The Effects of Network Externality and Flow Experience on Mobile SNS Continuance

The Effects of Network Externality and Flow Experience on Mobile SNS Continuance

Tao Zhou (School of Management, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou, China)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJTHI.2017040104
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Abstract

Facilitating users' continuance usage and retaining them are crucial to the success of mobile social networking sites (SNS). Drawing on both perspectives of network externality and flow, this research examined the factors affecting mobile SNS continuance usage. Network externality includes two factors: referent network size and perceived complementarity, which represent direct externality and indirect externality, respectively. The results indicated that both factors of network externality have significant effects on flow, which further affects satisfaction and continuance usage. The results imply that service providers need to deliver a positive network externality and an engaging experience in order to facilitate users' continuance usage.
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Introduction

The application of the fourth generation (4G) technologies has triggered mobile internet development. According to a recent report, the number of mobile internet users in China has exceeded 656 million, accounting for 92.5% of its internet population (710 million) (CNNIC, 2016). Faced with the great market, service providers have released a variety of mobile services, such as mobile instant messaging, mobile purchase and mobile social networking sites (SNS). As a communication application, mobile SNS such as Facebook and LinkedIn have been popular among users. Nevertheless, acquiring users and facilitating their initial adoption and usage are not enough for service providers. They also need to retain users and facilitate their continuance usage in order to achieve success. Previous research has found that the cost of acquiring a new user is five times that of retaining an existing user (Reichheld and Schefter, 2000). Service providers have invested great effort and resources on releasing mobile services. They need to retain users in order to recover these costs and make profits. In addition, intense competition exists among multiple mobile SNS in the market. For example, QQ Zone, Renren, and Kaixin are three leading mobile SNS in China. They have similar functions and tried to expand their user base. This competitive environment highlights the necessity to retain users and facilitate their continuance usage.

Mobile SNS enable users to use their mobile devices such as smart phones to interact with their friends and peers, such as updating information, sharing pictures and tracking their friends’ status, at anytime from anywhere. This has freed users from temporal and spatial constraints and provided great convenience to them. As an interactive application, mobile SNS may exert a significant network externality. For example, with user base expansion, an individual user can connect with more peers and friends in his or her social circle. In addition, service providers also offer rich value-added functions such as games and shopping in their social networking platforms. This may enhance a user’s satisfaction and facilitate his or her continuance usage. On the other hand, due to the constraints of mobile networks and devices, such as slow responses and unreliable connections, users may have a poor experience associated with using mobile SNS. This may negatively affect their continuance usage. Thus, service providers may need to improve their system and service quality in order to offer a compelling experience to users. In this research, we measured user experience with flow, which reflects an optimal experience (Hoffman and Novak, 2009). Drawing on both perspectives of network externality and flow, this research examined continuance usage of mobile SNS. Network externality includes two factors: referent network size and perceived complementarity, which reflect direct externality and indirect externality, respectively (Lin and Bhattacherjee, 2008). System quality and service quality are proposed to affect flow, which in turn affects continuance usage.

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