The role that information and communications technologies (ICT) play in our lives, at work or leisure, continues to evolve. Today, we see the influence that social media, online communities and mobile devices have – not only on us as individuals, but also on the organisations we work for.
Our research has shown that social media has psychologically empowered consumers. It allows us to be co-creators and distributors of content regarding products and services; for instance, online travel reviews in the travel and tourism sectors. Travellers are more likely to believe opinions that are supported by valid and strong arguments and that have been rated well by other travellers; are more willing to accept information that is consistent with their prior beliefs; and are more likely to follow opinions that are similar to other travellers’ sentiments reported on travel websites.
Other businesses are also riding this wave as they build online communities that involve their customers as the source of ideas and the co-creators of their products and services. Businesses are investing large sums of money to facilitate, collect and distribute customer knowledge. However, online community members are still unwilling to actively share with others what they know.
We have found that the success/ sustainability of online knowledge sharing communities depends on their ability to promote continuous knowledge sharing among members. That is, social, personal and technology-related enablers drive members’ intentions to continuously share knowledge. Satisfaction and community- perceived usefulness also play important roles here. Further, if members perceive that others are being helpful and willing to work together, and they are emotionally attached to, identify with and committed to the knowledge sharing activities of the online community, knowledge sharing will be sustained. This will also be encouraged if members obtain intrinsic value from sharing (such as enjoyment of sharing knowledge and/or the challenges and excitement of solving others’ problems).
As technologies continue to converge, especially in mobile devices, businesses need to better understand the concept of mobility and how individuals are responding to tools that are blurring the boundaries between work and personal lives. This is a topic we are currently investigating as part of a research project.
Organisations today need to be considering the business value and risks associated with social media and workplace mobility. The effective and efficient use of ICT is vital for business organisations seeking a competitive advantage, and for government and non-profit organisations striving for service excellence.
Felix Tan is professor of information systems at AUT. This article originally appeared in Engage magazine for AUT Business School