Hierarchy or Activity? The Role of Formal and Informal Influence in Eliciting Responses From Enterprise Social Networks

Stieglitz S., Riemer K., Meske C.

Social Media is associated with improved communication, information-sharing and has been argued to lead to more democratic communication patterns, whereby users increasingly derive authority from their contributions to the network rather than their position in the formal hierarchy. At the same time, this development remains largely un-explored. Against this background, we explore the influence of both a user’s hierarchical level and level of communication activity on their ability to elicit responses from other ESN users. We draw on a unique data set of more than 130,000 messages collected from the ESN platform Yammer at Deloitte Australia. We confirm the existence of both kinds of influence, formal and informal, yet we show that communication activity has a much stronger effect than a user’s hierarchical position. We conclude that communication behaviour has a bigger influence on information diffusion than formal hierarchies. This points to the potentials of enterprise social networks in improving organic, user-driven communication and knowledge-sharing within firms.

Publication type
Conference Paper

Peer reviewed

Publication status


European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS)

Tel Aviv (Israel), Paper 12