Thrive in our connected world

Defining Social Media

It’s no wonder that so many businesses still don’t “get” social media – just check out the wikipedia definition. It’s a definitional dog’s dinner that reads like a bad voodoo spell (and it will put you to sleep)

Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM)“.

What???? I think we need a simple, usable, real-word definition here – in 10 word or less…

Of course, the simple solution would be just to say Social Media = Media Sharing. But that doesn’t quite work, since a lot of social media doesn’t involve sharing media (i.e. blogs are primarily about sharing thoughts not media). And anyway, media “sharing” is an activity not a thing…

Or how about Social Media = User Generated Content. But when was the last time you checked YouTube? Most of the content is not user generated, it’s just user uploaded.

So how about this as a definition?

Social Media: Online Publishing Platforms Supporting Multi-User Contributions and User Interaction

Sure, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the eight word definition does seem to accurately describe the main social media tools – blogs, wikis, forums, media sharing sites, review sites… And it captures the key elements of social media – it’s social, it’s based on user contributions, and supports user interaction. Any other ideas? For creative stimulus – take a look at Lee Lefever’s Social Media in Plain English clip…

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.