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Title: Uses and risks of microblogging in small and medium enterprises
Author: Latif Shabgahi, Soureh
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 136X
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2015
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Microblogging tools, such as Twitter and Yammer, are examples of social media that allow users to share messages about personal activities, share opinions and to receive quick notifications. They have become very popular, for both personal and professional pursuits, with millions of users worldwide. Some authors have claimed that social media can radically transform organisations. However, there is a lack of empirical research that evaluates that claim. Not much is known about internal organisational uses of microblogs, in comparison to their public uses, for example for marketing. Also, less research has been devoted to microblogging adoption and use in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), organisation with less than 250 employees. Yet, SMEs are recognised to be key to the economy. Accordingly, this thesis investigates the uses and perceptions of risks of microblogging in UK based SMEs. The research adopts a qualitative, interpretive methodology because of the intention to explore how participants understand microblogging themselves. 21 semi-structured, face-to-face and phone interviews were conducted with managers, directors and employees in SMEs in IT/software, Sports and Consultancy organisations based in South Yorkshire, UK. A thematic approach was taken to analysing the interview data. Most organisations in the study had adopted microblogs by a process of trial and error. Microblogging was mostly used by the manager or director. Smaller organisations did not make much use of the platforms for direct advertising i.e. selling products to others through the tools. The participants focused more on other types of uses, such as internal communication, knowledge and sharing data, as well as customer relations. Internally, microblogs such as Yammer was chiefly used by individuals to collaborate remotely with their co-workers and to ask or respond to questions. Externally, Twitter was mainly used to enable users to exchange information such as details about events, to communicate more with customers and potential customers and to build relationships with clients. A visual representation was developed to illustrate the uses of microblogging in SMEs. The participants in the study particularly valued microblogging for its limited functionality, its cost effectiveness and because it could be used via mobile phones. Perceptions of risk emerged as a stronger theme in the analysis than expected. Most participants perceived microblogs to be highly risky i.e. to expose the organisation and employees to danger, though not too risky to use. The commonest type of risk was seen to be the danger of damaging the reputation of the business. Leaking confidential information to the public, negative media coverage, too much noise, misleading information, computer security, bullying, loss of personal privacy and losing valuable information were also identified as risks. Most organisations took specific action to manage and mitigate such perceived risks. The majority of participants talked about controlling what types of information should be shared on the tools. They had a policy on appropriate content. Other types of actions mentioned were controlling who should engage with microblogging, training, having review procedures and complaint procedures to deal with the consequences of mistakes such as providing people with incorrect information. To illustrate such feelings around risks, two visual representations were developed. This research is the first in-depth study about the uses of microblogging in UK based SMEs. It was found that microblogging did not radically transform organisations. It was seen as a useful form of communication for SMEs, but no more than that. The limited financial resources and professional expertise that SMEs have, was key to how they adopted the technology. As regards practical implications, something could be done to address the trial and error approach to using microblogs found to be typical of smaller organisations. For example, managers could be given training courses and guidance on how to best adopt and use microblogging. To improve management of risks, more concrete expert advice could be developed and organisations would benefit from sharing of model policies.
Supervisor: Cox, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available