What is Social Media?

Social Media is one of the most over-used phrases these days. Everybody knows a little bit about it but few could answer what it really is.

In this post I will explore what makes something rightfully bear the name “Social Media” and then over the next few posts will highlight some of the most popular Social Media tools and their use for Consumers and Businesses

What is Social Media?

Social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue (Wikipedia)

Social Media is not Facebook, Twitter or those other places your teenager is preoccupied with. Social Media is a revolution in the way we communicate - what makes it different to other channels of digital communication is the ability of users to interact with the originator. In a way it brings us full circle to when we needed to rely on face to face time to communicate, times when we passed on stories and messages orally. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, etc. are just vehicles for this way of communicating - they can and will evolve or be replaced by tools that the users define by either accepting or rejecting them. This entertaining video (shared on Social Media) has some interesting stats and comparisons included:

In my opinion all Social Media platforms have these points in common:

  1. They offer an easy option to comment and leave feed-back
  2. Make content available and sharable
  3. Provide an opportunity for (open) dialogue

Like with all Revolutions, the paradigm shift in the way we communicate affects a wide spectrum of our lives - here are a few:

Internet Users

If you look at web sites from even 5 years ago you will notice that most are static and act as a digital version of printed materials. The interaction with the originator is usually limited to email or phone contacts. Modern Web sites offer dynamic content and invite users to connect, give input and engage with the content.

The way we approach gathering information or seeking entertainment has changed. More than half of users want to interact with the material they are spending their time with. Sharing information, knowledge or entertainment with friends or strangers is rapidly becoming a natural part of our lives - online and offline.

We shape the future of the internet every day! The decision about what we see is rapidly shifting from the power of Publishers and Media Outlets to ourselves. A service or page that does not engage and captures its audience will not be successful in the long term - no matter how much money is poured into publishing it.

Business is learning to engage Customers

When I first started offering business owners the opportunity to learn how to use Social Media tools to grow their business many denied the relevance and talked about their teenager being on Facebook. Today, the same conversation brings a much different response. It’s more the “HOW TO” that is the topic rather than the “IF”

Many businesses are trying to take advantage of the power of Social Media platforms, sometimes with good success. However, we are talking about a dramatic shift in customer behavior and a lot of the established marketing principals have to be “unlearned” before someone can be successful in this brave new world. If you would like to learn more about this shift, please contact me.

For the business owner, Social Media tools offer some amazing new possibilities:

  1. Listening to your customers for feedback and new business ideas
  2. Targeting specific interest groups by using keywords
  3. Networking - This aspect of Social Media tools is the one are that will become the most important in the new world
  4. Reputation Management - being able to see and respond to customer comments offers amazing potential for building trust
  5. Customer Service - for example I will answer customers’ questions on my Facebook Brand Page where I can answer one question and many that may have the same question can share the information
  6. Social Media gives the small business owner opportunity to reach customers as a Fortune 500 Corporation. Creativity and being close to the customer can outweigh multimillion $$ marketing budgets

Social Media is bringing Democracy back to the People

 As my Blog readers know, I see huge potential in Social Media changing our whole approach to Democracy - the newest example being the massive outcry about attempted Internet censorship bills in the USA.

Social Media is also changing journalism by replacing traditional news channels and in turn changing the role of Journalists and News Editors.

Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism, one-to-many, to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people and peers. ~Brian Solis, Engage

Where do you see the Impact of Social Media in your life? Please let us know in the Comments below

Over the next weeks I will highlight some of the most important Social Media platforms - please come back and read how they are different from each other and how they impact our lives.

I am the the founder of BlueBird Business Consulting (formerly Tweet4Ok). My focus is on Social Media strategy and education. My blog covers topics ranging from how-to social media posts to more general topics of concern for a rapidly changing digital world. Favourite quote: “To succeed in the business of the future we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis


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