What is Social Media?

What is Social Media?

Photo by Mark Hunter, licensed through creative commons. Some rights reserved.

We’re all doing this social media thing, but do we really understand what it is or why we’re so interested in it?

The social aspect of the definition refers the instinctual need we have to connect with other people to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas, according to Lon Safko’s book, The Social Media Bible.

The media part of the term is about how we use various mediums or technologies to create and maintain those relationships, while building trust.

Safko posits that social media is a new set of tools that allow us to connect and build relationships. He claims social media is doing what traditional mass media like telephones, advertising and televisions used to do.

I’m not sure I agree with Safko here. It seems disconnected to think that social media is replacing traditional communication tools. Perhaps a better way to consider the role of social media is its ability to add to or supplement existing tools. Social media is another method we can use to communicate.

Let’s Talk Nerdy!

Do you view social media as a replacement or a supplement to more traditional communication methods?

51 comments
3dmodelsart
3dmodelsart

I can't imagine my business without social media. Facebook and Twitter these days are a must have! They are essential in the communication with your clients and costumers.

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b.nijhoff
b.nijhoff

Ye I use social media for social contacts but also for my business. It really is a great way to find new customers. Thanks for sharing this great article.

malexander
malexander

Social media is more supplemental to traditional communication. For example, I saw a commercial for Target on television this afternoon. At the end, they gave a link to Facebook instead of the website. I think this demonstrates that social media is becoming more popular, but that traditional media is still used. I don’t think that social media will take over traditional communication as a whole. We will always have television, radio, and print media.

I did a social media training last week for a political organization in Oklahoma. The way I describe social media is that it is an ongoing conversation. On Twitter, you read people’s tweets and reply to them. On Facebook, you can comment on someone’s status with the click of a button. Traditional media is much more one-sided, though not always. A radio commercial is not a conversation with the audience. A newspaper can have a conversation with the audience because people can submit letters to the editor. In the Oklahoma Gazette, they have a section for public commentary every week. The Gazette is also free to the public and is able to sustain itself based on advertising, I imagine. It is an incredibly popular magazine in Oklahoma, so it is able to come at no cost to the consumer.

In January, I am moving to Doha, Qatar for a year. Yes, I will have a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. but nothing will replace actually being with my friends and family. Some people say that media is changing our need for human interaction. I don’t believe this to be entirely accurate. While it will be nice to stay in contact through the Internet, it is not a substitute for real conversations.

Social media is also very useful for instant news. Our society believes in instant gratification. That is, we want everything the moment we decide we want it. I find out about a lot of breaking news through Twitter. I learned that Osama bin Laden has died through a tweet from CNN. If I were just reading the newspaper every day, I would not have known until the morning. Additionally, I could see hashtags that referred to his death and I read things that people across the world were saying. After bin Laden was killed, it was discovered that a man in Abbottabad, Pakistan had live-tweeted the raid without even knowing it. I went back and read his tweets. It is fascinating to think that I can read a timeline of bin Laden’s death from someone is Pakistan just by clicking a link.

FReyes
FReyes

Social media is a tool that gives us more means of communication. I don’t agree that social media has replaced the traditional way of communication, but it has given us more ways to stay connected with the world. It is easier now to stay in touch with family and friends by using facebook and twitter. It is also quicker and easier to obtain important information and news by using social media sites. Social media sites are not just useful for communicating and connecting with family and friends, it helps to build business relationships as well. Social media allows companies to advertise, interact with employees and customers, and receive feedback. Overall I feel that social media is a great way for individuals and businesses to communicate information, stay connected, and meet new people.

JKA
JKA

Social Media is really the way the 21 century communicates now a day. Instead of calling or even texting I could hop on Facebook talk to friends or Co-workers and get important assignments done or even just to get people to meet somewhere. Which than makes it rare for people to even make phone calls. An example one of my friends phone plan has unlimited text and data (mostly for facebook and twitter) for his Iphone but only 100 or 200 minutes for phone a month. Meaning he has no real use for his phone only so he can talk to his parents here and there.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

This is just my own view of social media. Social media is the way we interact with each other online. I believe it can be used as a way to meet new friends as well as stay connected with friends and family by updating what is going on in your life so your family feels like they know what you have been up to. In a way, Facebook is a more socially acceptable dating service. Someone may friend request you that you may not know and are able to view your pictures, area, and interest so they can see common interest to see if a person is worth talking too.. While this is a questionable belief the fact that it can also be used as a diary or a place to vent. I see blogs and social networking as a sight used to let out real emotions. It is sometimes just an extension of the phone.

For businesses, they can use it as an informal background check. By looking at pictures, statuses, blogs the employer can see past the interview questions.

aschexnayder
aschexnayder

In its current form, I view social media as a supplement rather than a replacement to methods that are considered "traditional". In an business environment, It is a means for broadcasters, advertisers, and other users of mass media to receive feedback and engage with their consumers. When television shows display a small lower-third with a Twitter hashtag so that users can easily join in a common discussion (as recently seen while watching Dance Moms on Lifetime), you see the desire to engage their viewers in a more active, rather than passive way. Anyone can have the television on in the background. Viewers who care about the program will hope to engage with it on a deeper level, making them active viewers- and more receptive to the messages (and, most likely, advertisements) linked to the programming. I doubt that the current social media platforms- Facebook, Twitter, Google+- will ever replace television or printed media, but these older mediums might be broadcast by utilizing new technology, such as the power of the World Wide Web.

I applaud the movement by companies to actually listen to their consumer and give them a way to interact with their brand. In the history of traditional media, there has not been an easily engaged, waiting group who has been eager to share their thoughts and opinions with hundreds, potentially thousands, of individuals in the matter of a few keystrokes. In this way, it can replace older, less effective mediums such as letters to the editor or company. It's also a great way for many individuals to see many points of view on a subject being dealt with, rather than letters to the editor that have gone through a selection process.

From the business side of things, I view it as a wonderful supplement that, with proper technology growth, could replace mediums that are less effective to the modern consumer. But, on the personal level, traditional means of communication cannot be beat. I spent this past summer in Chicago, hundreds of miles away from my family and closest friends. While there, I texted with my friends and family continually- but nothing replaced a wonderful phone conversation when I got to hear their voices. I stayed in touch with their lives through following them on Facebook and Twitter, but I always wanted to hear the posted information and personal details straight from the individual. New technologies, such as Skype, can help to improve these kinds of communication, but I doubt that any of these means- phone calls, Skype, text messages, follows on Facebook or Twitter- will ever replace the comfort and warmth of a personal conversation held face to face.

SavannahOwen
SavannahOwen

I find it quite annoying that one would refer to social media as a replacement to communication. I am what you could call old school. I enjoy talking on the phone, I hate texting, and I very rarely respond to Facebook messages. It is much easier to just pick up the phone and call someone. However, I do find it to be a very useful tool from time to time. When my boyfriend is deployed, we can use Skype, or even text for free via our iPads. It's also handy when your cell phone decides to bite the dust and you need to collect numbers from your friends all over again. What bothers me the most with social media communication is the amount of spam or just unwanted advertisements. I know that if I am using my phone, I don't have to worry about being interrupted by pop ups, chats, annoying event invites, etc. This is the reason why I love Twitter so much (I actually recently deleted my account because I was so addicted to it and needed to find better things to do with my time-HA!) because you can chose who you want to follow, who follows you, etc. Yes, Facebook and other social networking sites do have privacy controls, but I swear, at least once a week I get some annoying invite to games or lame parties that seems to haunt my page. So to answer your question, no, I don't think that it is a replacement, but I do find it to be a very resourceful tool from time to time.

jcmalone
jcmalone

In some ways social media has replaced traditional forms of communication. I am much more likely to create a Facebook event than send out personal invitations and to call my brother in South Korea, I Skype him rather than racking up a ridiculous phone bill. Social media gives us options on the ways we decide how to communicate with people. I can email, Facebook, Tweet, Skype, blog, text and call all from my phone at any point in the day. Sometimes I choose to Tweet at a friend rather than texting them, yet I still find myself talking on the phone. I do agree that social media is a supplement to traditional media, but I feel that with increasing technology, traditional communication outlets will be used less and less.

Nik T
Nik T

Originally I believe social media was designed to supplement the more traditional forms of communication. It's a great way to keep people connected, and connect with multiple people at one time. However I believe things have changed, and now for some social media is a primary source of communication. It is also easy to fall into the habit of checking things like your facebook daily ( I am on right now).

That being said though, I believe in emergency situations we always resort back to the primary forms of communication. For instance if you really want to contact someone you aren't going to send them a message on facebook or tweet it. You will pick up the phone and call.

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

It is my opinion that social media, while being a GREAT method to market to and network with other people, cannot completely replace traditional communication methods. On the contrary, social media and traditional methods (phones, billboards/other types of advertising) should be coupled and in my opinion can compliment each other.

mking90
mking90

Recently, two teachers from my high school asked to be my friend on Facebook. It took weeks for me to decide whether to accept them or not based on statuses, pictures, comments, wall posts, etc. I was afraid they would see. Although I am a senior in college, I still feel a disconnect/level of respect for those in authoritative positions. I would never want these people to view me in a way that would disappoint them. With this being said, I did finally accept the requests, but I monitor the things I say a lot more, something I should have done from the beginning. Now, if I want to rant, I take my frustrations to Twitter, which seems to have more of an "anything goes" feel to it.

Social media, as stated by ashelihud, is divided into age groups. I am often astonished at some of the things my 13-15 year old cousins say online. They do not have to worry about jobs or universities seeing these things yet; but, I do hope by the time they do, they are aware of the consequences of social networking sites.

Online dating is another issue. I cannot imagine meeting, falling in love, or even marrying someone I "met" online. Call me old fashioned, but the thought of "serial killer" comes to mind! There are more filters and safer methods of meeting mates online, but it is so impersonal. Methods of communication have become so extreme that one can compare an excessive use of texting to online chatting. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other sites allow video chat to allow face time with the person you are "getting to know."

The more advances in technology the easier it is for people to meet, argue, fall in love, market products, stalk others, etc. Social media is convenient, but very impersonal. I like actually taking my applications into my future employers rather than clicking a 'submit' button online, knowing all the "friends" I have on Facebook, and seeing who is following me on Twitter. Social media is great for marketing, but when it comes to communicating with peers, family, and old acquaintances, I would much rather pick up a phone to have a real conversation!

Ashelihud
Ashelihud

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, it's all just a supplement. Personally I try not to post anything on the web that I will regret if I look back at it in 6 months, or if it is not a good representation of myself. Social media is basically a way for me to keep in touch with all my friends. Now days, I don't have a friend that doesn't have either a facebook or twitter account and I love that! If they don't answer their phone I know they will see their facebook wall. Therefore this would make it a supplement. Relationships are best in person. Nothing can replace that, not even a skype video chat.

I would have to disagree with Safko when he says social media can "build relationships." Social media is a whole different breed that I watch differ from generation. Children I babysit for make completely different posts than I do with inside jokes and trends that fit their age group. Whereas those childrens' parents only have a facebook to follow their young adolescents or keep in touch with those old high school buddies. My age group (early to mid- 20's) is a mixed one I feel. We have the immature users and the ones who keep professional. The occasiona ones still trapt in high school or college and the ones shifting to use social media to work up in their career. Ending with the most simple person using social media as another "cell phone."

In my opinion, nothing can replace a phone call or a text message. However it comes down to personal preference, how you want to communicate someone.

eayoung
eayoung

Social media is the most popular form of social media. Since social media comes in multiple ways, of course it is replacing the traditional way people communicate. Look at the telephone, who takes the time out to actually place a regular phone to someone. Either we text each other or video chat. On all smart phones your have some type of social media website to keep connected to your friends and family.

I think social media is any other way to communicate with multiple people other than the regular phone conversation. So things such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and all other way to conncet to people is social media. Plus, the social media replaces television because you can connect to a more target audience vs on television the ad reaches any and everyone regardless if people is interested in it or not.

Social media is here and it is taking over all traditional marketing and communicating. Social media in my opinion allows marketers to reach more people and be more creative. When someone creates a blog, you can use it to the best of your ability vs. on television you have to meet certain guidelines. Social media allows someone to be a free spirit and communicate the way they chose.

Sir-Roderick
Sir-Roderick

I have to admit that I am looking at Social Media from a different view lately. I have been looking at social media from the standpoint of solely communcating with friends, family, and just something fun to do. So to say my definition for social media from that standpoint is a place to connect with people and state your opinions. Also to add, it is a place to express yourself (pictures, information about yourself, music, etc...). Now looking at it from a business view, it is hard to define myself. It is new and exciting for me to explore the many ways of using social media for business, mainly for the possibilities and the connection with your customers.

I would have to say in a way it is replacing traditonal communication methods. Maybe not so much from a business standpoint or maybe just for some individuals. Most of the news my peers and I hear are from social networking sites facebook, twitter, etc... If I want to know about movies, games, music, current events, listings of events in the city, or just other random things, it is just a post away from asking.

aknuck
aknuck

At my organization, it's my job to explain the concept of social media and its many platforms, guide staff and membership in integrating it into our communication tactics, and to be the social media "police," teaching them proper online etiquette and digital citizenship.

Honestly, it's hard to define the Facebook phenomenon, because it can be used for so many things (i.e. p.r., marketing, sharing pictures of puppies, cyber bullying). All the options make it hard to steer people in the most effective direction, at least for businesses and organizations. Nonetheless, it's important to have a voice on such a huge platform where people are inevitably talking about you and your brand. It's important to be tuned in to what their saying, set the agenda for conversations and show them that you're listening.

I see it as a way to enhance your normal communication, rather than replace it. It's an excuse to say you've checked in on an ill family member because you've written on their Facebook wall; and in the same way, it's flippant to say you're communicating with your target audiences if it's solely or primarily through social media.