Social networking sites are web-based services which allow individuals to create profiles,
articulate and communicate with others. This paper identifies seven motives behind the use of
social networking sites and discusses factors such as frequency of use and influence of social
networking sites on the lives of users. Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social network services as
web-based services which allow individuals to:
• Construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system;
• Communicate with other users; and
• View the pages and details provided by other users within the system.
Social network sites are also called `social networking sites’ to emphasize relationship initiation,
often among strangers. The social networking websites have evolved as a combination of
personalized media experience, within social context of participation. The practices that
differentiate social networking sites from other types of computer-mediated communication are
uses of profiles, friends and comments or testimonials—profiles are publicly viewed, friends are
publicly articulated, and comments are publicly visible (Boyd, 2007).
The first social network site, SixDegrees.com, was launched in 1997. The launching dates of
major social networking sites are given in Figure 1. With the advent of the networking
technology and popularity of the Internet, many social networking websites have made their
presence felt, such as MySpace, Orkut and Facebook (Boyd and Ellison, 2007). In India, Orkut
topped among the social networking websites with a user share of 64 percent (Madhavan, 2007).
Most social networking websites provide various features like networking, uploading
photographs, videos and digital content. Social networking websites provide rich information
about the person and his network, which can be utilized for various business purposes.
Research on social networking sites is a contemporary one, and as a result, there are only a few
studies available on social networking sites based on qualitative study.
Research has revealed five types of motives associated with the use of the Internet, such as
interpersonal utility, pastime, information seeking, convenience and entertainment (Papacharissi
and Rubin, 2000). Some or all of these motives may overlap with the motives behind the use of
social networking websites; however, they may not be complete. The motives behind the use of
social networking by teenagers in the US were examined through a qualitative research (Boyd,
2007). The motives explored were entertainment, building self-image among peers and use of
technologies. The social implications of the public display of one’s social network were explored
by Donath and Boyd (2004), which indirectly revealed the motives of the individuals using
social networking websites; e.g., if they have a profile with many qualifications, they tend to
reveal their true identity and want to project a friendly personality. However, Boyd and Ellison
(2007), the pioneers in the area, have clearly indicated that there is a limited understanding of
who the users of social network sites are, and why and for what purpose a social network site is
used outside the US. This research is conducted to fill this literature gap.
The objective of this research is to explore the various factors that which drive the use of social
networking sites in India. The other objective is to identify the predictors of use and influence of
social networking sites.
A questionnaire was developed on the basis of the literature review and initial investigation. In
the initial investigation, an e-mail was sent to a known group of users, requesting them to send a
write-up on what they expect from a social networking site and why they are using it. This was
followed with an analysis of the different features provided by popular social networking sites.
The Questionnaire included 28 items, indicating the reasons for the use of social networking
sites, which were framed based on the existing features of the social networking sites, the items
of the scale developed for Internet use and content analysis of the responses received during
initial investigation. The respondents were asked to mark their responses on a 5-point Likert
scale (5 = Strongly Agree, 1 = Strongly Disagree). The other questions asked were regarding the
frequency of use and the influence of social networking sites on their lives.
The method of Principal Components Analysis (PCA) with varimax rotation of factor analysis
was carried out to extract and interpret the factors. The step-wise regression analysis was carried
out to identify the predictors of frequency of use and influence, using the factor scores computed
earlier. The model proposed was as follows:
Motivating factors = Combinations of reasons behind use of social networking sites
Frequency of use = Function of motivating factors
Influence = Function of motivating factors
Results and Discussion
The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of the sampling adequacy was 0.8 and the Barlett’s
Test of sphericity was significant justifying the use of PCA. The factor analysis of the motive
statements yielded seven interpretable factors: self-reflection and image-building, utility,
information-gathering and problem-solving, networking, simply-spending time, revisiting-
memories, and peer influence. The analysis accounted for 62.67 percent of the variance. The first
factor accounts for 12.25 percent of variance, followed by the second factor accounting for 11.64
percent of variance. The variables in each factor have an internal consistency > = 0.6, as shown
in Table 1.
This is the first empirical study on the use of social networking sites in India. This study, being a
pioneering one, faces the limitation of literature. However, this study provides a general structure
of motives behind the use of social networking sites. The following aspects in social networking
sites can be considered for future studies:
• Influence of social networking sites on individual behavior;
• User satisfaction of social networking services;
• Relationship study of user demographics and social networking sites; and
• Business perspective of social networking sites
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and Digital Media Volume, David Buckingham (Ed.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
Donath J and D Boyd (2004), ‘Public Displays of Connection’, BT Technology Journal, 22(4)
Madhavan N (2007), ‘India Gets More Net Cool’, Hindustan Times, Accessed on 18th July, 2008
Papacharissi Zizi and Rubin M Alan (2000), ‘Predictors of Internet Use’, Journal of
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