Investigating and constructing a model of the key factors affecting the success of professional - specialized social network sites in Iran: The case of ANJOMAN

Approval date: 
December 2012

Purpose: The expansion of social network sites towards more specialized and professional spaces has increased their popularity among the academics and researchers. In spite of the importance of these networks in building and displaying reputation and expanding scientific and research activities, literature review shows that the concept and success factors of these networks have not been studied much. Most studies on social networks were based on previous models and theories, quantitative approaches, surveys, and in the context of general networks. However, not much has been discussed on the success of professional and specialized social networks from the perspectives of policy makers and users. Therefore, exploratory research is required so that managers and designers obtain comprehensive knowledge in order to design more user-oriented networks. To provide structured knowledge in this regard, professional-specialized social network was conceptualized from the perspective of policy makers and users. Then the factors affecting the success of these networks were identified and categorized. Finally, a model of the key factors affecting the success was developed.

Methodology: According to the importance of policy makers' and users' life experiences in professional-specialized social networks, the effect of context, and users' needs and expectations from such networks, this research investigated the users' and policy makers' opinion regarding the concept and factors affecting the success of ANJOMAN - the first Iranian professional-specialized social network, as the case of the research. To this end, social network success-related studies were analyzed and the extracted factors were categorized and conceptualized in a conceptual model. Then, based on this conceptual model and using a qualitative approach through the case study for constructing knowledge from the ANJOMAN users' and policy makers' experiences, a professional-specialized social network was conceptualized and the factors affecting the success were identified, categorized, and modeled. Finally, the success model was evaluated using a survey among the ANJOMAN users through a researcher-developed questionnaire. The questionnaire was then analyzed by PLS-SEM approach.

Findings: A professional-specialized social network from the perspective of ANJOMAN policy makers and users was conceptualized as a) a community of individuals and specialized groups for scientific communications, b) a participatory environment for developing and sharing scientific content, and c) an instrument for providing scientific-related services. For the success of this kind of network, the factors stated by policy makers were assigned into six main categories: Society's readiness for acceptance, owner credibility, management group support, users' motivation, website effectiveness, and management and control system efficiency. These factors were assigned into four categories from the perspective of users: Individual motivation, effective communication, content dynamics, and website attractiveness. Quantitative analysis of the model also showed that knowing how to proper use, network dynamics perception, and presence motivation were the most important predictors of ANJOMAN success in order. Network attractiveness and perceived scientific usefulness could affect the success by motivating the users to be more in the network. Other factors such as the presence of friends, availability of interesting content, user-friendliness, satisfaction with specialized features, availability of scientific content, satisfaction with general features, and the presence of peers and scholars were also found to be effective in success through the mediating variables.

Results: The innovation of this study is its contextual and inductive approach to investigate the professional-specialized social network and the factors affecting the success of it from the perspective of policy makers and users. This have led to creating a framework of what, why, and how professional-specialized social networks become successful for designers and managers. This new area can lead to applying more comprehensive policies and decisions in order to increase the presence and participation motivation of users. This framework can also help researchers to conduct practical works and structured research papers on social networks in various contexts and perspectives.