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Social Media Defined

Once in a while I like to go back to the basics. A while back I wrote a post clarifying the meaning of the word “marketing” and corresponding terms such as social marketing, social media marketing, and social media engagement.

The key problem I see now is people using the broad term “social media” when in fact they mean either “social media tools” or “social media engagement’. Rarely do they mean both. This is why there is such a massive social media knowledge gap in plenty of organizations as proper context is often lost in translation.

Here’s how I like to simplify things:

  • Web 2.0 : A shift of the Internet from a publishing environment to a participation environment.
This is the big picture term explaining what has been taking place on the internet over the last decade. The problem with it is it sounds too techie and is partly to blame for the initial delegation of all things “web 2.0″ to IT departments. The term is in rapid decline and will hopefully cease to exist in the near future as people realize that web 2.0 is essentially synonymous with the modern internet.
  • Social Media [noun] : Internet based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.

Proposed correct term: Social Media Tools

  • Social Media [verb] : People having conversations, building relationships and exchanging content online; digital word of mouth and social capital building.
Proposed correct term: Social Media Engagement
As the social media space evolves, so should the terms used to describe it. This definitely also applies to professionals working in the social media field such as myself. More on that in my rant on “Social media experts, gurus, consultants and strategists“.

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