They may besocial media, theatres, bars, or basically any organization that benefits fromsocial interaction. Thus, it is important to know what drives their users orcustomers, in order to serve them better and keep on improving with valuableofferings. However, the results of this study can open some possibilities ofgetting to know better their adopters. For future early stage social networks,understanding that users do value discovering new platforms is important, butshowing a committed community already in place, almost as a small tribe, can