Social Media for Online Collaboration in Firms and Organizations

Social Media for Online Collaboration in Firms and Organizations

Enrico Franchi (Department of Information Engineering, University of Parma, Parma, Italy), Agostino Poggi (Department of Information Engineering, University of Parma, Parma, Italy) and Michele Tomaiuolo (Department of Information Engineering, University of Parma, Parma, Italy)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJISMD.2016010102
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Abstract

Participation in social networks has long been studied as a social phenomenon according to different theories. In particular, the notion of social capital highlights a person's benefit due to his relations with other persons, including family, colleagues, friends and generic contacts. It may be important both for the individuals that are able to accumulate large amounts, and for organizations. Nowadays, social networking systems bring many acquaintances online, both in the private and working spheres. Some systems are used both at home, for leisure goals, and on the work place, professionally. In the vast majority of cases, social networking platforms are still used without corporate blessing. However, several traditional information systems, such as CRMs and ERPs, have also been modified in order to include social aspects. This article shows the role of social capital in the participation in online social networking activities, in the various cases of Virtual Organizations, Virtual Teams, and online Networks of Practice. It describes the present situation, which is characterized by great promises and mixed initial results, and some possible prospects.
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The result of the interactions among the users in a social networking system is an Online Social Network, i.e., a special case of the more general concept of social network. A social network is defined as a set or sets of actors and the relations defined on them (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). Social networks are typically studied using social network analysis, a discipline that focuses on the structural and topological features of the network. More recently, additional dimensions have been added to the traditional social network analytic approach (Monge and Contractor 2003; Borgatti and Foster 2003; Parkhe et al. 2006; Hoang and Antoncic 2003).

An important theoretical foundation for the analysis of participation in social networks is constituted by social capital. Social capital represents a person's benefit due to his relations with other persons, including family, colleagues, friends and generic contacts. The concept originated in studies about communities, to underline the importance of collective actions and the associated enduring relations of trust and cooperation, for the functioning of neighborhoods in large cities (Jacobs, 1961).

Social capital has been studied as a factor providing additional opportunities to some players in a competitive scenario, and, from this point of view, it has been studied in the context of firms (Backer, 1990), nations (Fukuyama, 1995) and geographic regions (Putnam, 1995). In this sense, social capital is defined as a third kind of capital that is brought in the competitive arena, along with financial capital, which includes machinery and raw materials, and human capital, which includes knowledge and skills. Moreover, the role of social capital in the development of human capital has been studied by Loury and Coleman (Loury, 1987; Coleman, 1988).

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