What Is Social Media?

By Daniel Scocco

I was browsing through my RSS reader today and came across an interesting post from Brian Clark, titled Since When Are Blogs Not Social Media?. Here is a quote from it:

I’ve noticed a strange trend lately.

For some reason, people seem to be equating social media with social networking.

At the same time, they seem to be treating blogging as something other than social media.

I found his post interesting because that trend is something I have been noticing myself. It looks like for many people social media is the collection of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

Well, it is much more than that.

Social media are the various forms of user generated content and the collection of websites and applications that enables people to interact and share information online.

Complicated? Well here is a list of things that are part of the social media:

  • online forums (e.g., DigitalPoint)
  • blogs (e.g., WordPress)
  • social networking sites (e.g., Facebook)
  • social bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg)
  • video sharing sites (e.g., YouTube)
  • photo sharing sites (e.g. Flickr)
  • streaming sites (e.g., Ustream)
  • user reviews (e.g., Amazon)
  • crowdsourcing (e.g., Wikipedia)
  • content aggregators (e.g., FriendFeed)

As you can see, social media is much wider than what some people think. It is also much older. We could say that the first Usenet (a form of distributed discussion system) developed in 1980 was already social media.

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26 Responses to “What Is Social Media?”

  • mark harrison

    What is social media?
    Probably the most overrated development on the internet in the last 12 months or so. Social media is nothing without participation and collaboration and whilst I agree that people get social networking and media mixed up, it’s all the same – simply a facility to get people talking, not the second coming.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Mark, the “social media” term tends to be over used, that is fact.

    I am not sure if the concept itself is overrated though.

  • Nicholas Z. Cardot

    I read that article also. Thanks for your thoughts on it.

  • Adam Baird

    Does it really matter what social media is defined as…aren’t we just arguing semantics?

  • Adam Pieniazek

    Your list only includes digital social media, Daniel. We can go even further back.

    In an article about the Brief History of Social Media, Brett Borders notes that the phone phreaking era of the 50’s could be pointed to as the start of social media. Basically, people would hack into corporate voicemail systems, record “shows”, and listeners would leave messages, which the show producer would respond to in the next show. Sounds awfully similar to podcasts, eh?

    BUT, that’s still just the start of the digital social media era.

    In a post I wrote called, Social Media is Not New, I noted that Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the first multi-page newspaper in the U.S.A., had a blank page at the back which was used by readers to leave comments and then share that page with their friends. Just like blogs today!

    And that was back in 1690! That’s right 1690, social media has been around for a long time.

  • Hubtonomy

    We have had social media even before the days of 2.0, before broadband, before the internet in fact. Remember BBS and having to direct dial via modem, surely that qualifies as social media.

  • Rarst

    I think current definition of social media covers forms with illusion of equal nodes (like Twitter). Of course just like in any other form from your list there are actually broadcasters that produce most of content and listeners (plus miniscule interaction between listeners).

    So modern definition of social media is kind of media where listeners are not aware they are only listeners. Some will add mandatory – and can be profited from.

  • Liane YoungBlogger

    Yep, read that article too. I did made me think for a while, it is a very interesting post. I had to reread it just to satisfy my curiosity 🙂

  • Harson

    i don’t really know how to distinguish all those things. there are social media, bookmark sites, and so on.

    i just downloaded a wordpress plugin Sociable. to my surprise, there are more than thirty include in the list. so, which ones are really social media? or which ones are not social media?

  • Ching Ya

    I’ve came across the article yesterday. Frankly, I’m glad this issue caught the attention of many; to see the popular blogs spreading the ideas is another way of clearing the doubts. Think the list you’ve provided said it all, well done.

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • BloggerDaily

    Yeah. I used to think the wrong way before this. Thanks to Google and DBT for made me clear about this.

  • teratips

    This information is actually enough for me, great

  • Zemalf

    Three letters: IRC. Since 1988 – these new toys have a long way ahead.. But yeah, anything with user input, comments, sharing, is social media. A service, website or business without these is having hard time keeping up with others.

  • InternetHow

    Social media allows people to interact with each other. With the help of commenting blogs are also important element of social media.

  • Blogger User

    All those small points clearly describe the topic.
    I agree Blogs are important part of Social Media and i hope its clear to many of them who are still in confusion to distinguish social media sites.

  • Chester

    These are also very useful means of marketing and stuff. But some people are abusing it to the point that they’re becoming spammers.

  • mark harrison

    @Chester. I agree, I mean,how many books and articles do you already see on ‘Twitter for business’ and ‘how to earn $10,000 a day on Twitter’.
    The next few months will be v.important for Twitter as it decides how it is (finally) going to make money and work out where it sees itself in the market…novelty / fad or an essential communication tool and to date, I still think the jury is out.

  • Tom Bradshaw

    You’re right, when I think of Social Media I always think of social networking sites, but it’s true sites like Youtube, Blogs and Forums are important as well.

  • Joshua Elliot

    In the end, what we as Internet marketers want for outcome is to generate traffic to the website or blog.

    I may be wrong, but I think that with so many things happening and invention on the net, one might be confused.

  • Blog Ebooks – Claus D Jensen

    I agree that a blog is a social media. You can “talk” to people and connect to people. I have made some great contacts via blogs!

    Good post! 😀

    Greetings,
    Claus D Jensen

  • michelle

    Great post!

    There is no doubt that the internet has forever changed the world in which we live. So it can only be expected that it would change the way we sell and marketing our businesses globally.

    Consumers no longer want the hassles of long lines, pushy salespeople, telemarketers or wasteful junk mail in their mailboxes. Gone are the days of door-to-door sales, expensive direct mail campaigns and newspaper ads. Welcome to the age of YouTube and Presidential Campaign candidates embracing Social Media Networking.

  • Boerne Search

    Great post, I just wish I could stand some of the Social Media sites out there. But it’s like “When in Roma” Lol

  • Marcy

    I have to admit – for a while I thought social media was all about the networking sites. But really, what’s the difference of social networking/social media? Isn’t it just both an avenue where people can connect and still do the stuff they want?

  • Robomaster @ CoolAppSite

    Social Media is really media created by the consumers themselves – nothing more.

  • Scarlet

    I agree that blogging is social media. I think social media in all its forms are extremely powerful but only if you really get involved in the networking aspect!

  • George Thistle

    Social media is slowly taking over the world! I think that blogs although good, will be superseeded by things like facebook and other social media platforms 🙁

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