What is Social Media?
I’ve been inspired by my former lecturer, Richard Bailey to pen this post simply asking ‘what is social media?’ There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of credible explanations and below is Wikipedia’s definition which is as good a place to start as any:
‘Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues.’ (Wikipedia)
This definition is all well and good, but in order to try and move beyond this and actually discover what social media means to individuals, I put out a Tweet asking my network for their definitions – and in the interests of being social, here they are:
Social media is…
‘The ability to converse, get to know people and share experiences and feelings with friends whilst in a suit or pj’s, not that I wear pj’s’ (SimonApps)
‘It’s our most primitive form of communication. And arguably, forums were social before the term and trend itself.’ (GrahamCreative)
‘SM = coming out from behind the spin and standing naked, flaws and all; listening, learning, understanding and earning respect.’ (JonClements)
‘networking, sharing, interaction, sociable :)’ (mylifeinleeds)
‘new media in which businesses/brands and individuals communicate online to publicise and inform. Taking over traditional media.’ (erin_croly)
‘using technology to mimic the natural flow of information between human beings and groups of them?’ (Mcmoop)
‘a term which is tossed around here and there, where no one could really give a fixed definition for it. I would say its media where it uses web based technologies for users to make a social interaction through sharing content, video, comments, ideas, etc. A place where two way communciation is involved.’ (Sophia A Fantis)
Again, more great definitions. But one thing is clear – it is problematic to try and tie social media down to a simple definition. As soon as a comprehensive definition is agreed upon, there is a very real chance that it will have already become outdated.
For what it’s worth, I think I we need to accept that we have reached a point where the continual evolution of online technologies means users will fluidly migrate from one service to another. Subsequently, the one constant in social media is human behaviour and movement of ideas, conversation and other such intangibles.
I’m of the opinion we should move towards a definition that emphasises more on the how and why people communicate, interact and share on social media, rather than the platforms, techniques or technologies used.
Social media is defined just as much by how people use it, rather than what platforms they are using.
So, what is social media?