Informational benefits from social media use for professional purposes: Results from a longitudinal study


Using data from four waves of a longitudinal study among Dutch internet users, we examined whether and how the use of social network sites (SNS) for professional purposes is related to informational benefits. Building on a social capital framework and taking into account the affordances of social media, we specifically looked at users’ activities and the structure of their online networks. Users of LinkedIn or other professional SNS consistently reported higher informational benefits than non-users. The number of ties on the SNS used for professional purposes predicted informational benefits half a year later, and strong ties became more important over time. We also found evidence for a reciprocal relationship between strategic networking and informational benefits. For the use variables (frequency of login, reading, activity in groups, posting professional content), we mainly found concurrent associations with informational benefits. The results shed light on the complex interplay of concurrent and longitudinal processes in the relationship between SNS use and professional informational benefits.

Social capital; informational benefits; social media; ambient awareness; longitudinal; social network; social network sites
Author biographies

Sonja Utz

Sonja Utz is a professor for communication via social media at University of Tübingen, Germany. She is head of the research lab social media at Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien. Her research focuses on the effects of social media use in interpersonal and professional settings.

Johannes Breuer

Johannes Breuer is a postdoc at the research lab Social Media at Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien and at the University of Cologne (Department of Psychology). His research interests include the effects of digital games, learning with new media, and methods of media effects research.

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