Social Media (aka web 2.0) and small business collaboration

One of the exciting things that doesn’t get talked about much is the way  small companies have used the communication possibilities of web 2.0 or social media as we call it these days for collaboration.

We recently published a paper in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development  based on talking to 12 companies that were ahead of the game in setting up systems to allow other people to leverage the power of web 2.0 for their own ends. Some of them were collaborative groups of companies, others were building platforms that other people could use.

We effectively identified 5 key benefits and identified a 2 x 2 matrix of styles of collaboration which you may find helpful if you are planning your own business strategy in this strange 21st Century.

The Benefits were

  1. Improved operational efficiency. Most companies emphasized the benefit of web based tools in reducing operational costs and making it more cost effective to engage external resource.
  2. Increased Capacity.  Effective players used external networks to source collaborators and suppliers
  3. More effective external communication.  The companies seemed to understand the importance of building a more or less prominent web presence in order to attract customers, collaborators and suppliers.
  4. Customised offerings due to the effective use of web channels to maintain closer contact with customers and so understand their needs better.
  5. Lifestyle benefits such as reduced travel and time away from family and home location.

Analysing  the ways that companies approached the use of these technologies,  we developed a 2 x 2 matrix which set  how they worked  with other companies and players (as control vs collaboration) against their approach to the use of ICTs  – ie did they use simple or complex ICT tools to manage the business.

Simple tools include much of the basic social media and online networking capability that uses simple, free to use or low cost tools.  A more sophisticated use tended to use purpose built bespoke systems that managed the business and with which the other “ collaborators” had to engage.

It is tempting to assume that the use of sophisticated technology leads to more control being exerted but extensive experience of the use of social media suggests that this is not necessarily so.

For copyright reasons it’s not possible to discuss more here. However the paper has been given an award for excellence by the publisher  and the original will shortly be available with details of all 12 of the case studies  for free download for a period of a month. I’ll let you know when that is or you can contact me to request a copy when available via the “Ask Us” tab above

Collaboration Matrix diagram

Collaboration Matrix

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