The Four C’s of Social Networks…Or Know Your Snake Oil.

Hopefully by now if you have stayed with me on the journey of Social Media Networks for Businesses, you will have seen that the for a company to be involved it is so much more than just grabbing a twitter account and slapping together a Facebook page. The world of social media has become so much more involved than the first days of Web 1.0 and is always changing.

Social Media Networks are not just an outward facing phenomenon. Businesses are more than ever using various social media tools and technologies to add values to their operations. This is having a profound effect on how people work and businesses of knowledge management. However it’s very easy to become quickly overwhelmed with technical information and jingoistic hype when it
comes to established or emergent social networks. P2P streaming, API’s, Vines, Loops, Emojis
the list of terms and characteristics referring to each goes on and on.

One of the ways businesses can start to approach this problem strategically is to attempt to move away from this framework of jargon and hyperbole. A more measured approach is to evaluate options based on the pure functionality required to achieve the results you need. To put it another way. A tractor and a Lamborghini both have four wheels and can be described in equally positive terms. But you would only choose the tractor to work your fields if you wanted to get the job done right!

In recent times the concept of the Fours C’s, a concept create by Niall Cook, has been generally been regarded as an excellent guide to establishing the functionally of a social network. Cook defines his Four C’s as.

  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Connection

On first scan of these, it may seem that there is a reasonable amount of overlap in some of the areas each “C” looks at. I think in fairness this is a valid point. But there is also enough separation between each one, allowing a business to establish its strategy with either internal or external Social Media Networks. Looking  at each one in turn will help to explain this further.

Communication – Does the software allow people to communicate with each other and if so, how? Is it synchronously or asynchronously. What method does it use, text, pictures, video or perhaps only audio? A business may decide from this that a text-based instant messaging service might be something they want as an organisation.

Cooperation – This does have similarities with collaboration below. But there are key differences. For the platforms business will be looking into, cooperation is seen as informal (more on this later) and short-term. It is the tools and systems that allow sharing of content and the division of labour. Knowledge is shared and gained but perhaps not a common goal.

Collaboration – As above there are similarities, Collaboration however is far more formal and structures. It also tends to be long-term. The knowledge gained and shared is towards a common goal and in fact the point of the exercise is often the information gained by the process.

Connection – Probably the easiest to define. Connection will be the tools of platforms that allow social networking to occur. Be it people, content or both.

Running a companies goals through this series of Four C’s helps businesses understand whether or not the software or approach they are taking is right for them. However there is another part to this that was alluded to above. That is the idea of formal and informal, along with levels of interaction. Every one of the Four’ C’s above sits somewhere either high or low within these concepts of a strongly formal or informal approach and high levels of interactivity required
versus low. The easiest way to represent this is with the matrix diagram below.

The 4 C's Matrix

The 4 C’s Matrix

This classification of each individual networks functionality, strengths and weaknesses can help a business to understand where it’s culture and objective sits against the tools and platforms it maybe looking to deploy. The figure below further helps to define some of the technologies and software available and where the sit in relations to the Four C’s

4csapproachfiguresocialsoftware

Just Some Options for Businesses Charted Against the Matrix

It is crucial to remember though, that this is just one concept of how businesses can look to addresses understanding their needs. Their are of course differing opinions, Sean Nelson puts forward his own idea of the For C’s as he sees them. Also something to consider is, is it really possible to have collaborative tools that span huge global companies? There can be such huge cultural differences when it comes to implementation that the one tool that works for one country does not for  another. Business is operation more often though in multiple markets across multiple countries so this is an issue that will only become more relevant as outsourcing and global trade deals increase. Costs, culture, appropriateness, implementation are just some of the challenges that firms face, but obviously the benefits that these platforms and networks offer can be huge!

The challenges that truly global collaboration produces may not have a current solution. Perhaps whoever solves this problem is the next Steve Jobs!

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