Entrepreneurship in the age of social media

Dr Mohammad Saud Khan is investigating how entrepreneurs can, and do, harness the power of social media.

Dr Saud Khan

In the last decade, social media has shifted from being something for teenagers and young adults, to being an integral part of modern life. It is projected that by 2021 there will be almost 3.1 billion social media users worldwide.

The rise of social media has created many opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs around the world have harnessed the power and reach of social media—and in doing so are changing what entrepreneurship looks like.

“Social Media has influenced the process of entrepreneurship by impacting the way opportunities are identified, evaluated and eventually exploited,” says Dr Khan, a Senior Lecturer in Strategic Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Wellington School of Business and Government whose research examines social media entrepreneurship.

“The entrepreneurial opportunities around social media appear endless. The capitalisation avenues of Facebook and blogs are just the beginning,” says Dr Khan. “One of the greatest benefits of social media entrepreneurship is the impact an innovation can create in a short period of time. The capability of reaching millions with the simultaneous ability to maintain a regular job provides a high degree of flexibility.”

“One interesting example of social media entrepreneurship comes from Sweden which has more than 35,000 fashion blogs. A considerable number of these bloggers earn through promotional activities involving newspapers or fashion companies. The mixture of personal and business relevant content coupled with the reputation of fashion bloggers is revolutionizing fashion journalism and highlighting the potential role of bloggers as institutional entrepreneurs.”

Through his research, Dr Khan aims to understand the value creation process within the emerging phenomenon of social media entrepreneurship.

“At the heart of the above-mentioned entrepreneurial process lies the idea of opportunity co-creation, which takes place via the blogger and their real-life (and virtual) networks. Typically, it is the entrepreneur who is seen as the individual who identifies an entrepreneurial opportunity. However, within the context of blogging, opportunities are often proactively identified by corporate stakeholders (within the blogger’s network) as well.”

As well as this, Dr Khan is also examining how social media is changing the very concept of entrepreneurship itself.

“I look at entrepreneurship as a general reasoning and problem-solving approach—popularly called ‘entrepreneurship-as-method’ by Professor Saras D. Sarasvathy,” says Dr Khan. “By thinking about entrepreneurship in this way we can see how entrepreneurs are not just those focused on commercialising an innovation or creating high-growth firms, but those who engage in innovative socio-economic activities without necessarily starting up own companies or being included in corporate world as intrapreneurs (people who behave like entrepreneurs while working within a large organisation). This is leading us to revisit the genesis of entrepreneurship as a phenomenon.”

Going forward, Dr Khan intends to continue exploring the ways social media impacts the entrepreneurial process.

“Having a background in Mechatronics engineering, I am always fascinated with the ways technology impacts the wider society. Social media entrepreneurship brings forth an exciting context whereby entrepreneurs can explore a variety of ways to address the challenges facing our world.”

 profile picture

Saud Khan