Has “Social Media” Worn Out Its Welcome?
Has “Social Media” Worn Out Its Welcome?
by

David Breznau, a very smart marketer who authors the s.m.o.g. talk blog, left a comment on Friday’s post at Social Media Explorer that got me thinking. His thoughts, as I interpreted them, were that calling social media, “social media,” is, in itself a problem because all media is social but also includes commercial interests. If it is true, as I pointed out in the post, that what we call “social media” evolved because consumers ran away from other mediums due to the overabundance of marketing messages, then this “medium” is inherently different than others, perhaps so much so that “medium” isn’t an apt qualifier.

Defining Social MediaAdd to that a growing sense of tiredness of the term “social media” from some who practice it, not to mention Shannon Paul’s accurate insistence that having the term in one’s title is limiting, and we have to ask ourselves if “social media” is wearing out its welcome. At least as the term used to describe this new genre of communications.

Keep in mind my opinion here is at least someone biased by the fact that my consultancy, blog and primary selling point for my professional expertise is anchored in the term, “Social Media Explorer.” While social media is not all that I do, and Paul is right — it does put me in a bit of a box in some people’s minds — I’m not likely to argue to get rid of the term altogether.

However, let’s first look at a definition or two.

Wikipedia defines social media as:

… online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. 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 to 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. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).

First of all, I had to re-read that definition about six times to be sure I understood what it meant, proving that at least one social media tool and platform is, at a minimum, poorly written and edited. But when you dive into it, translate a few of the polysyllabic words and such, it makes sense.

I tried to find other definitions online, including an entire blog post attempting to define “social media” from Mashable, a blog that should know, but all I found was wordy nonsense and blather about revolutionizing communications and business.

The definition I’ve used in presentations for a while now is this:

Social Media can be best described as mediums, mostly on the Internet, that allow users to add or generate content to published works, creating conversations and sharing around the content and conversations.

In order to buy that definition, you have to be willing to accept a couple of things as true:

  • “Mediums” can be applied to platforms and tools like blogs or message boards instead of just “the Internet.” Otherwise, you’d call the arena “social technologies” which, I’d bet, most people don’t want to say or spell with any frequency.
  • A blog doesn’t qualify as social media unless the ability to comment is enabled. Without that, a blog is just one-way trumpet blasts you publish on your website (Clearing throat and mumbling, “Seth Godin!”)

The key element of any of these mediums (or tools, platforms or other descriptors to satisfy the OCD folks who would argue the semantics of the word “medium”) qualifying under the term in question is there must be a social element to them. You should be able to comment or share, adding to the content presented in said medium while also passing it along to others.

This definition can rule out the notion that all media is social because while you can comment on a television program, your comment can’t be consumed by other viewers of said program. It’s consumed by those in earshot when you said it. The technology (I quite like the term “social technologies”) enables what used to be personal comments and reactions to now be documented and intrinsically linked to the content in question. While this feature alone is almost “reaction documentation” rather than “social,” the fact that conversations between commentors can occur serves as the proof point. Add the ability to share (yes, electronically) and you have a medium that is, by definition, social. And other mediums don’t qualify as the same.

Keep in mind, however, that Breznau’s argument that all media is social isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, by expanding your definition of social beyond the bounds of technology and the on-line space he’s absolutely right. We can talk to one another about anything we see, read, hear and otherwise consume. Yes, I’ve argued before that social media can happen without technology at all. But I would argue that my example (the feedback bulletin board in the hallway of my YMCA) does fit my definition of “social media” because the conversation trail is documented for all to see.

Yes, this is perhaps an argument of semantics. Sure, I can see why and how some people can grow weary of using the term at all. I even refer to social media as “internet marketing” or “online PR” to some people so I’m not forced into this definition discussion with someone who wouldn’t be able to grasp it. But I am confident and comfortable that this is what social media is.

Am I wrong? The comments are yours.

Image: Friend” by leocub on stock.xchng

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • Thanks, so much, Liz. Appreciate the comment.

  • I'm with you. I get tired of hearing “social media” talked about as if it's the Second Coming, or the one thing that's going to make a company successful. It can work to improve visibility, but after that, it's up the company to deliver amazing products and service. The term “social media” has an element of the mysterious about it, so people are awed or intimidated by people who claim to “know social media.” “Internet PR” seems like a better term. Good article.

  • I'm with you. I get tired of hearing “social media” talked about as if it's the Second Coming, or the one thing that's going to make a company successful. It can work to improve visibility, but after that, it's up the company to deliver amazing products and service. The term “social media” has an element of the mysterious about it, so people are awed or intimidated by people who claim to “know social media.” “Internet PR” seems like a better term. Good article.

    • Thanks, so much, Liz. Appreciate the comment.

  • Matt

    It's = “it is”
    Its = possessive

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  • It's that editor voice in me chiming in at times! Don't think that social media has worn out its welcome at all. The public at large probably doesn't even know or care that what they do online is described by those of us inside the industry as UGC or CGM or whatever the latest acronym we think up.

    Just having received my copy of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto, I can't help but coming back to basics. It's all about the conversation. Has always been, until we got side tracked for most of last century by the mass media that were anything but very social. Now we're getting our collective voices back and that changes a whole lot of things for people and as a result for business.

  • Addressed above in the comments. Thanks for the attempt at correcting me, though. Heh.

  • Basic grammar: the plural of medium is media, so mediums is not really a word.

  • Basic grammar: the plural of medium is media, so mediums is not really a word.

    • Addressed above in the comments. Thanks for the attempt at correcting me, though. Heh.

      • It's that editor voice in me chiming in at times! Don't think that social media has worn out its welcome at all. The public at large probably doesn't even know or care that what they do online is described by those of us inside the industry as UGC or CGM or whatever the latest acronym we think up.

        Just having received my copy of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto, I can't help but coming back to basics. It's all about the conversation. Has always been, until we got side tracked for most of last century by the mass media that were anything but very social. Now we're getting our collective voices back and that changes a whole lot of things for people and as a result for business.

  • Certainly not a bad idea, Karen. It certainly is interactive. Good thoughts.

  • Yeah, Eric, I've stopped using “blog” as a term for much the same reason. It predetermines how most people I work with are going to accept or react to what I'm recommending. I'd bet the term “social media” being eliminated from my terminology might help, too.

  • Both good options. Thanks, Scott.

  • Not a bad viewpoint, there Alex. Thanks for that.

  • Great follow up. Thanks for the link and info!

  • Thanks, David. Great perspective from someone who clearly lives it everyday. Thanks for the comment.

  • Well, Edward. I think that might be the best worded comment I've seen on SME ever. Well said. And thank you for chiming in.

  • I agree that social media is media that is a two way conversation … as opposed to traditional forms that don't encourage or enable a direct response (other than letters to the editor). So the phrase “interactive media” also works well and is perhaps more descriptive of the process.

  • I agree that social media is media that is a two way conversation … as opposed to traditional forms that don't encourage or enable a direct response (other than letters to the editor). So the phrase “interactive media” also works well and is perhaps more descriptive of the process.

    • Certainly not a bad idea, Karen. It certainly is interactive. Good thoughts.

  • It's difficult to talk about social media as a discrete element. And frankly, the term matters less than the movement. John Lennon shouted Power to the People nearly 40 years ago. This is that on steroids thanks to technology. So you have a number of things happening here. 1. A desire for community (something that has been denied us, or presented as a challenge, with everything from commuting alone in a metal box, working in a cubicle, living farther and farther from where we work and shop, no longer inhabiting communities where we have lots in common with our neighbors; think ghettos where we one lived among family, ethnic similarities, and had our entire lives wrapped up with our neighbors, for better or worse). Yet, we are social beings. We need community; it's just that it's no longer about physical proximity. 2. Technology that now makes it easy to comment, broadcast, create content, gather, and unify around any shared interest. And we want to. See next point. 3. As victims of specialization in our jobs, yet educated beyond any previous generation, not to mention familiar and enamored with everything from imagery to video, we seek participation as commentators, critics, co-creators, etc.; so we're willing to crowd source, compete, provide input, share wisdom in forums, etc. This has led to our desire to have a voice in the brands we allow into our lives as well. We want to influence them, shape them, have a voice in defining them. We're no longer willing to leave it in the marketer's hands. We are part of the process now. So, call it the groundswell, community, digital wom, social media. It doesn't matter. The only reason the term social media might make sense is to distinguish it from other media, that is one way or broadcast, or controlled by the messenger. Therefore, while those of us who practice it everyday, think about it constantly, and attempt to advance what it can do for us and vice versa may be tired of the term, it may still be the ideal label to explain what it's all about to the many thousands of people and brands who still aren't with us.

  • It's difficult to talk about social media as a discrete element. And frankly, the term matters less than the movement. John Lennon shouted Power to the People nearly 40 years ago. This is that on steroids thanks to technology. So you have a number of things happening here. 1. A desire for community (something that has been denied us, or presented as a challenge, with everything from commuting alone in a metal box, working in a cubicle, living farther and farther from where we work and shop, no longer inhabiting communities where we have lots in common with our neighbors; think ghettos where we one lived among family, ethnic similarities, and had our entire lives wrapped up with our neighbors, for better or worse). Yet, we are social beings. We need community; it's just that it's no longer abour phyiscal proximity. 2. Technology that now makes it easy to comment, broadcast, create content, gather, and unify around any shared interest. And we want to. See next point. 3. As victims of specialization in our jobs, yet educated beyond any previous generation, not to mention familiar and enamored with everything from imagery to video, we seek participation as commentators, critics, co-creators, etc.; so we're willing to crowd source, compete, provide input, share wisdom in forums, etc. So, call it the groundswell, community, digitial wom, social media. It doesn't matter. The only reason the term social media makes sense is to distinguish it from other media, that is one way or broadcast, or controlled by the messenger. Therefore, while those of us who practice it everyday, think about it constantly, and attempt to advance what it can do for us and vice versa may be tired of the term, it may still be the ideal term to explain what it's all about to the many thousands of people and brands who still aren't with us.

    • Well, Edward. I think that might be the best worded comment I've seen on SME ever. Well said. And thank you for chiming in.

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  • davidglenn

    Helping to define the space in a way that helps the average business executive/leader is, from my perspective, the most beneficial task we can collectively undertake. As I work with various levels of business leadership, it is often challenging to convey & define what social media is and what the benefits can be. I often resort to simple examples. Examples of an online shopping effort and the shopper being able to read other customer's comments is usually my starting point. The conversation then branches from there.

    In the end, the definition may simply come down to the individual person's experience and the frequency of those experiences. The fact the person gets it or doesn't….right now. I'd recommend, for the novice, keeping the definition very simple and full of examples.

    Oh, ya…I use the term “social web” often. It helps to connect a new concept with a more familiar one.

  • davidglenn

    Helping to define the space in a way that helps the average business executive/leader is, from my perspective, the most beneficial task we can collectively undertake. As I work with various levels of business leadership, it is often challenging to convey & define what social media is and what the benefits can be. I often resort to simple examples. Examples of an online shopping effort and the shopper being able to read other customer's comments is usually my starting point. The conversation then branches from there.

    In the end, the definition may simply come down to the individual person's experience and the frequency of those experiences. The fact the person gets it or doesn't….right now. I'd recommend, for the novice, keeping the definition very simple and full of examples.

    Oh, ya…I use the term “social web” often. It helps to connect a new concept with a more familiar one.

    • Thanks, David. Great perspective from someone who clearly lives it everyday. Thanks for the comment.

  • davidglenn

    Helping to define the space in a way that helps the average business executive/leader is, from my perspective, the most beneficial task we can collectively undertake. As I work with various levels of business leadership, it is often challenging to convey & define what social media is and the benefits of it are for businesses. I often resort to the simplest online experiences of the typical consumer purchasing habits. Examples of online shopping and reading customer comments is typically the simplest method to start to explain what social media is. The definition may simply come down to the individual person's experience and the frequency of those experiences. The fact the person gets it or doesn't….right now.

  • Jason – great thoughts & questions within your “interpretations.”

    For the past couple of years, my days & nights were spent driving the SM point home to the car guys I'm surrounded with every day…using social media as the descriptive term was about as productive as speaking to them in French.

    The point at which they understood it was the moment I stopped using social media as a term and simply described it as a new method of talking, sharing & educating people about our unique offer.

    As a personal rule – I don't mention it and I don't have to now. Once it was established these tools are a viable method of building the brand plus driving & converting traffic, everyone else started using the term – further driving the cause.

    The “crowd” eventually took notice and accepted it as part of our online strategy.

    Personally, I've always just lumped everything together simply as business development tools. If it helps build a profitable business, I'm adding it to my tool belt.

  • Jason – great thoughts & questions within your “interpretations.”

    For the past couple of years, my days & nights were spent driving the SM point home to the car guys I'm surrounded with every day…using social media as the descriptive term was about as productive as speaking to them in French.

    The point at which they understood it was the moment I stopped using social media as a term and simply described it as a new method of talking, sharing & educating people about our unique offer.

    As a personal rule – I don't mention it and I don't have to now. Once it was established these tools are a viable method of building the brand plus driving & converting traffic, everyone else started using the term – further driving the cause.

    The “crowd” eventually took notice and accepted it as part of our online strategy.

    Personally, I've always just lumped everything together simply as business development tools. If it helps build a profitable business, I'm adding it to my tool belt.

  • Jason – great thoughts & questions within your “interpretations.”

    For the past couple of years, my days & nights were spent driving the SM point home to the car guys I'm surrounded with every day…using social media as the descriptive term was about as productive as speaking to them in French.

    The point at which they understood it was the moment I stopped using social media as a term and simply described it as a new method of talking, sharing & educating people about our unique offer.

    As a personal rule – I don't mention it and I don't have to now. Once it was established these tools are a viable method of building the brand plus driving & converting traffic, everyone else started using the term – further driving the cause.

    The “crowd” eventually took notice and accepted it as part of our online strategy.

    Personally, I've always just lumped everything together simply as business development tools. If it helps build a profitable business, I'm adding it to my tool belt.

    • Yeah, Eric, I've stopped using “blog” as a term for much the same reason. It predetermines how most people I work with are going to accept or react to what I'm recommending. I'd bet the term “social media” being eliminated from my terminology might help, too.

      • Jason – curious how you've progressed with eliminating the term social media from your terminology?

        Come up with any alternates?

        I've been sticking with “This is how we connect with people…” Eliminating buzzwords has helped.

        • Still thinking about it, E. I've obviously branded myself with the term in the title of my business, so it appears it'll stick for now. Plus, the industry isn't running from it, either. I do introduce myself as an internet marketer more often than a “social media guy” though. So much of what I do bleeds into development, UX, SEO, email and more. It's not enough to be a social media guy. Fortunately, for those who look beyond the title, they see that in what I do. Thanks for the question!

  • I prefer the term “social communications” or “conversational media” for their focus on the interaction between people.

  • I prefer the term “social communications” or “conversational media” for their focus on the interaction between people.

  • I prefer the term “social communications” or “conversational media” for their focus on the interaction between people.

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  • I prefer the term Social Influence Marketing

    anyone can use social media, but it's the people that use it ethically and effectively that become influential. It's no longer about breaking into social media, its about being influential.

    Great post!

  • I prefer the term Social Influence Marketing

    anyone can use social media, but it's the people that use it ethically and effectively that become influential. It's no longer about breaking into social media, its about being influential.

    Great post!

  • I prefer the term Social Influence Marketing

    anyone can use social media, but it's the people that use it ethically and effectively that become influential. It's no longer about breaking into social media, its about being influential.

    Great post!

    • Not a bad viewpoint, there Alex. Thanks for that.

  • Interesting side note on WOM. From yesterday's NYT Media and Advertising section (http://bit.ly/4dUkIG):

    A study released today titled, “Communications Industry Forecast,” from the private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, indicates that despite all the bad news swirling about the media industry, it is expected to be the third-fastest-growing economic sector over the next five years, according to The New York Times’ Stephanie Clifford. “Almost none of that growth is forecast to come from shrinking traditional media, however,” Clifford wrote. “Instead, it will be drawn from areas like word-of-mouth marketing and public relations (with a 9.2 percent compound annual growth rate from 2008 through 2013), branded entertainment (9.3 percent) and the Internet and mobile devices (10.2 percent).”

  • Interesting side note on WOM. From yesterday's NYT Media and Advertising section (http://bit.ly/4dUkIG):

    A study released today titled, “Communications Industry Forecast,” from the private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, indicates that despite all the bad news swirling about the media industry, it is expected to be the third-fastest-growing economic sector over the next five years, according to The New York Times’ Stephanie Clifford. “Almost none of that growth is forecast to come from shrinking traditional media, however,” Clifford wrote. “Instead, it will be drawn from areas like word-of-mouth marketing and public relations (with a 9.2 percent compound annual growth rate from 2008 through 2013), branded entertainment (9.3 percent) and the Internet and mobile devices (10.2 percent).”

  • Interesting side note on WOM. From yesterday's NYT Media and Advertising section (http://bit.ly/4dUkIG):

    A study released today titled, “Communications Industry Forecast,” from the private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, indicates that despite all the bad news swirling about the media industry, it is expected to be the third-fastest-growing economic sector over the next five years, according to The New York Times’ Stephanie Clifford. “Almost none of that growth is forecast to come from shrinking traditional media, however,” Clifford wrote. “Instead, it will be drawn from areas like word-of-mouth marketing and public relations (with a 9.2 percent compound annual growth rate from 2008 through 2013), branded entertainment (9.3 percent) and the Internet and mobile devices (10.2 percent).”

    • Great follow up. Thanks for the link and info!

  • # of asses kicked?

  • # of asses kicked?

  • Nice thoughts, Pamela. Thanks for that. I'm certainly not in disagreement with you there.

  • Nice thoughts, Pamela. Thanks for that. I'm certainly not in disagreement with you there.

  • Nice thoughts, sir. I like the connection and will certainly give it more thought. Well played.

  • Nice thoughts, sir. I like the connection and will certainly give it more thought. Well played.

  • Nice work, Pete. I might argue that it only reaches a more wide audience with sufficient effort, promotion and/or advertisement. But certainly having something alive on the web offers that potential. Still, I like the optimism. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Nice work, Pete. I might argue that it only reaches a more wide audience with sufficient effort, promotion and/or advertisement. But certainly having something alive on the web offers that potential. Still, I like the optimism. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Thanks Liz. I used “mediums” to better distinguish the notion of talking about multiple individual mediums. Yes, it's incorrect grammar, but better to distinguish from the generic discussion point of “social media.” Perhaps incorrect, but I take those liberties from time to time. But Jeanne Williamson, my high school English teacher, thanks you for the hand slap. Heh.

  • Thanks Liz. I used “mediums” to better distinguish the notion of talking about multiple individual mediums. Yes, it's incorrect grammar, but better to distinguish from the generic discussion point of “social media.” Perhaps incorrect, but I take those liberties from time to time. But Jeanne Williamson, my high school English teacher, thanks you for the hand slap. Heh.

  • I would say “amen” to that, but the first question our clients will have is, “How do you measure or prove that?” Heh.

  • I would say “amen” to that, but the first question our clients will have is, “How do you measure or prove that?” Heh.

  • Wow, Don. Thanks for the well thought and stated response. It was a blog post in an of itself.

    You brought about some excellent thoughts. I love the thought about looking for what kind of audience we want. Very intriguing insight to consider when looking at social media marketing.

    Thanks, so much for the thoughts.

  • Wow, Don. Thanks for the well thought and stated response. It was a blog post in an of itself.

    You brought about some excellent thoughts. I love the thought about looking for what kind of audience we want. Very intriguing insight to consider when looking at social media marketing.

    Thanks, so much for the thoughts.

  • pamelaminett

    Agreed.

    Social Media WHAT?

    My interpretation is that social media is a glorified term for Word of Mouth. 'Media' refers to the transmission channels for information and 'social' refers to the human-being aspect… hence: information being passed from human to human… aka Word of Mouth.

    So this (IMO) has been around for aaaages.

    But Social Media Tools and Technologies have now made Social Media a very real and much more influential form of communication.

    So as consumers ran away from other mediums due to the overabundance of marketing messages, these tools & technologies enabled word of mouth (or social media) to be the preferred and more effective choice for consumers.

    Maybe?

  • pamelaminett

    Agreed.

    Social Media WHAT?

    My interpretation is that social media is a glorified term for Word of Mouth. 'Media' refers to the transmission channels for information and 'social' refers to the human-being aspect… hence: information being passed from human to human… aka Word of Mouth.

    So this (IMO) has been around for aaaages.

    But Social Media Tools and Technologies have now made Social Media a very real and much more influential form of communication.

    So as consumers ran away from other mediums due to the overabundance of marketing messages, these tools & technologies enabled word of mouth (or social media) to be the preferred and more effective choice for consumers.

    Maybe?

  • Well said. I'm glad someone threw out the old word-of-mouth, which is the essence of what we call social media. You're right, that we can't control what people call it. We can control (at least we as consultants and social media advisors for our organizations) what people use it for and do with it from a marketing perspective. I just hope there are enough of us true to the communities and not in it for sales and sales alone. Otherwise, it'll get mucked up real quick.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Well said. I'm glad someone threw out the old word-of-mouth, which is the essence of what we call social media. You're right, that we can't control what people call it. We can control (at least we as consultants and social media advisors for our organizations) what people use it for and do with it from a marketing perspective. I just hope there are enough of us true to the communities and not in it for sales and sales alone. Otherwise, it'll get mucked up real quick.

    Thanks for your comment!

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  • jgoldsborough

    Hey, Jason —

    I've read several posts, tweets on this topic recently and yours raises many interesting points. But that said, isn't this truly an issue of perception versus reality? IOW, do we individually reallly have any control over what term people use at this point?

    Here's what I mean. The majority of people — yes, even those in PR and marketing — refer to engaging with people online and sharing a story or information as “social media.” So that's what it is, right? I understand the semantics debates that take place on what term should be used — heck, I'd rather call it the proliferation of WOM — but social media is the term most do use, so isn't that what we have to call it?

    Someone might have thought at one time that baseball should be called “bat and ball” but the majority of people chose the term baseball so it stuck.

    That make sense? I agree with your point that the most important part of the conversation is where we actually discuss the strategy behind how someone might use the social media tools to achieve a goal. And if the person is confused on the definition, that should come out in the conversation and can hopefully be clarified.

    Just seems people already get confused enough and have enough fears about social media when they first come to the table. If we start calling it something else, we may just give people one more reason to avoid it.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  • jgoldsborough

    Hey, Jason —

    I've read several posts, tweets on this topic recently and yours raises many interesting points. But that said, isn't this truly an issue of perception versus reality? IOW, do we individually reallly have any control over what term people use at this point?

    Here's what I mean. The majority of people — yes, even those in PR and marketing — refer to engaging with people online and sharing a story or information as “social media.” So that's what it is, right? I understand the semantics debates that take place on what term should be used — heck, I'd rather call it the proliferation of WOM — but social media is the term most do use, so isn't that what we have to call it?

    Someone might have thought at one time that baseball should be called “bat and ball” but the majority of people chose the term baseball so it stuck.

    That make sense? I agree with your point that the most important part of the conversation is where we actually discuss the strategy behind how someone might use the social media tools to achieve a goal. And if the person is confused on the definition, that should come out in the conversation and can hopefully be clarified.

    Just seems people already get confused enough and have enough fears about social media when they first come to the table. If we start calling it something else, we may just give people one more reason to avoid it.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  • jgoldsborough

    Hey, Jason —

    I've read several posts, tweets on this topic recently and yours raises many interesting points. But that said, isn't this truly an issue of perception versus reality? IOW, do we individually reallly have any control over what term people use at this point?

    Here's what I mean. The majority of people — yes, even those in PR and marketing — refer to engaging with people online and sharing a story or information as “social media.” So that's what it is, right? I understand the semantics debates that take place on what term should be used — heck, I'd rather call it the proliferation of WOM — but social media is the term most do use, so isn't that what we have to call it?

    Someone might have thought at one time that baseball should be called “bat and ball” but the majority of people chose the term baseball so it stuck.

    That make sense? I agree with your point that the most important part of the conversation is where we actually discuss the strategy behind how someone might use the social media tools to achieve a goal. And if the person is confused on the definition, that should come out in the conversation and can hopefully be clarified.

    Just seems people already get confused enough and have enough fears about social media when they first come to the table. If we start calling it something else, we may just give people one more reason to avoid it.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    • Well said. I'm glad someone threw out the old word-of-mouth, which is the essence of what we call social media. You're right, that we can't control what people call it. We can control (at least we as consultants and social media advisors for our organizations) what people use it for and do with it from a marketing perspective. I just hope there are enough of us true to the communities and not in it for sales and sales alone. Otherwise, it'll get mucked up real quick.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • donfperkins

    Hi Jason,

    Interesting discussion. The bucket “social media” means different things to different people. At least part of the reason for this is that SM is changing rapidly and at any given point we are all at various different levels of understanding about what's possible, what's happening and what it's called. Another reason is that there is no one authority governing and dictating what the desired result should be. SM is primarily a shared phenomenon and is strongly influenced by the public, rather than being pushed down our throats by some big corporation.

    Has the term SM worn out it's welcome? Will people cease to use it because of an abundance of marketing messages? If history is any indicator, then in my opinion the answer is mostly no. The abundance of marketing does not usually stop the majority of people from using a technology. Especially a free technology. Many people consider the ads an obligatory aspect of using a free product.

    It may annoy them, but the general public will continue to use it until they reach their personal tipping point. IE.: television, email, those things are nowhere near public abandonment because of all the marketing use. However, when the amount or frequency of marketing exceeds the usefulness of the medium, people will begin to drop it and look elsewhere to meet their need.

    Example: I refuse to watch network television, even though there are some great shows on. Reason? It's not in my best interest to sit there and let 25% of my time be spent having someone scream at me trying to get me to buy something I could care less about. It's not worth the fleeting enjoyment I might get from watching a good show. Instead I read more books. I'm also willing to spend money on occasional movie rentals, just to avoid the wasted time and aggravation of the rampant marketing.

    In my mind the better question might be: what kind of social media channel audience do we want? Those who are willing, for whatever reason, to waste inordinate amounts of time being sold products they may or may not be interested in? Or do we want a channel audience composed mostly of more discerning and perhaps more purposeful individuals who are focused on specific goals in the spirit of a mutually beneficial global community?

    If it is the former, then open the floodgates and pile on the marketing. If the latter is what we're after, then great care should be taken to ensure SM retains it's value and continues to serve as a highly beneficial and easy to use forum for the global exchange of ideas.

  • donfperkins

    Hi Jason,

    Interesting discussion. The bucket “social media” means different things to different people. At least part of the reason for this is that SM is changing rapidly and at any given point we are all at various different levels of understanding about what's possible, what's happening and what it's called. Another reason is that there is no one authority governing and dictating what the desired result should be. SM is primarily a shared phenomenon and is strongly influenced by the public, rather than being pushed down our throats by some big corporation.

    Has the term SM worn out it's welcome? Will people cease to use it because of an abundance of marketing messages? If history is any indicator, then in my opinion the answer is mostly no. The abundance of marketing does not usually stop the majority of people from using a technology. Especially a free technology. Many people consider the ads an obligatory aspect of using a free product.

    It may annoy them, but the general public will continue to use it until they reach their personal tipping point. IE.: television, email, those things are nowhere near public abandonment because of all the marketing use. However, when the amount or frequency of marketing exceeds the usefulness of the medium, people will begin to drop it and look elsewhere to meet their need.

    Example: I refuse to watch network television, even though there are some great shows on. Reason? It's not in my best interest to sit there and let 25% of my time be spent having someone scream at me trying to get me to buy something I could care less about. It's not worth the fleeting enjoyment I might get from watching a good show. Instead I read more books. I'm also willing to spend money on occasional movie rentals, just to avoid the wasted time and aggravation of the rampant marketing.

    In my mind the better question might be: what kind of social media channel audience do we want? Those who are willing, for whatever reason, to waste inordinate amounts of time being sold products they may or may not be interested in? Or do we want a channel audience composed mostly of more discerning and perhaps more purposeful individuals who are focused on specific goals in the spirit of a mutually beneficial global community?

    If it is the former, then open the floodgates and pile on the marketing. If the latter is what we're after, then great care should be taken to ensure SM retains it's value and continues to serve as a highly beneficial and easy to use forum for the global exchange of ideas.

  • donfperkins

    Hi Jason,

    Interesting discussion. The bucket “social media” means different things to different people. At least part of the reason for this is that SM is changing rapidly and at any given point we are all at various different levels of understanding about what's possible, what's happening and what it's called. Another reason is that there is no one authority governing and dictating what the desired result should be. SM is primarily a shared phenomenon and is strongly influenced by the public, rather than being pushed down our throats by some big corporation.

    Has the term SM worn out it's welcome? Will people cease to use it because of an abundance of marketing messages? If history is any indicator, then in my opinion the answer is mostly no. The abundance of marketing does not usually stop the majority of people from using a technology. Especially a free technology. Many people consider the ads an obligatory aspect of using a free product.

    It may annoy them, but the general public will continue to use it until they reach their personal tipping point. IE.: television, email, those things are nowhere near public abandonment because of all the marketing use. However, when the amount or frequency of marketing exceeds the usefulness of the medium, people will begin to drop it and look elsewhere to meet their need.

    Example: I refuse to watch network television, even though there are some great shows on. Reason? It's not in my best interest to sit there and let 25% of my time be spent having someone scream at me trying to get me to buy something I could care less about. It's not worth the fleeting enjoyment I might get from watching a good show. Instead I read more books. I'm also willing to spend money on occasional movie rentals, just to avoid the wasted time and aggravation of the rampant marketing.

    In my mind the better question might be: what kind of social media channel audience do we want? Those who are willing, for whatever reason, to waste inordinate amounts of time being sold products they may or may not be interested in? Or do we want a channel audience composed mostly of more discerning and perhaps more purposeful individuals who are focused on specific goals in the spirit of a mutually beneficial global community?

    If it is the former, then open the floodgates and pile on the marketing. If the latter is what we're after, then great care should be taken to ensure SM retains it's value and continues to serve as a highly beneficial and easy to use forum for the global exchange of ideas.

    • Wow, Don. Thanks for the well thought and stated response. It was a blog post in an of itself.

      You brought about some excellent thoughts. I love the thought about looking for what kind of audience we want. Very intriguing insight to consider when looking at social media marketing.

      Thanks, so much for the thoughts.

  • Here's a solution: “Kick Ass” Awesomeness is what we do.

  • Here's a solution: “Kick Ass” Awesomeness is what we do.

  • Here's a solution: “Kick Ass” Awesomeness is what we do.

    • I would say “amen” to that, but the first question our clients will have is, “How do you measure or prove that?” Heh.

  • Jason–
    Good, thoughtful article about social media. Only pick is that “media” is plural, and “medium” is singular. The editor in me comes out…

    And I am wondering if SM has become a meaningless buzzword.

    Best,
    Liz Craig

  • Jason–
    Good, thoughtful article about social media. Only pick is that “media” is plural, and “medium” is singular. The editor in me comes out…

    And I am wondering if SM has become a meaningless buzzword.

    Best,
    Liz Craig

  • Jason–
    Good, thoughtful article about social media. Only pick is that “media” is plural, and “medium” is singular. The editor in me comes out…

    And I am wondering if SM has become a meaningless buzzword.

    Best,
    Liz Craig

    • Thanks Liz. I used “mediums” to better distinguish the notion of talking about multiple individual mediums. Yes, it's incorrect grammar, but better to distinguish from the generic discussion point of “social media.” Perhaps incorrect, but I take those liberties from time to time. But Jeanne Williamson, my high school English teacher, thanks you for the hand slap. Heh.

  • Great discussion! I'm in the camp that's tired of the yammering about “social media” by agency-types that have never actually used it from the client-side position, whether as a brand manager or a CMO. In a recent preso to small-business members of the Covington (KY) Arts District, I described social media as “new online platforms by which to communicate with more people more quickly and widely than ever before.” Not great, but an attempt to point out that it can amplify–but not replace–the traditional ways by which we share POVs around the water cooler, at dinner parties, etc. Keep the conversation going!

  • Great discussion! I'm in the camp that's tired of the yammering about “social media” by agency-types that have never actually used it from the client-side position, whether as a brand manager or a CMO. In a recent preso to small-business members of the Covington (KY) Arts District, I described social media as “new online platforms by which to communicate with more people more quickly and widely than ever before.” Not great, but an attempt to point out that it can amplify–but not replace–the traditional ways by which we share POVs around the water cooler, at dinner parties, etc. Keep the conversation going!

  • PeteHealy

    Great discussion! I'm in the camp that's tired of the yammering about “social media” by agency-types that have never actually used it from the client-side position, whether as a brand manager or a CMO. In a recent preso to small-business members of the Covington (KY) Arts District, I described social media as “new online platforms by which to communicate with more people more quickly and widely than ever before.” Not great, but an attempt to point out that it can amplify–but not replace–the traditional ways by which we share POVs around the water cooler, at dinner parties, etc. Keep the conversation going!

    • Nice work, Pete. I might argue that it only reaches a more wide audience with sufficient effort, promotion and/or advertisement. But certainly having something alive on the web offers that potential. Still, I like the optimism. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • I think I can sum up your post in one sentence: Social media makes a better adjective than noun.

    Social media is a much more effective term when I know what noun it modifies. Are we talking social media platforms (Twitter, blog, online corporate-run community?), social media technologies (Drupal, APIs, etc.), social media strategies (open source, networking, customer engagement), social media networking?

    When people argue semantics, it's usually because they didn't begin the conversation by defining the terms they're sharing. “Social media” compounds the problem because it isn't even a completed term. Give me a noun.

    For the record, I share your basic view that social media always comes down to conversation and community. But even defined within those boundaries, the term contains some vast stretches of foggy territory.

  • I think I can sum up your post in one sentence: Social media makes a better adjective than noun.

    Social media is a much more effective term when I know what noun it modifies. Are we talking social media platforms (Twitter, blog, online corporate-run community?), social media technologies (Drupal, APIs, etc.), social media strategies (open source, networking, customer engagement), social media networking?

    When people argue semantics, it's usually because they didn't begin the conversation by defining the terms they're sharing. “Social media” compounds the problem because it isn't even a completed term. Give me a noun.

    For the record, I share your basic view that social media always comes down to conversation and community. But even defined within those boundaries, the term contains some vast stretches of foggy territory.

  • I think I can sum up your post in one sentence: Social media makes a better adjective than noun.

    Social media is a much more effective term when I know what noun it modifies. Are we talking social media platforms (Twitter, blog, online corporate-run community?), social media technologies (Drupal, APIs, etc.), social media strategies (open source, networking, customer engagement), social media networking?

    When people argue semantics, it's usually because they didn't begin the conversation by defining the terms they're sharing. “Social media” compounds the problem because it isn't even a completed term. Give me a noun.

    For the record, I share your basic view that social media always comes down to conversation and community. But even defined within those boundaries, the term contains some vast stretches of foggy territory.

    • pamelaminett

      Agreed.

      Social Media WHAT?

      My interpretation is that social media is a glorified term for Word of Mouth. 'Media' refers to the transmission channels for information and 'social' refers to the human-being aspect… hence: information being passed from human to human… aka Word of Mouth.

      So this (IMO) has been around for aaaages.

      But Social Media Tools and Technologies have now made Social Media a very real and much more influential form of communication.

      So as consumers ran away from other mediums due to the overabundance of marketing messages, these tools & technologies enabled word of mouth (or social media) to be the preferred and more effective choice for consumers.

      Maybe?

      • Nice thoughts, Pamela. Thanks for that. I'm certainly not in disagreement with you there.

    • Nice thoughts, sir. I like the connection and will certainly give it more thought. Well played.

  • Thanks for the thoughts. Certainly very relevant points and important to consider as we better define what we do and how we do it. Good stuff to ponder. Thank you!

  • Thanks for the thoughts. Certainly very relevant points and important to consider as we better define what we do and how we do it. Good stuff to ponder. Thank you!

  • Great insights, Mike. Thanks for those. I agree that socializing commercial interests is certainly having positive effects on how consumers engage with companies and vice-versa. Hopefully, we can all continue to progress smoothly toward a fully engaged marketplace where social media is just natural and not called anything other than how we talk to one another.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • Great insights, Mike. Thanks for those. I agree that socializing commercial interests is certainly having positive effects on how consumers engage with companies and vice-versa. Hopefully, we can all continue to progress smoothly toward a fully engaged marketplace where social media is just natural and not called anything other than how we talk to one another.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • Well said. I like it because it's more simple and less wordy than mine. May adjust my definition a bit.

    Thanks for that!

  • Well said. I like it because it's more simple and less wordy than mine. May adjust my definition a bit.

    Thanks for that!

  • This post is provoking, semantics can be very important. It roots in our conceptions (and as it goes misconceptions) of the terms we use. What we believe or understand about something (here “social media”) will result in the actions we take. Take for instance, @armano's take that “social media” should really be “social business” — and noted here “social web” — the connotations behind each of those words creates the reality in how people/businesses use them. Great post!

  • websuccessdiva

    This post is provoking, semantics can be very important. It roots in our conceptions (and as it goes misconceptions) of the terms we use. What we believe or understand about something (here “social media”) will result in the actions we take. Take for instance, @armano's take that “social media” should really be “social business” — and noted here “social web” — the connotations behind each of those words creates the reality in how people/businesses use them. Great post!

  • websuccessdiva

    This post is provoking, semantics can be very important. It roots in our conceptions (and as it goes misconceptions) of the terms we use. What we believe or understand about something (here “social media”) will result in the actions we take. Take for instance, @armano's take that “social media” should really be “social business” — and noted here “social web” — the connotations behind each of those words creates the reality in how people/businesses use them. Great post!

    • Thanks for the thoughts. Certainly very relevant points and important to consider as we better define what we do and how we do it. Good stuff to ponder. Thank you!

  • Thank you, Andy. Hopefully discussing the definitions a bit more will help eliminate the problem of folks using it who don't understand it. We'll see.

  • Thank you, Andy. Hopefully discussing the definitions a bit more will help eliminate the problem of folks using it who don't understand it. We'll see.

  • Fair points, Mr. G. Thanks for sharing them. I would certainly agree with you, though I do think helping folks embrace the technologies and teaching them how the old communications facilitators are a touch different online requires a bit of specialization. Still, you're right. Largely, it's no different and shouldn't require some obscenely left field approach.

    Appreciate the input.

  • Fair points, Mr. G. Thanks for sharing them. I would certainly agree with you, though I do think helping folks embrace the technologies and teaching them how the old communications facilitators are a touch different online requires a bit of specialization. Still, you're right. Largely, it's no different and shouldn't require some obscenely left field approach.

    Appreciate the input.

  • Excellent points, Becky. Thanks for sharing. I have the same interactions with clients but with regards to the term “blog.” I usually use “content management system” and that seems to lessen their nervousness with it. Perhaps we need to customize our use of the terms based on the client need, expectations and fears?

    Thanks for chiming in.

  • Excellent points, Becky. Thanks for sharing. I have the same interactions with clients but with regards to the term “blog.” I usually use “content management system” and that seems to lessen their nervousness with it. Perhaps we need to customize our use of the terms based on the client need, expectations and fears?

    Thanks for chiming in.

  • beckymccray

    I'm going to take some liberties with Sheila Scarborough's content (http://www.sheilasguide.com). She wrote this for Liz Strauss's 25 Words Project:

    'No one is all that crazy about the term “social media.”

    I like “social Web.”

    It’s a new world, so no one can really disagree.'

    Personally, I work with a bunch of very small local companies. They don't care what I call it. They don't hear the phrase “social media” from me. But we do talk about specific tools. I'll let you folks who deal with big corporations fight out the right generic term, so pick a good one. In 2006, it was still “New Media.”

  • beckymccray

    I'm going to take some liberties with Sheila Scarborough's content (http://www.sheilasguide.com). She wrote this for Liz Strauss's 25 Words Project:

    'No one is all that crazy about the term “social media.”

    I like “social Web.”

    It’s a new world, so no one can really disagree.'

    Personally, I work with a bunch of very small local companies. They don't care what I call it. They don't hear the phrase “social media” from me. But we do talk about specific tools. I'll let you folks who deal with big corporations fight out the right generic term, so pick a good one. In 2006, it was still “New Media.”

  • beckymccray

    I'm going to take some liberties with Sheila Scarborough's content (http://www.sheilasguide.com). She wrote this for Liz Strauss's 25 Words Project:

    'No one is all that crazy about the term “social media.”

    I like “social Web.”

    It’s a new world, so no one can really disagree.'

    Personally, I work with a bunch of local very small companies. They don't care what I call it; they want results. They don't hear the phrase “social media” from me. But we do talk about specific tools. I'll let you folks who deal with big corporations fight out the right generic term, so pick a good one. In 2006, it was still “New Media.”

    • Excellent points, Becky. Thanks for sharing. I have the same interactions with clients but with regards to the term “blog.” I usually use “content management system” and that seems to lessen their nervousness with it. Perhaps we need to customize our use of the terms based on the client need, expectations and fears?

      Thanks for chiming in.

  • lewis8

    Jason,

    Thank you for writing this. I have been arguing for five years (since I started blogging) that social media is neither a new idea nor anything more than new and interesting tools to do what media has always done–facilitate communications. Whether we talk marketing, advertising, PR, or any of the traditional media, the core purpose is to communicate.

    I believe that what has caused at least some of us to tire of the term is the social media evangelists, who are in many ways seemingly ignoring or ignorant of the past use of communications tools and convinced that they have discovered “social.”

    Good discussion starter Jason.

  • lewis8

    Jason,

    Thank you for writing this. I have been arguing for five years (since I started blogging) that social media is neither a new idea nor anything more than new and interesting tools to do what media has always done–facilitate communications. Whether we talk marketing, advertising, PR, or any of the traditional media, the core purpose is to communicate.

    I believe that what has caused at least some of us to tire of the term is the social media evangelists, who are in many ways seemingly ignoring or ignorant of the past use of communications tools and convinced that they have discovered “social.”

    Good discussion starter Jason.

  • lewis8

    Jason,

    Thank you for writing this. I have been arguing for five years (since I started blogging) that social media is neither a new idea nor anything more than new and interesting tools to do what media has always done–facilitate communications. Whether we talk marketing, advertising, PR, or any of the traditional media, the core purpose is to communicate.

    I believe that what has caused at least some of us to tire of the term is the social media evangelists, who are in many ways seemingly ignoring or ignorant of the past use of communications tools and convinced that they have discovered “social.”

    Good discussion starter Jason.

    • Fair points, Mr. G. Thanks for sharing them. I would certainly agree with you, though I do think helping folks embrace the technologies and teaching them how the old communications facilitators are a touch different online requires a bit of specialization. Still, you're right. Largely, it's no different and shouldn't require some obscenely left field approach.

      Appreciate the input.

  • I agree with your explanation as a whole. People will inevitably get caught up on semantics and tire over any phrase used incessantly. The problem lies in the over-usage of the word by people who do not understand its meaning. And perhaps the only way out of that issue is education.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I agree with your explanation as a whole. People will inevitably get caught up on semantics and tire over any phrase used incessantly. The problem lies in the over-usage of the word by people who do not understand its meaning. And perhaps the only way out of that issue is education.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • andybusam

    I agree with your explanation as a whole. People will inevitably get caught up on semantics and tire over any phrase used incessantly. The problem lies in the over-usage of the word by people who do not understand its meaning. And perhaps the only way out of that issue is education.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Thank you, Andy. Hopefully discussing the definitions a bit more will help eliminate the problem of folks using it who don't understand it. We'll see.

  • Jason:

    I use this definition all the time and it works for those who are seeking to understand it and have no prior experience with it:

    Social media is any media that allows you to have and engage in two way conversations.

    Online or offline-social is about two way- not one way communications.

    Hope this helps.

  • Jason:

    I use this definition all the time and it works for those who are seeking to understand it and have no prior experience with it:

    Social media is any media that allows you to have and engage in two way conversations.

    Online or offline-social is about two way- not one way communications.

    Hope this helps.

  • Jason:

    I use this definition all the time and it works for those who are seeking to understand it and have no prior experience with it:

    Social media is any media that allows you to have and engage in two way conversations.

    Online or offline-social is about two way- not one way communications.

    Hope this helps.

    • Well said. I like it because it's more simple and less wordy than mine. May adjust my definition a bit.

      Thanks for that!

  • Agree that the defining characteristic of what we call “social” media is, more precisely, that it is “participatory.” Also agree that “participatory media” increasingly includes both social and commercial content.

    I'd argue that most worthwhile participatory content is somewhere on the continuum between purely social and purely commercial. While the commercialization of social media is something to be concerned about for social media purists, the socialization of commercial content is squeezing out some of the bullshit that drove marketing in the broadcast age, and this is almost unquestionably a good thing.

  • Agree that the defining characteristic of what we call “social” media is, more precisely, that it is “participatory.” Also agree that “participatory media” increasingly includes both social and commercial content.

    I'd argue that most worthwhile participatory content is somewhere on the continuum between purely social and purely commercial. While the commercialization of social media is something to be concerned about for social media purists, the socialization of commercial content is squeezing out some of the bullshit that drove marketing in the broadcast age, and this is almost unquestionably a good thing.

  • Agree that the defining characteristic of what we call “social” media is, more precisely, that it is “participatory.” Also agree that “participatory media” increasingly includes both social and commercial content.

    I'd argue that most worthwhile participatory content is somewhere on the continuum between purely social and purely commercial. While the commercialization of social media is something to be concerned about for social media purists, the socialization of commercial content is squeezing out some of the bullshit that drove marketing in the broadcast age, and this is almost unquestionably a good thing.

    • Great insights, Mike. Thanks for those. I agree that socializing commercial interests is certainly having positive effects on how consumers engage with companies and vice-versa. Hopefully, we can all continue to progress smoothly toward a fully engaged marketplace where social media is just natural and not called anything other than how we talk to one another.

      Thanks for stopping by.