Developing a Feature-Centric and Affordance-Based Conceptualization of Social Media Interactions

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Purpose: Despite the significance of online communication and interactions, previous research has not systematically compared all features on a single platform from the users' perspective. This study aims to fill this gap by extensively reviewing the current literature on social media affordances and proposes and tests a feature-centric and affordance-based conceptualization of social media platforms (SMPs) between users, features, the audience and content.

Design/Methodology/Approach: This research surveys users on Facebook, one of the largest SMPs, and asks them to assess 20 features of Facebook on six relational affordances between users, features, audience and content. The data in this study were collected on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) with participants from the US Correspondence analysis was employed to examine the relationship between affordances and the ties among affordances, features and outcomes.

Findings: Results of the study indicate that users perceive features differently, and employing features as the unit of analysis captures users' interactions effectively. The findings support the presence of user-oriented affordances, such as presentation flexibility, association and content association. These three affordances can be summarized in two higher-level ones: self-expression and connection (SEC) and persona-linked content (PLC). Our findings of the two dimensions, SEC and PLC, highlight the importance of targets and their connections in understanding social media interactions' dynamic nature.

Practical Implications: By proposing to shift the focus from platforms to features, this study suggests that companies should focus on understanding the features they use for their users to interact with their brand, rather than merely ensuring that their company is omnipresent on all platforms. This study underlines the need to focus on features that will help managers influence interpersonal and user-brand communications and interactions on social media.

Originality/Value: This research is the first to put features at the center of its investigation and quantitatively examine the relationship between social media features and affordances in a social media context. In all, this research provides a new unit of analysis that is more suitable for researchers to build a robust conceptual foundation for affordances. We believe that conceptualizing audience and content as outcomes, distinguishing it from features and creating connections between them as affordances is the unique aspect of our conceptualization.

Publication Title

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

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