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It is now well-documented that social media can play an important role in supporting the innovation process. Social approaches are most commonly thought to be useful in either idea generation, as in open innovation approaches, or in idea diffusion. However, while the connection between social media and innovation success has been established, the mechanics of how social media supports innovation are less well understood. This is the issue that we investigate in this chapter. We use data from two case studies. One firm has been very successful in using social media to support organizational innovation, the other less so. After describing the cases in some detail, we discuss how social media use affects all phases of the innovation process. We then also look at how social media use addresses innovation capability at an individual level. We draw several conclusions and key learnings from the data presented. It appears as though social media best supports innovation when social approaches are effectively integrated into the day-to-day activities of an organisation. Instead of simply “adding some social” and hoping to see improvements, the use of social media must be integrated with the strategy and objectives of the firm. The selection of the best social media channels to use then follows from this integration with strategy. There is no absolute must-use channel—the correct tools will depend on the value proposition and target market of the organisation. At a personal level, social media can be leveraged to strengthen important innovation capabilities, such as exploration, connection and network building. Using social media to support innovation is only worth the effort for both organisations and individuals when there is a clear outcome desired, accompanied by a suitable strategy for reaching these objectives.
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