What is Social Software ?

Social software [1] is a new paradigm that is spreading quickly in society, organizations and economics. It enables social business[2] that has created a multitude of success stories. More and more enterprises use social software to improve their business processes and create new business models. Social software is used both in internal and external business processes. Using social software, the communication with the customer is increasingly bi-directional. E.g. companies integrate customers into product development to capture ideas for new products and features. Social software also creates new possibilities to enhance internal business processes by improving the exchange of knowledge and information, to speed up decisions, etc.

Social software is based on four principles: weak ties, social production, egalitarianism and mutual service provisioning.

  • Weak ties [2]

Weak-ties  are spontaneously established contacts between individuals that create new views and allow combining competencies. Social software supports the creation of weak ties by supporting to create contacts in impulse between non-predetermined individuals

  • Social Production [3], [4]

Social Production  is the creation of artefacts, by combining the input from independent contributors without predetermining the way to do this. By this means it is possible to integrate new and innovative contributions not identified or planned in advance. Social mechanisms such as reputation assure quality in social production in an a posteriori approach by enabling a collective evaluation by all participants.

  • Egalitarianism [4]

Egalitarianism is the attitude of handling individuals equally. Social software highly relies on egalitarianism and therefore strives for giving all participants the same rights to contribute. This is done with the intention to encourage a maximum of contributors and to get the best solution fusioning a high number of contributions, thus enabling the wisdom of the crowds . Social software realizes egalitarianism by abolishing hierarchical structures, merging the roles of contributors and consumers and introducing a culture of trust.

  • Mutual Service Provisioning [5]

Social software abolishes the separation of service provider and consumer by introducing the idea, that service provisioning is a mutual process of service exchange. Thus both service provider and consumer (or better prosumer) provide services to one another in order co-create value . This mutual service provisioning contrasts to the idea of industrial service provisioning, where services are produced in separation from the customer to achieve scaling effects.

[1] R. Schmidt and S. Nurcan, “BPM and Social Software“ in BPM2008 Workshop Proceedings (Milano, 2008).

[2] D. Kiron, D. Palmer, A. N. Phillips, and N. Kruschwitz, „Social Business: What are Companies Really Doing ?“, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

[3] M.S. Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology,  vol. 78, 1973, S. 1360. 

[4] Y. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yale University Press, 2006.

[5] J. Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds, Anchor, 2005.

[6] S. Vargo, P. Maglio, und M. Akaka, “On value and value co-creation: A service systems and service logic perspective,” European Management Journal,  vol. 26, Juni. 2008, S. 145-152.