Social technology and knowledge management

Networking and collaboration

Organizational knowledge management is currently undergoing a positive transformation due to the proliferation of social technology usage, both at personal and organizational level. This trend is changing the traditional knowledge management implementations (monolithic, centralized and controlled) to implementations based on digital networking and collaborative sharing (Krogh, 2012; Mujadi et al., 2006). In this section we will show how social technologies alter knowledge management practices within an organization (Faraj et ah, 2011). As pointed out by Chatti et ah (2007): “In the modern media and knowledge-intensive era of collaboration culture, the one-size-fits-all, centralized, static, top-down, and knowledge-push models of traditional learning initiatives need to be replaced with a more social, personalized, open, dynamic, emergent, and knowledge-pull model for learning.”

Social media are fundamentally disrupting the way employees deal with knowledge. Bebensee et ah (2011) argue that social media and other socially enabled applications have three layers of relevance to knowledge management. First, they are based on socially oriented principles, including peer production and unbounded collaboration. Second, these applications, such as social networking, media sharing, blogs, wikis, etc., are easy to use. Third, they are based on open platforms and enabling services that rely on network effects. iMany of the social media platforms offer significant benefits to users (for example, YouTube) because of network effects.

In a case study of knowledge management in a multinational firm (Krogh, 2012), Parotitis and Saleh (2009) show that employee-generated content through blogging and other socially enabled applications helped people to share knowledge to perform their job more effectively and efficiently. It also enhanced management of personal knowledge using intelligent search techniques that helped employees find answers to important questions and stay informed about the relevant news, etc. In such a learning context, technology not only connects individuals to digital repositories of knowledge but also to other people, thereby creating a peer-to-peer learning environment. Such an environment enables people to share ideas, collaboratively creating new content and getting effective support to learn with and from peers (Chatti et al., 2007).

The knowledge management models in this context focus on the social aspect of managing knowledge and place a strong emphasis on community building through knowledge networking that would help to use, share and sustain knowledge in a collaborative way. Such communities and networks can only be created if the members of the organization can transcend organizational boundaries to involve all stakeholders, including peers, customers, partners, suppliers and various types of formal and informal communities relevant for that organization. This requires a participatory culture with relatively low barriers to self- expression and a strong support for an open culture, enabling 360-degree knowledge sharing. In a participatory culture, members feel socially connected with each other and feel encouraged to contribute, since they believe that their contributions matter (Chatti et al., 2007).

The social technology and SECI model-based knowledge processes

Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) adopt a dynamic model of knowledge management, known as the SECI model, with a focus on knowledge creation, collaboration and practice (discussed in Chapter 7). The model represents four modes of knowledge conversion: socialization (tacit to tacit), externalization (tacit to explicit), combination (explicit to explicit) and internalization (explicit to tacit). Chatti et al. (2007) have shown how social media and other web 2.0 technologies are ideal tools to implement Nonaka’s SECI knowledge- creation theory, facilitating all socialization, externalization, combination and internalization processes. This is illustrated below:

Socialization: Following the concept of ba, as proposed by Nonaka and Noboru (1998), the socialization process starts with building a “field” or “space” of social interaction. The knowledge within individuals, or the tacit knowledge, is sometimes difficult to codify but can be shared through social interaction. This interaction in an online virtual space can enable sharing of tacit knowledge through collaborative participation using both informal and formal networks. Social media greatly facilitate building of such virtual spaces and transfer tacit knowledge from one person to another through text-audio-video chat, social networking sites (for example, Twitter or Facebook), etc. Community- based features of social media coupled with ease of use, informality and openness create an environment in which social interactions and tacit knowledge sharing are better facilitated (Gordeyeva, 2010; Zheng et al., 2010). Social media support the sharing of tacit knowledge by encouraging social connections and informal communication among experts and non-experts by providing a collaborative as well as a brainstorming space for new knowledge creation via open participation, dialogue and discussion using online communication tools such as audio—video conferencing and instant messaging systems. This also helps to reduce the time and effort needed for knowledge sharing (Gordeyeva, 2010).

Social networking sites (SNS) promote building of social community of practices (CoP), enabling tacit knowledge flow within community members having similar learning interests (Chatti et ah, 2007; Hildrum, 2009). Embedded instant messaging and discussion forums in purposive social networking sites support users to exchange tacit practical knowledge among participants (Raisanen & Oinas-Kukkonen, 2008). In addition, SNS tend to increase interpersonal trust through closer social connectivity and more frequent communication among members that, in turn, helps to transfer tacit knowledge more effectively (Gordeyeva, 2010).

Externalization: This refers to the process of knowledge conversion from tacit to explicit knowledge, thus creating new, codified knowledge from tacit knowledge. Social media in general provide unique opportunities to capture context-rich knowledge through content creation and exchange. Blogs, for example, facilitate the externalization process by allowing the users to create and distribute content, thus providing a space not only to capture personal knowledge but also to distribute the reflection of others on that knowledge through contextualized discussions across blogs. Wikis, for example, can influence both externalization (codification of personal knowledge) and internalization of tacit knowledge (integrating the information provided by wiki with an individual’s knowledge base) (Cress & Kimmerle, 2008). It helps knowledge sharing by providing a space for collaborative knowledge capturing and sharing through social interactions (Chatti et ah, 2007; Cordeyeva, 2010). In wikis, encyclopedic-style knowledge repositories may evolve through the iterative integration of user-generated content. In this context it is important to note that knowledge can be expressed and captured in social media through multi-modal representation and expression, which include text, audio, graphics and images, video, etc. Each mode of representation has its own affordances and its own strategies for representing knowledge (Kress, 2003). Hence users need to be familiar with a range of different modes of expressions to determine most effective mode(s) in representing and communicating their knowledge in social media.

Combination: This is the process of integrating different bodies of explicit knowledge. Knowledge can only be stored and accessed once it has become codified, or explicit. Blogs and wikis combine context-rich and searchable explicit knowledge assets using distributed, community-driven knowledge repositories. During the combination process, new knowledge is created through reconfiguration and reorganization of existing explicit knowledge. Other examples are mashups (Fichter, 2013) that can be used to combine content from more than one source, remixing and assembling it to form a new service.

Internalization: This is the process of personalizing explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge. Internalization is a process of personal knowledge management (PKM), which enables an individual to manage his or her personal knowledge and augment it with newly acquired tacit knowledge, obtained through conversion of explicit knowledge (Razmerita et al., 2009; Jarche, 2013).

Social media tools also facilitate internalization through PKM through tacit knowledge sharing.

Social media analytics and customer knowledge management

Social media are widely used in business today to grab the attention of consumers and influence them to make purchase decisions (He et al., 2018). At the same time, consumers also use social media platforms to share information and express opinions, experiences and evaluations about various products and services. Such “socially shared consumption” (Kunst Sc Ravi, 2014) can range from electronic word-of-mouth in personal social networking circles to online reviews and reflections on those reviews in designated online forums, all facilitated by social media applications. The pervasive use of social media platforms has generated massive consumer-generated content. Before taking a purchase decision, millions of consumers now depend on consumer-generated reviews on social media to evaluate products and services (Laroche et ah, 2013).

To extract knowledge about their customers’ likes and preferences from the customer-generated content, organizations need to develop capability to collect, store and analyse social media data to derive actionable insights for decisionmaking and forecasting (Duan et ah, 2013; Schoen et ah, 2013; He et ah, 2016). As an outcome of this requirement, social media analytics has emerged as an important area of study. Numerous companies have now devised social media analytics tools (for example, Hoodsuite, Sprout Social, Google Analytics, Radian 6, etc.) that help organizations “to collect, monitor, analyze, summarize, and visualize social media data to facilitate conversations and interactions to extract useful patterns and intelligence” (Fan & Gordon, 2014).

Customer knowledge has three components: knowledge for customer, knowledge about customers and knowledge from customers (Gebert et ah, 2002; He et ah, 2018).

  • 1 Knowledge for customers-. This is a uni-directional flow of product/service knowledge from organizations to customers to advertise their products/ service offering and activities of organizations. Nowadays, organizations are using social media extensively not only to advertise their products/ service offering but also to demonstrate their offerings using audio-visual aids (such as an organization’s own Facebook pages, online advertisements in selected social media channels, discussions about their offerings in designated blogs/forums, YouTube for product demonstration, etc.). At the same time, organizations can analyse the effectiveness of any marketing campaign by monitoring customer feedback using social media analytics tools.
  • 2 Knowledge about the customer: Organizations are always trying to understand the needs of customers in order to satisfy them. At the same time, organizations are also trying to track the customers’ preferences and motivations, as well as their demographic and psychographic characteristics
  • (Zembik, 2014). Organizations are adopting different analytics tools to trace the digital footprints of customers in order to gain knowledge about the customers.
  • 3 Knowledge from the customer: Organizations are always concerned about customers’ impressions, expectations, experiences and insights regarding a product or service. This valuable knowledge from the customer can be used for service and/or product improvement. The knowledge gathered from customers can also be used by organizations towards reputation and brand management, quality monitoring, sales and marketing, etc. For example, an organization can use such knowledge to predict a crisis situation (Jin et al., 2014). Additionally, a company could analyse the customer reviews of its products on its Facebook or Twitter pages to gain critical business insight and knowledge about customer satisfaction regarding its products or services, such as identifying product flaws, improving product quality and maximizing product differentiation.

In summary, social media analytics has had a strong impact, and implications for the management and use of online information suggest great potential to generate new knowledge and business value (He & Xu, 2016).

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