Instant messaging: Observations from two small e-commerce businesses

Suling Zhang, Jerry Fjermestad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose - Platform-independent low-cost instant messaging (IM) may allow small businesses with limited financial and technical resources to communicate and collaborate internally and externally. Little research has been done investigating IM in the small business context. This study seeks to address this research gap and to investigate how small businesses respond to and actively exploit the opportunities brought by IM. Design/methodology/approach - Two comparative case studies were conducted with two US small businesses. The research sites were selected based on the companies' IM usage pattern. Multiple data collecting methods were used including observation, interview, and IM transcripts. Open coding and qualitative data analysis were employed to get rich descriptive findings about IM usage. Findings - IM was found beneficial to small businesses in several ways. The IM usage management is more a managerial issue than a technical one and a set of organizational and managerial factors were identified critical to the achievements of these benefits. Originality/value - This paper addresses a research gap and investigates the under-researched IM management issue. The study shows that creative and constructive usage of IM could bring a variety of organizational benefits to small businesses. The findings of this study provide guidance to IM researchers and small business practitioners as to how small businesses can manage IM to exploit its benefits. The comparative study method employed by this study also identifies situations where the utility of IM usage could be limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-197
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Enterprise Information Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • Communication management
  • Communication technologies
  • Electronic commerce
  • Information systems
  • Small enterprises


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