What is Social Media

Ian lured me out with this one, claiming that all media is now “social media”:

We’ve reached a tipping point. In my mind the lines between social media  and other types of media are so blurred that it’s not even useful to distinguish the two, just drop the “social” because all media is now social.

As someone who shares a blog (with Ayman, no less) that has the term “social media” in the (sub)title – I thought I need to provide my view on the matter. Well, here is my definition:

Social media: Online media published or shared by individuals and organizations, in an environment that encourages significant individual participation and that promotes curation, discussion and re-use.*

So, is everything “Social Media”? Not yet, I don’t think so. Let’s look at my definition above, which is closer to Stowe Boyd’s definition from Ian’s earlier post. There are several key words in the definition that explain my claim. The main one is “significant individual participation”. The NY Times article comments, for example, do not allow such participation. Yes, one can comment and discuss, but way below the fold and on a different page altogether. The contribution is not significant, even for the small crowd that makes the jump.

On the other hand, Twitter for example is an environment where individual participation is the main feature and fall comfortably into the heart on my definition above.

What about blogs? Well, it depends. Blogs of personal authors are by definition “social media”. But the more mainstream “blogs” (or, say, alternative news outlets) are not social media unless they give the viewers/readers/visitors a significant voice and participation in the conversation. Yes, it might not be easy to make the call for any specific blog. What do you think this is, mathematics?

Of course, as Ian notes, the CNN/Facebook inaugural “experience” is certainly “social media” even according to mine definition. In fact, as I commented on Ayman’s previous post, the CNN-Facebook inaugural address was a game changer that will be marked as the moment that TV watching had changed forever.

Just a few last notes about the definition above. Three key concepts there are “curation, discussion and re-use” that describe the type of additional participation allowed. All three assume that those uses (e.g., tagging for a type of curation, commenting or trackbacking as discussion and referenced remix/embed/quote as re-use) are significant factors in social media, but the base criteria is always the significant individual participation.

Yes, Social Media is still Made of People.**

* Ayman helped define in a rare showing of, at once, comradery and patience!
** Damn it, we’re not the only ones that thought of this. Here’s the reference for those of you not raised on this particular culture’s trash.

3 thoughts on “What is Social Media

  1. Ian Kennedy

    Hi Mor,

    Great to hear from you! Hope you’re having a blast in NYC.

    I was playing for attention with the title of my post. My point is really “social media” has been so overused that it no longer meaningful, especially as mainstream media embraces more and more ways to interact and amplify the viewpoints of its readers. Perhaps a more accurate label is “participatory media” as suggested by Jonathan Strauss in the comments of my post but I wonder if it’s even useful to continue to break it out as a unique form of media anymore as platforms like twitter and facebook make everything social now.

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