Socio-economic Assessment of the Benefits of Social Networks for Organisations


Starting date: January 2012

Duration: 20 months (Final deliverable: August 2013)

Background: Web 2.0 has grown considerably over the past 5-10 years. Blogs, wikis, Really Simple Syndication (RSS), Social Networking Sites (SNS) and Social Media (SM) are just some of the technologies that have flourished during the popularisation of the web. Policy makers are particularly interested in organisations' use of SNS and SM, partly because of the capacity of these technologies to facilitate communication and collaboration within and across user communities. The technologies are also interesting because they can add value beyond traditional e-commerce activities by enabling the formation of virtual customer environments.

Objective: In light of the growing importance of SNS and SM to society and the economy this project sets out to assess how these technologies and platforms benefit organisations. It explores organisations from industry as well as public administration, with the aim of establishing a core understanding – and subsequent policy options – to catalyse the adoption and effective use of collaborative platforms by European organisations.

Description: The project consists of two phases.

The first phase aimed to analyse the current market situation for a limited number of stakeholders, identify and analyse best practices for these selected stakeholders, and define and prioritise related policy options.

The second phase, which has already started, will analyse the current situation with regard to SNS and SM and their role in promoting business activity, develop scenarios of future evolution of SNS and SM (including foreseen challenges and impact), and identify barriers and bottlenecks for making the use of these technologies and platforms attractive for businesses. A survey with 600 SMEs is taking place in order to identify current use of SNS and SM in 6 European countries.


Policy relevance

If Europe is to achieve a decade of smarter, greener and more inclusive growth, as outlined in its "Europe 2020" strategy, it will need to unleash all the potential afforded by information and communications technology (ICT). The European Union is aware of this and has included a specific action point in its flagship initiative on all matters relating to ICT: the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE).

ICTs constitute a growing, R&D-intensive sector of the economy, but they also facilitate growth in other sectors of the economy. You do not need to be in an ICT sector to benefit from advances in such technology. ICTs empower businesses and helps them grow. While this is true for all kinds of companies, its effect is most dramatic on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ICTs challenge established economies of scale by offering SMEs the opportunity to reach beyond their borders, to reach a larger audience in a more targeted way, to link across countries, to have more streamlined and effective means of production, and so forth. Without fully capturing the benefits of ICTs, European SMEs stand little chance of developing and competing in the global marketplace.

In particular, the impact of the Internet on the EU's economic growth and job creation is set to increase over the next years. Above all, the web is expected to have an impact on both jobs creation and a more efficient use of resources. Eventually, the web will help connect the whole EU society to the digital world bringing about 'digital living'. The DAE, which includes more than 100 distinct actions, calls for the Commission to reinforce the activities bringing together stakeholders around common research agendas. In particular, DAE Action 54 aims to 'work with stakeholders to develop a new generation of web-based applications and services, including for multilingual content and services, by supporting standards and open platforms and by enhancing the quality of services delivered through EU-funded programmes'. In essence, Action 54 of the DAE calls for action at the EU level to find a common ground to enable web-based companies in Europe, and in particular European SMEs offering services through SNS and SM, to become leaders in their segment.

Recognising the importance of the strategic use of SNS and SM to Europe's economy, there will be a session dedicated to these very issues at the Digital Agenda Assembly in June 2012. This session will bring together practical experiences and insights from practitioners, and aims to establish stakeholder commitments for jobs and growth.





Related Events

Phase 2



Phase 1


5-minute presentation by participants



Project Team:

Michail Batikas:

René van Bavel:

Ioannis Maghiros: