Social Network, Knowledge Management and Innovation at Unilever

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SOCIAL NETWORKING AND EXPLOITATION OF INNOVATION THROUGH THE SOCIAL DYNAMICS MODEL

Company in Focus: Unilever

1 . INTRODUCTION

Unilever is an Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company. Its products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. With over 400 brands sold in more than 190 countries, it is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods (Unilever, 2013). Such a global organisation needs to remain innovative so as to maintain its competitive advantage. The social dynamics model (which analyses four steps- capacity building, pilot mode, integration mode and leverage mode) would be used would be used in this report to show how social media can be developed and integrated into Unilever and ultimately how innovation can be utilised.

2 . USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN UNILEVER

Social media is defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010, p. 61). Social media has been asserted to be a source of new profits though access to new markets, a more engaged workforce and improved customer relations (Mangold and Faulds, 2009; Waters et al. 2009). The implementation of social media within the organization is viewed as a way to leverage organizational knowledge and improve knowledge management initiatives (Barbagallo, 2011).

Unilever utilises the social network platforms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube. Their Facebook page is used to share recipes, run adverts, and get feedback on products and other relevant information from customers. With their Twitter account, they are able to share news about programmes in different countries and engage on topics about business, marketing and sustainability. There are several LinkedIn profiles to suit the needs of their stakeholders such as alumni and management trainees. The YouTube account is for careers purposes only and there are no much subscribers. YouTube is a platform that Unilever still needs to exploit as they can post videos and use it for mass campaigns and adverts as well as receiving comments from customers which can be a source of useful information. Havas EHS also connected Unilever brands with consumers using social media by developing a global consumer data strategy (Unilever, 2012). Social media enables companies to talk to their customers, it enables customers to talk to one another and it also enables customers to talk to companies (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn could help the company to maintain their awareness of current business trends and innovative ideas (Jarahi and Sawyer, 2013). There is the need for Unilever to integrate social media with other traditional media like television. Furthermore, to effectively exploit social media, the company needs interactive technology and marketing skills (Penny Power, n.d.).

3 .ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

Organisational learning is “the process of change in individual and shared thought and action, which is affected by and embedded in the institutions of the organisation (Vera and Crossan, 2005, p. 123). Organisational learning system is rooted in human resources, structure, process, policy and culture. The process of organisation learning takes place through nine steps (Lytras et al, 2008). The first and second are discovery and innovation which involves building up a system enabling it to make the right choices among innovative ideas. The third step is selecting process and activities so a better decision can be made. These three steps of learning involve changing one’s perception and thinking but learning also includes changing behaviour which leads to the fourth step which is executing ideas which were discovered. The fifth step is transferring the experience and ideas achieved by the team/departments to the rest...
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