Definition of Social Media

Social Media SitesI’m putting the finishing touches on a presentation I’m giving tomorrow to a group of local entrepreneurs. The subject is Blogging and Social Media in Your Business.

As I was putting it together I discovered that there still isn’t a definition of social media that really hits the mark out there yet. Robert Scoble started a big discussion about the term over a year ago. That post has over 100 comments with all kinds of opinions on the subject.

Wikipedia is often the go-to reference source online these days, and it happens to be a social media site itself. However the Wikipedia definition comes of sounding a bit lofty and I get the feeling that when the average person reads through those two sentences walks away thinking, “Great. But what does that mean?”

Most of the rest of the definitions out there seem to be by marketing types who get fixated on the various tools and technology. The best definition I found was by Isabel Walcott Hilborn. But hers is still missing a piece of the puzzle from my perspective.

Social Media Definition

Here is what I came up with.

Social Media
Communication formats publishing user generated content that allow some level of user interaction.

It is the ability for users to interact with one another over and above their ability to generate content that really makes a media form “social” in my book. And that component has so far been missing from the definitions floating around out there.

Social media seems to pretty much be confined to the internet at this point. I’m not convinced that will necessarily always be the case. It is entirely possible that some new form of technology might be created that allow social media in other realms.

What are your thoughts on social media?

Is that a workable definition or does it still need more work? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. Chris, I found this very helpful – not so different from your definition.

  2. Brad, that’s a good link. Solid marketing perspective there. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. its mostly a means of attracting people to your content so that they can spread your stuff around. its a viral marketing campaign. cool info though.

  4. I think what makes defining “social media” so difficult is that so many confuse the implications of the thing with the thing itself. Social media is simply content generated by the content viewers themselves. The implications of this are huge–viral marketing, dissemination of information, “normal” people influencing common knowledge–but none of its effects should be confused with what it is.

  5. Chris,

    I really like your definition. It’s sort of the Occam’s Razor version; nothing unnecessary included. Well done, sir!


  6. Barracuda, That is one of the things social media can do from a marketing perspective, for sure. But that doesn’t quite describe what it is.

    Lucas, you’re exactly right. There are advantages for marketers to successfully tap into social media as part of their campaigns. So far that’s been a big part of the conversation on the subject.

    Mike, Thanks! I appreciate the Kudos.

  7. Social Media has been mostly a waste of time for us, for anything beyond blogging. The ROI has been dismal. Blogging, however, has been very effective for us.

  8. I like this definition because it is straight and to the point. You are right about the wikipedia definition being lofty. I was reading that page just yesterday before I gave a 20 minute presentation on Social Media. I was actually wondering if you wouldn’t mind looking over my illustration on my “Social Media Stadium.” I posted the pdf handout on May 20th. I hope your presentation went well.

  9. Robert Safdie says:

    Your defintion is very concise. Loud applause for your work. Let’s take your definition and apply it to three other communiation media and see if the model works.

    Newspaper formats publishing reporter’s generated text that allow readers to read..

    Radio formats broadcasting announcers music allowing listeners to listen.

    Video formats producing directors’ vision enabling audiences to view..

    It will suffice, but awkwardly. Sometimes being too concise crams too much into too little space resulting in something that can’t be appreciated by those that need to learn about it the most.

    Good luck with your goal.

  10. That’s a very basic definiton. Social Media is basically a hangout for friends to share content, whether its pictures, articles, news, etc.

    It’s all about bringing people together and sharing stuff.

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