If you are responsible for a social media application you want to be successful with your social media application but you have a limited infuence on the behavior of the users. What you can do is to
- decide about the features of the application – the features shape the use-cases and workflows of the users,
- decide what and how you communicate with the users, how you understand their use-cases and how you react to their needs, how you define the terms and conditions.
The question is, what are the decision criteria for your decisions?
We distinguish between value and benefit.
In many social media applications the main value is the digital trace of the users. The high quality digital trace is invisible but is often a pre-requisite for generating a benefit for the users.
Example: If a user posts an Urgent Request in your social media platform, this Urgent Request should be distributed to those users who have the highest probability to know the answer (to generate the expected benefit). Such a message distribution mechanism relies on the quality of the so-called digital trace of the users. If the application has no information (no digital trace) about a user, it will not be able to identify such a user as a potential responder and will therefore not be able to generate the expected benefit.
Therefore we do not focus just on the visible benefit but even more on the invisible value which is generated within a social media application. Optimizing the value generation is the main decision criterion for all our activities. We call this value steering.
As soon as the value is generated by the users in the desired way it is then up to us to enable them to generate also the benefit.
The other way round it does not work: you can do your best in communicating how to generate benefit from your social media application; if there is no value generated by the users then you cannot generate a benefit for the users.Remark: the idea is similar to the idea of developing a balanced score card for social media applications (see Heiss 2010, p.13 and the new one considering the value steering concept at Djajakusuma/Heiss/Langen 2014). What is your driver-tree in order to achieve a strategic goal? Value steering is a less complex approach and easier to be remembered and considered for each decision.
Concrete for a certain class of social media applications (my focus is on knowledge networking applications for corporate problem solving):
- What are the key-values for this class of social media applications?
- What are the metrics for those key values?
- Which measures can be derived from those metrics in order to optimize the value generation?
- Develop a value steering framework for social media applications
Please, let me know if you are working in this field or if you plan to work in this field or if you know about already existing research in this field.
Example: Siemens TechnoWeb 2.0
Some examples of TechnoWeb innovations which have been decided according to the value steering approach:
- The new Urgent Request Channeling based on our semantic message targeting algorithm is the most important TechnoWeb innovation as this allows to generate a benefit from the invisible digital trace value.
- A Corporate Tagging Framework was implemented. The Corporate Tagging Framework enables to accumulate the digital trace of users across different corporate web applications. The higher quality of the digital trace improves again the Urgent Request Channeling and is therefore a measure according to the value steering approach.
- The Sinequa-based semantic search engine of TechnoWeb 2.0 as part of the global Siemens corporate search. TechnoWeb also allows to define search alerts not just within TechnoWeb, but for the whole corporate search. Again a measure according to the value steering approach: if a user orders a search alert via Technoweb, then TechnoWeb is able to enrich the digital trace of this person and can therefore improve the Urgent Request Channeling.
- The semantic suggestion engine of communities which might be of relevance for the user. Again a measure according the value steering approach: if a user becomes member in all Technoweb communities which are of relevance for him, then the digital trace of this user improves.
- A Google-Map integration for a visualization of all member locations of a TechnoWeb community. Again a measure according to the value steering approach: if the owner of a TechnoWeb community recognizes that his community is less globally distributed than other Technoweb communities he will be more active in inviting new members into his community. The more experts are member in the relevant TechnoWeb communities the higher is the probability that an Urgent Request receives a helpful answer.
This are just a few examples. Approximately 90% of the daily decision for operating TechnoWeb can be done according to value steering principle.
Compliance with data privacy laws and worker’s council regulations
Note that particularily in German speaking countries there are very strict legal data privacy regulations. It is not allowed in an Enterprise context to analyze click-streams of users and you may not even think about analyzing the mail communication of users. Only voluntary and intentional contributions to the digital trace can be used: e.g. if a user follows a tag than he is not surprised that he also receives Urgent Requests in the context of the selected tags; if a user becomes member in a community which is dedicated to a certain topic than he is not surprised to receive per default also Urgent Requests related to this topic. However the user can turn off such notifications.The research regarding TechnoWeb 2.0 is partially conducted within the competence network Softnet Austria II (www.soft-net.at, COMET K-Projekt) and funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth (bmwfj), the province of Styria, the Steirische Wirtschaftsförderungs-gesellschaft mbH. (SFG), and the city of Vienna in terms of the center for innovation and technology (ZIT).