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The three C's of social media.

The debate is over: Social media is the new paradigm for business and personal communication. But amid the frenzied debate of who should and shouldn't, what to do and what not to do, and why and why not, marketers should not lose sight of some key principles.

Attempting to concretely describe the constantly evolving field of social media--particularly the multitude of potential business applications and their relative return as compared with other activities--can be difficult. Anecdotes abound, but what organizing theories, if any, are applicable to a medium that represents so drastic a societal shift?

To me, one useful way to consider social media is not in the context of the future (i.e., what is new and possible, or what unmet needs can social media fill of which we are not yet even aware?), but of the past (i.e., how have we formed relationships--particularly our strongest relationships--over time, and what lessons can we learn from experience?). Thought of in this way, the concepts of connectivity, connection and connections are relevant--and are far from being as synonymous as the words imply.

Connectivity. The notion that every person, company or institution is linked through some form of centralized infrastructure. But what is this infrastructure and how does it link things together? Ties financial, technological, cultural and behavioral all have roles to play in defining connectivity over our history. While modes have changed and evolved over time, the underlying concept of connectivity --finding ways to position oneself to make connections--remains a strong human need. Some would say an unconscious physiological force. How is social media altering our historic notion of connectivity?

Connections. If connectivity is at once the impetus for connection as well as the common platform, then connections are the specific relationships--distant or near, lasting or ephemeral, individual or collective--that make up our world. Family, friends, colleagues, community, politics, hobbies and recreational pursuits all represent connections that must be identified, catalogued, fostered, used, maintained, renewed and, sometimes, broken. Should we reassess our existing connections in light of social media?

Connection. Not merely the singular of connections, connection is a measure of relationship strength and depth. Are parties using a common language? Has understanding been gained or enhanced? What benefits accrue to each party besides just being connected? Does investment in building connection--by traditional means as well as through social media--produce a multiplier effect?

LMA will soon embark on a social media listening campaign. I look forward to what we learn, and to continuing this conversation with you. ?

Nathan Darling,, 202/298-1890, Twitter: @nathandarling (also see #LMA)

Nathan Darling, LMA Presiden
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Title Annotation:President's Podium
Author:Darling, Nathan
Publication:Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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