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Definition of Social Media? Social Media is ________ ? (fill the blank)

October 5th, 2009 Comments

Several days ago, Stephen Nold on LinkedIn posed the question “Social media is ________? (fill in the blank)”.
Roger Harris, an independent social communications consultant has reviewed the 68 answers posted on LinkedIn and came up with the following results:

A word cloud of the 68 responses reflects the business orientation of most LinkedIn users. From the cloud of responses, social media looks to be “marketing communications that reach people as individuals.”

tag cloud social media definition linkedin

he continues by saying:

‘But the LinkedIn respondents show no evident consensus on defining social media. Moreover, what about social media that is not about marketing? This got me thinking. Do we need to define social media? If so, can we agree on a definition?

Social media seems a simple enough idea. But it can be hard to sell to colleagues and C-suites who see it as just a fad, something that teens do. So maybe we do need a definition.’

David Cushman who last Friday was giving a conference Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Social Media But Were Afraid to Ask defines social media as:

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Roger Harris in his post continues his analysis:

‘So how about Wikipedia? Surely the world’s largest online reference source would have something meaningful to say. The closest it comes to a definition is: “Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” Um, okay. But how do you convey that to execs? But the article seems to cover the basics. Let’s take it as a starting point.

tag cloud social media definition wikipediaA word cloud of the 382 words from Wikipedia’s page (excluding references and the words “social” and “media”) shows the four commonest words are (1) community, (2) information, (3) sharing and (4) technologies. These strung together make a straightforward definition “Community information sharing technologies.” (Note: the prominence of the word “industrial” results from considerable space being devoted to distinguishing social media from traditional media such as print, television and radio.)

In her updated presentation ‘One year later – What the F**K is Social Media’, Marta Kagan gives the following definition for Social Media:

  • SOCIAL MEDIAPublic Relation
  • Customer Service
  • Loyalty-building
  • Collaboration
  • Networking
  • Thought Leadership
  • and Customer Acquisition

But she says, ‘don’t assume Social Media is the Answer to Everything.’

David Cushman’s sees Social Media as Social + Media, where:

Social = Group, people, us, what we choose to do together.

Media = Content, distribution, them, what they would seek to do to us.

Roger Harris has a succinct oneliner definition for socila media: “community information sharing technologies.”

My definition …  social media enables you to share content created by you or others using set of highly accessible and scalable (publishing) technologies transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many),  replacing broadcast networks into (powerful) conversation communities.

What is your definition of social media?