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MAN 4162 PBSC Management Social Media versus Traditional Media Paper

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Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Social media as a source of knowledge for
customers and enterprises
Marta Zembik, University of Economics in Katowice, [email protected]
Social media (SM) is a set of tools, such as blogs, social networking sites, forums, wikis, which enable easy
communication and cooperation. A multitude and variety of these tools, increasing access and the possibility of a
free exchange of information by all users make social media a dynamic, comprehensive and complex IT
infrastructure that enables easier, faster and more widespread sharing of information. The information provided in
social media is useful for both customers and enterprises. The former benefit from the opinions of other consumers
about products, recommendations, and a description of experience in dealing with enterprises, whereas the latter,
by monitoring the content of SM, acquire feedback on their market offer as well as data on the target group – its
expectations, needs, and socio-demographic and psychographic characteristics. This information is becoming the
basis for market decision-making; therefore, it can be stated that on its basis the knowledge of market entities is
shaped. Three categories of knowledge are distinguished in the literature: knowledge from customers, knowledge
about customers and knowledge for customers. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate that this concept is also
reflected in social media. The review of the literature has been conducted and as a result, it has been indicated what
type of information makes up the individual categories of knowledge and which social media tools are the best
source of such information.
Keywords: social media, knowledge, knowledge management, knowledge for customers, knowledge from
customers, knowledge about customers
The development of web and mobile technologies, including social media, moved markets closer
to a utopian state of existence of perfect market information by reducing the information
asymmetry between buyers and sellers (Granados & Gupta, 2013). For buyers, this means easier
market decision-making with the ability to search online for alternative offers, price comparison,
confirmation of product characteristics presented by retailers with the opinions of real users. In
turn, enterprises, through blogs, microblogs or social networking sites, can increase the speed
and efficiency of communication with the market. At the same time, by monitoring the content
appearing in SM, enterprises have almost no feedback cost of their market offer. Through
engaging users in crowdsourcing projects they additionally acquire innovations reflecting the
expectations of customers.
According to the DIK model (data-information-knowledge) (Nonaka, 1994), knowledge is
created on the basis of information which, in turn, is created on the basis of data (Siemieniuch &
Sinclair, 1999). In addition, data are facts gathered on the basis of observations (Clare &
Loucopoulos, 1987; Zack, 1999), represented in a formalized manner (Hicks, 1993).
Data is encoded with appropriate symbols, so it can be
whereas information is created by presenting data in
Information is created as a result of data interpretation
subjective in character (it depends on the interpretative
recorded, processed, and transmitted;
a meaningful context (Zack, 1999).
by the receiver. For this reason it is
abilities of the receiver). Knowledge
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
constitutes of information that is interpreted, whether consciously or unconsciously, by an
individual at the end of a learning process (Boubaker, Djebabra, Mellal & Chabane, 2012). Zack
(1999) defined knowledge as ”meaningful and organized accumulation of information through
experience, communication or inference” (p.45). In turn, Davenport and Prusak (1998) perceive
knowledge as “a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert
insight (…)” (p. 5). They also understand knowledge as data or information in action. There can
be distinguished explicit knowledge, which is easy to capture, formalize, and distribute, and tacit
knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Polanyi, 1966).
The notion of tacit knowledge was first used by Polanyi, who stated that “we know more than we
can tell” (Polanyi, 1966, p. 4). He defined tacit knowledge as difficult to communicate and
acquired through practice and experience rather than through language. Tacit knowledge depends
on individual predispositions and is created in an appropriate context (Kothari et al., 2012). That
is why it is difficult to capture, codify, adopt, and share among people, but at the same time very
valuable, as it can be the source of the organization’s innovation and competitive advantage
(Jassimudin, Klein, & Connell, 2005). Explicit knowledge, in turn, can be codified, documented,
and transmitted, making it easily and cheaply available to large numbers of people at little or no
marginal cost (Jassimudin et al., 2005).
In the modern economy, knowledge is a critical component of an organization’s assets
(Kowalczyk & Nogalski, 2007; Tsai, Tsai, Li, & Lin, 2012; Ziemba, 2013). The market success
of enterprises depends largely on the ability to locate, acquire, analyze, and use knowledge, that
is to say, on knowledge management in order to make more and better market decisions (Awad
& Ghaziri, 2004; Bukowitz & Williams, 2000; Dalkir, 2005; Kowalczyk & Nogalski, 2007;
Ziemba, 2009). Attributes of the contemporary market, such as global competition, diversity,
variety, and turbulence require from companies the ability to change rapidly and adapt to new
market requirements (Reeves & Deimler, 2011).
The competitive advantage is gained by those enterprises which better understand the trends in
the environment and are able to offer customers newer benefits, and provide existing benefits in
a new way (Hamel & Prahalad, 1996). In practice, this means that the advantage in the
marketplace is gained from enterprises having in-depth knowledge and understanding of the
needs and expectations of customers.
The needs and expectations of customers are evolving in the direction of 7R principle: right
product, right quantity, right condition, right price, right place, right time, right customer
(Sudalaimuthu & Raj, 2009). Not only do customers’ requirements refer to the product itself
(quality, features, price), but they also include the convenience of purchasing (place, time), the
quality of service (speed and complexity), and the manner of communication with the enterprise.
Before the era of social media (SM) all the information customers needed to make market
decisions (knowledge for the customer) was provided by enterprises via the traditional media
(television, radio, press), which are characterized by a one-way transfer of information. As the
Internet developed, the corporate websites have also become the source of knowledge for the
customer. They provided more detailed information, but the customer still had to settle for just
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
the information which the enterprise wanted to share with them. Customers also gained
knowledge about the market offer by exchanging information among themselves. The flow of
information took place among the immediate family and friends, because there were no technical
possibilities to identify and reach out to a wider customer base of the enterprise.
Acquiring customer’s knowledge is a challenge for enterprises. There are many methods of
gaining this knowledge. Beijerse (1999) mentions the following: assess customers, carry out
customer satisfaction research, obtain knowledge from customers, and interview customers
(quoted in Stefanou, Sarmaniotis, & Stafyla, 2003). However, apart from the fact that the
marketing research methods are time- and cost-intensive, researchers more often encounter
problems connected with respondents’ reluctance to taking part in research, which translates into
the reliability of gained information (Keusch, 2012; Kucia & Jaciow, 2010; Tuckel & O’Neill,
The purpose of this paper is to present knowledge localized in social media broken down into
knowledge about customers, from customers, and for customers. In the cognitive part, the
importance of knowledge in the modern economy is indicated as well as the essence and
classification of social media are described. Next the concept of three categories of customer
knowledge (about, from and for the customer) is discussed indicating the specific social media
tools, which are their source. This study may be helpful in taking action in social media aimed at
customer knowledge management.
Review of literature
Social media – definition and classification
Social media is the Internet and mobile applications whose overriding idea is to enable social
interaction. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) defined social media as “a group of Internet-based
applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which
allows the creation and exchange for user-generated content” (p. 61).
In social media, individual users, communities, and organizations discuss, contribute, modify,
and share the content generated by other users (Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre,
2011). This is a fundamental difference in the functioning of SM, traditional media, and the
Web 1.0 Internet, and it has triggered a contribution to defining a new model of communication
(Mangold & Faulds, 2009). In connection with the development of new media, communication
has adopted hypermedia nature, characterized by many-to-many communication, which
introduces a new type of interaction (Wiktor, 2001).
Social media has given a qualitatively new character to interactions in the communication
process, since a personal interaction became possible (seller’s communication with the buyer
through interactive media), as well as relations with the media (e.g. content creation and web
browsing). What distinguishes SM from traditional media of mass communication is the fact that
the users themselves decide whether and what, and in what form they want to “browse.” They
seek information on topics of interest to them, and create content presenting their views and
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
experiences. This is possible because social media does not have supervision over the content
appearing in it (apart from the service administrators’ right to delete offensive or vulgar content).
Unlike traditional media, which are usually owned by specific enterprises that have a specific
strategy and views and do not have complete freedom to publish the content.
Six features of social media can be identified, which make it a user-friendly tool for creating and
sharing knowledge resources (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010; Panahi, Watson, & Partridge, 2012):
1. The digital nature of the new media – means that each of us can easily disseminate their own
content, or it can be done by others (to create their digital copies), to worldwide recipients
bypassing the traditional publishing process and without the cost of publication.
2. The involvement of the users, through which the value chain is formed. Additional value in
SM is given by adding comments (e.g. about a product), complex forms of cooperation (e.g.
beta testing of products), and co-creating of products (e.g. the development of open source
3. Widespread visibility of activities undertaken in social media. Blog posting, adding an
opinion on a forum or photos on the social network are visible to other users, both individuals
and enterprises.
4. Access to real-time content, so that consumers can exchange real-time experience, for
example, using microblogs or chat rooms. Removing content from SM is virtually impossible
(durability of content), which means the ability to delve into the negative and positive
feedback from potential consumers for many years after its publication.
5. The ubiquity – thanks to mobile devices we can use social media resources anywhere,
anytime. It is possible to write and publish movie reviews, even during the cinema screening,
or find opinions about a product at the time of its purchase.
6. Networking – social media users create relationships that are the basis for the construction of
social networks. Relationships among the members of the network may take the form of:
collaborations (e.g. Wikipedia), friendships (e.g. Facebook), trade ties (e.g. LinkedIn),
resource and information folks (e.g.,, social support (e.g.
industry forums), and others (Wasserman & Faust, 1994).
The diversity of social media is not without significance for the desire to create and share content
there. The presence of multiple categories of SM causes that each user group finds one of their
kind, the content and functioning that matches their age group, gender, interests and beliefs. It is
more important in the context of the fact that people tend to interact with other people similar to
themselves in terms of certain attributes (the phenomenon of homophily) (Kadushin, 2004).
Table 1 presents examples of social media.
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Table 1. Types of social media
Social networking sites
Content communities
(services enabling
multimedia sharing)
Personal blogs
blogs (corporate blogs)
Forums (Internet
Discussion Forum)
Business networking
Collaborative websites
Virtual worlds and
Social bookmarketing
Open source software
Crowdsourcing sites
Social shopping sites
They attract Internet users, allowing for contact,
entertainment and information sharing, and focus around the
topics and events of their interest (also around companies
and brands)
They enable publication of videos, photos and presentations
as well as their comments and evaluation by other users.
Diaries written by individuals, often in a particular subject
(e.g. fashion, cooking, cultural, political). The author of the
blog presents their views, opinions, recommendations
enabling comment.
Online diary run by the enterprise on subjects related to
business. It describes the events in the life of the
organization; it may also refer to topics related to the
industry in which the enterprise operates.
Enable publishing short messages in real time that are
visible to people watching user’s profile.
Discussion groups on the Internet. They are used to
exchange information, opinions and ideas among Internet
users. They may be on a general or specialized subject
(related to the industry or interests).
Gather community oriented on professional development
and the exchange of experiences within a specific profession
or interests.
Wikis are collaborative Web sites which can be set up to be
edited by anyone or by designated users only.
Internet games reflecting reality or fantasy world. It is
required to create an avatar, namely a virtual alter ego the
Allow the evaluation and recommendation of content found
on the Internet.
Gather communities jointly creating products (software).
Allow for the exchange of information between the
enterprise and the community of customers, including
customers reporting product or process innovations and
giving opinions on the enterprise’s projects.
Allow for the assessment and recommendations of products
and enterprises.
Facebook, MySpace
YouTube, Vimeo,
iTunes, Flickr,
Makelifeeasier (blog by
Polish Prime Minister’s
Google Blog,
PlayStation Blog
Cycling Forum,
Audi Club Poland
Second Life, World of
My Starbucks Idea
Wanelo, Kaboodle
Source: Grzechowiak (2010); Mangold & Faulds (2009).
The types of the presented social media do not create an exhaustive catalogue. The pace of
change in the virtual environment and the development of new technologies cause a continuous
creation of new solutions recognized as social media, while others, due to the decline in their
popularity, disappear from the Internet. Social media, in accordance with the view of Kaplan and
Haenlein (2010), can be categorized on the basis of the following characteristics:
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014

The degree of immediacy of perception of interpersonal relationships occurring in SM and the
feeling of other people’s involvement in the process of communicating with them (social
presence theory),
The amount of information that can be transmitted by a type of SM at the time (media
richness theory),
The required amount of information necessary to disclose about oneself (self-disclosure),
The possibility of self-presentation.
Table 2 presents a classification of SM based on these characteristics.
Table 2. Classification of Social Media
Social presence/ Media richness
Social networking sites
Virtual social worlds
Collaborative projects
Content communities
Virtual game worlds
Source: Kaplan & Haenlein (2010).
As it is visible, social media includes many “new sources of online information that are created,
initiated, circulated and used by consumers intent on educating each other about products,
brands, services, personalities, and issues” (Blackshaw & Nazzaro, 2004, p. 2). This content is
now one of the most important and most reliable sources of information for consumers and
enterprises (Cheema & Papatla, 2010; World Internet Project, 2013). Recommendations from
friends and online opinions from unknown consumers are the most reliable sources of
information for consumers, according to the global studies by AC Nielsen research agency
(Burmaster, Lee & McGiboney, 2009). In turn, the results of Wave 7 studies indicate that
consumers engage with the community around the brand in social media because of the need: to
gain knowledge, to get the entertainment and social acceptance. Thanks to that fact more than
half of Internet users want to have an impact on the development of the product and the
opportunity to share their opinion with others (Report Wave 7, 2013). This all makes social
media a valuable channel of communication with buyers. On the other hand, enterprises face the
challenge of educating buyers while listening to their needs and responding to any problems and
negative opinions.
Customer knowledge
Knowledge is a development factor and a source of success for enterprises in the complex and
difficult operating conditions in the markets of today. Enterprises face the challenge of
continuous acquisition of knowledge about the market, but also the creation of knowledge in
order to remain innovative. As it has already been demonstrated in the introduction, customers
have become the most important point of reference and the lifeblood of an enterprise’s activities.
Therefore, it is so important to get to know and understand them. Gaining customer’s knowledge
becomes the most important task for enterprises.
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Many researchers classify customer’s knowledge into three categories: knowledge for customers,
knowledge from customers and knowledge about customers (Garcia-Murillo & Annabi, 2002;
Salomann, Dous, Kolbe, & Brenner, 2005; Smith & McKeen, 2005, Gibbert, Leibold, & Probst,
2002). Knowledge for customers includes all the information to satisfy the information needs of
customers about products, services, and activities of enterprises. Knowledge from customers
consists of information (including opinions) about products and services used by them, whereas
knowledge about the customer concerns the needs, preferences, and motivations of customers, as
well as their demographic and psychographic characteristics. Customer’s knowledge is also
explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge refers to, inter alia, the functionality of a
product, its pricing, and place of purchase. In turn, evaluating a product, sharing information
about the user, or emotional relationship with the enterprise is tacit knowledge. Social media is
an excellent source of the customer’s knowledge (Zanjani, Rouzbehani, & Dabbagh, 2008). This
what translates into its great value is also the possibility of acquiring tacit knowledge, which “is
transmitted verbally and through shared experiences” (Grudzewski & Hejduk, 2004, p. 78). The
specificity of social media and the main idea of its operation – enabling communication and
establishing relationships, causes customers to articulate freely their desires, motivations and
expectations, exchange experiences and opinions.
Research methodology
The focus of this research was a literature review focused on social media as a center of gravity
and knowledge sharing tool meeting the needs of marketers and consumers.
Research findings – social media as a source of customer’s
Social media as a source of knowledge for customer
Any decision made by the consumer is a subject to risk. The customer continually makes
decisions regarding the choice of a product or service, and the place and time of its acquisition.
The uncertainty related to the perceived risk of taking the wrong purchasing decision is often
associated with a deficiency of information (the phenomenon of information asymmetry between
the buyer and the seller) and it influences consumer behavior on the market (Kieżel, 2000). Thus,
the transfer of comprehensive information to the customer (knowledge for the customer) plays an
important role at every stage of the purchase decision-making process. Knowledge
communicated to customers has a significant impact on the stage of acknowledging the needs
(also allows for creating these needs), searching for ways to meet these needs, and assessment of
alternatives. It can also minimize the post-purchase dissonance.
Knowledge for customers includes all the information that the enterprise provides for its
customers (Gebert, Geib, Kolbe, & Brenner, 2003), in particular, information on the enterprise,
its products, as well as markets and suppliers (Garcia- Murillo & Annabi, 2002). The quality and
comprehensiveness of this knowledge, its transmission channels, and the speed of transmitting it
to customers build customers’ idea of the quality of services provided by the enterprise and
significantly influence the purchase intentions of customers (Taylor & Baker, 1994).
Characteristics of the individual types of social media causes that not every type of information
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
is suitable for publication in a particular medium. Corporate blogs are addressed to people who
expect more information about the product or the enterprise, and the language of the publication
is less formal. Information presented on the blog may relate to: the enterprise – the enterprise
presented as a whole, including its identity, organizational culture, goals, mission and strategy,
and way of functioning, sometimes even employees; the product – additional product
information is published, technical specifications, answers to users’ questions (FAQs), tips on
how to resolve problems with the use; the brand – entries are of an expert nature, they are often
created by a team of employees. Their goal is to create a brand as an expert in a particular field,
whereby the published content is related to the entire market, industry, there are often presented
ideas for product improvement (Mazurek, 2008). The possibility to comment on entries
introduces an element of interaction with consumers.
When the purpose of the communication is to build and sustain relationships with customers,
then the appropriate contact channels are social networking sites. Their advantage is the largest
number of users of all types of SM, the ease of content generation (through sharing), and a high
degree of confidence in the opinion of online friends. Increasingly, they perform the function of
an aggregator of information from various sources. Thereby they allow for tracking content from
friends from the level of a particular portal, but also from other social media (e.g. YouTube
videos). This creates an ecosystem of knowledge (Hamsley & Mason, 2013). The role of social
networks is not content creation, but relationship creation. This determines the type of
information available there. It should aim at providing customers with a certain value and
increasing their satisfaction of being a customer of the enterprise. This should be the first channel
of the publication of new information about the product or the enterprise (“news” from the life of
the enterprise, such as information about discounts or a new offer) (Riemer, Richter, & Seltsikas,
Adding video content not published anywhere before will encourage the recipients to interact
with the enterprise (e.g. advertising spots not broadcast on TV) as well as dedicated applications
for entertainment or to get certain benefits, such as a discount voucher. Social networking sites
are a good channel to respond to all customer questions and to solve problems at their roots
thanks to the ability of “just in time” communication. This is also the function of microblogs,
which by means of short messages, allow for responding to customers’ questions.
The second most popular type of SM, after social networking sites, are services allowing for
multimedia sharing, especially video (e.g. YouTube). Audiovisual transmission is increasingly
being used in business communications of enterprises in SM. The best-known form of
communication using this tool are viral videos (Botha & Reyneke, 2013). The effect of “viral”
video distribution arises due to the lack of delays in getting information to consumers and
sharing this, attractive from the point of view of the enterprise, broadcast. The objective of the
viral campaigns is to provoke discussion about the enterprise or the product (Dobele, Toleman,
& Beverland, 2005; Ho & Dempsey, 2010). On the movie channel, YouTube, customers should
also be able to find instructional videos, tips, and inspiration.
The development of social media has meant that enterprises ceased to be the main and the only
source of knowledge for the customer. Consumers have a high level of trust in knowledge
obtained from other consumers (Kucia & Zembik, 2012; Blackshaw & Nazzaro, 2004).
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Therefore, it can be concluded that SM is a source of “knowledge for the customer from the
customer.” An extremely valuable source of opinions and recommendations are, in particular,
blogs, forums, and multimedia sharing sites (YouTube).
Eighty-one percent of consumers seek advice before making a purchase through a social site and
74 percent of those who received such advice, found it to be influential in making a purchase
(Wegert, 2010). Out of the nearly one million blog entries per day, most of them present
opinions on products and services (Hsu, Lin & Chiang, 2013). Particularly noteworthy is
thematic blogs, whose authors are often specialists in the field. Their knowledge does not always
result directly from education, but rather from indulging in their passion. They undertake testing
of various products, later describing their observations and opinions on the blog (Hsu et al.,
Increasingly, common practice is the cooperation of bloggers with enterprises, which may raise
doubts as to the accuracy of the recommendations (Cai & Chen, 2012). However, a
comprehensive look at the content of the blog allows readers to infer to what extent the presented
opinions are original, and to what extent they are sponsored. Reliable bloggers always include
clear information about the cooperation with a particular enterprise.
One of the oldest tools used by consumers for discussion on the Internet are forums. Using the
forums is one of the most common activities performed while using the Internet (Eurostat, 2013).
A kind of paradox can be noticed – a large part of the discussion held on the forums refers to
enterprises and their products, and at the same time they are very rarely actively used by
businesses. Most forums have a grading system of evaluating entries by others, committed and
experienced forum participants. This, in turn, facilitates the emergence of authorities and opinion
leaders who, thanks to their commitment, become brand ambassadors (Tsang & Zhou, 2005).
Such persons often act as customer service centers for enterprises, answering questions and
solving problems of the new users of the product.
The portals of media sharing are also noteworthy, especially YouTube. As in the case of
thematic blogs and opinion leaders, who engage in discussion forums, the filmmakers are often
persons exercising a passion. Their broadcasts are characterized by a high degree of
professionalism and objectivity. An interesting form of broadcast are tutorials – instructional
videos that “step by step” present product operation and support or the possible use of the
product. Not always does a tutorial refer to a single product, it is sometimes a presentation of
certain tasks for which, in order to be performed, the author recommends some products (e.g.
having a makeup done with specific cosmetics). A summary of information sources in social
media for a customer is presented in Table 3.

Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Information coming
from other consumers
Information coming directly from the
Table 3. Information sources in social media for a customer
Corporate blogs
Social networking sites
Multimedia sharing services
(e.g. YouTube)
Thematic blogs
Discussion forums
Multimedia sharing services
(e.g. YouTube)
Knowledge for customer
Type of information
– information about enterprise
– information about product
– information about brand
– information about new offer
– information about promotions, discounts
– ”news” from enterprise
– additional materials (e.g. advertising spots not broadcast on TV)
– competition/entertainment applications
– customer service (answering inquiries, solving problems, dealing with
– instructional videos
– advice
– inspirations
– viral videos
– product testing results
– recommendations
– entries sponsored by brands (promoting brands)
– recommendations and product opinions
– advice
– answers to inquiries about products and enterprises
– instructional videos (tutorials)
– informed opinion on products
Source: Hansson & Søilen, (2013), Levy (2013).
Passing a comprehensive knowledge for the customer by an enterprise builds the image of the
enterprise and affects customer’s satisfaction when they make decisions under the condition of
(almost) full information. At the same time monitoring the knowledge transferred between
consumers becomes a challenge. The growing popularity of SM can make even a single negative
opinion to become a source of reputation crisis that could have a significant impact on the
functioning of the enterprise.
Social media as a source of knowledge from customer and about
Acquisition of knowledge from the customer is a key factor in the success for enterprises in the
twenty-first century (Garcia-Murillo & Annabi, 2002). Acquiring and understanding what
customers know – what are their experiences, needs and motivations as well as learning about
their satisfaction and emotional relationships with the product – is extremely important, and yet
difficult (Rowley, 2002; Smith & McKeen, 2005). Social media is a source of diverse knowledge
for enterprises, in particular as to find out what consumers think about products and the
enterprise, about their ideas to improve them, what they think about competitive products, how
they evaluate suppliers, whether they predict market trends (Khodakarami & Chan, 2014;
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Salomann et al., 2005). Including this knowledge in the assets, an enterprise can create
innovation, improve products and services, and provide added value to its customers.
media allows for accessing to explicit knowledge, which is expressed in the form of text or
multimedia in different types of SM. Moreover, the special value of SM is the chance to discover
consumers’ tacit knowledge thanks to the possibility provided by SM of carrying out discussions
with them or by observing the customer-to-customer conversations.
Reaching knowledge localized in social media requires enterprises to use it actively in their
operations and to monitor the web content. Monitoring involves collecting, processing and
analyzing the whole discussion and individual content in social media on a topic that is the
subject of monitoring (Roszkowski, 2013). On the market there are many applications to monitor
content in SM (e.g. Brand24), however, the mechanism of their functioning is similar. After
typing a key phrase or a keyword, they search in real time all public entries in SM, where there is
a key phrase or a keyword present. On the basis of the search results, the image of the searched
notion is built showing, among others: source entries, categories of entries, influential surfers
(opinion leaders, brand ambassadors) (Kucia, 2013).
Customers’ knowledge is articulated in several types of content (Roszkowski, 2013):
 Exchange of experience – includes information, opinions and recommendations, and inquiries
about products and enterprises. Depending on the product category, the participation in the
whole content fluctuates between 10 and 70%. However, the vast majority (up to 90 %) of the
content takes the form of brief information about the purchase and use of the product,
enriched with emoticons indicating the emotional relationship with the product. Their most
common sources are social networking sites and microblogs. Extensive opinions and
recommendations appear less frequently, and blogs and forums are their sources. They are
extremely valuable from the point of view of content, since a wide range of information
provided allows for understanding the motivations and attitudes of customers. Online forums
are a frequent source of requests for assistance or inquiries about the product
Sales content – informs about the intention to purchase and mostly takes the form of requests
for help and advice. Quick actions undertaken by enterprises in response to such content are
characterized by a high degree of effectiveness, as they are directed at people ready to
 Shared content – content on social networking sites or micro blogs which includes a link to the
materials posted onto other types of SM (photos, videos, articles). This type of content is a
way of shaping opinion and a form of promotion, it often causes a viral effect. It may
comprise up to 60% of the collected content.
Enterprises can increase the flow of knowledge from customers by initiating a dialogue or by
boosting customer engagement through appropriate tools. One of them is crowdsourcing projects
through which ideas are acquired to improve products or even a product and process innovations
(Župic, 2013). Such actions create the image of the enterprise as open to the opinions of
customers and strengthen relationships with customers. In addition, new products introduced by
crowdsourcing are far more likely to succeed in the market, because they reflect the real needs of
In order to properly define the product and the activities undertaken in the market, the enterprise
also needs to have knowledge of who its customers are and what they are like. Knowledge about
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
customer consists of information about the socio-demographic and psychographic characteristics,
current and future relationship with the enterprise, and the current and future requirements and
expectations (Day, 2000; Davenport, Harris & Kohli, 2001). Out of all media, the Internet has
the best possibilities for analysis, and the value of information available in social media arises
from the nature of its availability – free, unforced. The content analysis provides information
about the emotional relation with the brand, the context of consumption, market trends as well as
identifies the brand value for customers, the effects of an advertising campaign, and helps to
understand the behavior of consumers (consumer insight). Many types of social media,
especially those with high levels of self-disclosure (the amount of information required to reveal
about oneself), provide a very comprehensive knowledge about the users. Data analysis focuses
largely on the analysis of quantitative summaries provided by each social medium, and related
statistics such as site traffic or, in the case of blogs, the ratio between the number of posts to
comments. Such analyzes show that the content raises the interest of customers, thus it helps
shape marketing communications. The analysis of the data could also be used to study the
structure of the community gathered around the brand, website/brand profile hits statistics, or
research on media coverage. Facebook presents the distribution of the users in terms of gender,
age, language, and location. The range of data to which we have access depends largely on the
profile settings on social networking sites. The public settings allow for gaining comprehensive
information about the interests, leisure time, or connections and relationships with others (social
Social media has become an important source of information for all market participants (Panahi
et al., 2012). For consumers, it is a trusted source of opinions and recommendations about
products. For the enterprise, it provides feedback on the market offer, needs and expectations of
customers, and channel of communication with the market (Hsu et al., 2013). As we have seen,
social media is the source of three categories of knowledge: for customers, from customers, and
about the customer. Enterprises face the challenge of customer knowledge management, and the
effective implementation of this concept can become a source of competitive advantage. In this
context, constant monitoring of content posted in social media becomes of primary importance.
Its analysis allows for the development or modification of the marketing strategy or undertaking
day-to-day activities and interactions in order to build the image, establish relationships with
customers, and create loyalty.
The cognitive value of the paper is a presentation of social media as a source of the customer’s
knowledge. Various types of social media have been analyzed by identifying the information
contained there as knowledge for customers, knowledge from customers, and knowledge about
the customer. The considerations are complemented with the indication of the importance of the
customer’s knowledge in shaping the strategy of an enterprise’s operations and market decisionmaking by the consumer. The penetration of these issues and their refinement will be carried out
during the subsequent stages of research.
Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management
A Publication of the International Institute for Applied Knowledge Management
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
This paper has been supported with a grant titled “Social media in business – a model approach”
from the National Science Centre in Poland, 2012/05/N/HS4/00177, 2013-2015.
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Marta Zembik, M.Sc., Poland, University of Economics in Katowice, Institute of Business
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