The Value of Knowledge Acquired via Online Social Capital: LinkedIn, a South African Perspective
Keywords:LinkedIn, social networks, social capital, online social capital, dense networks, weak ties, strong ties, structural holes, Web 2.0, online social networks (OSNs), subject matter proficiency, problem solving, novel knowledge, innovation, communities of practice (COPs)
This study investigated the value of a member's online social capital, in the social networking platform LinkedIn, in the following areas: member's subject matter proficiency, member's firm's problem solving ability, and member's firm's innovation process. The analytical framework used the concepts of social networks and online social networks (OSNs); social network ties; social capital and online social capital; knowledge and novel knowledge; communities of practice (CoPs); problem solving; and innovation. Quantitative methods were used, involving analysis of data collected from a sample of LinkedIn members residing in South Africa. It was apparent from the analysis that knowledge acquired on LinkedIn, relating to a member's subject matter proficiency, benefited the member's firm. It was also evident that this knowledge contributed to the firm's problem solving process. The data did not, however, confirm or refute the proposition that knowledge acquired by members on LinkedIn contributed to their firms' innovation. An overall observation from the data was that members did not perceive substantial value from the knowledge available on LinkedIn. The authors therefore recommend that greater initiative be taken by members and firms to adopt open networking approaches, using online social networks such as LinkedIn, starting with attitudinal and policy considerations on the part of firms.
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