Monday, February 2, 2009

What is Social Media?

Definitions often differ depending on the source. Ask any two people what "green" means and you'll get two different answers. "Social media" is no different.

Much like "sustainability," "green,"
"conservation" and "eco-friendly" are interchangeable to the average person, so are "Web 2.0," "new media," "blogging" and "social media." Social media can refer to anything from MySpace to my phone. Seriously, you could fit King Kong under that umbrella.

Wikipedia defines social media as "primarily Internet and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings." Although as broad and undefining a definition as that may be (I love the use of "primarily"), it is overall a safe synopsis.

That said, do you ever get the feeling this is a fad term? One of those phrases that's all-encompassing because nobody "owns the market" yet, hence it hasn't been branded and defined? I do.

Part of the problem with defining social media is that it's the sum of many individual parts, or media "micro-markets":

Even these micro-markets are not set in stone. Over time they'll shape shift and shrink as players fight to the death for social media supremacy. While they all may have unique features within unique categories, as with any market, the invisible hand will smack them around until only a few select sites claim the majority of visitors. We've already seen this happen with search engines...

As this digital Darwinian evolution continues over the next few years, definitions will change and "social media" and its many parts will become more clear. In the meantime, the number of social media sites will continue to increase daily, with definitions emerging and expiring all the while. Give it time and we'll get our real definition.

Other resources and defintions:

Just What is Scoial Media, Exactly?
Social Media Marketing Campaigns: How to Set goals and Define Your Target Market
Social Media in Plain English (YouTube video)

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