The Role of Social Network in Family Business Diversification: Evidence from South Eastern Nigeria

Kenneth Chukwujioke Agbim, Anthony Igwe
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 199-234

This study seeks to investigate if participation in business association’s programs through the traditional and new media platforms influences family businesses in South Eastern Nigeria to diversify into similar or different businesses.

Before the advances in information and communication technology, businesses were carried on via the traditional media. The application of these advances has changed the way business communications and transactions are conducted globally in both family and non-family businesses. Businesses are adapting to today’s turbulent environment by opening similar or different businesses in the same or different locations that are hinged on the traditional and new media platforms. Nigerians are largely involved in social network through the traditional (face-to-face contact) and new media (e.g., Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram). Moreover, in spite of the commonplaceness of family businesses in Nigeria, these businesses still experience weak diversification, bankruptcy and loss of socio-emotional wealth. Consequent upon the foregoing, this paper specifically investigates if involvement in social network via the traditional media (i.e., participation in business association’s meetings, workshops, seminars) and the new media (i.e., participation in the business association’s interactive sessions on trending business issues through the association’s online social platform like WhatsApp, Twitter), influence family businesses in South Eastern Nigeria to diversify into similar or different businesses.

The study adopted a qualitative methodology. The qualitative data were generated via interview involving 30 purposively selected businesses from South Eastern Nigeria. This comprises 15 family businesses each that have respectively adopted related and unrelated diversification strategies. Two respondents (i.e., the business owner and a top level manager) each were drawn from the selected businesses. In all, 60 respondents were interviewed. Since the unit of analysis is the family business, the interview transcriptions from all the respondents were subjected to thematic content analysis on the basis of the family businesses.

Active involvement and participation in all the meetings, discussions, workshops and seminars of the social network via the traditional and new media platforms facilitates the adoption of related or unrelated diversification in family businesses. Moreover, the adoption of similar social network platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter in all the relationships among and between employees and managers, and the transactions of the businesses is one of the key factors for achieving successful related or unrelated diversification in family businesses.

In spite of the risky nature of the business environment, the adoption of related diversification strategies is significantly influenced by resources such as business consultancy services garnered through the traditional and new media platforms of the social network. Also, family businesses that are actively involved in a social network where the actors interact through the traditional and new media are influenced by the resources acquired to consider adopting unrelated diversification. These resources include: better understanding of the nature of business challenges, environments and experiences; and different lines of businesses. Thus, the traditional and new media platforms are complementary in their roles.

Family business owner-managers could use the findings to develop related or unrelated strategies for diversifying into existing or new markets. This can be through the localization of manufacturing plant, improvement of product packaging, sitting of sales outlet closer to the consumers, introduction of lower prices for products/services, introduction of new and better ways of service delivery, or development of more compelling promotion strategies.

As a veritable guide, this study could guide future researchers in the formulation of their objectives, selection of instrument for data collection and respondents, and adoption of method of data analysis.

Successful diversification suggests the establishment of new or more businesses. Consequently, these new or more family businesses are expected to translate to more employment opportunities and by extension reduction in unemployment and poverty rates in the society.

Further studies should be carried out to enhance the development of family businesses, contribute to the existing literature and ensure the generalization of the findings.

family business, social network, unrelated diversification strategy, related diversification strategy
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