What is Social Media?

Posted: 14/12/2011 in Social Networking/ Social Media, Strategy, Technology

I know that you‟re ready to jump right in and start building a social media strategy. Before we do this, it is essential that you understand what social media is and why so many people are using it. Let‟s start with a definition. According to Wikipedia,


“Social media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one too many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use.”


Wow, that‟s a lot of information! So let‟s break it down into its 3 main components: publishing, information diffusion, and relationship building.

Social Media: A Publishing Technology for Everyone

Social media is unlike any other technology in history. It has created a modern-day renaissance for several reasons, which are broken down here:


Social media is online


Social media is something that takes place online. It is a type of communication that takes place outside of in-person meetings, phone calls, or foot traffic. That means social media is location-independent, which makes it a valuable part of any company‟s business strategy.


Social media is user-generated


Content used to be something that very few people created. Reporters, TV anchors, movie directors, authors, radio DJs, and magazine editors created content, and everyone else consumed it. Now, everyone is a publisher, and the people who use the content are also the ones who create it.


Social media is highly accessible and scalable


Social media is highly accessible and scalable to the public, which means that social media has lots of users and offers plenty of opportunity for companies. Because social media is easy to access, the tools for social media are easy and intuitive enough for the common person to use. Even if you don‟t use social media now, there‟s no reason not to jump in!

Social Media: A Way to Diffuse Information

No other existing media is capable of diffusing information faster than social media. Here‟s why:


Social media is a shift in how people discover, read, and share news, media, and content


Television and newspapers areno longer king when it comes to filtering and sharing news. People are more likely to get their news by reading Trending Topics on Twitter, and they are more likely to share a link to a friend‟s blog post than MSN‟s homepage.

Social media is a fusion of sociology and technology


Social media is user-controlled, which means that sociologic components play a large role in any company‟s social media business strategy. The limits of social media are only set by the limits of the technology of social media tools.


Social media is a dialogue


At one time, companies had a monologue with its customers. Companies put out television commercials or print ads about its products and waited to see whether the sales rolled in to determine success rates. Now, social media allows companies to have a dialogue with its customers and gain valuable feedback and input as it creates the message.


Social media is the democratization of information


Information and messaging for a company was once controlled by its marketing and sales departments. Now, with the democratization of information, no one owns the message about a product or company. Every company must become part of the conversation or risk letting users become the voice of the company.

Social Media: A Way to Build Relationships by Sharing

Humans are interesting in that the way they build relationships is through sharing. It may be sharing something that happened in their personal lives, or it may be sharing something funny on TV. Sharing is an essential component of social media, so let‟s break it down into parts:

Social media is people connecting with others


Social media allows each person to connect with others, which means most of the messaging a person receives is from his or her network. It‟s essential for companies to learn to network with its customers in order to promote the company message.


Social media is content readers become content publishers


Content readers are not only consumers. Social media allows content readers to become content publishers. In this way, social media allows content readers to share the content with their own network of followers by publishing or republishing the message in their own words.


Social media is forming relationships for personal, political, and business use


Social media is not just about content or messaging in a different format. Social media is about relationships. For companies, social media is about creating a more personal relationship with end-consumers to build a network around a service or product.

It is clear that there are many components to social media, but the best way to understand social media is to just try it. I hope by now you‟re excited to see what social media can do for your business!


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