According to Wikipedia, a common thread running through all definitions of social media is the blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value. This fits well into what I see as the underlying concept of the intersection between social media tools and open innovation; it is about how we can involve various stakeholders in creating better innovation outcomes.
Kaplan and Haenlein, two researchers, state that there are six different types of social media: collaborative projects, blogs and microblogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual communities.
Within these categories, I find the below tools to be the most relevant for open innovation efforts:
LinkedIn: Knowledge is the key element to innovation and LinkedIn is a great tool for identifying people with knowledge. This works especially well if you upgrade to a business account. It is also possible to get good replies if you start a discussion in the LinkedIn groups, but there is unfortunately also too much noise (spam) in these groups.
Twitter: First, a heads-up. Twitter is practically useless unless you use an application such as TweetDeck, which allows you to filter through the crazy stream of content. Once this is up and running, you have a great business intelligence tool that allows you to track topics that are of interest to you. Twitter can also be used to broadcast your messages although you do need several thousand followers – and relevant content – in order to see a real impact on this.
Communities: Open innovation has many channels for business opportunities – virtually as well as physically. There is a growing need for companies to have a strong destination site and I believe we will see a shift in which this has to look more like a community such as this SAP community rather than pure needs/assets sites such as P&G’s Connect + Develop. Communities will have a mix of content, business functions such as needs / assets listings and social networking features.
I do not include Facebook as this is a personal tool for me. However, to some industries with much consumer interaction, Facebook might also be relevant for open innovation efforts.
Some reasons for companies to engage with social media tools in their open innovation efforts include:
• better access to and interaction with stakeholders
• feedback loop on ideas and projects
• business intelligence
• marketing and promotion of projects and innovation outcomes
• thought leadership activities
• training on innovation skills
Many skeptics do not see much value in this today. This is fair enough as it is indeed hard to find good cases and evidence on such efforts, but please remember that we are still in the very early phases on this intersection of social media tools and open innovation.
I urge everyone to look two years ahead. This is where things will really start to fall into place as we all get more experience with tools and services that continue to develop at a fast pace and in directions that are hard to foresee.
I urge you to be the visionary company in your industry. Expose your employees and your external stakeholders to social media and learn as you go. Yes, there will be initiatives that do not work, but you will adapt and the experiences gained can bring competitive advantages in the short, mid and long-term.
Here you can find some resources on this topic. It is a collection of 15inno blog posts and other relevant articles, blog posts or websites. Please note that some of the 15inno posts might need an update, but they are still worth looking into. The comments are also helpful in giving an additional perspective.
15inno blog posts:
This post is part of a series of posts as I develop a resource on how to implement open innovation. It is work in progress and your input is highly appreciated.