Social media provides the stage for multi-directional human conversation.
To help you understand Social Media, 60+ marketing experts and influencers contributed their social media definition.
Posted to the web in 1999 and published in 2000, The Cluetrain Manifesto laid the groundwork for social media as we know it today.
These “5 Theses” lay the foundation for the defining characteristics of social media (Source: Cluetrain Manifesto ).
Around the same time, Seth Godin recognized that customers now had the power to ignore marketing. He described this as Permission Marketing .
According to Godin ,
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
To put today’s social media landscape in perspective, let’s examine the top level global data ( Hootsuite )
Further, the world communicates with messaging apps . Of these, WhatsApp reaches the most countries but population counts.
The world uses messaging to communicate according to Hootsuite Research
While most social media posting takes place from Monday through Friday, don’t underestimate the potential for breaking through on weekends!
Most social media posting takes place Monday through Friday
Based on Hootsuite Research, most social media posting takes place during the work day.
Since our social media definition post was first published on May 9, 2011, we decided to find out what professionals who used social media as part of their work thought.
So we asked senior marketers, influencers and authors for their social media definition.
In their own words, here are their social media definitions.
Where appropriate and still relevant, we included some of the original 30 social media definitions from 2011. These social media definitions include a note stating this.
( Editor’s note: Some definitions were reformatted and typos were corrected to improve readability. If the changes misrepresent your point-of-view, contact us and we’ll fix it!)
Authenticity, vulnerability, and quality define social mediain terms of content creation, storytelling, and being a media personality.
At the broadest level, social media is the ability to share content, information and resources – media – with one or more people.
This is not limited to publicly accessible content and as a result social media can include private messaging services and platforms.
Social Media is a tool we use to keep connected with the people in our lives. It’s a way to strengthen relationships and to make new ones.
While mainly our personal relationships they are also the brands, celebrities and businesses we like… and sometimes love… and sometimes love a bit too much and thus.
It’s less jump cuts and more live video. Live video comes across as more authentic with its live comment section. These communities then spread among different platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.
The digital marketing industry is evolving at lightning speed and so is social media.
In 2019, the focus is on building trust and loyalty using real, personal and authentic content.
With new content formats and challenges, it will be exciting to leverage social media to connect with your audience in 2019.
This encompasses aggregated news, individual content, blogs and communities, AI, video and communications delivered via online platforms, websites and tools.
Social media continues to grow by double digits, despite what you read in the press .
Just five years ago, social media revenue on mobile and desktop was $7.0 billion. It’s now over $22 billion. (Source: IAB Revenue reports.)
Social media is a space that’s continually evolvingwith the rise video/streaming video, social commerce, native advertising, influencer marketing and new ad formats, including AR formats.
Brands and publishers want better measurement to be able to prove ROI.
Social media is today’s most transparent, engaging and interactive form of public relations, communications and beyond.It shapes brands and allows customers to participate in the process.
Social media builds communities and movements.
As a vital part of our communication ecosystem, it can also be dangerous and unhealthy when misused, overused and abused.
Social Mediais a new marketing tool that allows you to get to know your customers and prospects in ways that were previously not possible.
This information and knowledge must be paid for with output of respect, trustworthiness, and honesty.
Social Media is not a fad, but I also think it’s just the beginning of the marketing revolution – not the end. (Note: This is Margie’s original 2011 social media definition.)
This includes social channels, chat bots and private groups etc.
Social Media are the platforms that enable the interactive web.They do so by engaging users to participate in, comment on and create content as means of communicating with their social graph, other users and the public.
With the use of social media tools, live-streaming video, direct messaging, and content, social media gives businesses direct access to their customers .
Social media is dominated by a few very powerful platforms that collect data on users and the sell targeted advertising to marketers.
Social media is an ever changing platform to reach your target audience.
How I define social media ‘done right’ is another answer: Social media is a platform to meet your buyers where they are, to show up in an authentic manner, and add value to them through content and engagement.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and all the others I don’t have the word count to mention aren’t media; they are platforms for interaction and networking.
All the traditional media — print, broadcast, search, and so on — provide platforms for delivery of ads near and around relevant content. Social media are platforms for interaction and relationships, not content and ads.
Social media isn’t a magic pill for traffic woes; it’s used to deepen longer-term relations.
Social media remains the same as always – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Social media = people’s conversations and actions online that can be mined by advertisers for insights but not coerced to pass along marketing messages. (Note: The second paragraph appeared in Augustine’s 2011 social media definition.)
Social media is an ever-evolving two-way street for individuals, influencers, and organizations alike to captivate, reach, and communicate with each other by creating or sharing powerful experiences— which may or may not include pictures of corgis.
Social media also doubles as a data mine for users to opportunistically develop and defend effective marketing strategiesgleaned from market insights or current trends.
It’s critical to remember both words — “social” and “media”. Many companies forget the “social” par t.
This is not another megaphone marketing channel; in fact, it’s the only marketing channel where people can talk back!
Listening and engagement are required in order to succeed with customers.
Social media is beyond just using the platforms like Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook.
Most social mentions of your brand aren’t just on the major platforms so it’s important that you focus on consistent positive brand mentions and content that will have a spread effect of inbound opportunity for your brand.
Social media is an ever-growing and evolving collection of online tools and toys, platforms and applications that enable all of us to interact with and share information. Increasingly, it’s both the connective tissue and neural net of the Web. (Note: This is Ann’s original 2011 social media definition. )
Social media can include social networking sites like Facebook, business networking sites like LinkedIn, Q&A sites like Quora, discussion sites like Reddit, and other social gathering places online.
Also, it’s all about how you make people feel by adding to their day, making them smile, building trust and connecting globally.
Social media is online text, pictures, videos and links, shared amongst people and organizations. (Note: This is Dave’s original 2011 social media definition. )
Most organizations approach social media wrong. They ask “who should own it?” as if it were simply another channel like email or search.
Social media is not one thing– It’s five distinct things:
The people who are making the most out of social media understand that at the heart of social media are people!
Social media – when done right is still one of the best tools to scale relationship building (and for a company or business this is priceless.)
We come together to have ongoing conversations and share our views so we can decide what the next natural step is in our own lives.
From consumption to creation, how we use social media is helping us figure out that next step based on the communities we engage.
Social media in 2019 is all about authenticity and building meaningful relationships versus vanity metrics.
It’s about creating content that shows off your personality so you can easily and effortlessly build rapport so you stay top-of-mind and tip-of-tongue.
For businesses, social media continues to offer new ways of engaging with existing clients and attracting new ones.
In many ways, social media forces a degree of transparency as users demand more interaction and accountability from businesses. Social media platforms are humanizing because consumers demand that we listen!
However social media platforms have work to do to increase trust after recent privacy and data breaches. As a result, I expect to see further strengthening of privacy in 2019.
Social media is now such a “norm” in our lives that we forget that these platforms are private companies. As such, they need to follow their own policies as well as government policies.
People may think that you should only care about the Big 4 social networks.
But you can find customers in any social network, big or small. Forums, community pages, and even comment sections can be parts of your social media strategy.
We might have lost our way a bit with automation and turning social media into a place where content is blasted to the masse s (like old-school advertising)… but smart marketers are realizing that we need to bring it back to human interactions.
Social Media is less about controlling the conversation with content, and more about joining or being invited into conversations with our audience or customers, including conversations about our brand. They’re our best storytellers anyway.
Paid social, through channels like Facebook and Instagram are proving to be incredibly effective and resilient media options.
Earned social, as in getting “organic” or “free” exposure, is increasingly challenging saved primarily by employee advocacy, influencers and the rare “viral” video.
Owned social, especially for B2B brands, is being absorbed into a brand’s overall content marketing strategy. For customer service, social remains a place to turn haters into lovers and lovers into evangelists or vice versa.
Defining social media is a lot less important than understanding its role in a brand’s overall marketing strategy.
With social media , I think there’s a literal definition concerning the media that people create and share online.
But there’s also the notion that social media is about the technology that facilitates individuals and groups of people to connect and interact, create and share.
Unlike other software that works fine with a single user , social media applications and websites work better the more people there are using them . Technology that facilitates collective wisdom, engagement, creation and sharing – that’s what I consider “social media”. (Note: This is Lee’s original 2011 social media definition. )
Such platforms can certainly have closed elements, but if the foundation isn’t open, it’s not “social.”
Social media is all about leveraging online tools that promote sharing and conversations, which ultimately lead to engagement with current and future customers and influencers in your target market.
The key to social media working, is having a content marketing strategy that involves the distribution of valuable, relevant and compelling content that promotes the behavior you are looking for that will ultimately drive your business.
Most businesses start with the tools.
Effective social media starts with a content strategy that helps to position you and your brand as the expert in your niche through provocative, informative and helpful content. Then, once that is accomplished, the social media tools are now available today that make the plan come together. (Note: This is Joe’s original 2011 social media definition. )
Social Media is an attention machine.If you want to be seen you must be relevant there.
Social media is computer-mediated technologies that allow creation and sharing of information, ideas, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.
My social media definition 2019 remains the same as I would have used in 2009:
(Note: This is Mark’s original 2011 social media definition.)
In 2019 I believe the evolving definition of social media is:
Most literally, social media would be any object or tool, that connects people in dialogue or interaction — in person, in print, or online.
In common usage, social media has come to mean a specific category practices, technology, tools, and online sites that involve social relationships, participation, and user-generated content. (Note: This is Liz’s original 2011 social media definition.)
Social media is a place for brands to listen to their audience and create the communication that really meets their needs.
Brands must show a human face, talk like a real person, and ignore differences due to distance and time.
It’s ironic because:
As businesses show more realistic presentation, real people do the opposite.
As individuals, we constantly create a world of people who are always happy and who do nothing but spend time on the beach or drink coffee in fancy bars.
Personally, I’m really interested in how this develops because let’s be honest, no one knows.
It’s where people and vendors and politicians and everyone comes to gather and share ideas.
Social media is how we interact with our communities and our world at large.
Regardless of your social media definition, all of these networks continue to evolve and our conversations grow. As it does so, participants find new ways to use social media to improve their business and personal lives
We have a responsibility to our audiences digitally and in real life to ensure that social media platforms deliver truthful and trustworthy content, communications and engagement.
Further we must protect the data of our audiences and those with whom we interact with across social media platforms.As a result, we continue to earn their respect and to deepen our relationships.
How do you define social media?
Please include your social media definition in the comments section to expand this conversation.
This post is dedicated to Trey Pennington , an early social media influencer, who died since the original post was published.
Editor’s Note: This Social Media Definition post was originally published on May 9, 2011. At the time the post contained 30 social media definitions. Since then, the content was significantly expanded with new data and input from other marketers. Further many of the original contributors updated their definitions.