Social Media Tools & Knowledge Management

“Social media transforms the corporate culture. The companies with ability to capitalize the change, will create a fast, flexible corporate culture, with true internal interaction, which inspires especially younger workers. This will have an impact in the success of a company.”  Ulrika Romantschuk, Fazer Group SVP, Communications & Branding  [1]

It is obvious, that in today’s world knowledge management (KM) is essential to any organization. In recent decades the amount of information flowing to the companies has expanded. In this ever changing world, organisations need to be able to transform their operations swiftly. Simultaneously the nature of knowledge has become increasingly intangible. [2]  [3]

In order to succeed in competition, companies need to have skills for transferring, assembling, integrating, exploiting and of course also creating knowledge. [4]


More Than a Database

For many organizations knowledge management is equal to internal databases.  However, storing information into a database does not yet mean that it will be internalized and applied. It will only take place once somebody interprets (decodifies) the available information and then starts using it in practice. [5]  [6]

It should be kept in mind, that knowledge creation process consists of three levels. First, there must be sources of information and know-how (e.g. by external and internal networking). Second, information needs to be internalized (e.g. by self-learning or training). On the third level new knowledge is created through applying it. [7]

Thus to gain value from the stored information, people are needed. And it becomes even more effective, if there are several people with different backgrounds working together, adding their own expertise and viewpoints into the process. Therefore networking and teamwork play important role in knowledge management.[8] [9]

Social Media

In recent years, social media has been a real buzzword. There has been predictions that social media will change, not just the way companies market themselves and interact with their customers, but also the way people communicate with each other. [10]

Social Media & Knowledge Management

So it seems that social media is here for good. But what has it got to do with knowledge management?

Many companies use different social media tools, such as blogs and wikis, in their internal communication. What’s characteristic to these media is that they allow workers e.g.

  1. to communicate with certain colleagues or broadcast messages to everyone in the organization
  2. to post, edit and sort text and files linked to themselves or others
  3. to view any time they want the messages, texts and files which others have posted, edited and sorted. [11]

What this means to knowledge management, is that the possibilities for organizational learning expand. Whilst the traditional working has taken place within a certain group nominated for the task, now anyone in the organization can learn from anyone and about anything that has been posted through the internal communication channels. [12]

It also makes the work and learning that has taken place more visible. Before, all the traces were stored in private communication channels such as emails and either private or working group’s disk drives. Now anyone can see how the process has developed by going through the files, comments, tags etc. Openness makes also finding information easier for those who are not directly involved in the process. Instead of trying to locate the owner of particular information, they can search the internal channels. [13]

Social Media is…Social

As all the staff members can comment, discuss and give ideas, using social media tools makes the co-operation processes also more informal and democratic. When everyone can attend, it means that the processes are no longer dictated from top down or by certain groups. [14]

J of Knowledge Management 2009.13:509-520
Source: Journal of Knowledge Management 2009. Vol. 13(6), 510.

But, if everyone can participate in the knowledge creating process, whose opinion counts? Surely not everyone knows the matters equally well? And what if the opinions provided clash with each other?

The conflicting arguments and less-factual opinions still count for the process, as they make sure that the end result is based on more multifaceted bases. This is quite different from the approach where only experts participate, the result is at least partially pre-determined, and there is only one truth about everything. Typically this type of process ends with e.g. report, on basis of which the company makes its decisions. [15]

However, when everyone can attend, and give their insights, the knowledge creation process becomes more agile. The ideas and new practices can be tested and developed further already during the process, not only after there is information about how the final result has been received. The wide participation of different people with different opinions also creates better understanding about the way end-users will react. [16]

Which Tools to Choose?

The variety of social media tools available is wide, ranging from microblogs, to collecting information into a wiki or sharing photos and videos. But which tools would be right for knowledge management?


So blogging allows one to share his/her thoughts about any matter, either shortly or at more length. And not just by text, but also by sharing images, photos or videos. This gives both the management as well as staff a forum to explain the reasons behind decisions taken or to explain how a development process has proceeded. Thus a blog text provides a possibility for the staff to share their information and experiences to others directly in a way they themselves feel comfortable. [17]

But blogs are not just a one-way channel. They offer the readers a possibility to support, comment and give direct feedback to the writer. [18]


Microblogging differs from blogging in the length of the publications. The most famous microblogging service is Twitter, which limits the messages to maximum of 140 characters in total. Other microblogging platforms include e.g. Google+, Tumblr or the Chinese Weibo.

How can such short messages be used to advance the organisation’s knowledge management?

One advantage of the microblogs is that they are both easy to update and follow. You don’t have to spend long time reading a blog post, but can get the latest advancements with just one glance. Following colleagues’ microblogs also gives insights about their personality, work and things they have in their mind. Work-related microblogs can also spark conversation, to which everyone can easily join. [19]

Social Networking Sites (SNS)

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, have become almost synonymous to social media. However, they differ from other social media in two ways:

  1. SNSs allow the users to connect to each other by becoming e.g. friends, and to see each other’s profiles, updates and other information they share
  2. The users can create a personal profile page, which consists of information they want to share to the other members of their social network. [20]

Enterprise social networking sites, for example Yammer, can be used to share information with either the whole organization, or to create online communities on different topics.  It can be used e.g. to replace group, and instead share the message to the online community. This allows also others (when not limited to only specific participants) to comment, add different media and in general to see what’s going on. The staff members can also join the groups according to their interest and widen their knowledge base. [21]

What is Yammer?


The most well-known wiki-site in the world is Wikipedia. It is an online encyclopaedia, created, modified and updated collectively by its users. Wikipedia is open for everyone who wants to create new topics, or update the existing ones. As there are no editors, the changes become published as soon as they have been made.

The wikis have been used also for enterprise knowledge management. They enable accumulating collective knowledge to a one platform as a collaborative effort. As one person has made changes, they are instantly visible to others, who can then either modify, add or even delete them. [22]

The collective wiki writing process supports especially the externalisation of knowledge, as one writes down the information he/she has. Then again reading through and/or modifying the texts of the other writers, assists in internalising the information. [23]

How to Get the Social Media Tools to Work in KM?

No matter how fancy tools have been developed to improve the company’s knowledge management, it is now self-evident that the staff members adopt them into practice. What should be taken into account when choosing the social media tools for knowledge management.

First of all, there needs to be a clear objective, why the chosen media has been taken in to use. In case the staff is not aware about the reasons and benefits expected from the new system, they are less likely to start using them. Instead, if the goals and the expected advantages of the new systems are clear, they are much more likely to be taken in active use. [24]

This is essential, as the social media tools only work if a considerable proportion of the personnel uses them. For example, in the case of wikis, the whole idea is that they are created by different people who, in a wiki writing process, bring their different knowledge together. [25]

Still, the most important factor affecting the implementation of social media tools, is the organisation culture. In a very hierarchical organisation, management might find the use of social media as a threat to their position as the owners of the knowledge. Instead, if the organisation culture supports co-operation, knowledge sharing and learning from the colleagues, the implementation of the new tools is much more likely to succeed. [26]

Business meeting and teamwork - Large team at the table


[19] Grant, Susan B. (2016) Classifying emerging knowledge sharing practices and some insights into antecedents to social networking: a case in insurance. Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 20 (5), 898–917.

[6] [8] Knowledge Management. Organizing Knowledge Based Enterprises. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

[21] Introducing Yammer - McGill's social network. Haettu. 12.10.2016.

[1] [2] [10] [14] Isokangas, Antti & Kankkunen, Petteri (2011) Suora yhteys. Näin sosiaalinen media muuttaa yritykset. Taloustieto Oy, Helsinki.

   [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] Kiniti, Sarah & Standing, Craig (2013) Wikis as knowledge management systems: issues and challenges. Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 15 (2), 189–201.

[11] [12] [13] Leonardi, Paul M. & Huysman, Marleen & Steinfield, Charles (2013) Enterprise Social Media: Definition, History and Prospects for the Study of Social Technologies in Organizations. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Vol. 19, 1–19.

[17] [18] Panahi, Sirous & Watson, Jason &, Partridge, Helen (2013) Towards tacit knowledge sharing over social web tools. Journal of Knowledge Management. Vol. 17 (3), 379–397.

[3] [4] [5] [7] [9] Soo, Christine & Devinney, Timothy & Midgley, David Deering, Anne (2002) Knowledge Management: Philosophy, Processes, and Pitfalls. California Management Review. Vol. 44 (4), 129–150.

[15] [16] Vuori, Vilma & Okkonen, Jussi (2012b) Refining information and knowledge by social media applications. VINE, Vol. 42 (1), 117–128.

[20] What is a social networking site? Haettu 12.10.2016.



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