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Virtual conferences extend the opportunities for individuals to engage in online networking beyond the use of social media networks (SMNs). Networking refers to individuals’ strategic behavior to accumulate social capital (SC) – the number of relationships (structural SC) and the, trust and reciprocity thereof (relational SC). Prior research has often neglected the relational dimension of SC and virtual conferences as relevant settings for SC accumulation, limiting our understanding of online networking. To address this gap, I conduct a longitudinal analysis based on digital trace and survey data of 74 participants of four virtual conference events, complemented with 19 interviews and 120 hours of observations. First preliminary results (1) indicate support for the “theory of purposeful feature utilization” beyond its origin in SMNs, (2) unveil contrary associations between feature usage and structural vs. relational SC, thus pointing towards boundary conditions, and (3) point towards affordances and constraints that explicate the underlying mechanisms of these associations.



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