Regular Eyecube readers (both of you) will remember my post from last week asking if the term Shared Media wasn’t more accurate than Social Media. It generated some good conversation here and on Twitter, so I felt it was worth exploring further. I reached out to several people I highly respect and asked for their thoughts on the matter. The results were as insightful as they were varied. I wanted to collect them here and share them with you in hopes that we can continue the discussion.
First, DJ Francis from the OnlineMarketerBlog lays out a really well-reasoned argument before ultimately disagreeing with me, stating “All social media is shared, but not all shared media is social.” Bonus points to DJ for this passage:
In a past life, I was an apostle of structuralist literary theorist Roland Barthes and his Death of the Author essay. I concur with Barthes that “[t]o give a text [or content] an Author” and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it “is to impose a limit on that text.”
Um, yeah, I was just discussing Barthes the other night while watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Right then, moving on…
So instead of social media, or earned media, or interactive, or whatever title you want to put on this new world where people can share stuff, I say call it what it is: participation.
These day, things are obviously different, and we’re all working on a definition for that difference. But I think it’s simple: consumers can participate in an unprecedented way. They can review, comment, share, disparage, or celebrate a brand.
So marketers need to craft communications that encourage the participation that will work best. And here’s the best part: the place that has the least amount of silos has a head-start.
Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs (one of my new favorites) had some great thoughts on the subject:
I think Social Media is fundamentally about people. Social media doesn’t necessarily require content in any traditional sense, it requires a purpose for individuals to congregate around. That might be a piece of content to share but it’s just as likely to be a cause, a utility, a value exchange or a collaboration.
“Social media” is undoubtedly a seriously overused phrase right now-and when it’s used to describe any and all kinds of user generated content, it probably doesn’t fit any more. Is a blog really “social media” if it doesn’t empower the community to come together, act together and be more powerful and useful together than they are individually? My real bugbear though is that because its strongest association at the moment is with social networking, it’s hard for some businesses to understand the profundity of what’s really happening with things like social lending, social product development and do on.
I’m not a huge fan of semantic debate for the sake of it, but I do think there are some genuine nuances here that are worth exploring not purely for the intellectual satisfaction but because they come back to the fundamental question for all marketeers; what are we trying to achieve? What is the commercial imperative facing this brand, what is the role of digital in helping us solve it and what, therefore, do I need consumers to do differently? When we address those questions some of these distinctions do become important in practice not just in theory. So in some cases I may want to make my consumers my media channel and bring down the cost of paid for channels (earned media), in others I may want to build a utility my consumers return to again and again, driving frequency of interaction with the brand, in which case I may be in the business of social media. Nuance may actually become quite important in giving social or indeed shared media (which I do believe are different) a clear and demonstrable commercial effect.