Extending UTAUT to explain social media adoption by microbusinesses


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This paper establishes inadequacies of the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) theory to explain social media adoption by microbusinesses. Literature review confirms the explaining power of UTAUT in variety of technology adoption by businesses. This paper uses UTAUT theory to implement social media technology in microbusinesses. Canonical action research method is adopted to introduce social media in microbusinesses. A post positivist approach is used to report the results based on a predetermined premise. It was found that the major constructs of performance and effort expectancy played insignificant role in establishing behavioural and adoption intention of social media by microbusinesses. Social influence and facilitating condition did not influence the behavioural intentions of the microbusiness owners. Individual characteristics and codification effort dominated the use behaviour. Goal of gaining customers leads to behavioural modification resulting in replacing of behavioural intention with goals as a superior method of predicting adoption behaviour within the context of microbusinesses. This paper extends the UTAUT to explain social media adoption in microbusinesses.

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Extending UTAUT to explain social media adoption by microbusinesses

  1. 1. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of WaikatoDebashish Mandal - University of Waikato dm110@waikato.ac.nzChief Supervisor: Prof. Robert J McQueenSupervisor: Dr. Stuart Dillion and Dr. Karyn RastrickTitleExtending UTAUT to explain social media adoption by microbusinessesAbstractThis paper establishes inadequacies of the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology(UTAUT) theory to explain social media adoption by microbusinesses. Literature review confirms theexplaining power of UTAUT in variety of technology adoption by businesses. This paper uses UTAUTtheory to implement social media technology in microbusinesses. Canonical action research methodis adopted to introduce social media in microbusinesses. A post positivist approach is used to reportthe results based on a predetermined premise. It was found that the major constructs of performanceand effort expectancy played insignificant role in establishing behavioural and adoption intention ofsocial media by microbusinesses. Social influence and facilitating condition did not influence thebehavioural intentions of the microbusiness owners. Individual characteristics and codification effortdominated the use behaviour. Goal of gaining customers leads to behavioural modification resultingin replacing of behavioural intention with goals as a superior method of predicting adoptionbehaviour within the context of microbusinesses. This paper extends the UTAUT to explain socialmedia adoption in microbusinesses.Key wordsUTAUT, social media, action research, microbusiness
  2. 2. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of WaikatoSocial media is being adopted by business primarily to talk with the customer rather than the oldmethod of talk at the customer. Applications are simple, free; web based, and depends on content,which is generated by the user. It supports parallel multiple communications with business toconsumer, consumer to consumer, and a network of forums or groups. These groups specialises insubjects or share common interest having a great influence on buying decisions of a buyer. Businessesare trying to participate in this communication to gather perception of customers about products andget ideas about new product development. Another prominent use is dissemination of informationsuch as daily deals, which can be broadcasted by the business to a select target group of users whohave opted to receive this information. The micro broadcasting capability to a select group has beenused recently in various campaigns prominently the Egypt revolution. The people were able to self-organise and keep up the tempo by publishing photos of the struggle and gather world support leadingto the ultimate over throwing of the government.The micro publishing feature has revolutionised small businesses that are able to circumvent large andexpensive media to bring attention, market and sell their products and services. Many microbusinesseshave adopted Twitter and Facebook with varying levels of success. The primary question that ariseshow can microbusiness take advantage of the micro publishing feature of the social media for theirbusinesses? This paper aims to answer this question using UTAUT the most dominant adoptiontheory that explains almost seventy per cent of variance in adoption behaviour. The literature reviewidentifies the gap in the literature to establish the uniqueness of this investigation. Next, researchquestions are framed and following a post positivist approach suitable propositions has beendeveloped. The action research method is described along with the data analysis process. The resultsof the investigation are presented followed by the discussion section that links back to the literaturereview and propositions pointing out agreement and disagreements with the same. Finally, beforeconcluding, the primary limitation of single case study (rigour) and ways to circumvent the same isdetailed.Literature reviewThe review identifies gap in the literature on microbusiness adoption of information systems using theUTAUT theory. Scant investigation has been performed using the UTAUT in small business sector.In reference to social media, limited investigation has been performed on its adoption by businessesusing the UTAUT. These investigations primarily used TAM. This research addresses the gap byproviding the knowledge on the predicting capability of UTAUT in social media adoption bymicrobusinesses. For detailed analysis of UTAUT reader can refer to Dwivedi, Mustafee, Carter, &Williams (2010); Dwivedi, Rana, Chen, & Williams (2011) and Oye, A.Iahad, & Ab.Rahim (2012).The first two are biblometric analysis and meta-analysis the third being a complete history ofUTAUT.Specific extensions to the UTAUT has been covered by Venkatesh, Thong, & Xu (2012) proposingthe UTAUT2 specifically from individual consumer context adding habit, hedonic motivation andprice value as new constructs. Habit in UTAUT2 is obtained from the individual characteristics theoryalso called as the big five personality traits. Such extension has been performed by Devaraj, Easley, &Crant (2008) adding individual characteristics to the UTAUT. Microbusiness owners are individualsand their characteristics may play an important role in adoption of social media. UTAUT construct ofbehavioural intention has been questioned by Venkatesh, Brown, Maruping, & Bala (2008) suggestingbehavioural expectation as an appropriate replacement for behavioural intention. The relation betweenbehavioural intention and use behaviour has been questioned by Sheppard, Hartwick, & Warshaw(1988). Bagozzi (2007) opines that, “the intention-behaviour linkage is probably the most uncriticallyaccepted assumption” (p. 245) turning in favour of a goal oriented model.UTAUT and technology diffusion theory has been used to understand social media adoption (Twitter)in a business environment. Günther, Krasnova, Riehle, & Schondienst (2009) identify codificationeffort and reputation as new constructs affecting behaviour in adoption of twitter for inter officecommunication. Time and privacy was the overriding concern for all the participants. DiMicco et al.
  3. 3. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of Waikato(2008) find out that caring, climbing and campaigning are the biggest motivators of use of socialmedia for IBM employees. Barnes & Böhringer (2011) identify habit as a dominant factor for use ofmicro blogging in a business communication environment. The habit construct points to individualcharacteristics as incorporated in UTAUT2. Turban, Bolloju, & Liang, (2011) identify that socialnetworking in enterprises poses several risk in terms of legal risk, internet resources, security,intellectual property and misuse by employees by wasting time on such networks.Finally within microbusiness literature on technology adoption Qureshil, Kamal, & Wolcott (2009)identify technical ability of the owner as the primary lacunae in successfully leveraging thetechnology. The technical ability can be easily linked to individual characteristics and innovativenessdiscussed above. Literature on microbusinesses focuses on scarce resources leading to predominanceof networking and sharing. However, such networking is necessarily offline and hence not consideredin this literature review. Time can be a scarce resource and has been considered earlier above.Technology adoption literature on Small and medium enterprise (SME) is substantial such as Li,Troutt, Brandyberry, & Wang (2011) identify relative advantage as the main factor in post technologyadoption. Street & Meister (2004) establish the role of information systems to compliment theinformal communication system existing internally and externally in an SME. Macredie & Mijinyawa(2011) identify relative advantage, compatibility complexity, and self-efficacy to play a prominentrole in open source software adoption by SME’s.The literature gap positions this research as unique providing the much-needed knowledge onapplicability of UTAUT in social media adoption by microbusinesses. Secondly, role of individualcharacteristics in social media adoption by microbusiness owner would be a valuable contextualaddition to the UTAUT theory and the existing body of knowledge. Finally, converting the UTAUT toa goal-oriented model would increase the relevance of the overall model from a practitionerperspective.Research QuestionsThe research seeks to address the following question: How is social media adopted bymicrobusinesses? To address this question UTAUT has been used as the theoretical base tounderstand the adoption process of social media by microbusinesses. It is expected that the keyconstruct performance expectancy will play a prominent role in influencing the behavioural pattern ofmicrobusiness owners leading to greater use of social media tool. Secondly, due to the simplicity ofsocial media tools effort expectancy will play a non-significant role leading to immediate use of socialmedia by microbusiness owners. Social influence including image will play a pivotal role such thatthe microbusiness owners will enjoy a higher self-esteem in being able to use a new and in-fashiontechnology for marketing. Finally facilitating condition will play the role of a moderator such as itwill be important in the initial stages of adoption as originally theorised by UTAUT. The role of age,gender, and experience is beyond the scope of this investigation. Voluntariness is not included forreasons as cited in UTAUT2.The reporting style of this paper follows the recommendations byDeLuca, Gallivan, & Kock (2008).MethodWeak constructionist approach is followed with focus on examining utility of an artefact and limitedemphasis on reality. An action research method is employed by introducing social media Facebookbusiness page in the microbusiness. Training on use along with awareness has been planned on twocanonical action research cycles. A third unplanned cycle was required after completion of the firsttwo cycles. The third cycle inserts an illustrative demonstration for the participant to exemplify theuse of Facebook business page by similar businesses. The initial cycles are driven by UTAUT todevelop and guide the adoption process. The author is aware that UTAUT is a theory from thepositivist domain and this research hopes to extend the knowledge using an interpretive strategy. Thisapproach is consistent with Lee, (1994) who has interpretively examined media richness theory. Thefirst cycle was conducted evaluated and learning captured to lead to the second cycle. Evaluation and
  4. 4. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of Waikatolearning from the second cycle required a third cycle. Due to space restriction the evaluation andlearning is reported in the results. It is understood that the evaluation and learning took place incycles.Data collection is done by participant observation (memos) and unstructured interviews during theaction research implementation and finally a semi-structured interview after implementation andadoption. Participant observation is possible since the facebook business page is a public tool.Activity of the microbusiness owner on the tool can be easily observed. The observation is recordedas memos for analysis. Data triangulation is done by conducting interview from two similarmicrobusinesses already using facebook business page. Secondary data is obtained from the facebookbusiness pages and business mentors. This data is collected using social media tools such as Twitter,LinkedIn, Facebook, and Blogs. Data analysis follows the recommendations from Baskerville (1999)and DeLuca et al., (2008). Data collection and analysis is performed simultaneously through eachstage of diagnosis, action planning, action taking, evaluating and specifying learning. A list of code isdeveloped from theory such as efficacy, effort, performance, time, and goals for initial data analysis.This initial codes help in early categorisation of the data during data collection. Later data is thenopen coded followed by axial and selective coding to develop core categories. The coding activity isperformed using NVivo. Triangulation data is analysed following the above process. Follow-upinterviews and observation of the page is carried out after six months for confirmation of results.ResultsContrary to the expectation, though the microbusiness owner is aware of the usefulness of Facebookbusiness page but is not capable and hesitant to use the same. Facebook business pages are technicallysimple to use but the microbusiness owner struggled to find suitable content to engage the customer.Time spent to use the tool become an important criteria to use the tool. Participants felt that it wasmuch easier to use the radio and print media rather than the social media site. On completion of thefirst two cycles, the use of the tool died down after the initial “new” euphoria. The owner did not seeany benefit in using the tool in comparison to effort required for using the same. The microbusinessowner was not greatly influenced by social situation. Image played little role over businessconsideration. The owners had a headstrong belief leading to very little addition by the facilitator inthis case the researcher himself.DiscussionThe primary construct of UTAUT performance expectancy (which includes relative advantage) hasreduced importance in a social media adoption scenario. Bagozzi (2007) argues that “a person canrecognize and even accept that PU or attitudes are favourable criteria for deciding to act, but have nodesire to act and even explicitly decide not to act in the face of these reasons” (p. 245). This seems tobe also in contradiction to Li et al. (2011) and Macredie & Mijinyawa (2011) who have identified thatrelative advantage plays important role in use of new technology by SME’s. New constructs undereffort expectancy such as codification effort and time required to use the tool downplayed theimportance of the tool. This is in agreement with finding of Günther et al. (2009) who havehighlighted the problem of finding the appropriate content. At this stage, it is not possible to establisha causal relationship between the two constructs since data was not collected to support the same.When the owners were presented with an illustrative module of use of the tool by exact samebusinesses, they decided to make effort to use the tool. The owners reviewed the illustrative moduleand decided to modify their behaviour towards using the tool with one of the owners taking the lead.The successful microbusiness owners who have been using the page innovatively to the advantage oftheir business seemed to have a positive effect on participants approach towards the tool. Theillustrative module invigorated the use of the facebook business page leading to substantial use by theparticipant. This suggests that individual characteristic of innovation and training seems to play themost deterministic role in adoption of social media by microbusiness. This is consistent with thefinding of Devaraj et al. (2008) and Venkatesh et al. (2012) who have pointed out the role of
  5. 5. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of Waikatoindividual characteristics. This research did not find any evidence of importance of habit as aconstruct advocated by Venkatesh et al. (2012) and Barnes & Böhringer (2011). Consistent with thefinding of DiMicco et al. (2008) campaigning for its products and services took precedence ratherthan customer care. As the participants saw value (usefulness) with customers responding to some oftheir posts they made a proactive effort to use the tool. This point out that microbusiness owners areenterprising people highly goal oriented and willing to do the necessary to achieve their goals. Thebehavioural intention construct seemed to lose importance in face of desire to achieve their goalsdetermining the maximum indicator of adoption. It confirms the findings and propositions of Bagozzi(2007), Venkatesh et al. (2008) and Sheppard et al. (1988). Based on the findings Figure 1 belowsummarises the extended model of social media adoption by microbusiness.Figure 1 Extended UTAUT Model Individual Characteristics 1. Innovativeness 2. Personality Traits Social Media Use Goals Effort Expectancy 1. Duration 1. Gain New Customer 1. Codification Effort 2. Frequency 2. Engage Customer 2. Time Required 3. Intensity 3. Word of Mouth Marketing Performance Expectancy 1. Usefulness 2. Outcome Expectations Moderator Social Influence Facilitating Conditions 1. Social Factors 1. Training & SupportTheoretical contributionsFrom Figure 1it is theorised that desire to achieve goals using the social media tool primarily play themost important indicator of adoption. Microbusiness owners are capable of undergoing modificationto their behaviour to achieve their goals. Achievement of goals would be primary and the maximummotivator leading to social media adoption. Goal achievement is based on individual characteristicswhich is the second most important construct followed by effort expectancy. The two-way arrowindicates that social media use evolves over time as the owner develops a comfort zone and gets usedto the medium and the idea of chatting with the customers. As the owner achieves the goal of gainingnew customers it provides encouragement to try out new ideas, spend more time, and understand theusefulness of the medium. The loop continues as the owner discovers new use of the social mediatool. The developed theory will be used to implement and examine social media adoption in othermicrobusinesses to validate the theory and refine the findings.Implications for researchA fresh look is required for use of TAM and UTAUT specifically while examining technologyadoption by microbusinesses. Due to single case study, the individual characteristics could not beexamined in detail. It leaves questions unanswered such as why personality trait is relevant for socialmedia adoption by microbusinesses. Goal oriented models need to incorporated rather thanbehavioural intentions, which have a greater capability to predict technology adoption by
  6. 6. New Zealand Information Systems Doctoral Consortium – Conference held on 31st August 2012 at University of Waikatomicrobusinesses. In the positivist sense, it is necessary to compare the efficiency of a goal-orientedmodel against a behaviour-based model. Paradigmatically the balancing of reality (behaviour) versususe of an IT artefact (goal) model would require efficient research design. There may be causalrelationship between individual characteristics and effort expectancy, which can be explained betterthrough an interpretive standpoint. In the usual positivist argument high effort requires a challenge-oriented person (individual characteristics) to play a pivotal role in deciding extend of adoption. Sucha straightforward relationship could be difficult to establish since innovativeness can play spoilsport.The nature of innovativeness is a personal trait, which can be better explored through further closecontact interpretive investigations. Overall, further investigation is necessary to establish straightforward hypothesis for positivist oriented investigation.Strengths and limitationsAction research employed helped the researcher to portray the adoption process at extremely closequarters within the business. Data triangulation from similar business makes the research extremelyrelevant for retail microbusinesses. The extensions and modifications made to the UTAUT areconsistent with past suggestions and modifications.Since a single case study has been used, higher value has been put forward for relevance rather thanrigour. The theory development is based on a single case. This exploratory development wasnecessary due to absence of theory in adoption of social media by microbusiness. The limitation ofthis study shall be overcome by conducting further action research investigation using the developedtheory. No negative evidence was collected to falsify the theory leading to major flaw in the theorydevelopment process. However, the limited scope of the investigation did not permit looking fornegative evidences. The case of bias against action research is substantially strong. In this case, theauthor was actively involved with the practitioner over elongated period leading to going native. Theauthor managed the going native aspect by recognising the dual cycle of action (a) the research cycleand (b) the problem solving cycle. In this manner, distinctly separating the two cycle’s bias wasmanaged to bring about a non-partial collection and analysis of data.Implications for practiceThe two main implication are (a) Patience is a virtue and social media experience cannot be doneovernight. (b) The microbusiness owner is the best judge about his business. Communication with thecustomer cannot be outsourced. Practise is required to gain efficacy with social media. Regular andcontinuous systematic use will lead to benefits. It is efficient to learn from established facebook usersby observing their content. Innovative trial-and-error use of the facebook business page is necessaryto understand the best possible engaging experience for the customer.ConclusionsThe paper makes out a case for extending the UTAUT to accommodate the adoption of social mediaprocess by microbusinesses. Individual characteristics of innovativeness on use of the facebookbusiness page seemed to be the most dominant role for adopting social media. Codification effort andtime required for using the tool can significantly undermine use of the tool. The learning curve fortechnologically less informed business owners may be higher. A goal-oriented model is simpler forthe practitioner community to understand and follow rather than behavioural intention. Furtherinterpretive investigation is required for developing solid hypothesis for a positivist-orientedinvestigation.
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