Predicting the Adoption of Social Media: An Integrated Model and Empirical Study on Facebook Usage

Ahmed Al-Azawei
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 13  •  2018  •  pp. 233-258

This study aims at (1) extending an existing theoretical framework to gain a deeper understanding of the technology acceptance process, notably of the Facebook social network in an unexplored Middle East context, (2) investigating the influence of social support theory on Facebook adoption outside the work context, (3) validating the effectiveness of the proposed research model for enhancing Facebook adoption, and (4) determining the effect of individual differences (gender, age, experience, and educational level) amongst Facebook users on the associated path between the proposed model constructs.

Social networking sites (SNSs) are widely adopted to facilitate social interaction in the Web-based medium. As such, this present work contends that there is a gap in the existing literature, particularly in the Middle East context, as regards an empirical investigation of the relationship between the social, psychological, individual, and cognitive constructs potentially affecting users’ intention to accept SNSs. The present research, therefore, attempts to address this deficit. The relevance of this work is also considered in light of the scarcity of empirical evidence and lack of detailed research on the effect of social support theory with regard to SNS adoption in a non-work context.

A quantitative research approach was adopted for this study. The corresponding analysis was carried out based on structural equation modelling (SEM), more specifically, partial least squares (PLS), using SmartPLS software. Earlier research recommended the PLS approach for exploratory studies when extending an existing model or developing a new theory. PLS is also a superior method of complex causal modelling. Moreover, a multi-group analysis technique was adopted to investigate the moderating influence of individual differences. This method divides the dataset into two groups and then computes the cause and effect relationships between the research model variables for each set. The analysis of an in-person survey with a sample of Facebook users (N=369) subsequently suggested four significant predictors of continuous Facebook use.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge relating to SNSs by providing empirical evidence of constructs that influence Facebook acceptance in the case of a developing country. It raises awareness of antecedents of Facebook acceptance at a time when SNSs are widely used in Arab nations and worldwide. It also contributes to previous literature on the effectiveness of the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) in different cultural contexts. Another significant contribution of this study is that it has reported on the relevance of social support theory to Facebook adoption, with this theory demonstrating a significant and direct ability to predict Facebook acceptance. Finally, the present research identified the significant moderating effect of individual differences on the associated path between the proposed model constructs. This means that regardless of technological development, individual gaps still appeared to exist among users.

The findings suggested four significant predictors of continuous Facebook use, namely, (a) performance expectancy, (b) peer support, (c) family support, and (d) perceived playfulness. Furthermore, behavioral intention and facilitating conditions were found to be significant determinants of actual Facebook use, while individual differences were shown to moderate the path strength between several variables in the proposed research model.

The results of the present study make practical contributions to SNS organizations. For example, this research revealed that users do not adopt Facebook because of its usefulness alone; instead, users’ acceptance is developed through a sequence of variables such as individual differences, psychological factors, and social and organizational beliefs. Accordingly, social media organizations should not consider only strategies that apply to just one context, but also to other contexts characterized by different beliefs, perceptions, and cultures. Moreover, the evidence provided here is that social support theory has a significant influence on SNSs acceptance. This suggests that social media organizations should provide services to support this concept. Furthermore, the significant positive effect of perceived playfulness on the intention to use SNSs implied that designers and organizations should pay further attention to the entertainment services provided by social networks.

To validate the proposed conceptual framework, researchers from different countries and cultures are invited to apply the model. Moreover, a longitudinal research design could be implemented to gather data over a longer period, in order to investigate whether users have changed their attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and intention by the end of the study period. Other constructs, such as individual experience, compatibility, and quality of working life could be included to improve the power of the proposed model.

Middle Eastern Facebook users regard the network as an important tool for interacting with others. The increasing number of Facebook users renders it a tool of universal communication and enjoyment, as well as a marketing network. However, knowledge of the constructs affecting the application of SNSs is valuable for ensuring that such sites have the various functions required to suit different types of user.

It is hoped that our future research will build on the results of this work and attempt to provide further explanation of why users accept SNSs. In this future research, the proposed research model could be adopted to explore SNSs acceptance in other developing countries. Researchers might also include other factors of potential influence on SNSs acceptance. The constructs influencing acceptance of other social networks could then be compared to the present research findings and thus, the differences and similarities would be highlighted.

social media networks, Facebook acceptance, unified theory of acceptance and use of technology, (UTAUT), social support theory, perceived playfulness, individual differences, Middle East
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