Yesterday afternoon I posted an entry on Twitter asking the crowd to define social media in two words or less. The responses were fascinating. Several people responded optimistically with words like “community” and “humans connecting.” But more than a few folks were surprisingly — at least to me — pessimistic in their viewpoints, hinting that social media participants are collectively egotistical, superficial or that it’s just a false world overrun with marketers.

I’ve pasted some of the responses below so you can see the assortment. I respect each of these folks a lot. You should follow them on Twitter if you don’t already. Please note that I’ve rearranged a couple of the tweets to show clarification and more than one response for flow and uniformity of thought.

What I’d like to know, however, is what one or two words would you use to describe social media and why? Please jump in the comments. We use Discus now, so throw in a video post to explain your answer if you have that capability. And while you’re at it, tell us if you think the frequency of the pessimism in the responses may indicate there is something holistically wrong with social media, its users or our inside-the-bubble collective thought.

The comments are yours. Here are some of the responses:

CathleenRitt Overrated

CathleenRitt 1. 1st thing that came to mind 2. Thought it was kind of funny 3. Seems to be more fun than useful or productive – which is fine


tiddlytwinks
Relationship building.

MyCreativeTeam Social Media = Humans Connected

tomob people talking

brianherbert Communal Interaction

brianherbert … which feels like an obvious answer.

Genevangelist Hmm I like Audacious or Intrepidly Daring with a little Verve thrown in

JamieTimm community building

LaraK I’ll second @JamieTimm – definitely Community Building

MattJMcD potential, over-hyped (that’s technically two words right?)

thebouv Shared Narcissism

thebouv BTW, I had more earlier, but didn’t want to be too negative: Mostly Banal. Productivity Killer. Pretend Relations (PR, hah!).

marcthollander supercalifragilisticonnectivity

leeodden um, “social media”? LOL How about, “community”

mediadarlingkm 1. Client Confounding 2. Time Killer 3. Ridiculously Fun.

jaybaer My 2 word social media description = Citizen Journalism

Jillfoster “1 or 2 word description for social media”: participant media …or 5 words: creative, participant media & community

swoodruff Promisingly immature. Kept it under 2 words.

mhames respond accordingly.

jmdickinson authentic minutia

ryanthogmartin “Getting Connected”

MelWebster overhyped

Mark_McGee Confusing

bitpakkit @JasonFalls exploited

bitpakkit Well I only had one word, and I think too often the ‘crowd’ is being descended on by a gang of hawking schmexperts/direct mktrs.

bitpakkit I could also say pop media – cliquey, funky, popular, social, video, photo, bloggy, ego-centric, viral replacement of old media

gurnage @JasonFalls I would say community. It’s a conversation and a connection, but I think community is best. A little allitteration!

miketrap Scaled intimacy.

csalomonlee respond to your questions. snarky response – “white noise”. in reality – “connecting everyone”

jackbr4 apathetically hostile

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.BryanPerson.com Bryan Person, LiveWorld

    I'll go with “connecting online.” This is only a part of social media, of course, but, hey: I only get two words!

  • JenZingsheim

    Jason,

    You said that you were surprised at some of the pessimistic viewpoints–I am not. I've become increasingly irritated at what I see as a shared narcissism or insulated overselling of social media. It is but a component of communications, but many seem to have become so immersed in it that they are ignoring that fact.

    Narcissistic behavior always irritates me, and the most recent demonstration of this is when Cuil debuted, what did everyone knock it for? Ninety-nine percent of the posts were “Cuil sucks, it couldn't find ME.” Ugh. Ok, so the search tool might not work, but the simple fact that people's first instinct is to see how something relates specifically to their web presence is so self-centered. I feel that it's now less “social media” and more “social me.”

    But, this is to be expected perhaps. When everyone has a platform to express ideas, this feeds the notion that everyone's views are equally relevant. I tend to think that is not the case. The opinions of those with decades of experience should be weighted more than those just entering a field. That they all have equal footing to put forth ideas does not mean that all of those ideas are of equal merit. Social media seems to bury or ignore this fact.

    Just my .02.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Jen. I'm not surprised at the searching for me on Cuil. I think that's a natural instinct for most people, not narcissism. Narcissism implies you think you're better, smarter, etc., and unrealistically so. Self-centered doesn't mean narcissism, in my opinion. I do see your point, however.

      Since the world of social media is inordinately populated with self-publishers, I would expect a degree of self-centered motivations. I blog. i want people to read my blog. I have the distinction of only wanting those to read it who will get something out of it. Unqualified traffic means nothing to me because I don't have ads on my site. But others are trying to make a buck and I can understand that.

      And I do think that by the sheer social nature of the communities and conversation online that ideas of stronger merit elevate to the top. For instance, other than a tweet or two, I don't promote my content directly. My blog posts get traffic and interaction like yours on merit. There are a lot of others out there who have posts, but no traffic or interaction, even with promotion.

      Still, good points to be considered. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com KatFrench

    Whatcha makit.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Almost flagged that as inappropriate. Heh.

  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blob @tmonhollon

    Movable relationships.

    If all my Twitter friends jumped ship for Friend Feed, that's where I'd go in a heartbeat. SM is not about the tools at all, as much as they'd like us to think: the tools are the means to a relational end, and if they don't work well to get me to that goal, I'll find one that does.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Madame T — Welcome and BRILLIANT. I love that explanation. If we focus on the tools, we aren't going to get it. It's the relationships that count. Bravo.

  • http://mdurwin.wordpress.com Michael Durwinq

    Wow, I'm really surprised by some of the negative comments about social media. It's unfortunate that so many people have had so much negative interaction with social media. I hope your experiences improve since it's not going away anytime soon. Anyway, my feedback:
    2 words: humans talkin
    1 word: communication

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I think we may be entering a bit of a pendulum swing Michael. The early adopters may have grown tired or thing there's too much saturation of the market in social media now. But it will pass. It's still all about people connecting (humans talkin) and communication, just like you said.

  • http://www.smorty71.com smorty71

    I responded a little late on Twitter, so I will add mine here. In addition to things like “building community” which were previously mentioned, two more immediately came to mind:

    1. “Mutual respect”
    2. “Establishing trust”

    Both trust and respect are key in building and maintaining relationships. They seem especially important when you're trying to build and maintain them online.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent entries, Smorty. Would “Maintaining Relationships” also count since that's what your keys point toward?

      • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon @tmonhollon

        It so, it sure does sound like a PR function, huh?

  • http://twitter.com/thebouv thebouv

    I don't really think my comments are pessimistic as much as they are realistic. You have to admit that there is a blown up, overly utopian ideal people like to spout when talking about social media. Like it is the savior of both the internet being full of assholes (which it is) and traditional media being full of corporate claptrap (which it is).

    Is it cool? Sure. But it doesn't have to be treated like its one big koobaiya fest either.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      My man Bouv … all pessimists think they're actually realists. (Heh.) And while some out there certainly think social media solves the worlds problems, most of us actually just understand it's a communications channel. We're just trying to figure out how to best use it.

      • http://twitter.com/thebouv thebouv

        You must find it interesting that when you scan the responses above, statistically, most are negative (even if in a purposeful way like mine for humor).

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Not really. Sour pusses are more apt to pop off. 90% of the opinions you hear are 5% of the people and most of them are negative. The rest of the world is pretty happy. You should visit sometimes.

          (That last part was totally a joke. Don't get mad at me. Heh.)

  • http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com Jo

    some keen phrases – will retweet them in Brit twitterville

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks! Glad to know we're cool there, too!

  • jaypeak

    Business Networking – I do feel that just shy of 100% of social networks and blogs are pathetic. Howver that small percentage that use social networking properly will hugely benefit.

    Similar to every business, only a small percentage are effective.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I like that angle, Jay. But business in social media is just a byproduct of the population. It started as and will probably always primarily be an informal place for folks to connect and communicate. Too much business and it will be the next big thing we flee from.

      • jaypeak

        I think you just nailed it – Connect & communicate

  • J

    I find it ironic that people are using a social media device to cut it down… like they're the exception

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good point J. Keep in mind, though, that 90% of what you hear is from 5% of the people and most of them are going to be negative. It's just the human nature of it all.

  • http://www.digitalcapitalism.com Kipp Bodnar

    Social Media = one word “people”. New tools are fun, but what truly excites me is the information that is available and freely shared online and offline that is facilitated by social applications. The possibilities to learn are endless and that should make everyone excited not pessimistic. Knowledge is power people.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Sir Kip. Social media in many ways is a series of night clubs and hang outs where people get together for folks and fun. Expanding our horizons is a lot of what it's all about.

  • http://www.einnoventions.com TawnyPress

    I agree, I see it as a community.

  • http://www.hippiespelunker.com lisamariemary

    I couldn't like @marcthollander's answer ANY MORE!! I love it! “Supercalifragilistic Connectivity” Totally AWESOME!!

  • Ivan E Nunez

    Quickly thinking of the two words, these came to mind:
    “reality Web”, “real world”, “human touch”

    I think social media tools are just a manifestation of our changing expectation of what the Web should be. A few years ago we thought of the Web as a place to find information, buy things, learn …Today we also think of it as a place to post thoughts, find people and interact with them.
    We have gone from the Web for communication to the Web for conversation. For me, social media brings to the Web a touch of the real world (the good, bag and ugly of it).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great thoughts, Ivan. Thanks for that input. I agree that it is what we make it. Just hope that those that make it something less than cool can find a ray of hope somewhere.

  • http://www.therecyclestudio.com/blog ramona

    Evolution. It's all about our need to communicate. What today we call social media serves the same purpose a campfire served or a quilting bee or barn raising did in the past. How we communicate and create community is different than our parents' and grandparents. Our children and grandchildren will have theirs in their time. This is what we have here and now, and we're just trying to make the best of it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent perspective. Again, it all ladders back to connection and communication. Well said.

  • stuopperman

    Social media in two words or less? “Today's flavor.”

    (That shouldn't be construed as pessimistic, just that tomorrow's technology will bring something newer and more dynamic that we haven't even considered yet).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair point. I think if we all lock in and think social media is the end game, we'll all get passed by someday. I do think it's here for a while, though. We're only on the forefront of what communications will be like soon. Thanks for the perspective, Stu.

  • http://www.webcommons.biz Steve Magruder

    Serendipitous networking.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I like that one, Steve. It certainly has grown my network by multiples of dozens.

  • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

    Hey Jason – I missed the conversation yesterday, thanks for capturing here. Some other options:
    “Ubiquitous connections”
    “Boundless communication”
    and for some folks it seems it's a forum for:
    “Pontificating indefinitely” ;)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Should I take that last one as a hint? Heh. Thanks, Adam.

      • http://adamhcohen.com adamcohen

        Not at all Jason – I'm sure you could name a few folks who just broadcast on all of these social media platforms without listening and engaging. You just proved it wasn't aimed at you. ;)
        Best,
        Adam

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Nice recovery. I appreciate the nod.

  • Erin McMahon

    Participate. Reciprocate.

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  • http://blog.webpalnetworks.com/ Jason

    U connected

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  • http://blog.webpalnetworks.com/ Jason

    U connected

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