The Big Three Research Topics


The Big Three Research Topics

Social Networking Sites 

SNS Overview Mindmap

Boyd and Ellison (2007) define Social Network Sites as ‘web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system’ (p2). 

The influence of these SNSs continues to get increasingly more pervasive, making our “actual” and virtual realities almost indistinguishable (Lewis et al, 2008). With SNSs exploding on the internet, appearing prolifically through 2003, it only took a few years for them to enter the mainstream. And by 2007 the world was so enthralled that media were forced to start paying attention. Responsible for creating classic titles such as "Social networking sites now more popular than porn sites!" (The Times, 2007), Social media has enforced the tacit change in the advertising and marketing industries.

 Evidence widely recognises their place as a critical requirement for business, "social networking gaining ground as the preferred mechanism for both consumers and employees to build, strengthen and extend relationships" (Parkinson & Hardman, 2010). But their acceptance of this may have been ahead of the rest of us. Now, we have seen the creation of new industries within some business functions, (a great example is of the advertising and marketing industry) with the broader community recognising the realistic potential for benefit and/or impact through adopting and utilising such tools and services. The changes as such also demonstrate the societal shifts we continue to see result as part of this increasing “connected reality”.

There is also a concern for managing the generational difference, which is not unique to this context and widely discussed in HRM broadly. The current social and economic contexts globally have been redefined and socio-cultural influences continue to be the cause of changes and development in society, business and entrepreneurship internationally, with particular relevance in a NZ setting. The framework developed assesses and categorises the vast amounts of existing research. Through this process, shortcomings and gaps in the current understanding have been highlighted for review. There is clearly potential for developing further insight, particularly within the NZ context, by overlapping such concepts, especially drawing emphasis on the common areas where obstacles to growth are experienced. There has been movements internationally which have both driven and resulted from this connectedness which is an imperative force on current societies. Networks are not new but SNSs are distinctly different and cause the rules to change. Yet contemporary understandings and studies of SNSs seem relatively disparate and not integrated with new.

Widely recognised to disrupt old models and create a whole raft of new challenges for social equity, sovereignty and business development (Cunliffe & Tizard, as cited in MED 2009). One difference online which represents significant direct benefit can be demonstrated by the existence of explicit illustration and visualisation of networks which makes the dynamic different from the past. It creates new meanings for public interaction which takes place as everyone else is privy to it. For the nascent entrepreneur who has sought legitimacy from their connections, the drivers of their connections illustrate a strategic opportunity to leverage on this. If a reputable multinational corporation claims to support entrepreneurial growth for example, connecting with them via their LinkedIn profile would inevitably be more likely to instigate feedback than a private letter may have been in the past, or at least more difficult to ignore.

Thanks to developments such as those in SNSs, we are now able to share common perspective and explore various understandings much more effectively and broadly. Whilst some of the influences of broader recognition of the value of these SNSs is increasingly permeating different perspectives within society and has theoretically been recognised in academia, the application of it has subsequently been less broad. It seems that our research, much like our business, may still be slightly unsure of how to make the value of these SNSs work for them. So while we all continue to remain unsure, certain areas in society forge the way forward for the rest of us. And whilst the imperative focus of organisational studies in the past may have been culture, “connectivity” is the salient new metaphoric alternative (Kolb, 2008). As our world and societies continue to develop and change, the conceptualisations, models and focuses we have had in the past and continue to cling to today, may be in fact the underlying cause of many of the obstacles faced in business progression.

There have long been indications of the potential for social networks to build economic growth (Birley, 1985) and more recently the potential has grown with recognition they can increase social capital in communities in a broader sense (Stringfellow & Shaw, 2009).There has been some discussion about the difference in definitions between considerations of “networks” and “networking” in terms of defining these sites (Chell & Baines, 2000). This is recognized and appreciated however for these purposes, the two terms have been interchangeably. But there is also generally a lack of awareness about the reality of the potential efficiencies of influence of these SNSs.

[i] As citied in Ministry of Economic Development (2007)

Small Businesses, Entrepreneurs, Contractors etc

‘A nation of small businesses’ (MED, 2009, p9), the entrepreneurial nature of our culture is evident among Auckland small businesses in particular, where the city particular rates highly for entrepreneurship and lifestyle factors (OECD, 2008)..  Our underlying entrepreneurial tendencies are supported by government (MED, 2009, NZTE, 2009). The definition of any indicator such as size is obviously going to be heavily dependent on its context. OCED  (2009) definitions reported that “SMEs are defined as enterprises with 19 or fewer employees and The Ministry of Economic Development appears to maintain this (MED, 2009).  But while 19 people may be a small business in other parts of the world, that constitutes 97% of businesses in New Zealand are this size or smaller (MED, 2009). In fact, 68% of our businesses have no employees beyond the owner/operator. (Statistics NZ, 2009). Despite this incongruence, the general consensus is still to stick to that measure.(Business NZ, 2009).

With the NZ governments definition of enterprise including such legal entities as ‘companies, partnerships, trusts, incorporated societies, government organisations, voluntary organisations and self employed individuals, among others’ (MED, 2009), it’s likely we have SMEs who aren’t even aware they are one. This ambiguity and lack of awareness SME owner/managers broadly appears to not be uncommon (Gill & MacCormick, 1999). Fundamentally, this unawareness is not restricted to the owner/manager category, broadly there appears to be some under-current of this trend throughout the review. SMEs are not simply smaller versions of big businesses. (Coviello & Martin,1999). And while there have been extensive studies within the field of “small business” in the NZ context, particularly by public sector agencies, the majority of these do not focus on what would technically be considered a micro-business.

The majority of government initiatives and studies feature considerations of businesses with turnover of $1M+ or at least 6 employees (Statistics NZ, 2009). Subsequently, they have excluded the large amount of this market whom do not fulfil this criteria. There is wide discussion within these areas with concerns for growth. The “3b syndrome” or ‘boat. Batch and beemer” (NZTE, 2009) phenomenon has been widely debated and discussed.  It concerns the activity of “lifestyle entrepreneurs” and their role in economies and societies (Massey, 2004). Overall the world has in recent years experienced a social trend and concern towards sustainability and environmentally friendly. Now not only are we beginning to recognise in the mainstream the need to correct this, but there has been a shift towards the recognition of “biosphere economy” (Volans, 2010). The shift in power among the different generations is acting as a catalyst for these changes to be faced, or so we do assume.

The size, flexibility and nature of the SME places them in good stead to make maximum advantage as these changes continue to become more main stream in society. The management capabilities of owner/managers and other SMEs in NZ are widely recognised to be one of the markets biggest shortcomings. Their size, on the one hand, provides considerable advantages over the economies current leaders, the Multi-National Corporation (MNC) whom have none of the same ability to be flexible and dynamic (Williamson, 2009). On the other hand, this is at the same time what limits their ability and level of achievement. Hardworking and innovative, the NZ workforce has strong potential, and is one of the higher educated markets internationally (OECD, 2009).

Despite this, SMEs owner / managers will be required to actively consider how they manage this new form of speedy and connected business. The lack of resourcing capabilities within SMEs may also explain the lack of uptake with SNSs. However it is important that the value of these be appreciated by the SME sector, as the unique reality is that the advantages afforded to MNCs through their size, in terms of resources and human capability, can potentially be equally afforded to SMEs through collaboration. SNSs are the key link, providing us with new and more effective ways to negotiate, organise and facilitate such collaborations.  

Ultimately, in an information age, especially one which is found in markets valuing instant gratification, whether they are aware of it or not, every individual is in fact operating as a brand themselves. Ried Hoffmann (one of the founders of LinkedIn) put it best when he describes how he came up with the concept; “I think everyone is now an entrepreneur, whether they realise it or not. The average job is 2-4 years- that makes you a small business, the business of yourself” (Hoffman, as cited in Rao, 2009).  

New Zealand