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One of the core values of the Carlson School is fostering community. We bring together students from all walks of life; we collaborate with businesses and academic researchers both near and afar; and we maintain close, lifelong ties with our growing body of alumni. In many respects, these relationships are what motivate us. They inspire us with the desire to succeed because, in the end, our interconnections make us all accountable to each other.

Connectivity is also at the heart of the social media revolution. And it is powerful. World-shaking events are relayed across the globe in 140 characters or fewer with no buffer between the source and the audience. Grass roots efforts spring up almost immediately to protest or support a given issue. And consumers no longer view businesses as faceless entities; they demand dialogue.

As social media continues to grow and thrive, think of all the data that is generated—persons’ demographic characteristics, their lifestyle habits, and their likes and dislikes. So much information is available for mining that it would take several lifetimes to capture it all. However, go a step further. Can we leverage social media to conduct new research, collect new data, and find answers to new social science questions? That, as you’ll discover in the following pages, is the goal of SOBACO.

SOBACO, the Social Media and Business Analytics Collaborative, is a new University of Minnesota-wide initiative designed to tap into the rippling waters of the digital river and extract new knowledge. Housed at the Carlson School, SOBACO’s tools are the social media platforms we all know and use; its research subjects are potentially anyone connected—hundreds of millions, including, quite possibly, you and I. In this issue, we present an overview of SOBACO and its vision and goals. It is currently seeking corporate connections. So if your company is actively interested in new media research, now is a great time to get involved.

While SOBACO is new, the world of social media is, of course, not and our faculty has been studying it since day one. You will read about some of the most recent research in this realm, such as trust levels in web communities and how online information can weaken brand performance.

Many of our alumni, no matter the discipline they studied at the Carlson School, have become heavily involved in social media as part of their jobs. We have asked several of them to tell us about their experiences and provide us with some insights they have gleaned in this ever-changing electronic environment.

As a final note, I would like to add that I personally value making and maintaining connections, especially with Carlson School alumni and friends. During the last few months, I have attended several gatherings and have had an opportunity get to meet many of you. For those of you who could not attend these events or desire to continue an open dialogue, I encourage you to visit my blog which is always open for you to view and comment.

Sri Zaheer, Dean
Elmer L. Andersen Chair in Global Corporate Social Responsibility

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