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The Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics: Honeycomb Framework

The following posting is reproduced from the entry by Sónia Pedro Sebastião in the Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics.

The honeycomb framework is a visual structure composed of several blocks in interdependence proposed by Jan Kietzmann, Kristopher Hermkens, Ian McCarthy, and Bruno Silvestre to help scholars and professionals understand how social media can be used as part of a communication strategy. This model emphasizes the functionality of Web social media, and may serve to understand the better way to include these instruments in a communication strategy showing comprehension with the ways that Web users use social media in their lives. The honeycomb framework presented by these scholars is based on the ideas of several bloggers, namely Stewart Butterfield, Peter Morville, and Gene Smith, who developed and combined ideas discussed by Matt Webb.

In nature, honeycomb cells in beehives are an example of geometric efficiency because the shape of the cells allows two opposing honeycomb layers to nest into each other, with each facet of the closed ends being shared by opposing cells. Applying this metaphor to Web social media and considering seven main attributes, Kietzmann,Hermkens, McCarthy, and Silvestre have defined functional blocks in interdependence. These blocks are:

·       Identity: Related to the information provided to identify users, and that reveals themselves or a constructed self. This self-disclosure may include data about sex, age, occupation, or preferences on a real or deceptive basis (to assure anonymity).

·       Conversations: Concerning the channels used to promote dialogue between users, that is, with means that allow talking in real or deferred time.

·       Sharing: Linked to the exchange, distribution, and reception of meaningful content by participants. Sharing may lead users to start conversations and establish relationships, depending on the functionality of the social media platform.

·       Presence: Related to ways of knowing who is available in the social media platform.

·       Relationships: Concerned with the information provided about the bonds that individuals form with each other (e.g., family and friends), through which they feel connected and exchange meaning.

·       Reputation: Related to the appreciation and trust of users to the social standing of participants and content, usually expressed in opinions.

·       Groups: Linked to the possibility that digital channels have to provide the creation of communities of users with common interests.

These functional building blocks are neither mutually exclusive nor present in all social media activity because they are constructs that show how different levels of social media functionality can be configured. The authors' proposition is motivated by the need to comprehend how citizens are consuming the Web and how its use is maturing, evolving, and changing through time thanks to the new communication landscape and broadening exposure to it.

Presently, a multiplicity of social media that differs in terms of scope and functionality may be found: Some are more massive, while others are more focused on a target, function, or purpose. This diversity may lead to reluctance or the inability to use social media in a strategic communication campaign and promote an effective engagement between the political actor and users (citizens or constituents). The honeycomb framework allows a systematic view of social media and illustrates the more suitable platforms according to the objectives of a communication campaign. It is a tool that serves several purposes; for example, it helps to define priorities, supports a modular approach to social media, and can serve as a looking glass, transforming how people see things and enabling new explorations.

The functionality of social media tools focuses on a combination of these blocks. For example, Facebook favors relationships, identity, and reputation, whereaschannels of video sharing (like YouTube or Vimeo) promote sharing and groupformation. Knowing the tools, their functionalities, reputations, and presence of the same users, organizations can define their communication strategies, which will depend on the market context.


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