عنوان مقاله [English]
نویسندگان [English]چکیده [English]
This paper investigates the reasons behind users’ preferring one social network over the others. It will also examine what decision making methods the Iranian users employ to choose their favorite social network. It should be noted that sixdegrees.com was the first social network that was released in 1997 which was followed by many other social networks. Some researchers have defined social networks as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of their users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from network to network. According to reports, Facebook is one of the most popular ones. Facebook is ranked 1st in most viewed social networks throughout the world. Google company released a new project, named Google plus in 2011. Google plus reaches to 10 million users in 16 days, while Facebook reaches to 10 million users in 852 days. The competition between Facebook and Google Plus helps us to find out why users prefer one network over the others. At the first glance it seems users’ preferences are related to their needs, that is the reason we think the use and gratification theory provides a suitable theoretical framework for this paper. Methodologically it seems appropriate to use focus group for data collection. Use and gratification (U&G) is a psychological communication perspective that examines how individuals use mass media, on the assumption that individuals select media and content to meet their needs or wants. Contemporary U&G research is grounded in the following five assumptions: (a) "communication behavior, including media selection and use, is goal-directed, purposive, and motivated"; (b) "people take the initiative in selecting and using communication vehicles to satisfy felt needs or desires"; (c) "a host of social and psychological factors mediate people's communication behavior"; (d) "media compete with other forms of communication i.e., functional alternatives) for selection, attention, and use to gratify our needs or wants"; and (e) "people are typically more influential than the media in the relationship, but not always". We use this theory combined with the model of audience decision making in selecting new media that was presented by Becker and Schoenbach. This model deals whit how audience choose a new media and which needs affect their decision making. We used qualitative interviews and chose our sample based on case-oriented sampling and did it to reach the theoretical saturation. Theoretical saturation occurs in data collection when: (a) no new or relevant data seem to emerge regarding a category, (b) the category is well developed in terms of its properties and dimensions demonstrating variation, and (c) the relationships among categories are well established and validated. In other words, the researcher continues expanding the sample size until data collection (e.g. interviews) supplies no new data. Doing that, we interviewed 10 Facebook heavy users (4 men, 6 women), who were completely accustomed to Facebook usage and additionally joined Google Plus in early days of its launch. Some of the findings indicate that two most important reasons that speed up the process of joining social networks are as follows: a) users’ curiosity and b) previous experience. Most of the interviewees accepted that their curiosity encouraged them to join a social network, they told us when a new network begins its activity and joining it has no cost, they prefer to join and experience the network. These findings match the model of audience decision making in selecting new media. Furthermore, previous experience is another important factor. Previous experience effects are one of the most important reasons for joining a network, and robust, of all media audience behaviors and most researchers recognize it as a determining factor in audience flow. The results also verified that this phenomenon is important in social network users’ behavior. Most of the samples mentioned that they joined Facebook after Yahoo 360 was shut down. In seeking a new network they joined Facebook, mostly because of their friends’ requests.
Furthermore, the results show that if user’s friends emigrate to a new network, the user possibly follow them. In fact, users’ friends’ presence is a crucial reason in choosing a new network. As another result, this research shows most of the users register in many networks but it doesn’t mean they remain active in all of them. For instance, interviewees argued that despite creating an account in Google Plus, they rarely use it. The samples pointed out it had happened because their friends continued using Facebook and did not decamp to Google Plus.