I think I should start with comparing a number of definitions on what exactly social media is before we venture any further:
Definitions of Social media on the Web:
- Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. …
- media that is created to be shared freely
- A category of sites that is based on user participation and user-generated content. They include social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us, social news sites like Digg or Reddit, and other sites that are centered on user interaction.
- Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. …
- Social media are works of user-created video, audio, text or multimedia that are published and shared in a social environment, such as a blog …
- Any website or web service that utilizes a ‘social’ or ‘Web 2.0’ philosophy. This includes blogs, social networks, social news …
- Software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content (examples are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace etc)
- An umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. …
- The term social media describes media that is posed by the user and can take many different forms. Some types of social media are forums, message boards, blogs, wikis and podcasts. Social media applications include Google, Facebook and YouTube.
- Social media is any form of online publication or presence that allows end users to engage in multi-directional conversations in or around the content on the website.
- A million different definitions from a million different people. But over at Duct Tape Marketing they say “[s]ocial media is the use of technology combined with social interaction to create or co-create value.”
A lot of differing opinions on what exactly is the definition of social media is – I liked what Ted McConnell from Procter & Gamble Co marketing’s take on social media is:
“I think when we call it ‘consumer-generated media,’ we’re being predatory,” he said. “Who said this is media? Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. … We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”
“You can do really amazing things. But I’m not so sure I want to be targeted like that. … I don’t think everything every consumer says to someone else and writes down is somehow monetizable by the media industry.”
For me, Social Media is a series of platforms for interaction and networking, a combination of tools that allow users to interact, share knowledge and engage with one another.
So is Social Media all about the Marketing & PR?
Well I certainly don’t think so – while marketing & pr is used extensively in social media, the essence of social media is not about advertising at all.
In my recent research into social media return and revenue analysis, which I term the Social Media Value Factor, I found that just like all advertising based initiatives – there is a bit of a disconnect between the advertising world and social media.
Big brands are pushed into thinking that social media is all about the next big campaign and providing “value” through theses campaigns “engaging with you users” through these campaigns – there is no long term value in this.
If you really want to engage with your users then engage – give them something a bit more valuable than another well crafted ad or pr campaign. The brand recognition and brand equity will come naturally if you communicate naturally.