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Title: Exploring social media adoption processes and factors : small and medium enterprises in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Author: Namankani, Hanaa
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 5817
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Over recent years, Social Media (SM) has begun to revolutionize the business world. As SM platforms and functions have developed, the prospects for SM adoption have become increasingly evident to businesses. Thus, it is highly recommended that contemporary businesses improve their knowledge of SM adoption and gain experience. It is also important for businesses to consider how to improve their SM performance to attain maximum advantage from SM use. At the present time, SM is increasingly being adopted as a tool by a variety of organizations, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Moreover, for SMEs with limited resources and capabilities, SM represents a unique opportunity for enhancement and expansion, also facilitating several business activities. However, although SMEs are considered the backbone of the economies of most countries worldwide, and are of a high value socially, there has been little research into SM adoption by SMEs. Additionally, SM is becoming ever more diffused among customers in diverse sectors, as a variety of internet based mobile-devices are facilitating the search for products and services online, and via SM platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Specifically, in the context of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (K.S.A), SM use is becoming more widespread and SMEs are receiving greater attention from the government, the public, the private sector, and consumers. To investigate SM adoption by SMEs in the K.S.A, the current research explores important factors including enablers and barriers, as well as potential practices that might promote effective adoption or inhibit it. A conceptual framework was developed integrating current models of technology adoption (including the Technology-Organization-Environment (TOE) and Innovation-Decision-Processes from Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) frameworks). Utilizing this framework, thirteen cases of Saudi SMEs, in both the retail and service sectors, were investigated. The cases combining 39 interviews with individuals involved in SM adoption. The main outcome of this research is a SM based business framework that identifies the main factors that influence SM adoption, including environmental factors, technological SM related, and organizational SMEs related factors. The proposed framework also presents the modified SM adoption process stages, including knowledge, decision, implementation, assessment and monitoring, and improvement and development. The expected outcomes from effective SM adoption in SMEs were categorized into marketing improvement, transformation of business functions, research and development enhancements and business development and expansion. Furthermore, the findings based on the interview results indicate that SMEs in both studied sectors retail and service are adopting SM similarly with no core differences were found as important insights to the study. SMEs mainly adopted SM as a marketing tool, to advertise and improve brand image. Additionally, to attract and reach more potential customers, improving sales, accessing new markets and to use SM as a customer service communication channel. However, with moderate SM use for market research which found to be (if applied) positively informing decision making by the business along with facilitating and enabling of important business improvement strategy such as mass customization and crowdsourcing. Little attention was given to SM functions that might improve human resources and supplier related activities. The findings suggest government support for SMEs and ICT infrastructure readiness in the K.S.A, internet affordability and availability, the advantages of SM platforms and the functional variety and ease of use comprise some of the key enablers to adopt SM. In addition, the results showed that SM cost effectiveness, low entry cost, and SM popularity among customers represent main motivations for SM adoption in SMEs. Besides, SMEs top management support and internal SM and business management knowledge were important influencing factors motivating SMEs and enabling them for better performance in the adoption of SM. However, SMEs need to overcome several obstacles if they are to achieve effective SM adoption. The main obstacles or barriers that shown adverse influence were cultural issues, lack of SM regulations and laws in K.S.A and SM security issues such as hacking or replications. Besides, top management unwillingness to incur SM costs, if any, and attitudes has a particular effect to limit improvements to SM adoption. In addition, inadequate SM adoption planning, reliance on personal effort, and limited awareness of SM broader function in SMEs had a highly undesirable influence on the effectiveness of SM adoption in SMEs. Moreover, several recommendations for Saudi SMEs have been proposed as best-practices to follow and mal-practices to avoid. In order to achieve effective SM adoption and experience more operational improvement outcomes which is positively associated with the effective adoption best practices. The contributions to academic knowledge made by this research are several. First, the research discusses the applicability of the Innovation-DecisionProcesses and TOE models to investigate SM adoption by SMEs. Second, it contextualizes and adapts both models to meet the specific prevailing conditions in SMEs in the K.S.A. Hence, the result would be a more generalizable one applicable to both retail and services sectors and applicable in some developing countries and gulf countries with similar economic conditions.
Supervisor: Tickle, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral