Social media governance in organization sponsored online communities of practice. A case study.
Author(s)Ling, Michael, Information Systems, Technology & Management, Australian School of Business, UNSW
Contributor(s)D'Ambra, John, Information Systems, Technology & Management, Australian School of Business, UNSW
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AbstractOrganization sponsored online communities of practice (“online CoPs”) are used by organizations to provide a knowledge sharing and collaboration platform for members of the online CoPs; e.g. employees of the organization, customers, suppliers and partners. Online CoPs usually form part of an organization’s social business initiatives and their success depends on the participation rate of members and the avoidance of risks to the organization. Organizations develop social media governance and policies to mitigate their risk exposure. If these governance and policy measures instigated by management become overly protective and are perceived by the employee members as adverse, un-compelling, or difficult to comply with then the participation rate will suffer and the success of the online CoPs will diminish or disappear. If the governance and policy measures are too relaxed, then the participation rate may be significant, but the organization could become exposed to material risks. This thesis explored this double-edged problem through a qualitative case study of the social media governance in a global software organization, which sponsored seventy online communities with over two million visitors per month. Drawing from the literature on online CoPs (Hana, Shachaf & Stoerger, 2009; Wenger & Snyder, 2000) and social media governance (Fink & Zerfass, 2010; Macnamara & Zerfass, 2012), a theoretical model was proposed to guide the research. In the case study, data was collected from interviews with employees and management, and from organization artefacts. Data analysis included open coding and applied role-ordered matrices, assisted with NVivo CAQDAS software. Key findings from the case study were as follows. Both management and employees accepted the dual purposes of social media governance; mitigating risks and building community practice. Both management and employees agreed that the enforcement of governance and policies should entail formal management-directed moderation complemented by community self-moderation. The dynamics and openness of online CoPs were perceived by employees to be subject to management’s support of openness in social media. Hence, the community moderators must seek to balance a light handed moderation style against the potential downside in terms of declining content quality in the online CoPs. To build and advance community practice, social media governance must entail content governance that stimulates content quality in the context of the online CoPs. Governance must embrace both enforcement and stimuli. Social media policies and guidelines were not effective means of communication to employees. Instead, common sense, code of conduct and employee responsibilities were used by employees as guides to social media behaviour. However, common sense is not a uniform nor stable entity across the organisation. Hence, the use of common sense could be harmful to effective social media governance. The case study identified five bilateral themes (those upheld by both the “management group” and the “employee group”) and four unilateral themes (those upheld by one group only; either the “management group” or the “employee group”). These themes contribute to the theory development of social media governance frameworks, and they provide insights to practitioners, such as marketing, public relations and communication personnel, in the development of social media governance strategies, policies and guidelines for organization sponsored online CoPs.