What is social media?

What is the difference between social media and other forms of media, or online environment platforms. That’s the interesting question we have been proposed to answer for class this week.

My first instinct was to say that social media is where content is shared with others on the web, hence the “social” part on the name. From my advertising days I know that media, and its singular form medium, refers to channels of communications were information is transmitted, stored and delivered. It’s close enough to the definition you can find for media at a business dictionary, which also emphasizes the role media as a mean to disseminate content to others.

Building on that social media would be a way to share information with others in a social environment, as in one where people spend time interacting with each other.

What makes something “social media?”

I really liked this definition that social media is a canvas upon which we paint our content by Brian Dodson. It is a platform that we can use to share content we produce or find so that others may be able to access it. Much in the same way I’m doing in this blog. Social media is then the platform, a noun as Dodson says, for you to publish content enabling it to be found by others (social networking is the verb, the action of engagement that happens when people interact with the information and talk about it or talk back to the source). Something can be considered a social media when it enables content to be accessed and shared by others. Examples of social media websites are: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Digg and so on so forth as this nice picture below by Innovision shows.


Expanding on the knowledge I gained so far about this subject I would say that what makes something social media is its ability to allow a two-way conversation between the content provider and the audience, as well as conversations among the audience members themselves.

How is “social media” different from other forms of media?

Social Media is different from other traditional channels that can be used to disseminate information (like television, radio, print, etc) precisely because it allows this two-way communication to happen. It creates a sense of community, as Angela Hausman says, were the communication is unstructured, user generated and open. Traditional media provides content that is curated by several people, is supported by paid advertisers that rely on audience numbers to decide were they will advertise, it is a one-way channel (even though people can send letters, phone into programs and share content from these channels in social media websites), communications is more controlled, formal and content is polished (by the aforementioned curating).

What are some online examples of “clearly social” media?

I liked this definition by Jamie Turner that groups social media into categories according to what they can help you do. I’ll share it here:

Social Media Platforms that help you network (connect) with others: Facebook, Google+, Friendster, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, Xing, etc.

Social Media Platforms that help you promote: YouTube, Blogs Platforms (like Blogger, WordPress, etc), Vimeo, Flicker, Picasa, etc.

Social Media Platforms that help you share: Instagram, Digg, Buffer, Pinterest, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Wikipedia, etc.

What are some online examples of “clearly not” social media? Why?

I would say TV, Newspaper and Radio websites are not social media, even if their content can be shared in social media and used in social networking efforts. Some newspaper websites even allow you to sign into the comment sections with your social media website credentials but I still wouldn’t call them social media websites on their own right.

Much in the same way, store-shopping websites are not social media. But I must admit I’m confused about Amazon, since they have discussion forums too, I’m confused about where I would classify them. I guess most people would not consider them a social media site since no content is being produced to be shared there (other than reviews, forum posts and books that people can self-publish there).

What constitutes social media is an interesting question to analyze and I learned a lot about this subject just by trying to answer questions for this blog post (including my own).


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