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Assessing the Value of Corporate Blogs: A Social Capital Perspective

The following co-authored article appeared here: 0361-1434/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE

Abstract—This three-phased study examines corporate blog use, specifically the impact and value of blogs on organizational social capital and knowledge sharing at Dell Inc., a global computer manufacturer. The impact of social-mediated Web 2.0 technologies on organizational social capital has received limited attention in scholarship,possibly because of the inevident connection to measurable economic value and newness of the technology. Our findings indicate the corporate blog can be used as a sustainable forum leading to a shared understanding of organizational roles, increased sense of group cohesiveness, improved work processes, and fostering of professional and personal ties between employees in the organization.

Knowledge is embedded in the collective workforce of an organization and is highly dependent on human interaction to share and attribute value to that information. With the increasing level of information a worker encounters on a daily basis, the task of capturing tacit knowledge, properly contextualizing it, and distributing it across an organization has stretched the limits of human capacity. With the emergence of participatory technologies, organizations have invested in software and web-based tools for information and knowledge capturing, sharing, and reuse. They also allow for improved interaction, collaboration, and accessibility of structured and unstructured data in varying degrees of formality. Using these tools to capture and disseminate organizational knowledge can depend greatly on the social capital of the organization, through the informal relationships, networks, and communities formed by its workers.

Many corporations are using blogs, wikis, knowledge bases, and social networking sites as routine parts of their business operations. Examples such as Jammer, Twitter, Facebook, and various Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMs), such as MOSS 2007, that include blogging and microblogging applications are ubiquitous in today’s workplace. Rockley notes that ECMs have evolved to include management of unstructured content and data such as email, blog posts, wiki entries, and even personal profile pages of social networking sites [1]. Manovich adds that metadiscourse and metacontent, such as tag clouds and social bookmarking capabilities, have also become important parts of these technologies [2]. Collaborative authoring is also collaborative knowledge sharing—along with legacy content, we have come to expect feedback, cross-posting, discussion, and comments as an essential part of the genre.

Blogs, as social networking tools, have become widely used in social and corporate settings. Blogs are websites (often participatory) that feature regular commentary and related content on a specific subject, which is usually presented in reverse chronological order. Blogs can contain textual, visual, multimedia, and even interactive content. Blogs have been studied as social genres that allow individuals and groups to share dialog on a specific subject. Miller and Shepherd argue the social blog genre has value through its immediacy, formal features, brevity, self-expressive content, and community development and involvement [3].While the blog’s initial function was primarily social
in nature, more recently, organizations have begun using blogs as networking and information-sharing tools, internally for employees and externally for customers and vendors. In organizational contexts, corporate blogs are more focused on knowledge sharing and information reuse. They emphasize efficient information delivery to large numbers of individuals and serve as a common knowledge
base. Tørning states that this type of blog serves as a “knowledge repository for getting information and for learning processes” [4, p. 2]. Workers must intrinsically invest in this communication technology, use it, contribute to its development, and see potential value in their efforts, from either an individual or an organizational perspective. The resulting products can create social capital within an organization, which connects the value of knowledge sharing to its impact on organizational efficiency and, ultimately, innovation. From a management perspective, integration and sustainability of these information products depend heavily on measuring and proving proving their bottom-line value to the organization.


Micro-blogging: knowledge in the cloud

What makes some of us spend an inordinate amount of time checking and re-checking Twitter updates, composing tweets, mounting searches for hashtagged acronyms or keywords, or exploring long lists of @-symbol preceded usernames? Why do we carefully watch our follower to followee ratio and look disdainfully upon those who do not follow us back (might even consider to remove them swiftly.) Why do we proudly acknowledge if one of our brainy tweets got RT’d or better yet, retweeted multiple times by multiple followers? What motivates us? Motivation is associated with some kind of reward. This reward could be monetary but for the average tweep that is not it. Is it somehow connected to our ego? Hm, very possible.

Recognition, even mere acknowledgement of our existence in the twittverse, social standing as validated by @Replies and retweets motivate us to keep micro-blogging. But there must be s.th. else. There must be another value we feel we get out of this high investment of time. The answer might be information or even knowledge. Knowledge that others possess, explicitly and tacitly. Knowledge that we now have access to via our tweet feed, the search functionality, our followers’ followers and the tweeps that they follow.

A giant repository of unstructured data, information, and knowledge coded in 140-character long bursts of self important wisdom.  Wisdom speckled with links providing free-fall elevator shafts into the black hole of more of the same, not seldomly the tweeter’s own musings on whatever he or she feels qualified to talk about. But hold it – there is more to this than the mere display of exhibitionistic ego manifestation coupled with voyeuristic exploitation of others’ coveted follower lists.

I truly believe in the immense value of tappable, filterable, searchable, minable, collective knowledge. The wisdom of the crowd in palpable chunks and never before available proximity and immediacy offering itself to me in all of its glory. Who am I to deny? Well, I am not! I take this offering with open arms and worry not about the potentiality of time wasted.

Personally, I (@Konstanze) connect with ppl, follow promising links, find specific information about an upcoming conference in a distant city, raid s.o.’s followers list, dispense droplets of my life, pour pinches of my quirks, reveal small doses of me, pose questions in the hope to get at least one answer, and I look for information I simply cannot find elsewhere.  The result? Unpredictably satisfying. But, more than anything right now, this incredible phenomenon offers itself to me for rhetorical study.

What is it for you? Why do you tweet?

Synergies among methodoly proposals (Harrison/Sullivan)

My interest in the social media aspects of Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 technologies with respect to organizational knowledge management has naturally led me to the closer examination of the rhetorical situation and fitting responses to communicative exigences. With this as my baggage when reading Harrison, I found myself nodding almost throughout the entire article. She says, “The rhetorical situation places contextual boundaries around singular events and thus focuses our attention at tn analytic level below that of “organization.” Audiences, exigencies, and constraints forming rhetorical situations may arise within organizations, but the idea of organizations as social units forming a broader context for rhetoric cannot be accommodated to this approach.” (p. 257/8) Continue reading Synergies among methodoly proposals (Harrison/Sullivan)