There seems to be a school of thought among marketers and businesses that social media is just about the tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, other social networks and that's it. It's like saying nail, hammer, wood, and ruler.
If we look at the definition of social media from Wikipedia
"Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing
information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences..."
See that word that's highlighted, discussing? That's an important word in the definition of social media because it gives social media a new context. It's one thing to just share information in a one-way traditional marketing sense and something quite different to do it via social media. Why? Because with social media there's an inherent notion that what is shared will be, well, potentially discussed. And usually discussions take more than one person to happen.
Now, here's the catch...the definition also goes on to say "the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities." So what the does that mean?
If we go back to the tools analogy, it could mean that co-workers on a job site are going to make sure that the nail, hammer, wood and ruler are used in a way that works best for everyone. Let's call it tool consensus. So, the manner in which the tool is used, it could be used in silence or while discussing the project going on at the job site and that ultimately depends upon the tool consensus.
There is a point to the analogy, really. Marketers and businesses need to understand not only the tools, but how the communities want the tools to be used. Some communities might appreciate the silence and some might really want to discuss the project. And no one community will be like any other. In fact, a community could be mixed in consensus. Perhaps it's not just about the tools after all...and wouldn't it be best to offer a little of both until consensus is reached?
January 20, 2009
Beth Harte is a marketing, communications & social media consultant, speaker and professor that started her career when companies barely had e-mail—let alone websites. Experiencing Web 1.0 first hand, she also enjoyed the mad dash towards implementing integrated marketing communications and SEO/SEM. Beth is deeply engaged with marketing, PR & social media and helps companies do the same. Being a firm believer in ‘walking the walk to talk the talk,’ Beth blogs at The Harte of Marketing where she shares tips, opinions & observations that she’s experienced firsthand or picked up from some of the best marketers, communicators and social media leaders in the world.