Home > Uncategorized > Finding that gold mine…

Finding that gold mine…

If you have ever sifted through a stack of academic journal articles, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with just how tedious it can be: after hours of searching for the damn things, many will turn out to be less interesting than you had hoped; following tangents that don’t interest you, or stopping short and leaving you to wonder “so, where’s the rest of your study?” On the flip side, you’ll also know how great it feels to finally stumble upon something that really clicks…

I have two articles in that category on my desk at the moment. One has been there for a while, and I only just got around to reading it. The other, like so many things I’ve discovered in the past few years, came up as a random suggestion from Google Scholar. I like them for quite different reasons.

Exploring the types of SMEs which could use blogs as a marketing tool: a proposed future research agenda, by Adeline Chua, Ken Deans and Craig Parker, is the paper I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. As the name suggests this is an agenda-setting paper, looking at particular marketing strategies and processes that might be suited to blogs, such as branding, managing reputation and trust, gathering market intelligence and promoting an online presence – proposing a series of research questions that could help to explore each of these areas. None of these are unique to blogs, and they should be applicable to the range of social media services used in my case studies.

Chua et al focus on specific strategies and business characteristics, rather than considering SMEs as a homogeneous mass – something that makes a lot of sense if you’ve worked with small business owners, but not really reflected in policy or in most of the literature. I’m interested in finding out what works for specific businesses in their particular context, and how social media tools have been used to address those needs. This paper is thematically very close to the work I’ve been reading over the past year, and I found it reassuring to flip through six pages of references and recognise the majority of them – it makes me think that perhaps I’m on the right track after all…

Individual trust and the development of online business communities, by Terry Nolan, Ray Brizland and Linda Macaulay is the second paper that I’ve enjoyed reading this week. Unlike the previous paper, this is mostly new territory for me – I haven’t yet delved into the literature about online community development, and the paper should help me to get started on that. Nolan et al have conducted a three-year action research study into the development of an online business community, comprised of SMEs, information providers and business experts. I’m particularly interested in their focus on multiple notions of what a business community is: Communities of Commitment, Interest and Practice, and Networks of Practice. Power and authority in each community type is applied differently, and affects the degree to which people participate in these communities.

Communities of Practice (after Lave & Wenger, 1991) value their members according to what they bring to the community: expertise, sharing information and openness are more important than any external status. Sound familiar at all? If you’ve been active in an arena like Twitter (or forums, or blogs) that’s a good description of the things that those communities place value upon. Nolan et al propose a model of trust in online communities that incorporates risk, benefit, utility value, interest, effort and power – intended as a tool for constructing snapshots of the human, informational and technological aspects of an online community.

What have you been reading lately? Found any gold mines?

Chua, A., Deans, K. & Parker, C.M. (2009) Exploring the types of SMEs which could use blogs as a marketing tool: a proposed future research agenda. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 16(1): 117-136.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Nolan, T., Brizland, R. & Macaulay, L. (2007) Individual trust and development of online business communities. Information Technology & People, 20(1): 53-71.
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