Early-stage entrepreneurs on LinkedIn - a tool for legitimacy?
Abstract: In line with the development of modern communication technology, computer-mediated-communication is playing a crucial role in how people interact and communicate. One forum in which such interaction can be conducted is the online professional social network LinkedIn. In this study we examine how entrepreneurs, conscious or unconsciously, make use of impression management strategies in a textual sense on LinkedIn by highlighting entrepreneurial skills in order to claim legitimate distinctiveness. The purpose of this study is to identify the ways in which early-stage entrepreneurs use rhetoric to establish legitimacy for themselves among potential stakeholders. This is of interest since favourable legitimacy judgments by potential resource providers are critical for the survival and growth of new ventures. This study adopts a quantitative approach by searching for specific keywords connected to entrepreneurial skills on the profile pages of early-stage entrepreneurs. The research concludes that how early-stage entrepreneurs present themselves on LinkedIn in order to create legitimacy is not influenced by factors such as gender, age, educational background or prior work experience. However, statistical significance was found in the negative relationship between previous start-up experience and the highlighting of skills within Networking and Leadership/Management. The results to some extent indicate that entrepreneurs who have prior start-up experience to a lesser degree highlight skills related to social capital and rather focus on more tacit skills related to their expertise, than their less experienced counterparts The research concludes that a possible explanation can be found in the logic that previous success in starting a venture speaks for itself. That is, entrepreneurs who have successfully launched a start-up have, to some extent, already proved that they have what it takes to start a business, make it successful and by extension also come off as legitimate.
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