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How social media reshapes action on distant customers: some empirical evidence

Deborah Agostino (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 investigate how centres of calculation, now emerging in connection with social media, impact on the process of acting on distant customers. Specifically, the authors are interested in exploring how the distance between the organization and its customer is affected and how knowledge is accumulated within this centre.


A case study in an Italian telecommunication company was conducted over a time horizon of two years, analysing data sources in the form of interviews, documents and reports, corporate website, social media platforms and participants’ observations. With the adoption of social media, the company configured a new centre of calculation, called monitoring room, in the attempt to accumulate knowledge about its customers. The authors unpacked the activity of the centre of calculation discussing its ability to perform action upon a distant periphery and the process of knowledge accumulation inside the centre itself.


The results highlight the implication of social media for “action at a distance”. On the one hand, social media blurs the distinction between the centre and a periphery giving rise to a de-centring, and stimulating a joint control activity between the customer and the organization. On the other hand, social media was found vulnerable in providing a unique knowledge about customers: accumulation cycles that exploit social media data can be replicated by users with skills in data analytics and the knowledge they provide might conflict with knowledge provided by traditional data.


The authors contribute to an emergent stream of literature that is investigating accounting implications derived from social media, by underlying the controversial effects connected with centres of calculation enacted by social media data. The authors suggest that, while social media data provide the organization with huge amount of information real time, at the same time, it contributes to de-centring allowing customers and external actors to act upon the organization, rather than improving knowledge inside the centre.



This paper forms part of the Accounting, Accountability, Social Media and Big Data: Revolution or Hype? Special issue.


Agostino, D. and Sidorova, Y. (2017), "How social media reshapes action on distant customers: some empirical evidence", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 777-794.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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