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Revisiting the Uppsala internationalization model: Social network theory and overcoming the liability of outsidership

Mo Yamin (Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Yusuf Kurt (Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Article publication date: 12 February 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to utilize key insights from social network theory (SNT) to enhance understanding of overcoming the liability of outsidership as a prerequisite for firm internationalization. Specifically, it examines the influence of structural attributes of networks on the motivational stance of both network insiders and outsiders in relation to overcoming the liability of outsidership. A related aim is to explore the role of network positions of insider actors in terms of its impact on the speed of market entry.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws on the extant literatures on firm internationalization, particularly the liability of outsidership, and SNT to identify to what extent SNT can be utilized to deeply understand the process of overcoming the liability of outsidership. The authors put forward eight propositions linking structural and positioning attributes of networks with overcoming the liability of outsidership.

Findings

SNT provides strong potential for a more comprehensive understanding of the internationalization phenomena through shedding light on the relationship between the liability of foreignness and the liability of outsidership. The paper demonstrates that while the cost of overcoming the liability of outsidership is higher in closed target network as compared to open networks, the expected benefits of an insidership position in closed or open networks are affected by the outsider firm’s perception of the liability of foreignness in the market it wishes to enter. Considering the differential enabling characteristics of closed and open networks in terms of facilitating tacit knowledge sharing as opposed to explicit information flows, the authors reveal that liability of foreignness operates as a negative moderator for the relationship between network structure and the willingness of the outsider to invest in gaining insidership. The analysis of the paper also shows that the positional attributes of the network insider are relevant in outsiders’ motivation in terms of the speed of market entry that they seek to achieve.

Originality/value

This study theoretically contributes to the internationalization research through integrating SNT with the liability of outsidership understanding of firm internationalization. This is a timely attempt as no systematic application of the conceptual apparatus of SNT in the internationalization research context has been studied. It adds a more coherent inside-out perspective into the overcoming the liability of outsidership discussion which has been extensively dominated by an outside-in perspective.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their gratitude for helpful comments and suggestions from the IMR editor and two anonymous referees.

Citation

Yamin, M. and Kurt, Y. (2018), "Revisiting the Uppsala internationalization model: Social network theory and overcoming the liability of outsidership", International Marketing Review, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 2-17. https://doi.org/10.1108/IMR-11-2014-0345

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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