It has been a while since I published anything on here. I have been busy doing research and as for now I am working on a paper. Meanwhile I figured I could as well publish pieces of text that should be seen as "work in progress". I am open to any comments, suggestions, as always, feel free. I wanted to start with a topic that is closely linked to the general theme of my PhD (to refresh your memory: my PhD should be seen as work at the intersection between internal communication (situated within the broader domain of PR) and social media studies (situated within numerous domain, amongst which the "Information Systems" domain), namely enterprise social media.
Some issues with definitions
Although some authors argue that "Web 2.0 defies a widely agreed upon concise definition" (Murgeson, 2007, p. 35) we would argue that the phenomenon is omnipresent in our digital lives. Building on Castell's (2007) concept of mass-self communication we consider all technology built upon this principle to be social technology. The defining element is the simplicity with which everyday users can publish something on the web and as such defy the traditional gatekeeping role of mass media actors (Meraz, 2009). Web 2.0 applications gained considerable attention with the increasing popularity of Social Network Sites (SNS) like facebook and microblogging services like twitter. It took a substantial part of our global population less than a decade to integrate these new digital platforms into their daily patterns of media consumption (Arora & Predmore, 2013).
Maybe some thought that the rise of social media was just a fad but as we move forward it seems as though we have grown used to the conveniences these digital tools offer (Baltatzis, 2009, p. 2). Even today there is considerable discussion about the speed with which organizations have followed the developments of "the social web". Those organizations that rely on market mechanisms to ensure their existence were fast to adopt the new technologies because they realized that the customer gained the power to subject the organization's reputation to social scrutiny. Social media have given customers the potential to make their voices heard globally (Constantinides, 2008).
Because many organizations are profit-oriented, and customer-centrality is an essential element in the struggle for survival in a competitive marketplace, these enterprises were forced to accept the new reality of being subject to the wishes of an empowered customer who has the power to affect the organization's reputation. However, it is important to add that "the web" is not equal (DiMaggio et al., 2001). Some voices can be heard louder than others and traditional power in off-line social systems can often be transferred to a strong position in the digital social network (Davis, 2010).
The idea that not everyone is equal on the web and that user empowerment has to be put in perspective is an interesting point of departure to look at the introduction of social media technologies in the work environment. Although there is still considerable discussion about the speed with which organizations have appropriated social media for internal use, it is safe to say that this process has been slower than the adoption rate of social media in people's private lives (Baltatzis, 2008, p. 78). There are several explanations why this process has been slower. We will briefly outline current existing knowledge on this topic.
A first important remark we have to make is that large organizations, most likely the ones operating in commercial market environments (although we did not find strong comparative data on global social media adoption between sectors), have been amongst the fastest to adopt social media into their systems. One could argue that they are the ones who had most to gain from the technologies as they allow for a more direct contact with important stakeholders, whether they be customers or employees (Jones, Temperley, Lima, 2009). Large enterprises, sometimes pejoratively called "Behemoths", saw a chance to reinforce their "human face" (Peppers & Rogers, 2012). Since their reputation is often international, even global, social media damage could substantially harm bottom-line results. Several studies have shown that the adoption rate of social media tools amongst SMEs is lower (Chui et al., 2012, p. 6).
Secondly, we must differentiate between what Alarifi & Sedera (2013) have called Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and Public Social Networks (PSN). PSN or Public Social Media are the platforms, like facebook and twitter, that are adopted by the general public and act as the social media interface between the organization and its external stakeholders. Enterprise social networks are platforms that build on the technology of Web 2.0 but were explicitly designed for communication purposes inside an organization. Today, organizations can choose between dozens of platforms. Amongst the most popular are Yammer, SocialCast, IBM Connections, Tibbr and Mumba Cloud. Some have labeled the introduction of social media technologies in the organization the shift from enterprise 1.0 to enterprise 2.0 (Backhouse, 2009, p. 2). The technology itself has been labeled "enterprise social network", "internal social media", "enterprise social media" and "enterprise social software".
Blogging away about my PhD. My goal is to keep you up to date about the progress made in my research. Stay tuned for more news and feel free to interact and comment.