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Amsterdam Center for Social Media

This week in social media research: The F-word and the framing of Enterprise Social Media

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by Bart van den Hooff

In June of this year I was at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, where Jeff Treem, Stephanie Dailey and Casey Pierce presented their paper on the use of Enterprise Social Media (ESM) among young employees. They use the theory of technological frames to investigate the use of an ESM platform among young employees at a large American financial services company. Based on 76 interviews with newcomers in the organization, they found a general reluctance among these young employees to use the platform.

This reluctance is explained on the basis of the technological frames (the assumptions, expectations and knowledge regarding technology) these workers use to make sense of this platform. Coming into the organization, young employees already had distinct and well-developed frames about how social media should be used, created on the basis of their use of social media outside the workplace. These existing frames conflicted with their conceptions of the appropriate role of technology for communication at work. They regarded social media tools as social and, consequently, not useful for task-related information and communication processes. The fact that the organization explicitly framed the ESM platform as being “like Facebook” increased this discrepancy: if it is like Facebook, employees reasoned, it is not something that is appropriate for work-related communication.

Treem, Dailey and Pierce’s findings have interesting implications for the theory on technological frames, but are especially relevant for practice. In our own research on Enterprise Social Media, we often see that organizations stress the “social” component of these tools, and indeed often frame it in terms like “It’s like Facebook, but for internal use”. It’s important to note that people like to maintain boundaries between their professional and their private lives, and that these boundaries also play a role in the technologies they use. It is also important to realize that the generation currently entering the labor market may not be all that different from previous generations – in spite of all the popular opinions about them being “digital natives”, multitasking through life without making a clear difference between what’s work and what’s not. Thus, framing ESM as being “like Facebook” seems to be counterproductive. Instead, these platforms should be framed in terms of collaboration, emphasizing their contribution to work practices and avoiding the connotation that they are primarily for being “social” at work.

Treem, J.W., Dailey, S.L. & Pierce, C. (2013). Bringing Technological Frames to Work:
Why Young Employees Do Not Want to Use Social Media in the Workplace . Presented at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, London, England, June 2013

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The effects of social media across different stakeholders

By Mirella Kleijnen

The September issue in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science contains a paper on a very current, but not yet well-understood topic: the effects of social media across different stakeholders. In their research, Rapp et al. (2013) investigate the contagion effect of social media across seller, retailer, and consumer interactions.

While it is a well-known fact that consumers spend a lot of time interacting via all kinds of social media, it is often still unclear what the actual impact on business performance can be when strategically engaging in social media as a company.

While the movement in social media seems obvious in Business-to-Consumer settings, social media is also becoming more relevant for Business-to-Business. These developments have led the authors to investigate social media effects across different channels and to explore the effectiveness of this type of communication. There research illustrates a number of interesting findings, showing that social media use in fact is “contagious”:

Social contagion between supplier and retailers

The use of social media by suppliers stimulates the use of social media by retailers. This effect is even stronger when the supplier’s brand reputation (as seen by the retailer) is more positive, so retailers are more likely to follow the social media strategy set out by a strong brand, and are in fact reluctant to adopt social media when the brand reputation is low.

The same effect is found when the supplier service ambidexterity is more positive. This ambidexterity refers to the extent to which suppliers are able to seek out opportunities to strengthen relationships, while at the same time also able to maintain and build on their existing relationships. As stated by Rapp and colleagues, “such skills at are likely to strengthen ties and facilitate social learning, thereby aiding in the diffusion of ideas and related behaviors across channel members”. As such, imitation of social media use can be stimulated.

Social contagion between retailers and customers

When looking the effects between retailers and customers, we see similar patterns: as the use of social media by the retailer increases, so does the social media use of its consumers. And also for this relationship the same strengthening effects of the brand reputation (of the retailer, as perceived by the customer) and service ambidexterity can be observed.

The bottom line: the effects on performance

While this seems an obvious question to raise, little empirical research has validated the effects of social media on actual performance outcomes. This study finds that social media use by customers indeed affects a) loyalty to the retail store, b) brand performance and c) store performance. The latter were both measured in terms of sales. On top of that, those loyal customers tend to buy more across the brand as well as the total retail offering.

In sum, this research illustrates some encouraging findings that Social Media indeed does pay off, and there are interesting effects to be observed from social contagion when looking at the different players in the supply chain. This also suggests that companies should carefully plan and manage their social media efforts in a strategic way.

Reference:

Rapp, Adam, Lauren Skinner Beitelspacher, Dhruv Grewal, and Douglas E. Hughes (2013), “Understanding social media effects across seller, retailer, and consumer interactions”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41, 547–566

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September 2013
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