Using Social Media for Service Innovations: Challenges and Pitfalls

Using Social Media for Service Innovations: Challenges and Pitfalls

Ada Scupola, Hanne Westh Nicolajsen
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/jebr.2013070102
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This article investigates how social software such as blogs can be used to collect ideas generated by the users in the service innovation process. After a theoretical discussion of user involvement and more specifically user involvement using social software and interactive web-tools, the article reports the results from a field experiment at a university library. In the experiment, a blog was established to collect ideas for service innovations from the library users. The experiment shows that blogs may generate a modest, but very useful amount of ideas. The experiment furthermore reveals that blogs might be useful to provide the institution with an image of openness and willingness to listen to customer input.
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Concepts like Open Innovation (Chesbrough, 2003) and User-driven Innovation (Alam & Perry, 2002) are receiving growing attention. The concepts indicate that innovation is not confined to internal organizational processes but involve interactive processes, where organizations interact with external partners including customers and users. Research within innovation has traditionally focused on innovation within the industrial sectors. However, service innovation is becoming increasingly important as services form a significant part of economical and societal activities.

Libraries, and especially research libraries, are facing considerable challenges as their services are getting increasingly digitalized (Carr, 2009) and the Internet poses a threat to the services they provide. Thus, libraries face challenges to innovate their services to stay competitive (Scupola & Nicolajsen, 2010; Scupola & Nicolajsen, 2012). According to Brindley (2006) library service innovation must happen in close contact with the users. Rutherford (2008) argues that such user involvement can be supported through new social software. The aim of this article is, therefore, to investigate the potentials of using social software for user involvement in service innovation in libraries. In doing so we limit ourselves to focus on the ideation phase of the innovation process in which the involvement of users has been found to possess particular potentials (Alam & Perry, 2002). Therefore, the following research question is addressed in this paper: To what extent can social software such as blogs be used in academic libraries to involve users in the idea generation process of service innovations?

In order to investigate the research question we conducted an in depth case study at an academic library, Roskilde University Library (Yin, 1994). The research design consisted of three steps. First a pilot study investigating existing innovation processes and user involvement in the innovation process at Roskilde University Library was conducted; then a field experiment was conducted in which social media such as blogs were set up on the library web page to collect innovation ideas from the users; finally the third step consisted of follow-up interviews and workshops to get feedback and evaluate the experiment’s results. All in all, the blog was considered by the library management as a useful tool to communicate with the users and to generate a manageable amount of useful ideas.

The paper is structured as follows. First, we theoretically discuss user involvement in service innovation and in particular user involvement through social software with focus on the use of blogs. Then we present our research method and the analysis and results. Finally we provide a discussion of the results and some concluding remarks.

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