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Saturday, September 14 • 3:01pm - 3:20pm
"A study of social media user characteristics and usage”

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There is a growing literature in areas such as social influence (e.g., Kumar, Bhaskaran and Mirchandani 2013) ,and impact of social media on brands and brand equity (e.g., Bergh et al. 2011; Foster et al. 2011; Kim and Ko, 2010; Singh and Sonnenburg). Many studies use data from social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to analyze influence, among other variables.

We wanted to look at individual characteristics that may impact use of social media. While social media usage has become mainstream, and no longer limited to urban, young or elite, not everyone uses social media in the same way. Usage patterns are different. Underlying drivers could be different. We believe that by understanding user characteristics and how they affect usage, marketers can get a better sense of their online market segments. Two surveys were conducted.

The first survey focused on general social media users. The purpose of this study was to understand how individual difference variables such as extraversion, openness to new experiences and homophily affect social media usage. Online ads and ads in social media sites were used to recruit consumers presently using social media. The sample size was 210, which was obtained from six different Canadian provinces. We measured Social Media Engagement/Enjoyment, Extraversion, Openness to New Experiences, Online Self-Perception, Homophily, Online Participation and Demographics. All measures were on 5-point scales. Cronbach’s alpha scores ranged from 0.73 to 0.87.

We used regression and PLS to analyze the data (using SmartPLS). The results provided support to some of the hypotheses. Specifically, it was found that openness to new ideas, extraversion and homophily (which is the tendency to associate with similar others) and online self-perception impacted the level of engagement that participants experienced in social media. Engagement, in turn, was a significant predictor of how rewarding and satisfying the social media experience was. Figure 1 shows the results from the PLS analysis.

The second survey focused on a group of highly educated professionals, who were all in the same profession. We recruited participants via email. In this national survey, we obtained a sample size of 468 responses out of which 372 were usable. The purpose of this study was to understand characteristics that would lead members or an elite profession to adopt a social network site. Only part of the analysis from this survey is reported here. Of specific interest was the relationship between perceived opinion leadership (based on a self-rating scale) and its relationship to social media usage.

We found that those who perceive themselves as opinion leaders (about 27% of the sample) are more drawn to social media than others. In addition, we found that the social network size is more related to the number of social media sites that a person belonged to rather than their perceived opinion leadership. Those who perceive themselves to be opinion leaders may not necessarily have the largest social network size.

The two studies together shed light on how specific user characteristics and individual difference variable affect usage, engagement and satisfaction with social media. The results have implications for marketers who wish to target opinion leaders or those who wish to create engaging and rewarding experiences in their branded social media sites.


Ramesh Venkat

Saint Mary's University
St. Mary’s University, Canada

Saturday September 14, 2013 3:01pm - 3:20pm EDT
ROWE 1009

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