Sharing knowledge: inevitable and recommended!

by Stijn Driessen December 1st, 2010 

04.11.06.BloggersDilem-XCox & Forkum
Nowadays, due to the uprising of the world wide web, knowledge is spread more rapidly and numerously. This knowledge is available to everyone at any time more than ever before. Consequently businesses need to revise their strategy how they want to anticipate on this event. With the research that I have performed I wanted to investigate the benefits for a company to share knowledge.


Knowledge

Knowledge or information can be anything. More specifically knowledge is difficult to compare and some knowledge is of more value to a company than other knowledge. Moreover, this is also dependable who supplies this knowledge, who is receiving it and what it is all about. It is also industry specific, e.g. service companies are probable more likely to have knowledge that they rather keep for themselves than production companies. A reason for this could be because knowledge can be seen as a competitive advantage and when sharing this knowledge with the outside world it is no longer a competitive advantage. So in cases like this, why would companies share their knowledge anyhow?

Sharing or retaining

That would be the right question for companies to ask themselves nowadays. If your knowledge is a strategic asset to the firm (like a competitive advantage) then you wouldnt want your competitors to have the same knowledge like you do. Although other research has shown companies perform better when they shared knowledge with their strategic alliances. Furthermore, it is proven that when somebody shares knowledge, he is also more likely to gain knowledge. Something to take into consideration.

Web Logs

A blog, short for web log, makes it easy for companies to share knowledge with others. As soon as a blog is public the information on this web log can be read by others, and consequently this knowledge can be spread. Blogs are also increasing in popularity lately (a search query on Google for the term blog brings up 2,5 billon search results). This is a lot of knowledge, accessible for everybody. Also companies are active on these blogs that come up on a Google search.

Type of web logs

Among these 2,5 billion web logs are a lot of different web logs. For the ease of this research I have made a distinction in two types of web logs: internal and external web logs. Internal web logs are web logs started and hosted by companies, also known as corporate web logs. External web logs, on the opposite, are web logs that already exists and are established by a third party. On these web logs several companies may blog. Both types of web logs have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, on an internal web log the company is in full control. While on the other hand the reach of an external web log might be considered higher.

The research

The research that I have performed was for my master thesis at the University of Maastricht. I have made use of an experiment with two groups (internal and external web log readers) and a control group. All three groups got to read a short description in the beginning about a fictitious company. Sequent, respondents were randomly assigned among the three groups. One group got to read an internal web log, one an external web log and the control group got to read nothing. The blog for the first two groups was exactly the same only the source was different. I made use of an existing web log that was already posted on both blogs but I changed the authors name to the fictitious company for validity. At the end respondents got to answer some questions about their opinion to the fictitious company. In total 224 valid respondents participated in my research.

Results

Effects of sharing knowledge on reputation and trust

The results indicate that when a company shares knowledge on an external web log reputation and trust is increased significantly. This result was however not significantly when a company shared knowledge on an internal web log.

Effects of sharing knowledge on willingness to recommend

There was no direct relationship between sharing knowledge on willingness to recommend. Yet, willingness to recommend was mediated by reputation and trust and thus indirectly influenced by sharing knowledge.

Credibility

The credibility of the source has a moderating effect on reputation, trust, and willingness to recommend when a company shares knowledge. This means that when the credibility of the source is higher respondents perceive the blog better.

Conclusion

Sharing knowledge is recommended for companies, because it influences KPIs that many companies set for themselves. For instance, reputation is increased when a company shares knowledge. When trust is established, that person is also more willing to commit himself to that company. In addition, he perceives less risks and is also more eager to recommend the company. Also reputation is an important KPI, because reputation affects the opinion and behavior someone has to the company. Other research also indicates that reputation lead to more satisfaction among customers and employees.

The effects of sharing knowledge was only visible when companies shared knowledge on external web logs. This indicates that when companies decide to blog for trust, reputation and willingness to recommend it is recommended to share knowledge on external web logs than on an internal web log. However, this does not mean that an internal web log does not have other advantages, though unfortunately not taken into consideration in this research. It is also recommended for companies to check the credibility of the blog they participate on. The higher the credibility the more favorable it is for the company.

Last but not least, companies have to consider what they want to share and how far they are willing to go. Knowledge that is being shared does not always have to be of strategic value. Finding the right balance is essential.

Stijn Driessen

Senior Internet Marketeer at Easy Internet Marketing. Follow me @ twitter.

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