So Just what is Social Media?
Some of the most prominent practitioners of social media gathered at the Thistle Hotel in Marble Arch, London, on 12th November, for Social Media 09, a conference aimed at showcasing best practice in social media and generating debate amongst the industry. One thing that was certainly apparent was that the industry is still divided over what “social media” really means.
By Chris Lee
“It’s time to confront the elephant in the room,” Lindemann said. “Social media is a meaningless term. It’s not the media that’s social; it’s the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. This is nothing new. Ideas get shared and passed on. It’s about two-way behaviour.”
Lindemann argued that for brands “just getting talked about is not enough”. Some brands may generate plenty of online buzz, but they don’t necessarily engage with their target audience. Being “social”, she said, included opening a conversation – sharing, connecting and collaborating with your audience. In this regard, she said: “social media is not a helpful way to talk about it. Social is about what you do on Facebook and Twitter.”
“Being social isn’t just about marketing; it’s about customer service too. A bad experience can spread rapidly but the social web helps deal with problems quickly,” she added. “Being social is something you do with people, not to them,” Lindemann concluded.
However, some industry commentators believe that the word “social media” is an apt description and should not be trivialised.
Stephanie Himoff , vice president of European sales and business development for social media interaction software firm Pluck, told NMK: “It is human instinct to want to be involved in a community – to share your views with those around you and in turn to take on board that community’s opinion. Social media is the online incantation of our offline interactions. The term social media is established and perfectly describes the interactions that take place online – a two-way, engaging conversation. Whether that is on a popular social networking destination such as Twitter and Facebook or a brand’s own bespoke social site, the term social media describes the interactions perfectly. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
Time to Change Channel
According to Giles Rhys-Jones, director of Interactive at public relations consultants Ogilvy Group, “Social is not a channel, it’s an attitude”, while attendee Andrew W Ellis, co-founder of social media event organiser Like Minds, told NMK that “being social” now meant engaging in collaboration.
“The world is changing. Smart children no longer hide their work at school from their peers, they are encouraged to share and collaborate,” he said. “Consumers - all of us - want to ask, learn and share, not be told, bombarded and persuaded any more. Advertising used to be called ‘The art of Persuasion’. I would like to re-coin it ‘The art of Engagement’.”
Roger Warner of online PR agency Content and Motion believes that social media and the art of being social is more about stories and conversations and less about what he terms “Marketing Deliverables.”
“[Social is] always being engaging, interesting, useful and generally free and easy with your content,” he argued. “To do it well you need to re-wire the way you do content and the way you communicate. This isn't a Marketing play per se. Support, insight, tools, services and resources are the content assets that play best in social. This is NOT 'viral', and often not particularly creative, it's just helpful. Talk more, win prizes. Simple - go figure.”