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Exploring the influence of social media on employee work performance

Xiongfei Cao (University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Xitong Guo (School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China)
Douglas Vogel (eHealth Research Center, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China)
Xi Zhang (Tianjin University)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 4 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence of social media on employees’ work performance, as well as the underlying mechanism for how they create value at work.


Based on media synchronicity and social capital theories, the authors propose that social media can foster employees’ social capital and subsequently facilitate knowledge transfer. Both social capital and knowledge transfer help promote work performance. Specifically, the authors adopt shared vision, network ties and trust to represent, respectively, the cognitive, structural and relational dimensions of social capital. The research model is tested using data collected from 379 Chinese working professionals.


The empirical results reveal that social media can promote the formation of employees’ social capital indicated by network ties, shared vision and trust, which, in turn, can facilitate knowledge transfer. Shared vision and knowledge transfer positively influence work performance. Although network ties and trust do not have a direct impact on work performance, the influence is partially mediated by knowledge transfer.

Practical implications

For organizations that wish to build knowledge networks in the workplace, connecting experts with various social media can effectively complement other knowledge management technology. Further, managers should encourage employees to consciously exploit the byproducts created via social media, e.g., social capital, to promote knowledge exchange.


The integration of media synchronicity and social capital theories offers a new theoretical lens and reasonable explanations for investigating communication performance. The research offers empirical evidence regarding how the influence of social media on work performance is transmitted through social capital and knowledge transfer. The authors quantify social media’s benefits for organizations, providing managers an impetus to deploy them in the workplace with optimistic expectation.



This study was partially funded by the NSFC grants (71531007, 71471048, 71502168 and 71471049).


Cao, X., Guo, X., Vogel, D. and Zhang, X. (2016), "Exploring the influence of social media on employee work performance", Internet Research, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 529-545.



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