I thought I’d start with my views on what social actually means. There is no real fixed definition that everyone agrees on – as an example, the Social Media Guide – a renowned marketing website – has an article that lists 50 separate definitions. In reality they’ll all reasonably similar but I think you can boil it down to a simple statement:
Websites and applications that enable people to interact and share information online.
A key thing to remember though is, the most important part isn’t about the media, it’s about being social.
If that’s what it is, then let’s go down a layer and look at what this actually means. Social media shares most or all of the following 5 characteristics:
Social media encourages contributions and feedback. It blurs the line between media and audience.
Most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage voting, comments and the sharing of information. People can see what’s being said and comment on it, if they wish.
Whereas traditional media is about “broadcast” – pushing your content to your audience – social media is better seen as a two-way conversation or a dialogue, something you can use to really engage with your customers.
Social media allows communities to form quickly and communicate effectively. In this respect all community means is a group of people who share common interests, such as a love of music, a football team or a favourite TV show.
Most kinds of social media thrive on their connectedness, making use of links to other sites, resources and people.
As you can see, social media share a number of common traits with modern business communication.