Sunday, July 08, 2007

Are you an expert on social media?

Tell the truth now, do you really think you're some kind of an expert on "social media", whatever that really is? Seriously, because if you are, you should head over to the Wikipedia and help craft a useful article on the topic. I myself still have only a vague conception of the term, so I decided to read what the "authoritative" Wikipedia had to say on the topic. Not much, it turns out.

The article text define the term as:

Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media itself.[1]

Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. The social media sites typically use tools like message boards, forums, podcasts, bookmarks, communities, wikis, weblogs etc.

The article gives little more than that and a few sparse examples and a link to Robert Scoble, but the real highlight of the article is that it has a big official Wikipedia editorial banner across the top which says that "This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject." So, experts, go to it!

Other than as a replacement for the term Web 2.0 (or social computing or social networking), I'm not sure what social media should entail.

I understand the "social" part of social media, which simply means that we're talking about people and something about them interacting in some way.

The part that baffles me is the sub-term "media." Sure, I know what media is in general, but what specialized meaning is it intended to take on in this context? I understand media in the sense of newspapers, magazines, books, television, and radio, and even the Web, but is that really how the term "media" is being used here?

Is "talk radio" by definition "social media" because of its caller participation?

Is a magazine that invites reader submissions and letters to the editor also social media?

Do letters to the editor and the Op-Ed page make The New York Times social media?

I gather not. There is nothing in the term "social media" that suggests or even hints at a dependence on the Internet or Web, but I gather that the arrogant proponents of the term are trying to define "old" media out of existence or at least out of "relevance." I personally do not approve of such brutish use of language, but it's not so uncommon.

Why not simply call it the "Social Web" and then people can instantly recognize that "Oh, it has something to do with the Word Wide Web"? Makes sense to me, but then one of my biggest problems is that I'm always try to make sense when that doesn't seem high on the priority list of most people. The main problem with the term "Social Web" is that it simply doesn't convey the raw arrogance of "social media" and arrogance is very important for a lot of people, particularly those who seek to command very high consulting rates or to marginalize other people out of the "picture."

There is one context where "social media" seems to make perfect sense (to me), the use of blogs and online reader comments on the web sites associated with "old" media. The Web-based media directly parallels the real-world media and now offers a "social" interaction component. This makes perfect sense to me, but somehow I don't think this is precisely what the proponents of "social media" really had in mind.

I just really wish those social media experts would update the Wikipedia article, or maybe the Wikipedia simply doesn't fit their conception of a "social media." Maybe it needs to be renamed Wikimedia.


BTW, see how annoying these tag things can be and how little value they add:


-- Jack Krupansky


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home