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The Mom Rule and Other Tools

As our professor, Dennis Jenders, has invited various guest speakers into our #ADPR4300 class, there are some questions we keep asking and some answers we keep hearing. As we hear of all the different social media tools out there, one question we keep asking is how we know what social media tools have a good chance at being successful. Both Dennis and James Davidson (@jdavidson) from 7 Summits have had the same response for us; we should think of whether or not our mom’s would use the tool. By looking the generation above us, we are able to see some insight into whether or not these tools will catch on.

In communication studies, various theories have emerged to answer these same questions. Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) developed a theory based on social presence. Social presence is defined as “the degree to which a medium supports the psychological presence of users during an interaction” (Baker, 2002, p.80). This includes factors such as sociability, warmth, personalness, and sensitivity. In this theory, face-to-face communication is seen as the highest level of social presence. However, the theory also states that the more channels available within a communication medium, the more attention users will pay to that medium. It is important to remember that the level of social presence necessary for success as a medium is also related to the goal of the communication that will be taking place in this platform. Therefore, by considering the amount of social presence a new social medium has in comparison with its goals, we may reach a further understanding into whether or not a new social medium will be successful.

Another theoretical viewpoint regarding media acceptance is the media richness model. Developed by Daft and Lengel (1986), this theory is one of the most frequently cited when considering collaborative technologies. The media richness theory suggests that richness is an intrinsic property of each media and that “individuals’ decision to use different media can be explained by the fit between the requirements of the task and the intrinsic properties of that task” (Baker, 2002, p. 81). Within this theory, it is crucial to understand the requirements of the task the medium is created to perform and the intrinsic properties of that task to determine whether or not that medium is going to be effective in that task.

One final theoretical approach to media acceptance is called Media Synchronicity Theory (MST) (Dennnis, Valacich, Speier, and Morris, 1998). This theory proposes that “communication effectiveness results from matching the communication capabilities of concurrence and feedback to the communication processes of conveyance (the exchange of information) and convergence (the development of a shared meaning about information)” (Baker, 2002, p. 81). In other words, does the technology allow for concurrence (allowing users to communicate real time) and feedback? Do the capabilities of each of these match the information that must be exchanged and the ability for users to develop shared meaning?

These are some additional tools we can use to determine whether emerging social media platforms are going to be successful. In the end, it’s not an exact science, but theories which have been tested time and time again are a good place to start. Or, considering your mom (who has also been tested time and time again).


Baker, G. (2002). The effects of synchronous collaborative technologies on decision making: A study of virtual teams. Information Resources Management Journal, 15(4). 79-93.

Daft, R. & Lengel, R. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness, and structure design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571.

Dennis, A. R., Valacich, J. S., Speier, C., & Morris, M. G. (1998). Beyond media righness: An empirical test of media sychronicity theory. Proceedings of 1998 Annual Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science, (pp. 48-57). Maui.

Short, J. E., Williams, E., and Christie, B. (1976). The Social Psychology of Communications. London: John Wiley.


One response »

  1. I am really happy that you’ve touched on the mom rule. I think it is such a valid point that if our moms are not into the platform–it probablly won’t be successful. I know it has taken my mom a while to get on board, but she now has a Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Even though she may not use them as frequetly as I do, she enjoys them to connect with friends (or better yet creep on my college friends). I do think that monitorings dads is also going to be a way to see how platforms are being utilized. My dad is much slower than most Americans in getting on board with any technology, so when he starts using platforms–that is when I know it has made a difference in our social world.


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