To read this content please select one of the options below:

Governing social media: the emergence of hybridised boundary objects

Michela Arnaboldi (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Giovanni Azzone (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)
Yulia Sidorova (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the processes whereby organisational actors can seize the opportunities opened up through social media, and the way in which the relative information is managed. This allows these actors to move their occupational boundaries, exploiting the information for performance measurement purposes. The investigation was carried out within an organisational setting, where most occupational dynamics take place. The focus was on the role of artefacts within these occupational dynamics and the analysis drew upon the notion of boundary objects.


The research was based on case studies involving two organisations that make use of social media within and across several departments. The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with social media managers, department managers, analysts and financial controllers and senior executives. The results of the qualitative analysis of the interviews were completed with secondary sources of information, company reports, communications, public policies, codes of conduct and social media platform analyses.


This paper has implications for accounting studies, showing how marketing and communications managers entering the field of performance management can take the lead in social media management by collecting information from social media, constructing indicators and gaining ground in several decision-making centres. The findings highlight the role of new artefacts and organisational roles, whose purpose is to build a digital community. This process involves crossing the boundaries between internal functions and the inside and outside environment, with a driving phenomenon becoming visible: hybridisation. Faced with this change, reluctant accountants with a traditional mindset are more likely to observe the process at a distance, focusing more on their routine operations based on conventional data.


This paper shows that information derived from social media is already a reality that has gained significance through the construction of boundary objects. The paper highlights a driving phenomenon that is emerging in the surge to occupy the organisational terrain for controlling social media: that of hybridisation. The concept of hybridisation is not new in management accounting studies, but in this study can be applied to carrying out a joint analysis on both the boundary objects and their organisational trajectory. In the context of social media accounting, hybridisation is of central importance if both actors and objects are to be effectively positioned at its boundary.



The support of CIMA General Charitable Trust is gratefully acknowledged. This paper forms part of the Accounting, Accountability, Social Media and Big Data: Revolution or Hype? Special issue.


Arnaboldi, M., Azzone, G. and Sidorova, Y. (2017), "Governing social media: the emergence of hybridised boundary objects", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 821-849.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles