What's different about social media networks? A framework and research agenda

Gerald C. Kane, Maryam Alavi, Giuseppe Labianca, Stephen P. Borgatti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

649 Scopus citations


In recent years, we have witnessed the rapid proliferation and widespread adoption of a new class of information technologies, commonly known as social media. Researchers often rely on social network analysis (SNA) when attempting to understand these technologies, often without considering how the novel capabilities of social media platforms might affect the underlying theories of SNA, which were developed primarily through studies of offline social networks. This article outlines several key differences between traditional offline social networks and online social media networks by juxtaposing an established typology of social network research with a well-regarded definition of social media platforms that articulates four key features. The results show that at four major points of intersection, social media has considerable theoretical implications for SNA. In exploring these points of intersection, this study outlines a series of theoretically distinct research questions for SNA in social media contexts. These points of intersection offer considerable opportunities for researchers to investigate the theoretical implications introduced by social media and lay the groundwork for a robust social media agenda potentially spanning multiple disciplines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-304
Number of pages30
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014


  • Blog
  • Framework
  • Knowledge management
  • Networks
  • Research agenda
  • Social media
  • Social network analysis
  • Theory
  • Wiki

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems and Management


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