Before you drink the Kool-Aid and recognize you can’t afford wasting time with social media, take a step back and understand what social media is — and what it is not.
If Wikipedia is the king of definitions then social media is “used to describe media which are formed mainly by the public as a group, in a social way, rather than media produced by journalists, editors and media conglomerates,” stated the human-written encyclopedia in July 2006.
That wasn’t good enough for Joseph Thornley, who, in April 2008, wrote of his frustration with Wikipedia’s changing definition and developed his own:
Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding, to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests.
Simpler, social media uses “technology combined with social interaction to create or co-create value,” suggested John Jantsch in September 2008.
I included Joseph’s and John’s definitions in a similar-veined article on social media last year. Is it time for a revision? Let me know in the comment section below.
At workshops I conduct, I reference Christopher Penn’s diagram of old media (TV, radio, newspapers) and new media (comment-less blogs, podcasts, YouTube); and indicate social media is essentially new media that enables commenting, collaborating, and (as Amber Naslund reminded me today) reengineering.
Angela Siefer pleases the eye with a simple sentence that teases you into a longer elaboration if you click that link:
Social media is a collaborative means of sharing information online.
Ditto for Hayden Sutherland who includes this bit:
Social media are online functionality that support the human need for social interaction.
Are their single sentences sufficient for you? They better be because we are living in a progressive, innovative, and time-crunched world where it behooves you to memorize and recite definitions quickly.