The purpose of this paper is to explore what motivates college students to use LinkedIn and what inhibits them from fully adopting it.
A qualitative approach applying a “uses and gratifications” framework was used to identify the motives of and barriers faced by college students with respect to the LinkedIn usage. The study includes data collected from 30 upper-level, undergraduate business students.
Four uses and gratifications categories emerged explaining why college students would be willing to use LinkedIn. Three categories – interpersonal communication, online identity and information – are similar to those identified for using social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. Career development was found to be a category gratifying only LinkedIn users. Barriers to LinkedIn adoption included students’ ignorance of the network and the erroneous perception that a presence on LinkedIn should be initiated and/or developed only after graduation.
College students’ behavior on social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, was extensively researched employing the uses and gratifications theory. LinkedIn has recently reached about 200 million users, of which about 30 million are college students and recent graduates. Still, students’ motives, usage patterns and barriers associated with LinkedIn have not been well-documented, which creates a gap that this study attempts to address. The aim is to shed light on what motivates students to use a professional network as opposed to using social networks and what key barriers might prevent college students from fully capitalizing on LinkedIn’s features.
The author would like to thank Michael Dykhouse, an honors student, for his contribution to the data-collection process of this paper.
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