Networking 2.0: How and Why People Leverage Social Media to Develop Their Professional Networks

Thumbnail Image
Maerz, Addison
Networking , Social Media , Regulatory Focus Theory , LinkedIn
Over three quarters of a billion people use LinkedIn around the world, but our understanding of social media platforms like LinkedIn in organizations is that it is a tool used mostly by employees looking to leave of their current positions. Social media, however, are a form of social network and half a century of research on social networks tells us that employees, teams, and organizations can benefit from employees’ personal and professional networks. In this dissertation, I study how and why people develop these networks on social media. I draw on regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997) to understand the types of behaviours people exhibit in the service of networking—connecting, relationship maintenance, and self-promotion—and the motives that drive them. Then I integrate social media theory (e.g., Leonardi & Vaast, 2017) and weak tie theory (Granovetter, 1973) to understand how these behaviours shape individuals’ professional networks and ultimately their performance. I test my model across five studies employing both experimental and survey methods. Featuring a randomized experiment, Study 1 examines the degree to which people network differently depending on whether they approach networking with concerns for growth (promotion focus) or security (prevention focus). Studies 2 and 4 examine perceived success or failure as a theoretically relevant moderator of the relationship between regulatory foci and networking behaviours using experimental and survey methods respectively. Study 3 features a multi-sample investigation of the construct validity and factor structure of networking behaviours and Study 5 examines the consequences of networking behaviours for network ties and performance outcomes among undergraduate business students nested in project teams. Although results across these studies show mixed support for the proposed relationships, they provide several important insights about networking in social media contexts and ultimately serve to inform future research on this topic.
External DOI