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David Weinberger, author and senior researcher, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, kicked off ILM East 2011 with an opening keynote focusing on use of social media by local businesses to pursue conversations, engagement and customer acquisition. Weinberger argued that, “the Net has a unique property in its creation of a nexus of information, communication and sociality. Nothing else does this.”

This nexus begets the inevitability of “locality” or localness in the social utility of the Net. People care intensely about what’s local and what they’re interacting with.

Weinberger offered three imperatives for local businesses using social media and the Net:

  1. Align your interests with those of  customers — it’s a conversation not a monologue.
  2. Figure out how to add value to the consumer’s online experience. It’s hard for consumers to “add value” to search engines (services, making broader Web more usable, better reflection of customer interests).
  3. Get out of the way — enable customers to add their own value; they know what they want. Quoting from his book “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” Weinberger reminded the audience that, “Markets are conversations — connected, real, out of control.” Social media should support this.

Weinberger’s final advice was that Net users feel that this “medium is profoundly and deeply ‘ours’ based on what we care about.” Fail to respect this at your peril.

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