Social Media Defined
SOOS OIO has a fundamental question to answer: “What is Social Media?” A Google search for “social media definition” churns out a staggering result of about 183 million pages. Instinctively, many if not all, will quote Facebook, YouTube and Instagram as examples of social media. We know what social media is, yet a consensus definition seems like an illusive end. This might be a true reflection of the pluralistic nature of social media.
Jeff Bercovici of Forbes wrote an interesting article “Who Coined ‘Social Media’? Web Pioneers Compete for Credit”. I am in agreement with his ending thought that “Soon enough, all media will likely be social, in one way or another making the term “social media” obsolete.” Meanwhile, social media is yet to be obsolete, so this question still requires an answer.
Starting from the obvious, social media is made up of two words, “social” and “media”. The possibly most agreed and used definition of social media will be Google’s:
“websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”
This definition defines the “social” part of social media. Social is a synonym to community. Social and community are only possible when there are at least three persons interacting and communicating with one another, forming a network. You might remember the days before Internet whereby communities are physical gatherings at a particular space and time on a regular basis. The Internet, with the emergence of social media, created communities that network people beyond geographical and time limitations. Social has taken on another form — the connectedness between people digitally, who may or may not know each other in person.
Media is “the main means of mass communication (television, radio, and newspapers) regarded collectively”. This is the definition given by Google and is recognised without dispute for centuries. Officially or unofficially, social media is now regarded as a part of the media collective by PR companies and advertising agencies. The rapid growth of social media users over the last decade has made it an emerging platform for broadcasting that is peculiar to the other media members. This peculiarity created steeped learning curves for many. Yet it has also generated completely new opportunities and alternatives to individuals, businesses, organisations and governments.
The Marriage of Social and Media
The Internet is the binding factor that married these two independent unique entities, changing both their destines forever. The unprecedented technological advances in Internet has sealed this marriage, challenging and even changing the landscape and rules of engagement in both fields. The convergence of these two is a synergy that continues to evolve. The fundamental characteristics of social and media will remain. Yet, over time, the distinction between each gets fuzzier when technology mashes them deeper. This will possibly be the time when media can only exist in the context of social, and the term social media becomes obsolete. The reverse may, and should not be true.
Social Media Defined
Instead of coming up with a new definition, this discussion helps in the selection of one that will be used by SOOS OIO. So the final choice is from dictionary.com as it encompasses both the social and media on Internet platforms:
“websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts” — Dictionary.com