Is it Really Possible to Define Social Media?

In terms of today’s technology, Web 1.0 took a relatively long road to transform to Web 2.0. Remember that term, 2.0? It seems the term is withering away, being used less and less as social media continues to gain momentum as the all-encompassing buzz phrase. But, what is social media? Is it just a term to describe a new way to communicate? Some refer to it as a marketing method. Others maintain that social media refers to the technology behind social networking? Wasn’t networking always social?

One can hardly discuss mobile technology without bringing social media into the equation. Discuss customer service and social media is now mentioned. Find your brand on Yelp and quickly understand how customer service can create perceived opinion. Selling has been around since the beginning of time. But now social selling seems to be a trend. Can you really sell effectively without being social? Sales management has gone social as well. Have you heard about Social CRM? It’s no wonder there are still many people confused about social media and Web 2.0.

Wikipedia defines social media… “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein also define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.”

As we’ve heard stories about the inaccuracy of Wikipedia, can we rely upon their definition? Well, that’s another story for another day. But, within Wikipedia’s definition, Kaplan and Haenlein bring up a good point in defining social media as, “a group of internet-based applications.” Is that really a definition, or just theory or interpretation? Besides, can the definition of social media be accurate without mention of communication? Maybe the best way to define social media is the last line of the Wikipedia definition, “A common thread… a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.”

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