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The effect of

Social Media Plea for public co-creation in the corporate field Martijn Arts TOTAL IDENTITY

Over de auteur Martijn Martijn Arts (1973) studied Industrial Design at the Delft Technical University. Both his Bachelor and his Master’s exam were passed cum laude. During his university years, together with friends, he started the internet company ZaPPWeRK. In 2006 ZaPPWeRK was renamed as Total Active Media and became a part of Total Identity Holding. Martijn now is responsible for Total Active Media as managing director and is a member of the group management of Total Identity Holding. “As Industrial Designer, I often hear the remark: ‘you do not actively do anything with your specialism’. Dealing well with social media however, requires everything an Industrial Designer makes his own: creativity, insight in technique, a multi disciplinary approach and finding one’s way fast in a certain, sometimes special, topic. I also wanted to become an ‘imagineer’, someone who invents dreams for groups of people. It is my sincere belief that social media does so to a certain extent and that definitely not all opportunities have been seized yet. My skills, creativity and technical insight have been augmented by knowledge in the fields of communication, organization and identity. And because of social media I now also come closer to other fields of expertise such as sociology, anthropology and the evolution theory. This multi disciplinary dimension makes my profession more interesting every day!” This essay is the result of many dialogues, joint analyses and discussions. In short, co-creation! The most important direct co-author is Hans P Brandt (1959; strategic director Total Identity). His strategically structuring power and knowledge of the field of identity is large. For this, my gratitude. Other co-authors were Inez Heeremans (1976; entrepreneur and anthropologist) and Renson van Tilborg (1967; conversation manager at Social Active Media). .

The effect of

Social Media Plea for public co-creation in the corporate field Martijn Arts

2010 TOTAL IDENTITY Amsterdam

Involvement and movement In the current dynamic world the individual has an increasing influence on the collective. Social media enables everyone to reach a position of influencing the communication of people, groups and organizations. Disregarding this influence, results in losing effectiveness, leading to potential problems. Therefore companies and institutions should keep their ear to the ground for the information in the online real-time world such as blogs and Twitter – the so-called blogosphere – and they should interpret this information starting from their corporate policy. As a barometer, the social media predict what is about to happen. Companies and institutions should use them to move along on the waves of time. The effect of social media within groups and communities is getting stronger everyday and can no longer be denied. It visualizes the dynamics of communities at a micro level and strengthens them in its expressions and processes. Social media brings communication and organization closer together. The company or the institution improves itself by communicating consequently and continuously, in the direction of its ambition – its desired status of the immediate future –. People do not connect continuously and permanently to the same group, community or organization. Social media is a booster of this dynamic way of connecting and changing. This applies not only to individuals and their personal connections, but also to the connections with groups in which they play a particular role for a certain period of time. Employees can no longer be seen as a fixed part of an organization, but they play different roles at the same time, in different groups. Thus the organization can no longer be considered as a closed system. The true art lies in organizing,


both internally and externally, as much intelligence, creativity and power as possible, in order to keep people interested and connected. Social media strengthens this process and visualizes it. Through the dynamics of social media, influences and changes are being enlarged. Change seems to be the new constant. In such a world, the own identity probably is the only basis for an authentic and honest way of communication. An identity, rich of possibilities, that creates and strengthens connections between people themselves, as well as between employees and organizations. In this new era, an organization is successful if it connects its employees, authentically and honest, in an entrepreneurial role and discontinues the perception of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. Therefore this essay is a plea for public co-creation in the corporate field. Social media defined ’Social media is the collective definition of online platforms of which users, without any or little intervention of professional editors, take care of the content. Social media as a common denominator covers amongst others phenomena such as weblogs, forums, social networks such as Hyves, Facebook and LinkedIn, and services such as ‘Twitter‘ ( This is a verbatim translation of the explanation as offered by the Dutch version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the world’s most frequently used website for consulting the explanation of a diversity of notions. The content is written and improved by the users themselves. Therefore, all definitions together, constitute a collective convention of contributions. The international variety,, also states the following: ’Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction,


using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues. They support the democratization of knowledge and information and transform people from content consumers to content producers‘. This explanation exceeds the concept of just enabling the publishing of content for users; it also describes a process of democratization of media and content. Social media does not equal Web 2.0 Social media often is mentioned in one and the same breath with Web 2.0. However, they are different entities. Web 2.0 refers to the changes in a collection of websites to a collaborative platform of interactive web applications for all users on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 is the (technical) platform that refers to the changes of a web that only consists of documents and text pages presented to a web that consists of several forms of media that can be used and visualized in a variety of ways. After Web 1.0 – the Web of documents – media and content have been democratized and the user-generated-content flourished. This acceleration resulted in Web 2.0 – the Web of Data. In short: from Web of Documents to Web of Data. The formula: Web 1.0 x acceleration = Web 2.0 Web 2.0 resulted in an explosion of useful and useless data on the web. The interpretation of the data becomes increasingly more difficult and subsequently also its evaluation/appreciation. Web 2.0 also heralded the


rise of social networks; people had started organizing themselves in virtual communities. Within these communities focus lay on interpretation and filtering. Next to social capital – the human input – also technology plays an important role in the interpretation of data, leading to labeling and thus to meaning. Without technology the interpretation of data would not have been possible at such a scale at all. This collective labeling results in Web 3.0 – the Web of knowledge. In short: from Web of Data to Web of Knowledge. The formula: Web 2.0 x labeling = Web 3.0 Both acceleration and labeling are elements of social media. Web 2.0 has democratized media and subsequently, maybe, made social media a necessity. Social media results in social binding and labeling of data and therefore enables Web 3.0. Social media is acceleration and labeling The word social in the phrase social media indicates the public or free aspect of the use of these types of media. In this context everyone can express him/herself and interact with the other in an easily accessible manner. Social media is characterized by an open dialogue via publically accessible media means: democratization of both output and input. Therefore, social means ‘by and for’ the community. The media in the phrase social media concerns all types of media that can be used digitally in the communication process. Therefore it is not only about (static) texts and photographs, but also about moving images and


online conversations. In these types of media users, without the interference of experts and editors, can now publish, whereas in the past the media, regarding creation and distribution, was still dominated by professionals and experts. However, nowadays everybody has access to these means and channels. The acceleration in the Web of Documents (Web 1.0), brought about by the democratization of the online media, was followed by stronger social dynamics and collective labeling in the Web of Data (Web 2.0), in short: social media. Public co-creation A new more precise definition, clearly stating what social media actually is, and also offering diversification towards other media, is clearly called for in this situation. People tend to publish increasingly faster and more often, both in their private and in their professional capacity. Because of the speed of the media and the extent of the reactions to one another, the quality of the message improves. This is the essence of this co-creation and is intrinsic to all types of social media. It unites professionals and amateurs and reduces the importance of the distinction between the two groups. Both content and media, boosted by social media, are continuously involved and moving, resulting in development. Someone, profiling him/herself by means of social media, enters transparently, into connections with his/her environment. Thus contributions are being made to the collective development, which subsequently results


in personal development: ’I profile, so I develop‘. Not only an interactive connection as collaboration, is a basis for development, but also a monolateral connection such as broadcasting. In social media, apparent traditional broadcasting behavior results in visibility, expansion and finally in feedback and communication and thus in optimization and improvement of the broadcasting behavior. Based on the aforementioned, the new definition of social media is: PUBLIC CO-CREATION. Social media becomes increasingly more relevant In this chapter the relationship between social media and companies is established by a number of examples. In the end social media is analyzed by the introduction of a three-step method of analysis that provides an immediate grip on social media innovation, because social media is the booster of innovation. But, before doing so, first we present a number of facts and figures. The attention for social media and related concepts is huge and still growing. Social networks and micro blog sites, such as respectively Facebook and Twitter have developed at an incredible pace. By now, originating from a weird and unimportant site in 2008, Twitter has become a major player in the world of the online exchange of messages, locations and photographs. For example: in 2009, Twitter has almost grown 600% in numbers of registered users. Twitter is not only used by people that are extremely exhibitionistic. For example it is also being used by over 40% of all multinationals at the American stock exchange to formally update their shareholders.


However, the growth of Twitter is completely overshadowed by the growth of Facebook. In February 2010, Facebook, for the first time since its founding in February 2004, took over Google’s first place on the list of most visited websites. If Facebook would be considered as a country and its members as citizens, then it would be the world’s third largest country behind China and India. And the number of Facebook status updates, comparable to tweets on Twitter, by now is ten times as large as all tweets together in the same period. One thing is clear; the phrase social media is popular, as becomes evident from the large amount of online and offline references. Just consider the staggering amount of offers of courses and workshops aiming at facilitating successful operating in this media scenery. The number of times the phrase is used in the ‘traditional’ media is so overwhelming, that it seems that, after the internet bubble of 2001, a new air bubble is seeing the light. For 2010, social media was considered to be the major development for communication professionals. From the beginning of 2010 the number of search request for the term social media has doubled in comparison with the period before. During the last 12 months, the term Twitter has even been looked up at least one hundred times as much and this is even dwarfed by YouTube or Facebook with respectively 780 million and 2.7 billion hits!

Obama as setting example There are many examples of social media applications that have had a positive effect for the user. A very prominent and early user of social media, who has successfully deployed it, is Barack Obama. The result (by the end of April 2008): Obama having raised the largest amount ever


r­ aised by a presidential candidate for a presidential campaign: 264.5 ­million ­dollar to be precise (McCain: 88.2 million dollar). Half of it (122 million dollar) came from voters that had donated less than 200 dollars. For McCain this was only 27.7 million! The difference is said to be caused by his use of social media. For example: Obama had almost 4 times as many supporters both on Facebook (2.379.102) and MySpace (833.161). On YouTube and Twitter the difference was even bigger. Obama had over 9 times as many viewers on YouTube as McCain and 240 times (!) as much followers on Twitter. Obama was clearly dominant in the arena of social media. But the real novelty was the focus on micro donations. Not only the communication was new, but also the application of social funding was an invention of his campaign team. KitKat and other disasters The ‘traditional’ media have become increasingly more sensitive for what is being told in the so-called blogosphere (Twitter and blogs). As a result unintentional or intentional hurtful remarks on, for example, Twitter could directly result in negative stock exchange fluctuations, as happened with the SNS bank in October 2009. A tweet from an arbitrary person was picked up by all sorts of media and resulted in a drop of several percents. The tweet appeared to contain incorrect information, a bad joke with huge consequences for SNS1. Another example with a negative effect is the guerrilla campaign through social media by Greenpeace against Nestlé. A typical case of a brand left behind devastated as if hit by a plague of locusts. Greenpeace wanted to prove that Nestlé used ‘wrong’ chocolate for its KitKat. In order to achieve this, Greenpeace, using a tightly defined social media plan, reached over


half a million people within 24 hours only by using Twitter. Within 48 hours the media exposure was gigantic and also picked up globally by the ’traditional’ media such as newspapers, radio and television. NestlÊ was condemned by the public opinion for using the wrong chocolate for its KitKat. Striking detail is the fact that in the entire world there is not enough chocolate produced to satisfy all chocolate loving citizens. Three-step method of analysis It is time to thoroughly re-examine the concept of social media. This could be done by a simple method of analysis, consisting of three steps of analysis of social media to immediately provide insight in and grip on social media innovation2: (1) ruler of online DNA; (2) social media scale; (3) social media enneagram.


In the below table the terms social and media are explained and they are individually defined per separate part of the innovation process:

Social Labeling

Media Acceleration


Importance (relevance) (Self-) confidence Social filters on input by faith Public valorization of trends by catalysis and polarization and social perception


Connection Dynamic connection for development

Experience Public platform facilitates exposure and urge of broadcasting


Connection Visibility of and connection with relevant people

Position Connection and platform focused on exposure and supporting environmentv


Co-creation Social promises result in action

Publicity Enlarging effect by public availability


Self reflection Intensification by dialogue

Effectiveness Dialogue aimed at effectiveness, selling your message


Self image Interpretation of results and identification of oneself

Efficiency Increasing results via justification and acceleration of process



Ruler of online DNA The ruler of online DNA in fact is a simple table of all social media tools that someone uses for him/herself, for a project or in an organization. The professional relevance determines the sequence. Biggest are the tools that are the most important ones and/or are being used most frequently. The smallest are those items that are seldom or never being used and that have no real significance for the professional daily practice. Thus this table has several columns, and each column has one more social media tool than the previous column. Social media scale The social media scale can directly be interpreted from the subdivision of the ruler. The scale presents two numbers. The first number indicates the highest column number that is still being used actively and the second one represents the total number of columns that, both actively and passively, is being used. The ruler of online DNA, together with the social media scale present an insight in the use of social media. Social media-enneagram The third element of the method is the social media enneagram. This element helps to improve the effectiveness of the use of social media. Here, the starting point is that social media not only supports the communication process, but also offers support for – and accelerates the process of – innovation of an organization. In every stage of the innovation process, the enneagram can identify the best social media tools to be used.


This three-step method can help the organization to implement social media in a long-lasting manner. It also provides insight in the possibilities of a strategic approach that suits the organization. More about this in the last part of this essay, that shall further elaborate on the relationship between social media and organizational innovation. Social media and identity Social media is the catalyst for integrated thinking. It accelerates a number of developments and brings a number of disciplines closer together. Social media has more effect on the laws of the organization than the internet initially had. Although the one is the result of the other. In this third and last part of this essay, it is therefore indicated how social media can be implemented effectively and in a long-lasting manner for the creation of an online reputation and how a company could thus get into a flow. Also attention will be paid to the new skills that an organization needs to develop because of the rise of social media: social skills and ‘aikido-like techniques’. The story ends with a plea for organizing dynamically. From its own identity, the company uses social media both in communication and in organizing processes, and till deep into ‘the essence of its being’. Thus enabling innovation. Long-lasting media strategy The indirect consequences of asocial media scoop may stick to a brand or organization for a long time. By now there are already many examples of playful actions resulting in sympathy for the victim, for example BP, Nestlé and Gordon Brown. Maybe this is partly caused by a growing group of people turning away from this hype-like form of communication. Also for many people the communication simply is too fast. Not everyone is


aware of the KitKat drama. So, it has been global news, but not for everybody. A huge gap is developing itself between those people that can and want to follow the rapid developments and the majority that is not (yet) doing so. An adoption gap is the result. Bipolar approach To use only social media scoops is like an athlete using doping: it is unhealthy and not long-lasting. A brand or an organization should not follow from hype to hype, from crisis to crisis and from action to action. The division, between the social media users and the traditional media consumers that causes the adoption gap, could be used by the organization to its advantage. Instead of approaching both groups individually, a combined approach could be considered. On the one hand, in a thorough and disciplined way an authentic reputation is being built, while on the other hand the impact is increased by a simultaneous deployment of social media (scoops). This has to be well directed though, and it should be in sync with the reputation. The correct dramaturgy lies in the directing of the unexpected, in combination with a disciplined elaboration of the identity: a bipolar approach3. Identity flow Well coordinated actions could result in a great uproar in the media, such as the aforementioned Greenpeace action against Nestlé’s KitKat and the Barack Obama campaign. By means of a series of scoops organizations could achieve/maintain continuous attention. This results in an apparent flow as could also be observed with top athletes. ‘Apparent’ because this flow is only temporary, and not based on a solid foundation. No matter how big the impact of a social media campaign may be, often


the immediate effect is not lasting long and soon the public is engaged in next hype. The thoroughly and authentically built own online reputation serves as a foundation to be able to execute effective actions. As a result, the organization enters into a real flow, directed by the own identity. An organization in an identity flow, is not only effective in its communication and innovation, but is also better equipped to face public attacks. Therefore, identity thinking – thinking from the collective ambition of an organization – is the basis for building a long-lasting online reputation. After all, identity thinking starts from the unity and the authentic elements in an organization. These are the exact elements that are being exposed by social media. Social media labels and increases an organization. Aikido en social skills For well trained organizations, that capitalize on both internal and external movements, a ‘crisis’ may be considered an advantage. In the aforementioned example of the Greenpeace action against KitKat, Nestlé’s first reaction was to ask YouTube to remove the clip. Exactly this specific request caused a hurricane of indignation and action-readiness. The situation exploded. If Nestlé had immediately thanked Greenpeace for pointing out the issue of the ‘wrong’ chocolate, then a totally different situation would have arisen. By publically acknowledging it, the Greenpeace ‘weapon’ would have been dismantled, maybe all of a sudden even resulting in a positive movement. However, this would only have worked if KitKat, reputation-wise, had already been valued positively in advance in the social media. In case of a positive online reputation, social media all of a sudden enables the use of the opponent’s movements. Here lies a strong similarity with Aikido, the Japanese martial art technique with


a strong philosophical slant. Use the movements of one’s opponent and use them in a strategic way to your own advantage. The new organization ’Help! My employees use Twitter! And they blog! And are on Facebook! And...’. This quote is not a verbatim quote from specific directors and managers, but many implemented measures however, do indicate that this is the predominant train of thought. Until recently employees were not allowed to have profiles and photographs on the corporate website, YouTube was banned and civil servants in the Netherlands were not allowed to respond to blogs. Only by the end of 2009 the latter changed when the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Guusje ter Horst, indicated that civil servants were not only allowed to react in social media, but that in some cases, it even was their duty to do so. Social media not only results in the previously described effects on the external communication, but definitely also on the internal communication and organization. Communication and organization closer together Communication used to be considered as a linear process resulting from one fixed opinion. This was possible because the use of communication instruments had been the prerogative of opinion leaders and professionals. The corporate communication and the corporate image in particular, presented a frozen picture or corporate image of the organization. Statements of employees have always had the ability to contribute to the reputation of the organization, but because of social media the influence and the impact becomes much larger. People within an organization reserve increasingly more space to express themselves from their


­ ersonal perspective. In the perception of the customer and the stakep holder, this bottom-up communication is inextricably connected with the company and is part of the total. Therefore the communication from the individual contributes to the corporate communication. And the other way around, also applies, good corporate communication should contribute to the correct ‘aiming’ of the bottom-up communication. It is important that the distance between corporate communication and the individual employee does not become too big. In order to bridge the possible distance, the organization should communicate and innovate clearly and directly. Usually this is facilitated via departments, line meetings and operational units that have been embedded in the organizational structures. In their turn people tend to organize themselves more and more organically based on theme, interests, passion and personality. These groups are not static. On the contrary, they change according to the circumstances, both corporately and privately. Therefore, to an increasing extent, the organization is only effective if it succeeds in using and creating the appropriate connections. Social media strengthens the influence of the individual and simplifies the establishment of connections, thus enabling faster connections and disconnections. Thus the organization becomes organic. Just like a solid substance becomes fluid when heated because of the increasing movement of the atoms, an organization under the influence of social media becomes increasingly more fluid. Structures come into existence rather than that organizational structures are being imposed on. Thus the new organizational shape more and more resembles the mechanism (read: emerging) of the online community. And just as with the heating of solid ­substances, the


precise balance between seize of the groups (read: granularity) and the cohesion between them, is important. Only this is a solid basis for effective operation and innovative impact. Identity thinking is based on the assumption of a collective ambition that is being promoted from within. It assumes a connection between people and the development of the collective. By taking identity thinking as a starting point, the development of an organization occupies a central position within the corporate communication. Here the efficiency and the effectiveness of an organization depend on the balance between the following four layers of communication and organization: corporate or topdown (1), departments and operational units (2), community (3) and individual or bottom-up (4). The social media can best be used in the layers community (3) and individual or bottom-up (4), both for organizing and for communicating4. The organization as a flock of starlings Therefore the rise of the social media forces organizations to consider new forms of collaboration and connection. This is the catalyst function of social media and the reason why attention for social media is not only of importance to the communication department. Social media invites – because of its transparent character – to a larger openness, immediately followed by a freer and more entrepreneurial mode of operation. If one also takes into consideration the ease of switching from job and the growing number of self-employed professionals, then the question arises why people want a fixed form of employment at all. Especially as they can now better organize themselves online via



social networks. The rise of social media results in a different perspective of organizational forms and structures. At the moment, an organization offers a number of important elements that social networks do not (yet) offer, such as financial security, facilitating support and career management, but also the feeling of belonging and pride. In particular these elements should enable a person to rise above him/herself. However, these advantages of the organization cannot be considered to be of a guaranteed permanent nature. The effect of self-development can be observed to an increasing extent in the social media within online communities. This also applies to the feeling of belonging and pride. There also is a growing group of professionals, acting as a network, that develop themselves into a new type of full-grown 足organizations. Influenced by social media, self-organizing communities become expressive and influence existing organizational forms and structures. Existing organizations in their turn become more fluid. The labeling and acceleration taking place under the influence of social media, reveal the connecting capacity. Every organization should look for those elements that cause the connecting ability and the collective ambition of organizations: an inquiry into the DNA of the organization. Social media strengthens the identity thinking and adds bottom-up action, internalization and social skills to an organization. This results in inno足vation, dynamics and movement. The image no longer is frozen as a 足sculpture, but dynamic as the dance of a flock of starlings. The social media accelerate and label these new dynamics on and between two


levels: individual (micro) and collective (meso) thus also turning the collective into a learning organism. An organism people feel attracted to and that strengthens people and encourages them in their own ambition. This is an organization that crosses boundaries that, traditionally, people do not cross. In this case there is not only a ‘learning’ organization, but also a ’thinking’ and developing organization. Such a new type of company only exists with a fluid identity without a beginning and without an end.


Social media howto’s - How do I build an online reputation? Concrete tips for building a long-lasting reputation. - What is my actual online reputation? Tips for building a web-care team and/or internal awareness with the slogan: ’measuring is knowledge’. - How do I handle a (social media) crisis? Defensive strategies that are being explained as aikido training. For the how to’s please contact +31 6 21 26 78 98 Internet addresses In the texts the following internet addresses are quoted: 1 “SNS Bank niet blij met Twittergrap” - – (in Dutch) http://www. 2 “Social Media: A complete overview” – published in Dutch on* – (in English: 3 “Guerrilla marketing en social media” – published in Dutch on* – (in English: 4 “El Hexagon: A holistic model of communication” – – * Frankwatching is one of the most popular Dutch language blogs and winner in the International Best of Blogs Award (the BOB’s 2007) and the Dutch Bloggies (Best Marketing Weblog 2009) competitions.


The Netherlands TOTAL IDENTITY Challenging ambition Amsterdam Paalbergweg 42 P.O. Box 12480 1100 AL Amsterdam ZO Telephone +31 20 750 95 00 as of September 1, 2010 our new address will be: Pedro de Medinalaan 9 1086 XK Amsterdam Telephone +31 20 750 95 00 Den Haag Mauritskade 1 P.O. Box 221 2501 CE Den Haag Telephone +31 70 311 05 30 TOTAL ACTIVE MEDIA Paalbergweg 42 P.O. Box 12480 1100 AL Amsterdam ZO Telephone +31 20 750 95 00 as of September 1, 2010 our new address will be: Pedro de Medinalaan 9 1086 XK Amsterdam Telephone +31 20 750 95 00 ALLCOMMUNICATION SOFTWARE Software development Den Haag Mauritskade 1 P.O. Box 221 2501 CE Den Haag Telephone +31 70 311 05 43

PARTNERS Belgium GRAMMA Gijzelaarsstraat 29 B-2000 Antwerpen Telephone +32 3 230 42 70 Germany SOMMER/TOTAL IDENTITY Blankenburger Strasse 26 D-28205 Bremen Telephone +49 421 43 733 16 Taiwan R.O.C. PROAD IDENTITY 3F, No.42, Sec 2, Zhongcheng Road, Shilin District, Taipei City 111, Taiwan R.O.C. Telephone +886 2 2833 1943 Republic of Korea CDR ASSOCIATES 60-12 Dongsung Bldg. Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul 135-010, Korea Telephone +822 518 2470

The effect of Social Media  

Total Identity benadert identiteits-, positionerings- en communicatievraagstukken vanuit marktverkenning, kennis van dienstverlening en het...

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