Social Media Explained: What Is It Exactly?

You’ll hear mention of the term “social media” every time you turn around these days. They talk about it on the TV news and news websites, other bloggers talk about how they’re using social media to promote their blogs, and everybody has a favorite site they recommend. But what exactly are they talking about? Are they just talking about Facebook and Twitter? Or is there something else you should know?

what is social media

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In broad terms social media is any type of content that encourages interaction. Media is simply the instrument used to convey information. Newspapers and magazines are media, but they’re not social media because you can’t interact with them. You can’t add your own information or opinion and you can’t engage in a conversation through them. You can talk to other people about something you read in a magazine but you can’t have that conversation in the magazine.

So, for all intents and purposes, social media refers to websites where people go to share information and carry on a discussion about that information. Typically, the information they share is in the form of links. Now, before we go any further, let’s take a look at blogs and forums.

Your blog could almost fall into the category of a social media site. You provide information and you encourage your readers to leave comments and discuss your content. However, most bloggers don’t allow their readers to share additional information – you don’t allow them to add links and images when they comment. So your blog isn’t really a social media site. Some forums do fall into the category of social media but only those that allow and encourage members to share links and information, along with the discussion.

Now, there are different types of social media sites:

  • Social bookmarking sites: Members interact with each other by bookmarking content and voting it up or down. These sites generally have a variety of categories, including favorite blogs and favorite videos.
  • Social news sites: Digg and Reddit are two popular social news sites. Members interact by sharing and commenting on news articles.
  • Social photo sites: Pinterest is the newest social photo site but Tumblr is popular, too. Members interact by sharing photos and commenting.
  • Social networking: This is where you’ll find Twitter and Facebook. Members interact in discussions, and you’re encouraged to join groups and form “networks” or communities.

The reason social media marketing is so popular is because more and more people are joining these social networks as a way to meet new friends and … socialize. While they’re socializing they also share information about products or services, or they recommend articles or blogs. And when a friend recommends something you have a tendency to pay more attention than if you just heard it from some blogger.

Different social media sites attract different types of audiences. You might have one blog where all your readers hang out on Facebook. Set up a new blog and you might find that all of those readers hang out on Reddit. So if you’re tried social media marketing without much success, don’t give up. Maybe you just picked the wrong site. Ask your readers where they hang out and they’ll be happy to have you join in.

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Galpen

    Great article, I agree that everything can be viewed as social media. Most people just think of Facebook and Twitter as social media but any marketing that is done with intent of interacting with an audience can be used a social media. It is hard to keep up with the massive amount of social “networks” that are out there.

    1. Thanks for your comment Scott. I agree that keeping up with all the social networks is complicated… It’s better to focus your efforts and attention on 1 or 2 of them!

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