The term “social media” provokes a continuum of reactions ranging from parents concerned about MySpace predators (rightly so) to Internet marketing folks invested in leveraging traffic with blog technology enabled online media rooms. It’s interesting to note that, while millions of people participate in sites like StumbleUpon, Wikipedia, FaceBook, Squidoo, Digg, Netscape, Furl, Reddit, Del.ico.us, YouTube, Flickr, twitter, and myBlogLog, many informed Americans have never or barely interacted with social media enough to understand what the heck it is…or so they think.
Same As It Ever Was
In reality participating in an online social community is not very different from the physical human experience as we make our way though life. If you’ve ever recommended a restaurant to an associate, taken your kids to a local community center swimming pool, read a theater review, offered your opinion at a social gathering, or set up a buddy for a blind date you’re already a social media expert. The point of divergence is that online tools make the art of relationships easier.
While there is certainly a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding what social media is and how it works, corporate America (as evidenced by the deer-in-the-headlight look we sometimes see in new clients’ faces) has figured out that user generated media can blow the hell out of your Brand. Our children communicate and participate with their peers using modern online networking tools. More and more traditional “search” functions are moderated by user reviews and other input from humans.
Actually, nothing much has really changed. Though the tools social media bring to the festival of human interactions have streamlined the process and made global personal networking a reality, all social media sites share some or all of the following common attributes:
Voting on, sharing, and bookmarking content
Voting on, sharing, and bookmarking people
Searching for content
Searching for people
Gaining personal authority
This is no different than the physical world. We vote, share, bookmark, search, make friends, and gain authority in our physical lives every day. Rotary Club members elect leaders. Friends gossip about other friends and recommend music. We call each other on our cell phones and send text messages to our mother to say “hello I love you.”.
That said what makes social media sites so alluring for many is that voting and bookmarking site mechinisms provide varying degrees of enticing anonymity and socially acceptable voyeurism. This can help folks get over inhibitions and amplify those who aren’t shy to begin with.
Whereas in life it’s not good behavior to lurk outside a prospective soulmates window and observe the content and people THEY bookmark and vote on, in some sites polite and respectful versions of this behavior is encouraged. It’s possible to be shy, deep, and become an authority figure on the strength of valuable content, commentary, friends, and insight you bring to an online community.
Social media is really a logical extension of the natural life we lead in the physical world. Ask any married couple who met on the Internet if social media tools are plastic or somehow less personal than the physical world and they’ll debunk your misperception in a hurry.
Interesting Social Media Links:
Smogger Social Media Blog