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International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

International Journal of Information Management


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijinfomgt

Social media research: Theories, constructs, and conceptual


frameworks
Eric W.T. Ngai a,1 , Spencer S.C. Tao a , Karen K.L. Moon b,
a
b

Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Department of Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design/The Research Institute of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Available online 19 October 2014
Keywords:
Social media
Literature review
Research constructs
Causal-chain framework

a b s t r a c t
In just one decade, social media have revolutionized the life of many people and thus attracted much
attention, not only from industry, but also academia. To understand how researchers have adopted theories, used research constructs, and developed conceptual frameworks in their studies, a systematic and
structured literature review based on ve leading online academic databases was conducted. A total of 46
articles on social media research were consolidated and analyzed, including empirical studies spanning
from 2002 to 2011. A collection of theories/models and constructs/attributes adopted in these articles is
summarized and tabulated for easy reference and comprehension of extant research results. A causalchain framework was developed based on the input-moderatormediator-output model to illustrate the
causality between the research constructs used and the conceptualization of theoretical models/theories
proposed by previous researchers. Because social media cover a wide range of research topics, the literature review may not be exhaustive. However, the proposed causal-chain framework and suggested
research directions may be regarded as representative references for future research in the subject area.
This is believed to be the rst comprehensive literature review of social media research, and it contributes
to a better understanding of the causes and effects of the adoption and usage of social media.
2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The advent of social media has substantially changed the manner in which many people, communities, and/or organizations
communicate and interact. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p. 61)
dened social media as a group of Internet-based applications that
build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0,
and allow the creation and exchange of user generated content.
Using these applications, people can create, share, and exchange
information in a virtual community. The dramatic development of
social media has helped shape peoples connections with others
via different social media platforms (Colliander & Dahln, 2011).
Today, the benets of participating in social media not only involve
simple social communication, but also building reputations and
bringing in career opportunities, and/or generating direct monetary

Corresponding author at: 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, Republic of


Korea. Tel.: +852 2766 7296; fax: +852 2765 0611.
E-mail addresses: mswtngai@inet.polyu.edu.hk (E.W.T. Ngai),
trstao@yahoo.com.hk (S.S.C. Tao), tcmoonkl@gmail.com, tcmoonkl@snu.ac.kr
(K.K.L. Moon).
1
Tel.: +86 852 2766 7296; fax: +86 852 2765 0611.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2014.09.004
0268-4012/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

revenue (Tang, Gu, & Whinston, 2012). Social media drive a new set
of models for various kinds of businesses that challenge traditional
business processes and operations (Hanna, Rohm, & Crittenden,
2011). The salient difference is that one-to-one mass customization
has become the business transaction norm, replacing the one-tomany marketing promotion model (Peters, 1998). Moreover, in this
Internet/computer era, online customer reviews have become an
important yardstick by which marketers formulate their marketing
strategies.
Social media can also serve as tools facilitating intra- and
inter-organizational activities among peers, customers, business
partners, and organizations; such as collaborative product development (Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Porter & Donthu, 2008), creation
of knowledge sharing communities (Fernando, 2010; Kasavana,
Nusair, & Teodosic, 2010; Yates & Paquette, 2011), implementation
of corporate dialog at nancial institutions (Bonsn & Flores, 2011),
marketing strategies for brand management (Jin, 2012; Laroche,
Habibi, & Richard, 2013), and collaborative learning and creativity (Peppler & Solomou, 2011). Individuals and/or organizations
therefore must be well prepared to embrace the challenges and
opportunities brought about by social media. Notwithstanding, the
phenomenon of social media remains new to academia. In terms of
using the terminology of social media explicitly, papers on social

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E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

media have, for the most part, only been published in the last few
years. Based on the proliferation of social media uses and applications, we anticipate that more studies will be conducted and further
results will be available in the coming years.
This present study aims to review social media research in
the extant literature and collect data from work conducted thus
far to create a framework to understand the causal relationships
among different research constructs adopted. The value of this
study lies in its systematic review of the articles in this subject
area, reporting the dimensions and variables studied by previous researchers as well as their proposed conceptual models
and frameworks. Based on these ndings, a causal-chain framework was developed to illustrate the inter-relationships among
the adopted research constructs. This framework is expected to
provide a reference for researchers, to serve as a research roadmap,
and to stimulate new ideas in future research in this subject
area.
The paper is organized as follows: the next section briey
describes the method in conducting the search process. The
third section provides an exhaustive review of the identied academic articles and a detailed discussion of the development of
a causal-chain framework. The fourth section further discusses
the implications from the ndings and suggests four potential
research areas. The nal section is devoted to the conclusion
and a discussion of the contributions and limitations of this
study.

2. Research methodology
A search for empirical studies in the extant literature was conducted to investigate the work of previous researchers on social
media and to develop a causal-chain framework to illustrate the
interrelationships of the research constructs adopted. Five dominant business/management academic databases were adopted,
including ABI/Inform, Business Source Premier, Emerald Management eJournals, Science Direct, and ISI Web of Knowledge. These
databases cover most of all social science and top management literature. Since there are few papers which explicitly used the term
social media, other keywords with similar meanings related to
social media, such as virtual communities, online communities,
blogs, Web 2.0, social networking sites, and social computing, were also applied in the search process. The scope of this study
is limited to the timeframe of 20022011, as this was the major
growth period of the social media market.
The search for relevant papers in this process was by no means
exhaustive, but the ndings nevertheless serve as a representative summary of the research conducted thus far. Forty-six papers
were selected for in-depth analysis. Only refereed journal articles were included in our study; conference papers, doctorate
and master theses, textbooks, and documentaries were excluded,
as we believe refereed journal articles represent state-of-the-art
research outputs (Chan & Ngai, 2011; Ngai & Wat, 2002). In addition,
this study focused on papers presenting empirical studies, therein
the adopted variables and proposed models were reviewed and
included in our causal-chain framework.

3. Analysis and results


This section begins with a narrative review on the theories and
models adopted in the 46 identied empirical studies. The section
then continues with the development of a causal-chain framework
that is embedded in an analysis of the constructs investigated by
previous researchers in the formation of their conceptual models
or frameworks.

3.1. Theories and models


A large number of theories and models are used in the extant
social media research to study the socio-psychological behavior of
social media users and other stakeholders, such as marketing people and customers. Table 1 presents the theories and models used
in the 46 reviewed articles, from which three groups of theories
(i.e., personal behavior, social behavior, and mass communication)
are identied and discussed below.
3.1.1. Personal behavior theories
The rst group of adopted theories and models in social media
research aims to explain the behavior of human beings at the personal/individual level. Table 1 shows that a total of 15 theories
included in this group. Some of the most essential theories/models
are selected and discussed here.
Personality Traits are often taken to be one of the fundamental
theories explaining the characteristics affecting users subsequent
behavior. Digman (1990) summarized the Five Factor Model of
Personality Traits as openness, conscientiousness, extraversion,
agreeableness, and neuroticism, which individually or collectively
expand the behavioral intentions of social media users in the extant
literature. Examples include the works of Correa, Hinsley, and de

Zniga
(2010); Labrecque, Markos, and Milne (2010); Lu and Hsiao
(2010); and Zhong, Hardin, and Sun (2011).
Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was developed by Davis
(1989) and has been used to study perceived ease of use and
perceived usefulness of new technologies in relation to peoples
attitude toward adoption. TAM has been widely utilized in social
media research to investigate similar scenarios with respect to different social media technologies; examples include the studies by
Casal, Flavin, and Guinalu (2010); Casal, Carlos, and Guinalu
(2011); Hossain and de Silva (2009); Hsu and Lin (2008); Kwon and
Wen (2010); and Steyn, Salehi-Sangari, Pitt, Parent, and Berthon
(2010).
Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) is a theory developed by Ajzen
and Fishbein (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ajzen, 1985), which predicted
peoples volitional behavior based upon a summation of the relative weights of their attitudes and subjective norms. This theory,
which resembles the situation where people voluntarily participate and engage in social media activities, is well cited in social
media research. Hsu and Lin (2008) provide a typical case.
Theory of Planned behavior (TPB) is an extension of TRA, which
was subsequently developed by Ajzen (1985). TPB suggests that
perceived behavior control is employed to moderate the effects
of attitudes and subjective norms on behavior. In social media
research, Casal et al. (2010) and Chang and Zhu (2011) used this
theory to predict users behavior from intention to action.
3.1.2. Social behavior theories
The second group of theories relates to social behavior. Table 1
shows that previous studies adopted 13 theories to explain individuals behavior toward social media in a social context. We selected
several of the most signicant theories in this group and briey
discussed them below.
The Social Aspects Theory is a collective term comprising all social
factors; such as social inuence (Kelman, 1958), which includes
social identity; and social capital (Chang & Chuang, 2011; Portes,
1998), which includes social interaction and social ties. As the use
of social media relates to socio-psychological and volitional behavior, social factors have been widely utilized to study users attitudes,
intentions, and actions in connection with social media adoption or
usage; such as in the works of Cheung and Lee (2010), Blanchard
(2008), Chai and Kim (2010), Fischer and Reuber (2011) and Shiue,
Chiu, and Chang (2010).

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

35

Table 1
Theories and models used in social media research.
Theories and models

References

Porter and Donthu (2008)


Zhong et al. (2011)
Hau and Kim (2011)
Chiu et al. (2011) and Hsieh et al. (2010)
Bagozzi and Dholakia (2002)
Lewis and George (2008)
Correa et al. (2010), Labrecque et al. (2010), Lu and Hsiao (2010) and Zhong et al. (2011)
Zhu and Zhang (2010)
Shiue et al. (2010)
Chiu et al. (2006) and Lin et al. (2009)
Zhang et al. (2009)
Ip and Wagner (2008)
Casal et al. (2010, 2011), Hossain and de Silva (2009), Hsu and Lin (2008), Kwon and Wen (2010) and
Steyn et al. (2010)
Casal et al. (2010) and Chang and Zhu (2011)
Hsu and Lin (2008)

1
1
1
2
1
1
4
1
1
2
1
1
6

1
1
1
1
5

Social interaction theory


Social loang
Social network analysis
Social power
Social ties

Kang et al. (2007)


Fischer and Reuber (2011)
Huang et al. (2010)
Chiu et al., 2011
Chai and Kim (2010), Chiu et al. (2006), Hau and Kim (2011), Lu, Zhao, and Wang (2010) and Porter and
Donthu (2008)
Blanchard (2008) and Lin et al., 2009
Blanchard (2008) and Casal et al. (2010), Cheung and Lee (2010), Dholakia et al. (2004) and Kwon and
Wen (2010)
Bagozzi and Dholakia (2002), Cheung and Lee (2010), Dholakia et al. (2004), Koo et al. (2011) and Wang
and Lin (2011)
Fischer and Reuber (2011)
Shiue et al. (2010)
Hossain and de Silva (2009), Hsiao et al. (2010)
Wei (2009)
Shiue et al. (2010)

Mass Communication Theories


Media richness theory
Para-social interaction
Uses and gratications theory

Koo et al. (2011) and Shiue et al., 2010


Colliander and Dahln (2011)
Chen (2010), Dholakia et al. (2004) and Porter and Donthu (2008)

2
1
3

Personal Behavior Theories


Attribution theory
Elaboration likelihood model
Existence, relatedness, growth theory
Expectation and disconrmation paradigm
Goal-directed behavior model
Hofstedes theory of cultural difference
Personality traits
Psychological choice model
Risk perception theory
Social cognitive theory
Switching behavior
Task-technology t model
Technology acceptance model (TAM)
Theory of planned behavior (TPB)
Theory of reasoned action (TRA)
Social Behavior Theories
Cognitive map
Effectuation process
Involvement theory
Justice theory
Social capital theory
Social Exchange theory
Social identity theory
Social inuence theory

Social Loang Theory is often used together with social ties in


social media studies. The term social loang theory was rst
coined by Latan, Williams, and Harkins (1979) to reect the fact
that people exert less individual effort while performing in groups
than when alone. Social media are considered as a medium for collective efforts in which the degree of individual contribution can
be minimal. Shiue et al. (2010) adopted this theory to study users
group cohesion in online communities.
Social Power refers to the Five Bases of Power developed by
French and Raven (1959), which include reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert power. Wei (2009, p. 540) dened social
power in the context of social media as the bloggers capacity to
inuence as many audiences as possible, and used this narrow definition to explain how many people a blogger could inuence due
to social power.

3.1.3. Mass communication theories


Mass communication exerts signicant inuence on peoples
behavior. In this literature review study, three types of mass communication theories were found to explain the use of social media;
two of which are discussed below.
Para-social Interaction (PSI) is a theory originally used in television and lm media in the 1950s to study the effect of celebrities on
consumer behavior. PSI was originally observed online by Eighmey
and McCord (1998) in their study on website visitation rates in
which PSI was related to websites and their visitors (i.e., users).
In social media research, Colliander and Dahln (2011) used PSI

2
1

2
5
5
1
1
2
1
1

to study user behavior in relation to brand attitudes and purchase


intentions.
Uses and Gratications Theory (UGT) is another theory of mass
communication (Eighmey & McCord, 1998) that has been applied
to traditional media in an effort to understand customers behavior.
UGT has received considerable attention in social media research,
particularly in investigating how to satisfy customers needs, such
as in the studies by Chen (2010), Dholakia, Bagozzi, and Pearo
(2004) and Porter and Donthu (2008).

3.2. Causal-chain framework of social media research


Based on our in-depth analysis of the identied 46 articles, we conceptualized a casual-chain framework to express
the inter-relationships of different research dimensions and constructs that link to causes and results of user behavior in the
adoption of social media. This framework is based upon an inputmoderatormediator-output model from Mohammed, Ferzandi,
and Hamilton (2010), which consists of antecedents (as inputs),
moderators, mediators, and outcomes (as outputs). In brief, the
antecedents are input variables that lead to the outcomes, the
causalities between antecedents and outcomes are explained by
the mediators, whereas their direction and/or strength are affected
by moderators (Baron & Kenny, 1986). As shown in Figure, all
research constructs adopted are grouped in the respective positions of antecedents, mediators, moderators, and outcomes in this
framework. As the focuses of the various researchers differ, variables appearing in different literature may be shown in different

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E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

positions in the framework. For instance, the variable social inuence was used as an antecedent in one paper (e.g., Bagozzi &
Dholakia, 2002), but was taken as a mediator in another (e.g.,
Dholakia et al., 2004).
3.2.1. Antecedents
In the causal-chain framework, an antecedent is a stimulus that
precedes a behavioral outcome and is always positioned at the
input side of the framework. In the extant literature on social media
research, antecedents are considered in three dimensions: social
factors, user attributes, and organizational attributes.
3.2.1.1. Social factors. In terms of social factors, a number of studies used social inuence and social capital as antecedents to explain
users socio-psychological motives. The social inuence model,
comprising subjective norms, group norms, and social identity, has
been frequently used to study users or customers motives in pursuing certain acts and behavioral changes, such as the studies of
Bagozzi and Dholakia (2002), Hsu and Lin (2008), Kwon and Wen
(2010), and Wang and Lin (2011).
The social capital model, comprising social ties, social interaction, trust, and reciprocity, has similarly been used as antecedents
in various social media studies. Chiu, Hsu, and Wang (2006), Ip and
Wagner (2008), Lin, Hung, and Chen (2009), Chai and Kim (2010),
Shiue et al., 2010, Chiu, Wang, Shih, and Fan (2011), and Hau and
Kim (2011) all explored social capital in terms of both quality and
quantity in delineating users knowledge sharing, users intention
and behavior, and group cohesion in the context of social media.
Other social factors have likewise been considered by various
scholars as inputs in the causal-chain framework. For instance,
Dholakia et al. (2004) used social enhancement as an antecedent to
evaluate users desires, whereas Wei (2009) examined social power
in relation to the knowledge production gap between lter blogs
and personal journals.
3.2.1.2. User attributes. For user attributes, most researchers in this
subject area focused on user perception, user experience, and user
personality and used them to express the attitudinal, behavioral
and innate characteristics of social media users. In this category,
the most widely used input construct was user perception, which
related to perceived feelings or other perceived issues. In particular, a number of researchers used TAM to study perceived ease
of use and perceived usefulness of social media. For example, Hsu
and Lin (2008) studied the roles of TAM in users attitude and intention to blog. Hossain and de Silva (2009) studied TAM with a focus
on the actual usage of virtual communities under the moderation
of social ties. Steyn et al. (2010) studied TAM in relation to social
media releases within the public relations community to understand bloggers intention to use the elements of the releases. Casal
et al. (2011) used TAM to examine users intention to follow advice,
whereas Casal et al. (2010) adopted TAM to investigate users
intention to use and recommend in an online travel community.
Apart from TAM, Porter and Donthu (2008) investigated the
effects of users perceptions of the efforts projected by an organization as a sponsor of a virtual community on cultivating trust and
harvesting value. Freberg, Graham, McGaughey, and Freberg (2011)
studied the importance to public relations of the perceived personality of social media inuencers as a third party endorser in shaping
customer attitude toward a brand. Fischer and Reuber (2011)
examined how interactions on Twitter affected the effectuation
processes of an entrepreneur, and identied how perceived time
affordability predicted the level of social interaction in which an
entrepreneur engaged via Twitter. Parra-Lpez, Bulchand-Gidumal,
and Daz-Armas (2011) used a theoretical model
Gutirrez-Tano,
to study how perceived benets affected the intention to use
social media to organize and take vacation trips from a consumer

perspective. Kang, Lee, Lee, and Choi (2007) studied perceived


community value to understand social participation in an online
community. Lu and Hsiao (2010) used perceived value in terms of
emotional value, social value, price/value for money, and performance/quality to understand users intention to pay. Hau and Kim
(2011) adopted the Existence, Relatedness, and Growth theory to
relate perceived intrinsic and extrinsic benets with actual user
behavior of knowledge sharing. Hsiao, Lin, Wang, Lu, and Yu (2010)
used the social network theory to understand how the perceived
ability, benevolence/integrity, and critical mass of a website related
to the intention to purchase products from it. Chang and Zhu (2011)
adopted TPB to understand the effects of perceived behavioral control on the intention to pre-adopt and post-adopt social networking
sites.
User experience is another input variable pertinent to users
involvement and time engaged in the social media. Chen (2010)
studied the behavior of Twitter users by utilizing the uses and gratications approach and found that the more time users spent on
Twitter, the more they gratied a need for connection with others and, in turn, the more they engaged in the use of social media.
Nambisan and Watt (2010) analyzed users experience in terms of
pragmatic, hedonic, sociability, and usability to understand social
media users attitude toward product, company, and service quality. Akar and Topcu (2011) conducted a detailed study; in which,
they proposed that the social media experience had positive effects
on attitude toward marketing with social media.
User personality was also taken as an antecedent in several
studies on social media. Correa et al. (2010) examined the intersection of a users personality and social media use, and revealed
that extraversion and openness to experience had positive effects
on the use of social media, whereas emotional stability did not.
Another study conducted by Zhong et al. (2011) sought to understand the association between social media use and personality
traits of need for cognition and information and communication
technology (ICT) innovativeness; and veried that less effortful
thinking led to more social media use. Huang, Chou, and Lin (2010)
examined the personal factors of a blogger in terms of involvement in relation to advertisement effect and brand attitude. Lu and
Hsiao (2010) used personality traits to understand users intention
to obtain information and purchase services from social network
sites.
3.2.1.3. Organizational attributes. For organizational attributes,
researchers applied customer orientation and marketing orientation
as input variables in their research framework to study the effect
of social media usage on revenue, brand building, and customer
relationships. Customer orientation is related to the analysis of customer behavior and actions toward product and company selection
under the inuence of information obtained from the use of social
media. Karakaya and Barnes (2010) studied the impact of customer
care experience on brand or company selection with respect to
online reviews and have shown the existence of a strong causal relationship between online consumer opinion and consumer choice
via socially based sites. In another study, de Valck, van Bruggen, and
Wierenga (2009) examined customer characteristics in a virtual
community to understand their pre- and post-purchase evaluation
and search for information.
Market orientation is considered as the implementation of marketing concepts, such as information quality, service quality, and
product price (Kohli & Jaworski, 1990), via the social media platform
to understand consumer behavior. Mathwick (2002) used switching effort, continuity costs, and contractual costs to understand
online customers entertainment value, escapism, intrinsic enjoyment, and loyalty intention. Chen, Fay, and Wang (2011) used a
longitudinal methodology to analyze the effects of product price
and quality in relation to customer online review posting behavior

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

from two timeframes in 2001 and 2008. The ndings revealed that
the marketing variables affected, either negatively or positively,
online posting behavior at different stages of Internet usage, which
in turn inuenced customers choice of product and brand. Hsiao
et al. (2010) studied the effects of information quality and system quality in terms of expectation, perceived performance, and
disconrmation in relation to blog-user satisfaction.
3.2.2. Mediators
Mediators are variables that explain the causal relationships
between antecedents and outcomes (Preacher, Rucker, & Hayes,
2007). In this study, mediators in social media research can be classied into three dimensions platform attributes, social factors, and
user attributes.
3.2.2.1. Platform attributes. Platform attributes consist of choice of
tools and tool integrity, which are considered to have a signicant
impact on the causal relationship between inputs and outcomes.
There are various social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and
LinkedIn, designed and tailored for different purposes and target
groups. The choice of these tools may mediate the causality effect of
antecedents on expected behavior. Chen (2010) studied how active
use of Twitter gratied the need to connect with others and found
that the use of various Twitter functions can mediate such a relationship. Koo, Wati, and Jung (2011) studied the mediating effect
of ve media, including blogs as a social media platform, from task
characteristics to task performance and found that media usage
inuenced task performance positively. Hsieh, Kuo, Yang, and Lin
(2010) and Wang and Lin (2011) also studied how signicantly tool
integrity, in terms of information and system quality, mediated the
expected outcomes.
3.2.2.2. Social factors. Social factors, such as social inuence and
social capital, were used as mediators in previous studies on social
media to examine the causality between input and outcome variables. In particular, Dholakia et al. (2004) used social inuence as
a mediator to examine user participation in different virtual communities. A number of other papers had utilized social capital as
a mediator to explain users intentions and behavior; for example,
Hsiao et al. (2010) examined the role of trust in mediating users
purchasing intention, and Shiue et al., 2010 studied the effect of
social ties and social loang in mediating group cohesion.
3.2.2.3. User attributes. In terms of user attributes, some studies
have revealed the mediating effects of user perception and user
behavior. Although user perceptions have been extensively examined as an antecedent, they have also been adopted as a mediator.
Kwon and Wen (2010) adopted TAM to study its mediating effect on
actual social media use. Lin et al. (2009) used personal perceptions
to mediate users behavior in a professional virtual community. Lu
and Hsiao (2010) revealed the mediating effect of perceived value
on users intention to pay.
User behavior had similarly been used as a mediator to examine the causal effect between antecedents and outcomes in several
papers. Hossain and de Silva (2009) analyzed customer attitude
toward the use of social media and utilized it as a mediator between
the inputs of perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, and inuence of ties; and the outputs of behavioral intention that led to
actual usage. Karakaya and Barnes (2010) studied how customers
online engagement mediated their opinions on the choice of a
brand or company. Chen (2010) used tweet frequency and the
number of @replies to mediate the relationship between active
Twitter users and their need for connection. Furthermore, Bagozzi
and Dholakia (2002), Blanchard (2008), Casal et al. (2010), Casal
et al. (2011), Chang and Zhu (2011), Chiu et al., 2006, Hau and Kim
(2011), Hsu and Lin (2008), Huang et al. (2010), and Kang et al.

37

(2007) examined users attitude toward the use of social media in


mediating user intention and/or behavior.
3.2.3. Moderators
A moderator is a type of research variable, either qualitative (e.g.,
sex, race, class) or quantitative (e.g., level of reward), characterized
statistically by its effects on the direction and/or strength of the
relation between dependent and independent variables (Baron &
Kenny, 1986). The moderators used in social media research can be
classied as user characteristics and social factors.
3.2.3.1. User characteristics. User characteristics refer to demographic variables, user personality, and cultural differences.
Researchers analyze how these characteristics of social media
users can inuence the strength and direction of the relationship
between antecedents and resulting behavior. Some studies, such as
Zhang, Lee, Cheung, and Chen (2009), Chen (2010) and Correa et al.
(2010); have used demographic variables, including age, gender,
income, and education, as control variables in analyzing the moderating effects. Lu and Hsiao (2010) studied users intention to pay
under the moderation of user personality. Specically, their study
examined whether the user is extroverted or introverted. Lewis
and George (2008) studied the impact of cross-cultural deceptive
behavior moderated by cultural differences, such as individualism,
power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity.
3.2.3.2. Social factors. Some researchers demonstrated how social
factors, such as social inuence and social capital, can be used as
moderators to determine the strength and direction of antecedents
inuence on expected outcomes. Koo et al. (2011) used social inuence to moderate the relationships between task characteristics
and usage of social communication technologies, which further led
to task performance. Results showed that social inuence moderated some of the relationships in both directions (i.e., positively
and negatively). Casal et al. (2011) also used social inuence to
moderate the effect of user perceptions on the intention to follow
advice. Fischer and Reuber (2011) proposed two social inuence
factors, community orientation and community norm adherence,
and examined how these two factors moderate the consequences
of social interactions via Twitter on the effectual cognition (i.e.,
thinking and behavior) of an entrepreneur. Hossain and de Silva
(2009) studied the inuence of social capital in terms of social ties
on moderating the relationship of customer attitude toward use
and customer behavioral intention; and revealed that both weak
and strong social ties exhibited a strong correlation with attitude
toward use.
3.2.4. Outcomes
The outcomes are the expected results generated by antecedents
under the inuence of mediators and moderators. The outcomes,
being dependent variables of the extant social media research, consist of two major dimensions, personal context, and organizational
context.
3.2.4.1. Personal context. Personal context comprises user intention
and user behavior, which are the most important outcome variables
adopted by researchers to examine social media usage. In particular, user intention has been studied extensively, with a majority
of papers focused on it. Thus, only a few representative papers
are discussed in this part. Parra-Lpez et al. (2011) studied the
intention to use social media with respect to perceived benets
of use. Henderson and Bowley (2010) examined the intention to
use social media in an authentic social media environment. Zhong
et al. (2011) investigated the associations between use of social
network sites (SNSs), analogous to social media use, and personality traits (i.e., need for connection and ICT innovativeness). Correa

38

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

et al. (2010) also related the intention to use social media to personality traits. Steyn et al. (2010) analyzed the relationship between
perceived effectiveness and intention to use social media in public
relations. Cheung and Lee (2010) studied the collective intention to
use social media in relation to subjective norms, group norms, and
social identity. Overall, most of them have focused on studying the
relationships between the conditions of using social media and the
intention to use, or actual use of, social media.
User behavior comprises certain behavioral changes exhibited
by users, such as the need for connection, effectual cognition,
knowledge sharing, and satisfaction, and was also widely regarded
as the expected outcome. Chen (2010) studied the need for connection by analyzing Twitter users, and suggested that heavy Twitter
users were gratifying a need for connection. Fischer and Reuber
(2011) studied how social interactions on Twitter affect effectual
cognition. They also investigated how perceived time affordability
observed by the entrepreneur has a positive effect on the amount of
time he/she spends in social media usage from the perspective of a
social media user. Hau and Kim (2011) identied the actual behavior of knowledge sharing as the outcome due to user perceived
benets.
3.2.4.2. Organization context. Organization context in this study
relates to brand equity and customer relationship, which was put by
some researchers to the output side in the causal-chain framework.
For brand equity, some studies regarded it as a benecial outcome
for a company. Karakaya and Barnes (2010) examined a causal relationship between customer online opinion and choice of brand or
company, and highlighted that the selection of company is considered as a type of brand equity in this instance. Labrecque et al.
(2010) conducted an in-depth study into online personal branding,
which can be borrowed for company brand positioning and equity.
Colliander and Dahln (2011) investigated and compared the brand
publicity in social media and traditional digital media, and found
that blogs generated high brand attitudes, which led to purchase
intentions. Freberg et al. (2011) also studied the benets brought
by social media inuencers to brands, and found that the effects
on brand equity depend upon the perceived creditability of social
media inuencers by social media users.
Customer relationship was also studied and analyzed in social
media research as a proxy of intention to use. Porter and Donthu
(2008) explored the role of a rms efforts in cultivating trust and
harvesting value for itself via its sponsored virtual communities,
and found that trust motivates customers to behave relationally
toward the sponsoring rm, as shown in their willingness to share
personal information, to cooperate in new product development,
and to grant their loyalty. Akar and Topcu (2011) examined factors affecting customers attitudes toward social media marketing,
and revealed a positive relationship between social media use and
customers attitude, suggesting that social media marketers should
shape their social media marketing strategies to improve their customer relationships.
In summary, the attributes in our developed causal-chain framework of social media research in the categories of antecedents,
mediators, moderator, and outcomes are shown in Table 2.
4. Implications and future research directions
Based on the proposed causal-chain framework of social media
research, this section discusses the implications of the above ndings and identies opportunities for future research in social media.
4.1. Implications of the ndings
This literature review study shows that numerous researchers
had studied the causal relationships of various dependent and

independent variables in the presence or absence of mediators and moderators, using both quantitative and qualitative
methods. All these attributes are delineated in the proposed
causal-chain framework of social media research (see Fig. 1 and
Table 2).
With regard to antecedents, social inuence and social capital in the category of social factors are the two most frequently
adopted input variables. Researchers attempt to discover why
people engage with social media and how socio-psychological
factors and perceptions affect their engagement and interaction
with others. For the category of user attributes, the user perception, in terms of ease of use, usefulness, and benets of use,
attracts considerable research attention. Some researchers also
study whether user experience occupies a function in encouraging social media use, as well as how user personality affects
the ways social media is used. In the category of organizational attributes, researchers have focused on investigating the
effect of customer orientation and marketing orientation in an
organizational context. A few papers are found to examine how customers attitude relates to devising marketing strategies for social
media.
For the outcome variables, most researchers are devoted to
investigate user intention and user behavior in the personal context in relation to various antecedents, as users intention to use or
purchase social media for both leisure and business purposes is the
most important aspect in social media research. Notwithstanding,
minimal research has been conducted on the organization context,
except a few for the examination of the effect of brand equity and
customer relationships.
Among the mediators, choice of tools is found to be an important element in the category of platform attributes in conducting
social media research because different social media tools, like
Facebook and Twitter, are used in different ways and require different styles of approach and analysis. Thus, the choice of tools
has a mediating effect on the relationship between antecedents
and outcomes. Moreover, some researchers are concerned with
tool integrity in information and system qualities, which affect
the way users engage in social media applications. For social
factors, social inuence and social capital are widely used in mediating the ways antecedents affect outcomes. In the user attributes
category, user perception and user behavior are also important mediators.
As regards the moderators in the category of user characteristics, demographic factors, user personality, and cultural differences are
some of the basic controlling factors used to examine the changes
in strength and direction of the causalities between antecedents
and outcomes in social media research. Other moderators in the
social factors category comprise social inuence and social capital.
Some researchers placed importance in understanding how these
social factors moderated the relationships between dependent and
independent variables in a social media context.
The proposed causal-chain framework clearly shows that
researchers selected and used various attributes in different combinations in pursuing their academic studies. For instance, some
scholars retained user perception, social factors, and user intention, but had different choice of tools for analysis. Different social
media tools yield different results by virtue of their nature, content,
and characteristics, as seen in the comparison between Facebook
and Twitter. Moreover, variables adopted can be put in different
positions along the causal-chain framework. This decision highly
depends on the individual researchers research focus. For instance,
social factors can be used as an antecedent, mediator, and/or moderator variable. Indeed, social factors play a very important role in
social media research because many researchers aim to understand
the socio-psychological aspects of users participation in various
social media activities.

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

39

Table 2
Attributes adoption in social media research.
Attributes
Antecedents
1. Social factors
Social inuence
Social capital
Others (social engagement, social power)
2. User attributes
User perceptions

User experience
User personality
3. Organizational Attributes
Customer orientation
Marketing orientation
Mediators
1. Platform attributes
Choice of tools
Tool integrity
2. Social factors
Social inuence
Social capital
Others (social loang)
3. User attributes
User perceptions
User behavior

Moderators
1. User characteristics
Demographic variables
User personality
Cultural differences
2. Social factors
Social inuence
Social capital
Outcomes
1. Personal context
User intention

User behavior
2. Organizational context
Brand equity
Customer relationship

References

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Chiu et al. (2006), Ip and Wagner (2008), Lin et al. (2009), Chai and Kim (2010), Shiue et al. (2010), Chiu
et al. (2011) and Hau and Kim (2011)
Dholakia et al., 2004 and Wei (2009)

4
7

Porter and Donthu (2008), Hsu and Lin (2008), Hossain and de Silva (2009), Steyn et al. (2010), Casal et al.
(2011), Casal et al. (2010), Freberg et al. (2011), Fischer and Reuber (2011), Parra-Lpez et al. (2011),
Kang et al. (2007), Lu and Hsiao (2010), Hau and Kim (2011), Hsieh et al. (2010) and Chang and Zhu (2011)
Chen (2010), Nambisan and Watt (2010) and Akar and Topcu (2011)
Correa et al. (2010), Zhong et al. (2011), Huang et al. (2010) and Lu and Hsiao (2010)

2
14

3
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Karakaya and Barnes (2010) and de Valck et al. (2009)


Chen et al. (2011) and Hsieh et al. (2010)

2
2

Chen (2010) and Koo et al. (2011)


Hsieh et al., 2010 and Wang and Lin (2011)

2
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Dholakia et al. (2004)


Hsiao et al. (2010) and Ip and Wagner (2008)
Shiue et al. (2010)

2
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2

Kwon and Wen (2010), Lin et al., 2009 and Lu and Hsiao (2010)
Hossain and de Silva (2009), Karakaya and Barnes (2010), Bagozzi and Dholakia (2002), Blanchard (2008),
Casal et al. (2010), Casal et al. (2011), Chang and Zhu (2011), Chiu et al., 2006, Hau and Kim (2011), Hsu
and Lin (2008), Huang et al. (2010) and Kang et al. (2007)

3
12

Chen (2010), Correa et al. (2010) and Zhang et al. (2009)


Lu and Hsiao (2010)
Lewis and George (2008)

3
1
1

Koo et al. (2011) and Casal et al. (2011)


Hossain and de Silva (2009) and Fischer and Reuber (2011)

2
2

Hossain and de Silva (2009), Parra-Lpez et al., 2011, Henderson and Bowley (2010), Zhong et al. (2011),
Correa et al. (2010), Steyn et al. (2010), Cheung and Lee (2010), Bagozzi and Dholakia (2002), Casal et al.
(2010), Casal et al. (2011), Chang and Zhu (2011), Chiu et al. (2011), Hsiao et al. (2010), Hsu and Lin
(2008), Huang et al. (2010), Lu and Hsiao (2010), Lu et al. (2010), Mathwick (2002), Wang and Lin (2011),
Zhang et al. (2009) and Zhu and Zhang (2010)
Chen (2010), Dholakia et al. (2004), Fischer and Reuber (2011), Hau and Kim (2011), Lewis and George
(2008) and Lin et al. (2009)
Karakaya and Barnes (2010), Labrecque et al. (2010), Colliander and Dahln (2011) and Freberg et al.
(2011)
Porter and Donthu (2008) and Akar and Topcu (2011)

4.2. Future research directions


In this intensive literature review study, the attributes adopted
in previous studies in social media are found to be numerous
and varied. The proposed causal-chain framework shows that the
majority of past research concentrated on studying the causal relationship, which translates users personal beliefs into their personal
desire to carry out their behavior toward social media. Such focus
on personal and individual perspective suggests a research gap in
the study of social media adoption pertinent to an organization setting. Moreover, although numerous papers reviewed in this study
discuss various aspects of social factors, social power is unexpectedly seldom used as a construct in the existing research models.
In addition, provided that social media used cross boundaries, little research exploring the cultural effects on social media adoption
and applications is found. Lastly, the emergence of social media has
inuenced, or even controlled, every aspect of all human activities.
As such, it is denitely worthwhile for researchers to investigate the
impacts of social media from a wider and deeper perspective. Based

21

4
2

on these research gaps, we give four potential research areas related


to organization orientation, social power, cultural differences, and
impacts of social media. Further discussion on each of these areas
will be expanded in the following Sections of 4.2.14.2.4, respectively.
4.2.1. Organization orientation
From the extant literature, scholars are clearly very focused
on personal attributes and pay less attention to organizational
attributes; even worse, only customer orientation and marketing
orientation are included in the discussion of social media adoption
in business contexts. Social media are known to be used to connect and help organizations improve their brand equity, customer
retention, and other business issues (Hanna et al., 2011; He, Zha, &
Li, 2013; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; Laroche et al., 2013). However,
apart from using emails for communication and website posting for
information sharing, social media are surprisingly not widely used
by organizations in their daily operations, or applied as strategic
tools for relationship marketing management (Mitic & Kapoulas,

40

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

Fig. 1. Causal-chain framework for social media research.

2012). In this regard, some basic questions need to be researched.


For instance, why do organizations not adopt social media in their
business operations? What factors or variables affect or hinder
organizations adoption of social media? Most importantly, does
social media adoption really contribute to rm performance? These
questions are not well-addressed by existing research.
Referring to the research conducted on information technology
(IT) adoption, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), a number of research studies have shown the importance of organization
orientation (i.e., organizational factors) in the adoption of new technologies, which lead to improved rm performance. For instance,
Law and Ngai (2007) conducted a research study to identify CEOIT distance, senior management support, and strategic intent as
organizational factors, which drive rm performance in adopting
ERP. Ngai, Law, and Wat (2008) examined the critical success factors (CSFs) in implementing an ERP, and found that among all CSFs,
top management support, ERP teamwork and composition, project
management, and change in management culture were the top
four most important CSFs. In accordance with another study by Lin
(2006) on the organizational determinants for Internet-based interorganizational systems, top management support, organizational
centralization, and technological competence affected the successful achievement of the planned objectives for such systems. Based
on these research results, organizational factors can be posited to be
important in the adoption of new technologies, which leads to the
improvement of rm performance. The application of social media
technology is close to that of ERP or other IT systems. Thus, such
an argument can be extended to social media research in future
studies.
4.2.2. Social power
Social factors, particularly social inuence and social capital, are
well researched in social media studies. Researchers have largely
focused on understanding users socio-psychological behavior in
social media use and applications. However, a major social factor,
social power, has not been extensively studied. The only exception is the work of Wei (2009), who used a narrow denition to

analyze how social power is exhibited in different levels of blogs.


Recently, a sixth power type, information power, was added by
Ke, Liu, Wei, Gu, and Chen (2009) to the Five Bases of Power (i.e.,
reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power,
expert power). They examined the causal relationship between
these six types of social power and the adoption of the electronic
supply chain management system (eSCMS) in dyadic conditions
of an inter-organizational system. Their ndings indicated that all
types of power, with the exception of referent power, had direct
effects on the adoption intention of eSCMS under the mediation of
coercive pressure, normative pressure, and trust.
Likewise, Oke, Idiagbon-Oke, and Walumbwa (2008) studied
social power in a network-based environment to investigate the
relationships among social inuence, strength of ties, and project
outcomes in a new product development (NPD) process. Their ndings indicated that the use of social power had a signicant effect
on the project outcomes of design performance and development
time. In addition, Nygaard and Biong (2010) studied the effect of
the use of social power by retail management on corporate ethical
values. Their results showed that, with the exception of reward and
legitimate power, all types of social power had signicant effects on
corporate ethical values. Azad and Faraj (2011) went a step further
by using a case study to analyze and prove the relationship between
social power and meaning construction within the connes of the
IT project implementation process. All in all, social power has a
strong impact on various business practices.
Conceptually, social power rests on the premise that power
involves a relationship of at least two agents, sender and recipient.
Social power theory aims to understand and explain the reaction
phenomenon of the recipient agent in response to the inuences of
the sender agent. In social media research, an analysis of whether
some or all types of social power act as antecedents that directly
cause anticipated outcomes, as mediating factors that explain
causal relationship, or as moderating factors that inuencing the
strength and direction of the bonds between dependent and independent variables is noteworthy. In this regard, certain important
questions need to be answered. For instance, does social power

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

affect and/or mediate users intentions and behaviors as well as


rms performance in the adoption of social media? If yes, what
types of social power yield signicant effects on these outcomes?
Given that social media represent a free environment for anyone
to participate, can social power also have a backre effect on the
outcomes if coercive power is used in the business context? These
questions provide a range of research opportunities in this subject
area.
4.2.3. Cultural differences
At present, social media are widely used in all countries and
all regions of the world. However, little research has been conducted to reveal the inuences of cultural differences on social media
usage and application. Only a few exceptions are found, including Lewis and George (2008), who employed Hofstedes (2001)
cultural dimensions as moderating factors to understand crosscultural deception in social networking sites; and Pookulangara and
Koesler (2011), who developed a conceptual framework to study
cultural inuence on users social media usage and online purchase
intentions, through the employ of Hofstedes cultural dimensions
as moderating factors.
Provided that social media have no boundaries and link up different nations and people, understanding whether any differences
exist in the adoption and usage of social media in different cultures
is important. For instance, the unique cultural characteristics of
Koreans, such as Ppalli! Ppalli! (i.e., Hurry! Hurry!) behavior and
strong need for connection, give Korea the worlds highest visitation rate in social media. Nonetheless, minimal research on cultural
considerations in social media adoption has been conducted. This
limitation leads to certain research questions such as: does cultural
difference really matter in social media usage and application? How
does cultural difference affect the ways users behave and act in the
social media setting? Do all cultural dimensions display the same
degree of signicance in social media? The answers to these questions can extend our knowledge on cultural differences as well as
help marketers devise appropriate strategies to meet the needs and
wants of customers in different cultural contexts.
4.2.4. Impacts of social media
The inuence of social media on our world is so tremendous
that we could not have imagined it a few years ago. Such effects are
not only conned at the individual level but also at the organization
and social levels. Today, many individuals private lives are linked to
social media. According to a Pew Research report in 2013, more that
70% of online adults in America use social networking sites of some
kind, and about 60% of them visit these social media sites at least
once a day (Duggan & Smith, 2013). Inevitably, social media enable
individuals to access and connect to a boundless world to make
friends, share information, access entertainment, and receive news.
However, spending hours on social media could lead to addiction,
reduced motivation to participate in other activities, and perhaps
cause physical health problems. Another downside of social media
at the individual level is that users need to maintain their social proles constantly, which may lead to severe stress. More importantly,
sharing too much information could allow personal information
to be leaked on the Internet. Furthermore, the increase of cyberbullying can terrorize an individual and cause negative effects to
his or her psychology. This inuence has been identied as an
important problem specically amongst youth over the last decade
(Slongje, Smith, & Frisen, 2013).
At the organization level, social media enable people to connect, share information, and participate in all business processes,
no matter their physical location. The increase in popularity of
applying social media in the business world has forced executives
to rethink how they operate their businesses. Internally, management needs to be aware and possibly control their employees use

41

of social media in the workplace. Surng social networking sites


has often been seen as a major distraction for some employees,
as it can pull their attention away from work tasks and, in turn,
damage the productivity of a rm. An upward trend also exists
for employees working from home, which blurs the boundaries
between work and private life. As such, it is necessary to manage
home workers involvement in social networking to ensure their
output performance meets the requirements of the job.
In addition to supporting internal communications, social media
also gives aspiring business owners a platform from which to build
their networks, as they can gain access to and connect with existing
or potential members along the entire supply chains. However, the
very nature of social media makes data control difcult. Organization must achieve a balance between the need to use social media to
connect to trading partners and the need to assure the security and
integrity of their businesses. Therefore, the challenge is to set up a
proper technological infrastructure, such as a big data management
system, to manage all data related to social media use. Organizations need to involve dening groups of employees whose primary
objective is to manage corporate social media (Kaplan & Haenlein,
2010).
At the social level, social media has broken communication
barriers once caused by geographic isolation, which has helped
individuals develop more friends and expand their social circles;
especially those who have social or physical mobility restrictions.
From this perspective, social media has brought society some positive changes. However, despite the extent to which we can meet
more people within the vast social media platform, we cannot build
strong ties with all of these virtual friends, as our available time is
limited. More importantly, this further weakens our real-life relationships with family members and friends. In addition, the human
elements of conversation, such as laughter, facial expressions, the
feel of touch, are removed with social media. These elements are
all very real human qualities that individuals need to express and
interpret through face-to-face interactions.
Furthermore, social media unite people at individual, organizational, and social levels through the provision of a boundless
platform, which has nurtured a new concept of crowdpreneur and
opened many opportunities and challenges in the business world
(Goossen, 2008). Individuals or organizations with entrepreneurial
ideas, which could include inventions, creative product concepts,
or new business strategies, can be empowered by the crowd on the
Internet. Through the social media platform, people can raise funds
to start or run a business, obtain advice or expertise from members of the crowd, source materials and goods from a wide range
of sources, and engage in many other activities. By capitalizing
on crowd power, the crowdpreneur can make an entrepreneurs
dream come true or make a business more successful and sustainable.
Overall, the adoption of social media generates both positive and
negative effects on our lives at various levels. Because these effects
are so large that we cannot ignore them, further studies should be
conducted to monitor the changes brought about by social media
over time to discover possible solutions to the problems created
by the use of social media. Potential research questions in this area
may include the following: How does a rm apply technologies
and train staff to manage the availability, storing, and ltering of
data captured or used in social media to ensure the wise use of
data and protect the privacy of all stakeholders? How does a business interact with clients and manage employees who use social
media frequently at work and in their private lives, and access processes and data anywhere at any time? How does one make use of
collective wisdom and mass collaboration from a crowd to capture
opportunities to build and sustain a business? How do social media
use for work purpose that produce harmful effects to the interest of organizations or social media users themselves, especially

42

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

technostress, stress stimulated by social media use for work purpose, that may emerge? A study to address these questions may
help us better understand the true value of social media.

within the boundaries of social media is required, especially with


the continuous proliferation of new social media technologies.
Acknowledgments

5. Conclusion
The arrival of social media has changed private lives, business
operations, and relational interactions within various communities
tremendously, which has led directly to the increase of academic
research and studies on social media adoption (Hanna et al., 2011;
Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy, & Silvestre, 2011; Mangold &
Faulds, 2009). The present study provides an intensive review
on 46 identied articles in the extant literature to understand
how previous researchers developed their models and theories to
explain users behaviors toward social media. The variables adopted
by researchers are incorporated in a representative causal-chain
framework and classied into four categories: antecedents, mediators, moderators, and outcomes.
The sample articles in this study exhibit the various research
constructs that researchers have adopted together with the interrelationships among these constructs. Notably, social factors in terms
of social inuence and social capital appear in three positions of the
framework: antecedents, moderators, and mediators. This nding
is understandable as the use of social media involves numerous
socio-psychological factors. Thus, previous research is bound to
involve social theories in various areas. User attributes, particularly in terms of user perceptions that act as both antecedents and
mediators, are also important variables that researchers have analyzed in relation to the outcomes of their proposed frameworks. In
view of outcome variable, user intention has been a major focus
because researchers have aimed to examine how the social media
environment affects user intention.
Conversely, other important areas, such as organization orientation, social power, cultural differences, and impacts of social
media, have not received sufcient research attention. Accordingly,
we identied several research gaps and proposed four potential
research directions for these areas. Nonetheless, a coin always has
two sides; social media are a double-edged sword that can help and
harm. Future research should address both the positive and negative sides of adopting social media and provide explanations and
resolutions to enable healthy growth of the social media market in
the years to come.
Overall, the contribution of this study is signicant. Qualitatively, we conducted an intensive review of identied articles
to reveal the researchers focuses on social media and their key
ndings, which can be used as an immediate reference for other
researchers in this subject area. Quantitatively, we devised one
causal-chain framework to incorporate the various constructs used
in the 46 empirical studies, which provides a pictorial summary and
enables readers to understand the body of research conducted on
social media. Further, we suggested four future research directions,
which may help researchers identify relevant topics in this subject
area.
While this study has its merits, certain limitations remain. First,
the review of the extant literature may not be exhaustive. More
work is required to include relevant papers from different sources.
Second, social media research is in its early stages. Thus, additional
journal papers with empirical results will continue to surface. More
recently published social media research should be considered
in future studies. Finally, in terms of terminology, social media
is occasionally confused with other computer/Internet-related
expressions. Although the search process in this study embraced
similar terms, such as virtual communities, online communities, blogs, Web 2.0, social networking sites, and social
computing, exploration of the use of other relevant keywords

The authors are grateful for the constructive comments of the


reviewers on the earlier version of this paper. This research was
supported in part by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University under
grant number ZZAU.
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Eric W.T. Ngai is an Associate Head and Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His current
research interests are in the areas of e-commerce, supply chain management, decision support systems, and social media technology and applications. He has over
120 refereed international journal publications, including MIS Quarterly, Journal of

44

E.W.T. Ngai et al. / International Journal of Information Management 35 (2015) 3344

Operations Management, Decision Support Systems, IEEE Transactions on Engineering


Management, and Production & Operations Management. He is an Associate Editor of
Information & Management and serves on the editorial board of three other international journals. Prof. Ngai has attained an h-index of 22, and received 1,380 citations,
ISI Web of Science.
Spencer C.S. Tao is the Chief Executive Ofcer at the Hong Kong Federation
of Innovative Technologies and Manufacturing Industries (FITMI). He has held
various executive management positions at different academic and commercial
organizations. His research interests include social media technology and strategic
management.

Karen Ka-Leung Moon is an Associate Professor at Seoul National University,


Department of Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design, Republic of Korea.
Dr. Moon has worked in the fashion industry as a designer, R&D researcher,
merchandiser, and retail entrepreneur. She has also worked as a faculty member at various tertiary education institutions, including Hong Kong Vocational
Training Council, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Hanyang University. Her professional expertise and research interests embrace fashion business,
supply chain management, implementation of innovative technologies, and consumer behavior. She has over 50 publications in peer-reviewed international
journals, including IJPE, IJOPM, EJOR, IMDS, JOTI, IJPR, JBIM, ESWA, JECR, and
EAAI.