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Increasing value of brand communities through employee participation

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  • 1. INCREASING THE VALUE OF COMMUNITIES THROUGH EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION Michael Ling Abstract Organizations leverage online communities to generate business value today. Online communities let organizations connect and engage with customers, suppliers, partners, governments and other stakeholders. They are being used as platforms for co-creation, collaboration, customer support and knowledge sharing – the success of these usages depends heavily on employee participation. On the other hand, organizations are concerned with their social media risk exposure by developing social media policies to mitigate the risks. If employees perceived those social media policies as difficult to understand or comply, they would hesitate to participate in the online communities and, hence, the social media initiatives of the organizations would suffer. So, how should an organization go about addressing this double edged problem? Drawing from the literature in CoPs (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and social media governance (Fink & Zerfass, 2010; Macnamara & Zerfass, 2012), a theoretical model was proposed to guide the research. The respondents were drawn from the employees and management of the case organization in order to gain an integrated perspective. Data were collected from semi-structured open-ended interviews with the respondents and relevant artefacts. Data analysis included open coding and role-ordered matrices, assisted with the use of NVivo CAQDAS software. Three of the key themes emerged from the research are: Number 1 The dual aspects of a social media strategy: mitigation of social media risks and building community practice. Number 2 Management’s influence is significant to community governance and affects the openness of the online community. Number 3 Social media policies alone may not be an effective way of communication to employees. The research concluded with a total of five bilateral and four unilateral themes, which provides insights for the public relations, marketing and communication professionals to develop effective social media strategy and governance for online communities.

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