Convergence of Push/Pull Models of Knowledge Collection

Knowledge Management and Social Media: An Analysis of the Convergence of Push/Pull Models of Knowledge Collection and Presentation

The emergence of social media as a tool for generating and sharing information has implications for how organizations communicate with their employees, stakeholders and customers. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) suggest that until the rise of social media, organizations were in a powerful position to control the information that was publicly available about them. As Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) point out, the usual model in the 1990s involved the use of corporate homepages in which content was pushed in one direction from the organization to the recipient. However, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) reveal that the Internet evolved into (or they might suggest returned to its roots as) a platform for the free-flow of information in which new tools facilitated a more social experience where content is pushed and pulled through two-way interaction.

In their study of the traditional systems and concepts of Knowledge Management (KM), Alavi and Leidner (2001) suggest that one of the purposes of a Knowledge Management System (KMS) is to act as a tool that assists the user in acquiring and understanding information. Further, Alavi and Leidner (2001) purport that it is the role of Information Technology (IT) specialists within an organization to facilitate the process of transforming information (processed/interpreted data) into usable knowledge (personalized information) that can be searched and retrieved on demand. As Alavi and Leidner (2001) suggest, the greatest challenge in traditional KM is extracting and making explicit the tacit knowledge from across all members of the organization. As one of their suggestions for the evolving role of IT in KM, Alavi and Leidner (2001) encouraged the development of knowledge networks in which members of an organization use social and collaborative processes and tools such as online forums to facilitate discussion and share experiences. McInerney (2002) reinforces the practical use of emerging technology by encouraging managers and staff to constantly look for tools and practices that improve a collaborative culture of sharing knowledge. It is this theme of sharing and collaboration that bridges the gap between (the push model of) KM and the inescapable ubiquity of (the push/pull model of) social media on the Internet today.

To provide historical context around how social media has come to engender a new collaborative paradigm for knowledge sharing, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) describe the evolution of the term “Open Diary” (p. 60) (comprised of a community of online diary writers) into the subsequent “weblog” (p. 60) and the final “blog” (p. 60). Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) describe the rise of social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, that led to the coining of the phrase “social media” (p. 60). In explaining social media, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) further describe two other associated concepts: Web 2.0 and User Generated Content (UGC) (p. 61).

As Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) suggest, Web 2.0 was an ideological shift in which content would be open to modification and commentary by all users instead of being created and controlled by just one. As listed by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) Web 2.0 introduced the platform for evolving social media through tools such as blogs, wikis (collaborative web site content), Adobe Flash (allows animation in web sites), Really Simple Syndication, or RSS (web feeds for content that is updated frequently such as news headlines) and AJAX (Asynchronous Java Script which allows portions of web pages to be updated without reloading the entire page). UGC is described by Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) as all publicly available user-generated content that exhibits creativity and attempts to target a commercial audience.

One Web 2.0 method that Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) discuss that comes closest to integrating KM and social media are collaborative projects which allow users to add, modify and delete content added by other users. The best example of a collaborative project that Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) point out is Wikipedia where encyclopedic information is constantly maintained by a worldwide user base. However, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) do warn that because information can be modified by anyone, the content may not always be accurate. Yet, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) reveal that many companies are using collaborative projects for both internal and customer-facing initiatives in which employees and customers can collaborate on content. Risky as it may seem, Kaplan and Haenlin (2010) point out that organizations like Nokia and Adobe are experiencing high adoption rates of these tools as they attempt to model a push/pull model of information collection and presentation.


Alavi, Maryam T., Leidner, Dorothy E. (2001). Knowledge management and knowledge managements systems: conceptual foundations and research issues. MIS Quarterly, 25 (1) 107-136.

McInerney, Claire. (2002). Knowledge management and the dynamic nature of knowledge. Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology, 53 (12) 1009-1018.