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Social Media Policy – Part 2 – Defining “Social Media”

Defining what “social media” means is another factor cited as important to a social media policy. This definition provides a framework for understanding what the organization is discussing. For instance, Facebook is commonly known to be a social networking platform. Twitter is often called a micro-blogging platform, but some believe it to be a social networking platform as well. Both Twitter and Facebook can be categorized as social media tools. However, many traditional media websites are adopting social networking or social media aspects to their websites. For instance, the New York Times recently released a social media application, called TimesPeople, on the NYTimes.com website that allows users to create profiles and share New York Times materials with other users. Additionally, the social media landscape changes rapidly and, as such, future popular services are either just beginning to develop or have yet to be invented. Therefore, consideration should be given to what types of tools are to be included rather than focusing on specific tools when developing a definition for social media. Broadly speaking, social media tools encompass any website that allows a user to post information that others can view or otherwise to interact with other users.

So how would you define social media? Is a definition important?

Cross post from my blog at http://sleepisoptional.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/social-media-policy-part-2-defining-social-media/

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Martha McLean

Hi Brian,

This should certainly be a discussion starter.

Your final comment: “…any website that allows a user to post information that others can view or otherwise to interact with other users.” is likely why so many government departments have been slow to embrace social media. Fears over loss of control of messaging and obligation to respond are often comments I hear the most.

I manage an “eCommunications” team and continue to be relatively comfortable with this as it can and should include any new ‘tools’ that appear. The web will continue to evolve and new tools, such as social media, inevitably find a way to integrate them into the MSOM (mainstream online media.)

Like you, I prefer to try not to refer to specific tools, and am now finding myself not even mentioning ‘types’ when chatting with program areas. What’s your objective, who’s the audience and where’s the content? We’ll take it from there and report back on reach/measurement.

I’ve been in government communications for over a decade – I certainly don’t recall discussing our Fax strategy, do you? 😉

Great picture by the way – congrats!




I really like the post and comment regarding the “Fax strategy.” It seems most people want a Twitter and Facebook strategy but the truth is there is thousands of tools and new ones are created every day. I remember about 15 months ago I created a Gov 2.0 presentation for my boss – it didn’t even include Twitter. That’s how fast things are moving.

A lot of it in the end comes down to engagement. How can employees engage with citizens and what are the general rules of conduct for employees? And let’s take those and remind people that they also apply on the web.

Brian Gryth

Thanks Steve and Martha. From your comment and those on my previous post, it seems that people are just confused or not taking the time to think things through. I have found my self having to both push for something and then try to slow people down. You get people saying we need to be on social media and then saying, but we have to control the message. Thanks for the input.