UPDATE: Some fantastic comments on this below, make sure you read those. Also, a related post today from Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs here.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked by Adam Broitman of A Media Circ.us to participate in an article he wrote for iMedia Connection – Social Media: Whose job is it anyway? In addition to myself, industry heavyweights David Berkowitz, Shiv Singh, Michael Lazerow, Christine Perkett and Shel Holtz all contributed their thoughts on several thought provoking questions. It’s a way worthy read you should definitely check out.
After reading it, I got to thinking about one of the specific questions:
“In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?”
My hunch is that the answer is “yes, it will,” but that doesn’t mean I think it is the most appropriate term. In fact, I think “Social” along with our dear friend “viral” both need to be rethought and/or scrapped.
Did you say Viral? Cough, cough, I’m feeling ill
Remember back in the day, you know, last year, when everybody wanted “Viral Videos” that would magically spread across the land, showering your with traffic, sales, etc.? Yeah, well then smart people like Mike Arauz, Faris Yakob and others shed the light on this concept and I’m not seeing the term “viral” used as much, at least not by Social Media marketing practitioners. While I understand the original analogy, let’s be honest, who wants to engage in conversation or interact with a virus? Aren’t viruses things to be avoided? Come to think of it, that’s how I think of a lot of the “viral videos” out there now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to see another video of people dancing in a subway station; or kids lifting their eyebrows to the beat (see, I’m not even going to link to them, you know which ones I mean though). I think the term “viral” has seen it’s time come and go.
Social Media? When was the last time you had a cup of coffee with a blog post?
Let me go back to the original article, in which Adam asked: What if the term “social media” is wrought with flaws from the onset?
“In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?” The alternative being that all media will inherently be social, and ultimately treated as such. The multiple choices were:
- Yes, but I am not happy about it!
- I sure hope not!
I was shocked by the response. All but one of the respondents answered “yes.” The outlier answered, “I sure hope not.”
It is my belief that the term “social media” will still be around in two years, but I hope the industry matures to a point where we realize that all media is inherently social, and that what was once deemed “social media” is now part of a larger trend in media — participation.
Let me reiterate: All media is social!
I’m not sure I agree with this, and here’s where I’m going to put forth my alternative term.
All media isn’t social, all media is shareable
I don’t think we can attribute a quality like ‘social’ to an inanimate object. To me, people are social (or not); videos, posts, photos, podcasts, etc. are simply content. Now, that content can generate social interactions between people – generate conversations, drive debate, challenge preconcieved notions – but the content itself is just that, content. If I write a blog post but never publish it, is it still ‘Social Media’?
I think the term Social Media still has relevance, when you add the word Platform at the end. A Social Media Platform (or Network) such as Twitter, Facebook or Flickr provides an opportunity for people to be social.
Shared Media – Now we’re talking
So what is good content? It’s shareable. In the PR industry they talk of earned media, as opposed to the paid media of the advertising industry (aside: Check out Greg Verdino’s take on earned media v. earned attention as well as Matt Hames’ piece on earned v. social). I think Shared Media fits nicely between earned and paid. Yes, your paid media can be shareable, but you have to earn the share by having quality content and by sharing it with the right people in the right way.
I think the term Shared Media also speaks more accurately to what is actually happening. When you pass along that great content you are sharing it. The content isn’t doing it (like in ‘Social Media’), the person is. It’s not inherent in the content (like the notion of ‘Viral Videos’), it’s based on how the content is utilized.
Let’s hear from Adam again from his Imedia article:
The word “media” itself involves two parties — a sender and a receiver. The word “social” is based on theories that involve the co-existence of people. If two people co-exist in an ecosystem and one does not respond to a message, there is still information that is sent back to the point of origin (the information being, “for one reason or another, I am not interested in your message”). Given the advanced nature of our information technology, the excuse, “I had no way of responding” does not hold water, leaving us in a state where the lack of a response is, in effect, a response.
Yes, but a lack of a response does take the ‘Social’ out of ‘Social Media.’ Shared Media allows for the possibility of one-way as well as two-way engagement.
I’d love to hear from the folks who participated in Adam’s article, as well as Adam himself, Mike and Faris too. And please share your thoughts here as well.