Archive for the 'Theory' Category

 

May 10 2009

The 4Cs Social Media Framework

by at 1:52 pm

The 4Cs Social Media Framework

The Need for the 4Cs Social Media Framework

Over the last year, I have had to explain how social media works to diplomats, defense officials, and academics and students focused on fields as diverse as international affairs, management and sociology.

I have found that first-timer find social media confusing because of two reasons.

The first reason is the excessive focus on specific social media tools. Many first-timers are introduced to social media via specific tools. Many ‘social media experts’ who are practitioners rather than thinkers also focus on specific tools. Since social media encompasses many different types of tools, and each tool has specific characteristics and a steep learning curve, a toolkit approach can quickly become overwhelming. Blogging (WordPress), microblogging (Twitter), video-sharing (YouTube), photo-sharing (Flickr), podcasting (Blog Talk Radio), mapping (Google Maps), social networking (Facebook), social voting (Digg), social bookmarking (Delicious), lifestreaming (Friendfeed), wikis (Wikipedia), and virtual worlds (Second Life) are all quite different from each other and new and hybrid tools are being introduced almost everyday. Mastering each tool individually seems like a lot of work and a lot of people give up even before they begin.

The second reason is a clear definition of what social media is, even within the social media community. Different thinkers and practitioners use different terms to describe similar tools and practices. Terms like social media, digital media, new media, citizen media, participatory media, peer-to-peer media, social web, participatory web, peer-to-peer web, read write web, social computing, social software, web 2.0, and even crowdsourcing and wikinomics can mean similar or slightly different things depending upon who is using it. Journalists, marketers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, software vendors and academics approach the space from their own perspectives and have their own preferred terms. Used precisely, these terms can mean very different things. However, very few people use these terms precisely and almost nobody agrees on the exact definition of these terms.

The 4Cs Social Media Framework

My own approach to social media is both tool-agnostic and terminology-agnostic. So, I use the term social media to encompass all the tools and all the practices that are described by the terms I mentioned above.

Instead of getting distracted by the tools and the terminologies, I focus on the four underlying themes in social media, the 4Cs of social media: Content, Collaboration, Community and Collective Intelligence. Taken together, these four themes constitute the value system of social media. I believe that the tools are transient, the buzzwords will change, but the value system embedded in these 4Cs is here to stay. So, let’s look at these 4Cs in some detail.

The First C: Content

The first C, Content, refers to the idea that social media tools allow everyone to become a creator, by making the publishing and distribution of multimedia content both free and easy, even for amateurs.

User generated content, and the hope of monetizing it through advertising, is at the core of the business model of almost all social media platforms. User generated content is also at the core of citizen journalism, the notion that amateur users can perform journalist-like functions (accidentally or otherwise) by reporting and commenting on news. Citizen journalists have repeatedly emerged as critical in crisis reporting and several citizen journalist platforms have emerged to harness their potential to report hyper-local news.

However, just because everyone can become a creator doesn’t mean that everyone does. Most users prefer to consume user generated content, by reading blog, watching videos, or browsing through photos. Some user curate user generated content, by tagging it on social bookmarking websites, voting for it on social voting websites, commenting on it, or linking to it. Researcher have found support for the 1:9:90 rule in many different contexts. The 1:9:90 rule says that 90% of all users are consumers, 9% of all users are curators and only 1% of the users are creators.

The Second C: Collaboration

The second C, Collaboration, refers to the idea that social media facilitates the aggregation of small individual actions into meaningful collective results.

Collaboration can happen at three levels: conversation, co-creation and collective action.

As consumers and curators engage with compelling content, the content becomes the center of conversations. Conversations create buzz, which is how ideas tip, become viral. Many social media practitioners who are from a marketing or public relations background are focused on creating conversations.

However, some of us recognize that conversations are a mere stepping stone for co-creation. In co-creation, the value lies as much in the curated aggregate as in the individual contributions. Wikis are a perfect example of co-creation. Open group blogs, photo pools, video collages and similar projects are also good examples of co-creation.

Collective action goes one step further and uses online engagement to initiate meaningful action. Collective action can take the form of signing online petitions, fundraising, tele-calling, or organizing an offline protest or event.

Even though conversations, co-creation and collective action are different forms of collaboration, the difficulty in collaborating increases dramatically as we move from conversations to co-creation to collective action. The key is to start with a big task, break it down into individual actions (modularity) that are really small (granularity), and then put them together into a whole without losing value (aggregating mechanism). It is also important to bridge online conversations into mainstream media buzz and online engagement into offline action.

The Third C: Community

The third C, Community, refers to the idea that social media facilitates sustained collaboration around a shared idea, over time and often across space.

The notion of a community is really tricky because every web page is a latent community, waiting to be activated. A vibrant community has size and strength, and is built around a meaningful social object.

Most people understand that a community that has a large number of members (size) who have strong relationships and frequent interactions with each other (strength) is better than a community which doesn’t. However, a community is more than the sum total of its members and their relationships.

People don’t build relationships with each other in a vacuum. A vibrant community is built around a social object that is meaningful for its members. The social object can be a person, a place, a thing or an idea. The Netroots community is built around progressive politics in America. The My Barack Obama community was built around Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The Obama Girl community was built around a series of videos Amber Lee Ettinger made to support Obama’s campaign. Sometimes, choosing the right social object can be crucial for building a vibrant community. HP can choose to build a community around printers, printing, or corporate careers, all of which will have very different characteristics.

The Fourth C: Collective Intelligence

The fourth C, Collective Intelligence, refers to the idea that the social web enables us to not only aggregate individual actions, but also run sophisticated algorithms on them and extract meaning from them.

Collective intelligence can be based on both implicit and explicit actions and often takes the form of reputation and recommendation systems. Google extracts the pagerank, a measure of how important a page is, from our (implicit) linking and clicking behavior. Amazon and Netflix are able to offer us recommendations based on our (implicit) browsing, (implicit) buying and (explicit) rating behavior and comparing it to the behavior of other people like us. eBay and Amazon assign ratings to sellers and reviewers respectively, based on whether other members in the community had a good experience with them. On the day of the 2008 US elections, the Obama campaign was able to assign trimmed down telecalling lists to volunteers by ticking off the names of the people who had already voted.

The great thing about collective intelligence is that it becomes easier to extract meaning from a community as the size and strength of the community grow. If the collective intelligence is then shared back with the community, the members find more value in the community, and the community grows even more, leading to a virtuous cycle.

The4Cs Social Media Framework in Summary

So, the 4Cs form a hierarchy of what is possible with social media. As we move from Content to Collaboration to Community to Collective Intelligence, it becomes increasingly difficult to both observe these layers and activate them. Also each layer is often, but not always, a pre-requisite for the next layer. Compelling content is a pre-requisite for meaningful collaboration, which is a pre-requisite for a vibrant community, which, in turn, is a pre-requisite for collective intelligence.

Although I designed the 4Cs framework to explain how I see social media, I have also found it to be a useful tools to evaluate specific social media initiatives. The best social media initiatives leverage all these four layers, but I have seen that most initiatives get stuck between the Collaboration and Community layers. Examples of social media initiatives that leverage the Community or Collective Intelligence layers are few and far between. It’s important to note, however, that each layer is valuable in itself, and it’s OK to design an initiative to only exploit the Content or Collaboration layers.

The 4Cs Social Media Framework Applied to Digital Activism

Let me explain what I just said my applying the 4Cs framework to digital activism initiatives.

Many digital activism initiatives like Social Documentary and Witness primarily focus on using social media tools to create and share compelling multimedia Content. Some of this Content generates Conversations and becomes viral and some of it might even lead to Collective Action. However, the focus is on Content.

Other initiatives, like Vote Report India or the Pink Chaddi Campaign, start off with a strong focus on Collaboration around a specific event. In its first iteration, Vote Report India leveraged Co-creation by creating a platform for collectively tracking irregularities in the 2009 Indian elections. The Pink Chaddi Campaign leveraged Collective Action by asking its supporters to send pink panties to the Sri Ram Sena as Valentine’s Day gifts. As these campaigns become successful, they try to move to the next Community level, but don’t always succeed in building a long-term community.

Very few digital activism initiatives are able to leverage the Community or Collective Intelligence layers. The Netroots community in the US, especially Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and MoveOn.org, have been able to build a strong Community around progressive politics in the US. My Barack Obama leverage some aspects of Collective Intelligence during the 2008 presidential campaign.

What About You?

If you are a social media practitioner or a digital activist focused on the Content and Collaboration layers, I would urge you to think about how you can move to the Community layer. If you already run a vibrant community, I would urge you to think about introducing reputation and recommendation systems in it and leverage the Collective Intelligence layer.

If you are designing a new social media initiative, I would urge you to use the 4Cs Framework in the design and strategy phase itself. Perhaps, in phase one, you would want to start with a campaign built around Content and focused on Collaboration, with elements of co-creation and/ or collective action. You would do well to plan for a phase two which is focused on Community, with a dash of Collective Intelligence built in. The question you want to ask yourself, then, is: how can I design a Collaboration based campaign so that it can be used to build a long-term Community?

If you are a journalist, analyst or academic in the business of understanding social media initiatives, you’ll find the 4Cs Framework really useful. What are the boundary conditions needed to succeed at each layer? What are the boundary conditions needed to move from Content to Collaboration, from Collaboration to Community, and from Community to Collective Intelligence? Can you think of other digital activism or social media initiatives that leverage the Community or Collective Intelligence layers?

Do share your thoughts.

Cross-posted at Gauravonomics, my blog on social media and social change.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Gaurav Mishra,Social Media,Theory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feb 02 2009

Studying Russia

by at 9:50 am

[To round out my research, I need to study the BRIC countries — however I realize I do not have the time to give them much more than a cursory look in all their dimensions:  demographics, political economy, sociography, history, culture, religion, etc.  So I thought if I were to look at them through the lens of how it might affect the expression of their cultures/countries online, that might be sufficient.

Now, please, I am not a regional expert by any means, so if I overgeneralize or say something blatantly wrong, please correct me in the comments but don’t take what I write personally — I’m only going off what I could find online, mainly through Wikipedia.  Here’s Russia’s Wikipedia page, for example.]

Russia

Government: Parag Khanna argues in “The Second World” that Gazprom, Russia’s oil corporation, controls Russia and the government, with Vladimir Putin running a revivalist, nationalist agenda.  It is, as Khanna says, a petrocracy, one that is acutely sensitive to oil prices.  Russia is not politically free, but it is economically free — if you’re rich, you’re living well.  The rest of the country has languished.  Journalists who have attempted to investigate the government have been intimidated or murdered.

International Affairs: Russia continues to be a formidable security presence, exerting its influence on former Soviet satellites and in throttling Europe’s exposure to natural gas and oil.  However, it seems reliant on Europe for investment, and is being trumped by China on its eastern borders.  Russia’s military has not benefited from oil/gas profits — thus its ability to exert leverage has become even more concentrated in its ability to control natural resources.  It can be argued that Russia now looks with embarrassment as China as a successful Communist model.

Demographics: According to Khanna, 2/3 of the Russian population lives near the poverty line.  Russia has an aging population that is emigrating from the country if possible.  It is still well-educated.  HIV/AIDS and other health problems have surfaced as health care systems languished.  Russia is in danger of losing its eastern provinces (providing most of its land mass) to China, whose economic success and cultural roots prove far more inviting.  3/4 of Russia’s economy is concentrated in Moscow.

Religion: Russian Orthodox 63%, agnostic 12%, atheist 13%, 6% Muslim.

Telecom: Russia has very low penetration, at 14%.  According to comScore, the Russian internet market grew 25% in 2007, making it one of the fastest-growing (and largest) markets in the world.

Social Media Usage:

In Russia, there are two major social networking sites (SNSs):  Odnoklassniki and vkontakte.  Odnoklassniki is primarily for students to find each other, while Vkontakte is a blatant Facebook rip-off.  Both have the same percentage reach of the overall internet market.  The difference is that Vkontakte users spend 689 average minutes on the site per month, whereas Odnoklassniki users only spend 120 average minutes on their site. (comScore)  This means that although both have similar statistics, Vkontakte usage is richer, and, in the long-run, will grow faster.

One blog post says,

“What’s more, some users try to demonstrate to their friends that they no longer use Odnoklassniki and have moved to Vkontakte by displaying a graphical image as their avatar or one of the photos reading “moved to Vkontakte” to avoid the automatic filters for the text messages – but such photos are quickly deleted by moderators of the network anyway.

“I have to admit this looks like a creative way to avoid migration of your users to your competitor but at the same time I have a feeling it should be frowned on at the very least. For example, I have seen Odnoklassniki buying ad space on Facebook to display to the Russian users and a Facebook advertising team representative told me that their ToS for the advertising program did not prevent competitors from paying to reach the users of the social network.”

Noticeable is that Facebook has almost no exposure in Russia, although it only added language localization in June of 2008.

Questions

Odnoklassniki seems on the surface to not be appealing in a broader sense than networking among students.  Facebook started off this way, however, but expanded for wider social networking.  Vkontakte is exploiting the success of Facebook, but in an inferior manner — fewer controls and features.

Furthermore, I disagree with the blog post that suggests the only option for Facebook is to buy its clone Vkontakte to take the users and grab much of the Russian market.  I would predict that if Russia’s integration into the larger internet community grows, Facebook will quickly syphon users away from Vkontakte.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Ben Turner,Context,Culture,Russia,Social Media,Theory

Dec 22 2008

On Negative Identity

by at 2:21 pm

Over on my reputation research blog, I wrote a post that applies to our Yahoo! work too.

It’s on the concept of “negative identity”:  perhaps social identity formation consists of an element of defining yourself by what you are not.  That is, you don’t always actively define your identity in terms of all the things you like to do, but instead, by who you are not and by what you don’t like.

Most social networking sites tend to allow users to define themselves only by what they are:  that is, what are your favorite hobbies, music, movies, etc.?  Who are your friends?  But you don’t really use social groups on social networking sites to keep other groups out, do you?

Anyway, check my post out.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Ben Turner,Culture,Privacy,Theory

Dec 12 2008

Exponential Times

by at 12:49 pm

Watch this video on how technology is affecting our world (thanks to Itzbeth for the link!):

Not that readers of this blog are unaware of this, but we live in exponential times where technology is pulling us kicking and screaming into a future that our cultural institutions are not equipped to deal with yet.

Be fast, be flexible, be adaptable.  The stats on labor (many of today’s top jobs did not exist a decade ago, and the number of jobs in one’s career is skyrocketing compared to past generations) are impressive within the context of a collapse in an American auto industry that guaranteed pensions to its retirees.

Also the massive growth within the BRIC countries will add new layers of complexity, ingenuity, and vectors for innovation that we can’t imagine right now. Perhaps through social networking sites will be the only way that we will be able to organize and visualize the enormous changes in ways that we can process. Old traditions and institutions will be tested, but we will have to rely on an underlying value system that those old institutions previously provided to keep some sort of semblance of stability and order.

That’s a lot of what this blog and our research is about.

One response so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Ben Turner,BRIC,Culture,Social Change,Theory

Nov 02 2008

Hypotheses About Privacy Attitudes

by at 5:57 pm

We have found a lot of conflicting data in our research, as Gaurav expressed in his last post on Flickr privacy settings worldwide.  Brazil and India seem to favor Orkut, despite differing Geert-Hofstede attitudes towards uncertainty avoidance.  Universal McCann found that Americans seem to have fewer contacts and socialize far less online than the BRIC countries, which is odd given that online social networks had a head-start in the US.

In my research model, I am seeing how transparency is the positive compromise between closedness and openness.  Geert-Hofstede and Hall’s high- and low- contexts don’t seem to explain different countries’ behaviors satisfactorily.  I think my model, which breaks down openness and closedness into different aspects of peoples’ lives, like personal, financial, political, health, etc., helps to explain the contrasts far better, or at least leads me down a more productive line of research.

There is little data to go off since this study is new.  I’m not sure we have the time or money to conduct our own surveys or research.  But I’d like to hypothesize a bit on what I think is going on regarding social networking in the US and BRIC countries.

Facebook

For starters, Facebook is taking over the planet (see the SNS map Gaurav posted earlier).  In just three months of statistics, Facebook has overtaken the incumbent SNS in 12 different countries.  The only other SNS to take over a country is hi5, a self-titled “international social networking company with a local flavor”.  Interestingly, Gaurav pointed out to me that it is a San Francisco-based company, but it was started by Indians who moved to SF just to be part of the cluster.  According to the Oxyweb SNS map, Myspace is still the leader in the US over Facebook, which says something about how young Facebook is.

Furthermore, the two top SNSs in Russia and China are virtual identical clones of Facebook in most aspects.  This says something about the pervasiveness of Facebookism.  Imitation is flattery.

So if I were to look ahead into the future, I would have to see Facebook dominating the rest.  No other SNS offers as many privacy controls, and while Gaurav insightfully points out that Brazilians and Indians may prefer fewer settings because they are so social, what is most important to me is that Facebook is already thinking the most deeply about what the future will mean for personal data control, privacy, and security.

Facebook is also creating the most sophisticated application platform out there, even if it hasn’t monetized as quickly as iTunes’s application store or Google’s upcoming Android stores.  It has barely even begun to open up its data through Facebook Connect, yet it’s already sucking up tons of data from other sites through its import features.

Listening to Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, speak about social networking, you get the feeling that very few people understand as well as he does where this is all going.  Public outcries towards Beacon were a surprise to him, because in his mind, it makes more sense if your friends or at least people you trust recommend individual products or brands to you instead of behavioral marketing guesses at what you might like.

I think Facebook will take over because it’s building all the pieces for the future SNS world.  While open data control platforms will allow us to jailbreak and move from one SNS to the other easily, what we will begin to value is whichever SNS offers us the best features.  No one competes with Facebook in that regard, already.

Privacy Attitudes

So if I am to wonder why Americans are more “private” than the BRIC countries, I hypothesize that it’s because Americans desire personal privacy most, and are not as suspicious of political privacy.  That is, even after eavesdropping scandals, most Americans generally believe that they can voice their opinions about the government.  However, what Americans seem most deathly afraid of is privacy from employers, peers, and co-workers.  This has manifested itself in Facebook’s privacy controls, and a continual onslaught of outcries relating to personal privacy.  I would guess that Americans fear a loss of reputation within their professional community more than in their national community.  Americans talk a lot of potential employers reading their social networking profiles.

I am thinking there might be two key spheres that affect decision-making then:  privacy from government and privacy from society (personal privacy).  In my model, health, sexual, and financial privacy would be subsets of personal privacy.  Political privacy would stand on its own.  Are there subsets of political privacy?

Contrast the US obsession with personal privacy with Chinese internet users.  I would assume that not only are Chinese internet users more biased towards well-educated, fairly well-off people than the US online population is, but they also fear actions from their governments more, based on the government actively monitoring what they might post online.  This would not change the fact that Chinese are highly social, are very well-connected, and indeed are even far more comfortable meeting strangers online than Americans, whose friend networks are primarily comprised of people they know in person.

And contrast it with Russians, who not only may fear repression by their government for speaking out, but are also less social than Brazil and India.

India could be seen as both highly social and also not afraid of government action.  And Brazil would be highly social (Gaurav calls Indians and Brazilians “hyper-social”), but Brazilians seem somewhat afraid of government action (see their recent wiretapping scandals).

Personal and Political Privacy

Hypothesis Model: Personal and Political Privacy

If these generalizations (and I realize they are highly generalized!) hold, then that would put Brazil and China in the same quadrant, but obviously at different degrees.

Moving Forward

This model seems to present a lot fewer contradictions for me, but I do not want this to seem like blatant stereotypes.  The model still leaves a lot of questions.

To what degree are Brazilians afraid of their government?  They have had a lot of eavesdropping scandals, but to what degree does the individual care?

Why are Russians seen as being less personally open?

Is there any hard data on any of this?

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Ben Turner,BRIC,Culture,Privacy,Theory

Oct 07 2008

Social Technologies and National Contexts

by at 6:20 pm

When you are doing an interdisciplinary study of social technologies across four countries, it is important to focus on the connections between otherwise unrelated factors, and it is useful to develop a framework to look for these connections.

Here’s the framework we have been using for our research on social media in BRIC countries —

The Connection Between Social Technologies and National Contexts

The outer circle is the national context, which comprises of the five interconnected Cs of computing devices, connectivity, culture, content and capabilities. The inner circle is the social media ecosystem itself. Our research, which looks at the connections between the two, has three layers —

Layer 1: The role of the national context in social media adoption
Layer 2: The dynamics of the social media ecosystem
Layer 3: The role of social media in changing the social context

Finally, the national contexts we are looking at are the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and United States (as a reference point). Continue Reading »

One response so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Announcements,Gaurav Mishra,Theory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 07 2008

The Three Laws of Networked Technologies

by at 11:24 am

While reading through chapter 2 of Howard Rheingold’s ‘Smart Mobs’, I started thinking about how the three laws of networked technologies (Sarnoff’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law) relate to social media in BRIC countries —

1. Sarnoff’s Law: The value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of viewers (n).

2. Metcalfe’s Law: The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n2).

3. Reed’s Law: The value of a group forming network (or a social network) increases exponentially, proportional to 2 raised to the power the number of users in the network (2n).

In Sarnaff’s network, the only communication possible is one-to-many. In Metcalfe’s network, the only communication possible is one-to-one. In Reed’s network, all types of communication are possible, including one-to-one, many-to-many and some-to-some, so it’s effectively any-to-any. Continue Reading »

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,BRIC,Gaurav Mishra,Theory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,