Media Richness, Social Influence, and Critical Mass: The Use of Electronic Mail in Organizations


Lin-Woei Leou · Lin-Lin Ku


This study focuses on factors influencing the use of electronic mail in an organizational setting. Scholars try to explain media choice by using media richness, social influence, and critical mass perspectives, but empirical evidence is limited and sometimes contradictory. This study attempts to better explain the use of electronic mail by examining the three models concurrently.

A questionnaire was distributed in June, 1995, to randomly selected e-mail users in MXIC, a semiconductor manufacturer at Science-Based Industrial Park in Hsinchu. The response rate was approximately 25%. The research results showed that media richness, social influence, and critical mass influenced the use of electronic mail in various degrees. Social influence had a greater impact on users’ attitudes toward electronic mail than on their behavior. Information from colleagues had a much greater impact on users than that from supervisors.

Electronic mail co-exists with other newer and traditional communication media in organizations. To better understand media choice-making, future research should examine various media simultaneously.