A Micro-SME Case Study of Social Media Adoption




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Institute of Small Business Entrepreneurship



Peer reviewed



Equipped by the advancement in technology, social media has altered the delivery, structure and availability of information, putting the once capital-intensive role of broadcasting (Simmons et al., 2011) within the reach of individuals. Blackshaw & Nazaro (2006, cited in Xiang and Gretzel 2010) define Social Media as Internet-based applications that carry consumer-generated content. Importantly, Hansen et al. (2011) adds a focus on the tools and potential business benefits. ‘Social media tools cultivate the internal discussions that improve quality, lower costs, and enable the creation of customer and partner communities that offer new opportunities for coordination, marketing, advertising, and customer support. These networks contain information that has significant business value by exposing participants in the business network who play critical and unique roles’ (Hansen et al. 2011: 4).

Social media provides immense power to consumers and transforms individuals from passive recipients of information and products into active creators of content (information and ideas) who are able to actively and immediately communicate with one another. One of the emerging challenges facing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is how they appropriately incorporate and harness the mass collaboration that social media facilitates. Durkin et al. (2013: 720) state, ‘Where attention has been applied to the SME context the focus (current literature) has mainly been on primarily tactical marketing issues.’ In addition literature documents the impact of on-line engagement for off-line social relationships (Fisher and Reuber, 2011) and mobile marketing (Jayawardhena et al., 2009).’ However, Durkin et al. (2013) identify, a paucity of social media research relating to strategic considerations, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship enables enterprises to successfully identify business opportunities, develop: products; markets; the supply chain and thus increase their competitiveness and innovative capacity (Birkinshaw, 2000). The researchers suggest, social media can significantly help in this regard. However, the ONS (2014) data, states only 54.0% of all businesses use social media. A closer examination of the ONS (2014) data and outlined academic research (Durkin et. al, 2013 and Simmons et al, 2011) highlight a number of problems:

Problem 1: Micro businesses are significantly less likely than small businesses to use the technology for customer and innovative purposes. The ONS (2014) data states only 5.8% of micro businesses use social media to innovate compared to over 30% using social media for customer relationship activities. It is also noted that under 30% of micro businesses use social media compared to over 50% of small businesses. Suggesting they are less likely to benefit entrepreneurially from social media.

Problem 2: There is a paucity of theoretical understanding and literature relating to relationship between social media and entrepreneurial activity. Current frameworks fail to provide an understanding of the concept, structures and relationships.

AIMS & OBJECTIVES The paper aims to begin to address these problems by way of two key objectives:

Objective 1: To identify and examine why and how a micro SME has adopted and used social media operationally and strategically.

Objective 2: To understand the decision-making for social media use. What can be learned from the case studies experience and decisions?

METHODOLOGY In response to the objectives and the focus on social media use and activities the primary strategy for data collection is in depth/detailed interviews and observation. For the paper a single case study will provide the data for analysis. Observations of the case studies social media use will be undertaken to observe and record their online actions and behavior (Collis and Hussey, 2014: 148). The non-participant observation will be undertaken via social media technologies used by the case studies. Some of the activities and meta-data will be analysed using a variety of online tools (example: simplymeasured.com). Durkin et al.’s (2013: 724) theoretical model of social media adoption and use provides the framework of observation and interview questions.

CONTRIBUTION The paper adds to the current understanding of SMEs and social media us by adding to the limited understanding of social media use amongst micro businesses. Through empirical data collection and analysis the paper provides a detailed and in depth understanding of social media use by a micro SME. Key to the paper’s contribution is going beyond the understanding of use. Therefore, the contribution is to: understand micro SME social media adoption and activity; and to take the first steps in developing guidance and support for micro SMEs wanting to use social media for entrepreneurial purposes.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version


Social Media, SME, ICT Adoption


Beckinsale, M. (2017) A Micro-SME Case Study of Social Media Adoption. In: Proceedings of ISBE Conference, November 2017, Belfast.


Research Institute

Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)