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Understanding Social Media Adoption: Chinese NGOs’ Presence in Web 2.0 Era

Thu, July 12, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Room, 2A 24


Social media, with its participative, interactive, open and transparent features, is considered an accessible and affordable tool for NGOs to disseminate information, engage with stakeholders, and mobilize resources (Avery et al., 2010; Lovejoy & Saxton, 2012; Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007; Zhou & Pan, 2016).
Many researchers explored factors influencing NGOs’ social media adoption using the Technology-Organization-Environment (TOE) framework. It was found that organizational capacity, especially information technology (IT) capacity is a decisive factor leads to the adoption (Finn, Maher, & Forster, 2006; Ma, 2017; Nah & Saxton, 2013). However, existing studies tend to treat social media as one type of technology, while in fact social media platforms are heterogeneous. Some may feature content sharing (e.g. YouTube), some, network building (e.g. Facebook), and other, blogging (e.g. Twitter) (Ngai, Moon, Lam, Chin, & Tao, 2015). Organizations with different characteristics may use different social media; or an organization may adopt multiple social media applications to fulfill different purposes (Cho, 2013). Nah and Saxton (2013) for instance found that an organization’s governance structure predicted Facebook adoption, but not Twitter. Although they acknowledged that Facebook and Twitter “are in some ways different tools that can be used for different purposes”, they did not systematically discuss how these two differ, and what prompts organizations to choose either or both platforms. In other words, when we take the diversity of social media into consideration, it would be another story that is more than IT capacity.
In this study, we explored social media adoption from a sample of 485 Chinese rural education NGOs. We first mapped out the pattern of adoption, including adoption of any popular social media platforms, and presence on different types of social media sites. Then, we compared organizational differences in the adoption of different types of social media applications, and explore factors that contribute to such adoption patterns. Based on the data, we show that while IT capacity is positively associated with any type of social media adoption, organizational background (i.e., governmental, corporate, grassroots and student background) could predict preferences in certain type of social media.
By examining Chinese NGOs’ adoption of various domestic social media platforms, this study not only contributes valuable knowledge to the world’s NGO and social media literature, but also revised the TOE framework for related issue. Additionally, we developed a set of methodology which can be applied to NGOs and social media in other societies.