Virtual Embeddedness and Social Media as a Basis for the Relational Capital Management of new Ventures pp188-203
New forms of data storage and transfer as well as new methods to communicate, collaborate and exchange knowledge at diminishing transaction costs over the world‑wide‑web have revolutionised networking, knowledge creation and innovation processes in the knowledge era. Virtual embeddedness signifies the possibility to draw upon pay‑per‑use computing resources and a variety of customised web services and applications. The facilitated utilisation of Software‑as‑a‑Service and in particular social media (SM) applications enables effective networking on platforms and in virtual communities in social as well as in business terms. Such networking processes lead to the accumulation of social, relational and intellectual capital, as they facilitate information and knowledge exchange, integration and creation. Since information and knowledge sharing, collaboration and socialising take virtual dimensions, opportunities and threats arise for enterprises regarding relational capital management (RCM) as well as knowledge and value creation. Most new ventures are keen on utilising SM for internal and external communication and collaboration purposes. In this context, the question of how new ventures can improve their RCM through the utilisation of innovative information and communication technologies (ICT) and SM arises. To answer this question, ventures have to grasp the potential of web technologies and SM and to assess their appropriability to achieve relationship‑specific goals. They need to be aware of SM risks in order to exploit chances and avert threats which arise through SM use. In this paper, the question of how to exploit the benefits of virtual embeddedness and Web 2.0 in order to optimise the RCM of new ventures is discussed. To provide a basis for this discussion, the qualities of social and relational capital and the different forms of physical and virtual embeddedness are analysed. The utilisation of SM for RCM purposes and the implementation of a SM strategy are exemplified in the case study of a German eCommerce venture that took advantage of web technologies to build up and manage its relational capital in virtual and physical dimensions. Finally, a conceptual model describing the contribution of virtual embeddedness and SM to knowledge, value and reputation creation is proposed and illustrated by means of the case study.
The Research Management Unit of Swiss Distance University for Applied Sciences (Fernfachhochschule Schweiz FFHS) has experienced trust building processes in virtual environment amongst others in their work with Community of Practice (CoP). The estab lishment of CoPs has become their core business, that means that they have have planned and implemented such kind of learning communities for international companies and for university groups. According to the author, CoPs are perceived as laboratory for creating intellectual capital for which trust building is a pre‑conditioned success factor. To identify trust building methods in a research environment in particular and in CoPs in general, using new technologies is the main aim in this paper. So, the br oad subject CoP and intellectual capital will be constricted and the focus put on trust. A special focus is put on the virtuality element which has become very important with the raise of social media platforms in the business world. Following questions will be addressed in the paper: How is trust defined in a virtual environment, especially among researchers? How can you build trust in a CoP? How can the community leader influence this trust building? What is the role of different group members? Which influence does a deep organizational trust have on the success of a community? To answer this question, foremost a theoretical analyses model for trust and its processes will be developed based on the three domains of intellectual capital which most auth ors have identified for the division of intellectual capital: human capital, structural capital and relationship capital. To cope with the technical dimension of virtuality, a new approach to the intellectual capital domains is elaborated. In the first pl ace, at the level of human capital, the author describes personal characteristics and competencies (knowledge management skills) which enable trust building. Secondly, the level of structural capital focuses on technical aspect of the community and acti vities which foster trust building. Last but not least, the relationship level studies the trust building process linked to different roles and a new collaborative culture. As a case study for this paper, serves the community of researchers at the FFHS wh ich collaborate through a virtual platform called eDolphin. The researchers, working for a future‑oriented institution and eUniversity, come from different disciplines and promote an eLearning and eCollaboration approach in team activities and project man agement. The findings of the theoretical approach lead to its adaptation to the practical example of eDolphin. How was trust build in this case? What are the lessons learned which we identified during this community building process. Last but not least, some theories and findings concerning community building on social media platforms are described.
Keywords: eCollaboration, Social Media, Communities of Practice, intellectual capital, trust building, new collaborative culture.