Social media is dead, long live social media.

I don’t know about you but I’m starting to get a little tired of hearing the phrase ‘social media’. I guess it’s helpful as an umbrella term but it’s over used and abused. Also I’m not entirely comfortable about the phrase itself.

Here’s the thing. Since the moment that AOL disc came through the post I was most attracted by the connection and social interaction elements of the internet. When I set up my first business I was cash poor but time rich and so used forums to build trust & relationships, establish friendships and do business. It’s nothing new and yet you would think it was only invented yesterday by the way some people drip on about it.

However is this simply a case of ‘I bought a yellow Porchse because I don’t see them and then all of a sudden now I have it I see them everywhere’?

I don’t advocate changing the term for the sake of it, in any case the new term would soon get over used. Having said that I’m not 100% that social media is the right term in any case. Web 2.0 was the previous buzz word and of course this is the full broad term to include all content that is use generated via internet tools whether they be social or otherwise.

So who first used the term “Social Media?”

In 2007, Danah M. Boyd of the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley and Nicole B. Ellison of the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media at Michigan State University, published a paper entitled “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” In it is the first mention of “social media” and it was in this sentence:

Furthermore, as the social media and user-generated content phenomena grew, websites focused on media sharing began implementing SNS features and becoming SNSs themselves. Examples include Flickr (photo sharing), Last.FM (music listening habits), and YouTube (video sharing).

So it seems that by their definition in the paper, social media was focused on social networks.

Then later In February 2009, during a speech Boyd goes on to say this about social media :

Social media is the latest buzzword in a long line of buzzwords. It is often used to describe the collection of software that enables individuals and communities to gather, communicate, share, and in some cases collaborate or play. In tech circles, social media has replaced the earlier fave “social software.” Academics still tend to prefer terms like “computer-mediated communication” or “computer-supported cooperative work” to describe the practices that emerge from these tools and the old skool academics might even categorize these tools as “groupwork” tools. Social media is driven by another buzzword: “user-generated content” or content that is contributed by participants rather than editors

Boyd then goes on to explain how we got from “Web 2.0″ to “social media”:

But for the last few years, everyone’s been a-buzz with the idea of “social media.” Right now, those who want VC backing need to bake the “social” into any Web2.0 app they create. There are many new genres of social media that have gained traction here: blogs, wikis, media-sharing sites, social network sites, social bookmarking, virtual worlds, microblogging sites, etc. These tools are part of a broader notion of “Web2.0.” Yet-another-buzzword, Web2.0 means different things to different people.

So with that in mind what do we class the tools that are moderately social? Should non network based tools get their own umbrella term?

What would you call social media if it wasn’t called that? ‘Engagement Media’, ‘Communal Software’, ‘Cloud Conversing’?

Comments welcome as always.


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1 Comment

  1. Interesting post Gary – had no idea Social Media was such a new phrase – seems to have been around for years.

    My initial thoughts are that to name something you must first define what it is (and is not) – and that means deciding whether you are talking about the tools or the results.

    I would hazard a guess that for most of us the tools that make the web work are invisible – we are not conscious of hyperlinks, coding, structures – they are so much part of the environment (you tend to only notice when they go wrong). Therefore labelling something as a social media tool is only important for those building sites and apps.

    For the rest of us social media is more about what those tools do – how they affect our lives. To risk sounding momentarily facetious, we could ask: “What is ‘anti-social’ media?” Some might answer: “Walled gardens.” In that they are barriers to the free exchange of ideas. Broadcast news might be another – or opinion leaders who refuse to engage with their audiences.

    Social media therefore becomes a description of any environment (online or otherwise) where you can socialise (in groups or one to one). It can encompass websites, conference calls with friends (think Skype video dinners) or coffee shops. Social spaces might be an alternative description (not necessarily better) – since it describes what goes on in them not how they work.

    Just some vague thoughts through a haze of cold and Calpol. Keep well.


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