Journal of Information Technology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 194–209 | Cite as

How and why organisations use social media: five use types and their relation to absorptive capacity

  • Daniel SchlagweinEmail author
  • Monica Hu
Research Article


In this paper, we examine the relation between social media use and the absorptive capacity of organisations. Over the past 10 years, many organisations have systematically adopted social media. Trade press and consulting companies often claim that the systematic use of social media increases the performance of organisations. However, such claims are typically neither empirically grounded nor theoretically examined. In this paper, based on key informant interviews at 20 organisations, we examine these claims empirically and theoretically. Firstly, we examine the ways in which social media are used by organisations. We identify five different social media use types that support different organisational purposes (broadcast, dialogue, collaboration, knowledge management and sociability). Secondly, we analyse how these five social media use types relate to organisations’ absorptive capacity. We find that particular social media use types (e.g., dialogue) support organisations’ absorptive capacity and, ultimately, their performance although others (e.g., sociability) do not.


information technology social media organisational theory absorptive capacity field research 



The authors would like to thank the participants for taking the time to partake in the study. The authors also wish to thank editors and reviewers at the Journal of Information Technology, as well as the reviewers and audiences at previous conference and workshop presentations of early versions, for their valuable feedback.


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© Association for Information Technology Trust 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UNSW Australia Business School, UNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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