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Title: How SMEs harness the power of social media : from an organisational impression management perspective
Author: Chen, C.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Organisational impression management (OIM) has increasingly attracted scholarly attentions in recent years. Existing studies mainly focus on OIM within large firm settings or individual-level IM enacted by entrepreneurs. Thus, OIM practiced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a collective on social media is still underdeveloped. Driven by the specified research gaps, this study seeks to explore how OIM is practiced by SMEs on social media. This is done through connecting three interrelated bodies of knowledge: OIM, SMEs, and social media literature to inform corresponding queries that are directed towards a) the desired organisational images/impressions SMEs tend to make online; b) the OIM strategies employed by SMEs on social media; and c) the organisational qualities that have affected SMEs' OIM practice on social media. With a purposively selected sample of 8 SMEs (i.e. in the sector labelled as 'creative, arts and entertainment activities' in FAME database) in Northwest of England, this qualitative research is carried out adopting a multiple-case study approach featuring data collected from three sources: 1) firm manifestos; 2) social media postings; and 3) key informant interviews. The collected data is analysed through a thematic analysis approach. This study yields findings in three aspects: 1) four organisational impressions including professionalism, creativity, social responsibility, and attractiveness; 2) a taxonomy of OIM strategies consisting of qualification-oriented and relationship-oriented strategies; and 3) seven organisational qualities that can be classified into three categories: individual quality (i.e. nature of practitioner), enterprise qualities (i.e. division of roles and responsibilities, work routine, work principle, & evaluation system), and business environment qualities (i.e. nature of industry & functionality of social media). Also, a triangulation of findings is conducted to indicate that 1) making desired impressions is not the primary goal of SMEs' social media activities; and 2) OIM practice tends to remain consistent across micro, small, and medium firms, although the generalisability of the results is limited due to small sample. This study mainly contributes to the OIM literature by extending the widely adopted theoretical framework of OIM developed by Mohamed, Gardner, & Paolillo (1999) and key propositions in OIM literature including 'team performance in perpetuating organisational impressions', 'frontstage and backstage analogy', and 'social cues in mediated communications' (Goffman, 1959; Rettie, 2009; Solomon et al., 2013; Richey, Ravishankar, & Coupland, 2016).
Supervisor: Jayawarna, Dilani ; Heywood, Dale Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral