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Motivations for Social Networking at WorkJoan DiMicco, David R. Millen, Werner Geyer,Casey Dugan, Beth Brownholtz, Michael MullerIBM Research1 Rogers StreetCambridge, MA 02142 USA[joan.dimicco; david r millen; werner.geyer; cadugan;beth brownholtz; michael muller] that employees will use a company-sponsoredtool, it is not known how they will use it or what value theywill derive from it.ABSTRACTThe introduction of a social networking site inside of alarge enterprise enables a new method of communicationbetween colleagues, encouraging both personal andprofessional sharing inside the protected walls of acompany intranet. Our analysis of user behavior andinterviews presents the case that professionals use internalsocial networking to build stronger bonds with their weakties and to reach out to employees they do not know. Theirmotivations in doing this include connecting on a personallevel with coworkers, advancing their career with thecompany, and campaigning for their projects.The research thus far on social network sites (SNSs) hasbeen focused on four main aspects: privacy issues [1, 9, 14,16, 21], self presentation [6, 7, 13, 24], network analysis [3,18], and social capital benefits [10, 20]. As boyd andEllison summarize: “Although exceptions exist, theavailable research suggests that most SNSs primarilysupport pre-existing social relations” [4]. For example,Ellison, et al. found correlations between greater “bridging”and “bonding” social capital with greater usage ofFacebook on a college campus [10], meaning that the ties toone’s immediate and extended friends are stronger withgreater use of Facebook. In conjunction with this work,Lampe, et al. found that Facebook users focus their time onthe site looking at the friends they know, rather thanbrowsing through profiles of those they do not know [23].The goal of our research is to determine how using a socialnetworking site inside of a company differs in terms ofsocial connections and also in terms of different usermotivations.Author KeywordsSocial networking, enterprise, user motivation, CSCWACM Classification KeywordsH.5.3 [Information interfaces and presentation]: Group andOrganization Interfaces.INTRODUCTIONMillions of people are using social network sites to connect,meet, and share [4]. The users of the most popular sites onthe Internet,,,,, are predominantly young-twenties, collegestudents, and teenagers. From prior research we know thatthese user groups are using the sites to stay in touch withfriends [2, 10, 20, 23].To determine this, we built a social network site behindIBM’s firewall called Beehive. As with other socialnetwork sites, it supports the “friending” of other people,provides an individual profile page for each user, andincorporates media sharing in the form of photo and listsharing [11]. While we built the site to support sharingbetween colleagues, we did not build in limitations on thetypes of content that could be shared, for example whetheror not the content was personal or professional in nature.The emergence of specialized social network sites targetedtowards specific user groups, such as professionals [29],indicates that social networking can provide value to manytypes of users, in many different ways. The focus of thisresearch is on understanding how professionals inside of acompany use an internal social networking site. Given thepopularity of social networking sites on the Internet, it isShortly after launching Beehive we did usage analysis ofseveral hundred users and found evidence of relationshipbuilding and ‘people sensemaking’ throughout the site [5].But this analysis left a significant question unanswered:why are people using the Beehive? What are their goals inbuilding relationships and sensemaking? To answer thisdeeper question, we have focused this analysis on in-depthinterviews to understand users’ motivations and thoughts ontheir usage. We followed-up this qualitative analysis with aquantitative overview of the site to determine if patternsobserved in interviews were replicated more broadly.Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work forpersonal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies arenot made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copiesbear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, orrepublish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specificpermission and/or a fee.CSCW’08, November 8–12, 2008, San Diego, California, USA.Copyright 2008 ACM 978-1-60558-007-4/08/11. 5.00.711

Through this analysis we have been able to answer thesethree questions about social networking at work:From this evidence, we might expect that employeesparticipating in Beehive would focus on being informationproviders, rather than as social individuals. Particularlybecause Beehive is hosted by the users’ employer, IBM,one might hypothesize that users would be particularlyinclined to use the site for work-only purposes.Whom do employees connect with?Do employees use the site to connect to new or knowncolleagues? Do they use the site to get to know people ormaintain existing close relationships?On the other hand, from what has been observed aboutFacebook usage by professionals within a single company[6], professionals’ Facebook use largely mimics the patternsof use by college students on the site: it is used byprofessionals to keep in touch with social friends outside ofwork. So this provides evidence that when using external,general tools, professionals replicate the usage patterns setin place by the other users and participate to socialize.What are employees’ motivations for using the site?While socializing at work may be fun when taking a break,is it what motivates users to return to the site on a regularbasis? Or do they find the site supports them in their job?What type of content is shared on the site?As designed, the site does not prescribe whether usersshould contribute personal or professional content to thesite. What will they choose to share about themselves withtheir colleagues?Because of these inconclusive patterns of use, weanticipated that our users would exhibit some combinationof personal and professional behavior on the site. However,before launching the site we did not know how users wouldbalance this and what would be their primary motivationsfor using the site.The rest of the paper is organized as follows. A discussionof related research puts this research in context with otherstudies of social software in the enterprise setting. Thefollowing section gives a brief overview of the features ofBeehive and the current usage statistics. The remainingsections are structured according to our analysis, exploringthe three research questions: whom employees connectwith, what motivates them to use the site, and what types ofcontent they share.BEEHIVE: A SOCIAL NETWORK SITE FOR EMPLOYEESAt the end of May 2007, we launched Beehive, and oneyear later the site supported over 30,000 employees. Thegoal of the site is to enable users to express themselves inrich, personal ways so that other users could get anexpressive picture of who an individual was on a personaland professional level.RELATED RESEARCHThere is a significant body of existing research on howsocial software in general is used in a corporateenvironment. For example, studies have been done on theuse of blogging software [19, 22], social bookmarking tools[25] and wikis [17] within the boundaries of an intranet.Seeing the popularity and liveliness of the profiles onFacebook and MySpace, we wanted to bring this level ofuser participation and community to our company. Weobserved that this personal and expressive information wasgenerally lacking from our corporate intranet and that ourcorporate directory had listings for every employee butmany of them were void of information. Keeping employeeprofiles up-to-date with relevant, useful and dynamicinformation is a significant challenge for many humanresources departments.This research has found that employees use these tools forsearch and discovery of new corporate information. Blogs,bookmarks, and wikis represent new repositories ofinformation generated by employees, so while part of usingthese tools is connecting with fellow employees (hence“social” software), the value of these tools for the averageemployee is more information-centric than social. Researchon the contributors to tagging [28] and blogging [19]systems indicate that contributors to these tools tend to beproviding information and striving to be thought leadersand evangelists, rather than seeking information forthemselves or connecting in a social manner withcolleagues.The overall design of the site is similar to social networksites such as Facebook and MySpace in that the sitesupports users in creating an articulated social network(referred to as “connections”), sharing content, and creatingand customizing profiles.Beehive OverviewOn Beehive, user profiles are dynamic in that they changedepending on a user’s activity elsewhere on the site (e.g.creating content or writing comments) and they arecustomizable in that users can choose which information todisplay and where it is displayed on the page.Another example of how professionals use social softwareis the use of Internet sites designed for professionals. Themost popular public site for professional networking, with over 20 million registered users.LinkedIn is most commonly used for generating sales leads,finding potential hires, and in general, leveraging thecontact lists of fellow colleagues [27]. Again, the focus ofusers is on information providing and gathering, not onsocializing.Figure 1 shows a typical profile page. The left side of theprofile displays a photo of the profile owner drawn from thecentralized IBM corporate directory. Below this is theuser’s current status message. Status messages on the siteare similar to the text messages supported by Twitter.com712

in that they are a dynamic way for a user to notify his/hernetwork of recent activity.Below the status message is contact information pulledfrom IBM’s corporate directory. This type of linkingbetween intranet services is a unique strength of a toolhosted internally and means that every user is identified bytheir position and location in the organization.The center of the profile page shows the content the userhas chosen to share with the community. This includes theuser’s most recently shared photos and lists, the user’sconnections, and the “about you” section where the user cancraft question/answer pairs to provide information abouthim/herself [8]. The “buzz” section of the profile showscomments left by other users on the owner’s profile page,as well as reveals the most recent actions of this individualon the site.Beyond profiles, Beehive supports the sharing of lists andphotos. Lists (Figure 2) provide a way of expressingopinions and sharing interests or information through astructured collection of five ordered items. Examples forlists are “Cities I have lived in,” “Last 5 projects I workedon,” and “People I just met at a conference” [11]. The site’sphoto sharing has basic mechanisms for uploading andsharing photos on the site. The layout and structure of aphoto page, as shown in Figure 3, is similar to the list page.Figure 1. A Beehive profile.As with the profile pages, users can leave comments onindividual lists and photos. An example of this is shown atthe bottom of the list screenshot in Figure 2. This ability tocomment enables the communication and socializingcommon on external sites.Privacy ControlsWe designed a simpler access control policy for sharingcontent than is typical on today’s social network sites. Tocontrol who sees what content, users can limit the visibilityof their photos and lists to their immediate connections orthey can choose to allow any site visitor to see their content.In this way, the site supports users who want to use the siteto maintain contact with their close colleagues, as well assupports users reaching out to the entire company.Overview of Site Growth and PatternsIn the year since launching Beehive (May 2007 – May2008), the over 30,000 users on the site had contributedover 250,000 friend connections, 27,000 about-youstatements, 36,000 status message updates, 32,000 photos,10,000 lists, and 100,000 comments on content.The site experienced steady growth over its first year, andbased on a data snapshot taken nine months after its launch(the end of February ‘08), 67% of the users were active onthe site, with “active” being defined as contributing contentor connecting to another user. While 33% of the users havenot contributed content to Beehive, this is not an enormousFigure 2. A shared list on Beehive.surprise, as we expect to have a substantial lurkerpopulation as the community matures [26]. Figure 4 breaksdown the user contribution levels by the different contenttypes, to show that most users are making connections onthe site and a third of the users are setting their statusmessage.713

analysis we interviewed seventeen users, using a semistructured interview technique. The interviews asked userswhy they joined Beehive, why they connected to people,and why they shared particular content. We asked themabout memorable colleagues and content, about their use ofother social software, how they typically communicatedwith colleagues, and their own perception of the value ofthe site.Nine users were interviewed three months after Beehivelaunched and eight of them were interviewed nine monthsafter the launch. At nine months, we contacted the originalsubjects to see if their usage or motivations for Beehive hadchanged. We conducted interviews over the phone, withtwo of our team members asking questions, taking notes,and recording audio.We chose these subjects based on their high level of siteactivity, as well as based on their job function and location,in order to have a mix of non-managers/managers andUS/non-US employees. Of the seventeen interviewsubjects, four were female, seven worked outside of the US,and their job titles ranged from manager to engineer totechnical evangelist.Figure 3. A photo shared on Beehive.Percentage of Beehive Users Contributing to Each Content Type(Feb '08)60%58.3%40%To analyze the interviews, we distilled each audio transcriptinto distinct statements and coded each into multipleemerging themes. This coding was informed by groundedtheory in which the themes were generated through thesummarization process [12].34.7%22.9%22.9%20%19.3%18.5%WHO DO EMPLOYEES CONNECT WITH?When employees connect with another person on Beehive,they begin receiving updates about that person’s activitythrough the site’s home page, email digests, and optionalfeeds. Therefore, by connecting to someone, you are able tokeep detailed track of their activity on the istscommentsFigure 4. The percentage of users contributing site content.Based on a broad categorization of job titles, we found that27% of the users were engineers or IT workers, 15% werevice presidents or directors, 10% were managers or leads,6% were consultants and 4% sales. (The remaining 38%could not be classified into these general categories.) Fiftyseven countries were represented on the site: 40.6% of theusers were within the US and 14.8% in India, and thesepercentages reflect IBM’s overall workforce. Theremaining 55 countries each had less than 7% of the userbase. Of users specifying an office location in the corporatedirectory, 31.9% of them specified “home” or “mobile” astheir office, again, reflecting IBM’s overall percentage ofmobile workers.Consistent trends were revealed in our interviews aboutwhom Beehive users connect to and share with on the site.Subjects reported that although they often connected totheir immediate colleagues, they did not use the site toshare content with them. Instead, they used the site toconnect with the “weak ties” [15] in their network: eithercolleagues they did not know well or ones they had workedwith previously but did not communicate with on a regularbasis now. With our later set of interviewed users, whowere able to interact with thousands more people on thesite, there was an increase in stories of users meeting newemployees through the site, to make personal and businessconnections that in some cases have led to significantbusiness and personal interactions outside the site.The conclusions from these demographics are thatBeehive’s users are a mix of managerial and technicalemployees, and their distribution along geographic andmobile measures reflects the overall corporation.Not Sharing With Close ColleaguesWhen asked if the site was useful for interacting withimmediate colleagues, some users said they started usingthe site for that purpose, but over time decreased theircommunication with their close coworkers, as theyincreased their communication with others on the site:RESEARCH METHODOLOGYAs described in the introduction, to understand usermotivations we conducted qualitative interviews, withsupporting quantitative analysis of usage logs. For our714

“[Keeping up with my team] is typically done viaconference calls, emails, Sametime [instantmessaging]. I started using Beehive to connect withcolleagues, but we are already in daily meetingstogether. I find myself connecting with people outsidemy daily colleagues. I already know a lot about them[my daily colleagues].” [Subject 1: Program Manager,male, works from home in Connecticut, USA]“I knew she was a parent, but I don’t know her inperson besides the one conference I've seen her at.[When I saw her photos, I thought,] ‘Oh, that’s right,she's a parent. There’s the child. There’s the husband.’I feel closer to her, as close as if I had had dinner attheir house.” [S5: Designer, male, North Carolina,USA]Another user specifically described how he used the site formaintaining his looser connections within the enterprise:Another user’s response to the question ‘are you connectingwith your closest colleagues’ was:“Beehive helped me maintain loose social ties withpeople I don't have a close, frequent connection with(which is based on a work or friendly relationship), butwould like to do some maintenance to my connectionwith them, for the future's sake.” [S6, SoftwareEngineer, male, Haifa, Israel]“No, if I can talk to them outside Beehive, we don'tneed Beehive for that.” [S2: Business RequirementsAnalyst, male, North Carolina, USA]One of our early interview subjects reported six monthsafter the interview that he had stopped using the sitebecause it was not useful for connecting with his immediateteam:As this user so clearly explains, he hopes to strengthenthese ties now, so that in the future he can call upon theseconnections for resources. This classic explanation of thevalue of weak ties is where some of the value in the sitelies, as has been found with Facebook [10].“I have stopped using Beehive. I see the value inBeehive, the problem I have had is getting those that Iwork with to see the value in Web 2.0 apps like [it]. Iwould like to start using it again, and possibly try tohave some others join in.” [S3: Security Specialist,male, Ottawa, Canada]Meeting New ColleaguesWhen we asked our interview subjects how they knew theirBeehive connections, many of them said they knew a largeproportion of them, up to 75%, exclusively through the site.In several of our later interviews, users said that they nowconsidered some of these online connections to be closecolleagues:The exceptions to these explicit statements of not using thesite to connect to close colleagues were statements aboutconnecting with formerly close colleagues:“My closest colleagues, the people I work witheveryday, I generally use Sametime [instantmessaging] or email more than Beehive. However ifthey are people I know are active on Beehive, I willsend them a note. Like [John Smith], my formermanager. We comment on each other all the time. Iknow he checks his page once a day and is more likelyto see that than plow through all his emails.” [S4:Manager, female, New York, USA]“I discovered people in here that are turning out to bevery good contacts from a work perspective, just interms of domain experts and domain interest. Not eveninvolved in stuff I'm immediately working on, justinterested in same set of things.” [S2]One user had a specific strategy for finding people using afriends-of-friends method to discover new, relevantcolleagues:From these reports, and from the absence of stories of usingthe site for keeping up with current colleagues, we believethat users do not use the site to keep up with the colleaguesthey know well, but rather use it to connect with those theywould like to know better, as the next sections will explain.“Browsing contact lists of my contacts helped meget better knowledge of who should I know within IBM,by seeing who appears in multiple contact lists. I alsolearned about informal communities that exist withinIBM - the cat lovers, the photographers, and maybeeven the people who play strange musicalinstruments.” [S6]Getting to Know Weak Ties on a Personal LevelWhen we asked subjects if they could recall content on thesite that was particularly memorable to them, more oftenthan not the subject recalled the content of someone theyknew, but not very well: someone they had met only onceand perhaps never face-to-face. The photos and lists ofthese weak ties within the organization formed lastingimpressions on our interviewees and they describedlearning new things about the people, in particular abouttheir non-work lives. For example, one user described hisdistant colleague:Another user told us about becoming good friends withanother user:“Over time becoming fairly good friends with [RobertSmith]. We share many, many things in common: bothgetting MBA’s, both of Hispanic heritage, etc cooking, University of Miami, athletic, competitive.“It is not likely we would have made this connectionotherwise. Not likely to have made this - what hasbecome a friendship - without Beehive.” [S1]715

His personal friendship with the other user has extendedoutside of Beehive to email and instant messaging and theyhope to meet face-to-face.Another user who works from home reflected that the sitesupports today’s distributed workforce:“We no longer have the face-to-face contact we had 5 years ago, so we don't get to ‘catch up’ on the life sideof work/life, family, what we did on the weekend,pictures from our holidays, etc. However, we do get todo that here [on Beehive] so we've added thatinterpersonal relationship back in. I'm enjoying beinghere and seeing a different side of people I work with.”[S8, Human Resources, female, Maryland, USA]Beehive’s commenting feature, that allows users tocomment on profiles, photos, and lists, was the mostcommonly mentioned means by which people got to knoweach other. They would see someone commenting on thesame photos and lists as them, and through that interactionwould begin to communicate directly and connect to eachother. When the relationships extended outside of the site,in addition to email and instant messaging, users alsomentioned interacting through blogs and the comments onblogs.This desire to connect personally, both to those you maywork with and those you don’t know, was a tangible andmost frequently mentioned benefit to the site.Our observation that employees are meeting on Beehiveand forming significant bonds is markedly different fromothers’ findings that people use of Facebook to keep upwith their friends and not for “social browsing.” [23] Webelieve this is a unique aspect to social networking withinthe workplace: employees are open to meeting each otherfor both personal and professional reasons, perhaps becauseof existing common ground.ClimbingA set of our users reported that they felt their use of the sitewas specifically assisting them in their personal careeradvancement; we label this motivation climbing. Not allusers were motivated to use Beehive to climb and in factfour of our interview subjects joked that they thought usingthe site could harm their jobs. Those that did feel the sitecould benefit their careers (seven of the subjects) used it indeliberate ways to promote themselves and connectstrategically.While we can explain why employees are open to meetingnew people, it raises the question of why employees want tomeet each other. What are their motivations for connectingand sharing?For example, Subject 6 interacted with others on the site asa way to become part of a specific community of practicewithin the company he was interested in.WHY DO EMPLOYEES SHARE ON THE SITE?By summarizing our interview transcripts and consideringusers’ value and benefit statements, three main themes ofmotivations emerged. Beyond the desire to share on apersonal level, which we anticipated would be a primaryvalue for most users, we identified two additional themes ofbenefits: career advancement and the ability to convinceothers to support ideas and projects. We have labeled thesethree motivations as caring, climbing and campaigning. Wedo not see these motivations as exclusive to one another –some users may be equally motivated by all three things –but we find these categories to be helpful in structuring ourunderstanding of why users actively contribute to the siteand connect with colleagues. Of the seventeen interviewsubjects, 11 expressed caring, 7 expressed climbing, and 4expressed campaigning. (Three subjects from our first setof interviews did not express strong motivations beyondsimply trying it out.)“In a sense I wanted to get into this community so Ientered it by reusing somebody's [list]. And in afriending way, in some social gesture, reused the [list]and get into the community.” [S6]By communicating around topics of professional interestusing Beehive’s list feature, he was striving to becomeknown as someone knowledgeable on a topic. He said hewas using the site “for the future's sake” because therelationships he was forming within this community wouldhelp him in his long-term goals.Another approach taken by those climbing was more akin totraditional social networking done at face-to-face events.By commenting on the profiles of senior managers andgetting to know senior employees through the site, some ofour subjects were striving to become known to uppermanagement. For example, Subject 4 said:Caring“Beehive is a way to have people know somethingabout you, maybe remember something about you. In acompany with 300,000 people, it is easy to get lost. Ifyou want to advance, people need to know somethingabout you. Obviously you gotta do your job and yourmanager has to agree you do a good job to advance,but it is all about networking. You never know whereyour next job will come from, and the more people youcan connect with, the bigger set of opportunities foryour next job.” [S4]Across all of the interviews there was a constant theme thatconnecting on a social level was a source of personalsatisfaction. The number one reason employees gave forwanting to use the site was that they enjoyed connectingsocially at work:“Beehive, by design, helps me connect to peoplepersonally, which helps me to like these people more,which makes me want to work with them.” [S7,Designer, female, Maryland, USA]716

She gave an example of doing this by commenting on twosenior employees’ profiles about their favorite sports team:look at [me] and dismiss me, and on Beehive theydon’t.” [S10]“I connected to both of them on Beehive and joked,‘Gotta make sure Steelers fans stick together.’ Both ofthem wrote back. [In the future] both [will] know if I'min a meeting with them, ‘That's [Sue]. I’ve met herbefore. ’” [S4]These users see Beehive as a unique platform for promotingand campaigning for their projects. The existing corporatecommunication channels, typically through one’s hierarchy,are limiting for these users; the new found freedom toconnect and communicate with anyone on the site isproviding a new means to achieve users’ project goals.The subjects who used Beehive for professional networkingand climbing were particularly focusing on communicatingwith more senior employees. From their reports ofcommunicating on the site, the commenting and listfeatures particularly supported their goals.WHAT DO EMPLOYEES SHARE?Now that we have presented that users are connecting toweak and new ties and are motivated by desires to care,climb and campaign, it is worthwhile to examine the sharedcontent on the site through this lens. As shown previouslyin Figure 4, the most popular activity on the site has beenconnecting to colleagues and the next most popular activityhas been setting status messages. Figure 5 shows that, of theusers who do each of the site’s activities, the most frequentaction is writing comments (20.3 per user), then addingconnections (11.2 per user), which are followed by photos,status messages, about-you’s and list sharing. By looking atthe content in more detail, through our interviews and ananalysis of a sampling, we have indications of employees’motivations for sharing within the different content types.CampaigningThe third motivation of campaigning was primarilyexpressed by users as using Beehive to gather support fortheir projects. They used the site to solicit support for theirideas and to drive traffic to their project web pages, whichthey saw as means to move forward with their ideas.Campaigning users also talked about the importance ofgetting ideas in front of senior management and feltBeehive supported this. For example, Subject 9 feels thatthe site supports brainstorming company problems:“You have enough people from corporate wide thatyou can put an idea out there. It may skip severallevels. You don’t know which execs might look. It mightjust be enough to spark interest in someone highenough to get something done. A very good forum [forthis

indicates that social networking can provide value to many types of users, in many different ways. The focus of this research is on understanding how professionals inside of a company use an internal social networking site. Given the popularity of social networking sites on the Internet, it is expectation that employees will use a company-sponsored

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