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Abstract

Organizations have increasingly begun to implement enterprise social networks (ESNs) due to their potential to afford enterprise-wide collaboration, knowledge sharing, and interaction. Despite their proliferation, many companies still struggle to motivate a sufficient number of employees to actively participate in these collaborative networks. Consequently, many ESNs fail due to a lack of contributions. While most employees only read and consume content (lurking), few actively create content (posting). Little research has examined the differences between posters and lurkers and their underlying motivations, particularly in the ESN context. Building on social exchange theory (SET), we identify and test a set of motivational factors that researchers have scarcely studied in corporate social networks: reputation, common identity, common bond, social interaction, and community commitment. By investigating a rich data set of 4,892 respondents in a large knowledge-intensive multinational company, we provide evidence that posters and lurkers significantly differ in why they participate in ESNs. Further, we introduce a nuanced classification of participant roles to distinguish five user groups (super frequent posters, frequent posters, infrequent posters, frequent lurkers, and infrequent lurkers) with super frequent posters showing significantly higher mean values for all motivational factors to use an ESN compared to the other user groups. Our findings yield important theoretical and practical implications regarding different usage behaviors and on how to enhance participation in ESNs.

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