Research Summary

Dynamics of Network Structure and Content in Social Media



Organizations use social media to leverage knowledge contributions by individual employees, which also foster social interactions – activity in blogs, forums, wikis etc. is critical to ensuring a thriving online community. Prior studies have examined contributions to such media at the level of the individual, focusing on drivers of participation, whereas we investigate three different dimensions of dyadic interactions. Our setting is an online forum in an enterprise, where employees both exchange knowledge by query-response and interact socially.

Using a networks approach to query-response behavior, we characterize each interaction as a directed tie, and view the entire set of online forum interactions as a social network. We evaluate network constructs including Simmelian embeddedness and content of relationships (expressive or instrumental), to understand the mechanisms underlying online social interactions.

We find that content and embedded nature of the relationship strongly influence responses: Simmelian ties formed in an expressive setting have the highest positive impact on response propensity, i.e. both content and embeddedness are impactful and reinforce each other. Our results have implications for designing online social communities, specifically that practitioners ought to consider the benefits of purely social interactions through the forum that may serve to lubricate future instrumental interactions.