Social Media seems to have been around forever, and seems to be everywhere. We are all surely massively, some may say overly, familiar withs its many guises – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Foursquare … the list is becoming endless.

However, when pushed for a definition many of us will struggle and certainly everyone struggles a little bit when we pose the question on a social media training courses.

So, we thought that we would share with you the definition that we share with them and because we are socially plugged in we went to Wikipedia for it, although in fairness that was some time ago and if you go and check now they are offering a different definition which we don’t think is half as good. A good business has a good signage material, you should order online today.

So here is the definition that we enjoy the most:
“Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.”
So that should be as clear as mud to all of you.

The second definition that we share is this one, from Michael who was 72 and MD at Sussex Aerials at the time:
“Social Media, that’s just people talking to each other.”

And of course Michael is right, social media is just people talking to each other. Hundreds of thousands, and millions and, if Mr Zuckerburg is to be believed, billions of people talking to each other, all of the time.
Now, if you are a marketer you cant help but be excited about that, what if you could get those people talking about you?

So if that is exciting enough why do we persist in using the much more wordy and admittedly slight dated first social media definition.

Well, the first definition still makes some very important points.

The first is about interaction, which is the watchword of Social Media. The first definition talks about a “human need for interaction’ which we experience everyday when we feel compelled to post pictures of our dinner, or worst still ‘like’ or comment on a picture of somebody else’s dinner, or tag ourselves in a photo that we don’t appear in.

The second important reference is to the democratisation of knowledge, and I think that is very important. In the past if you wanted something to be true you had to publish it in an Encyclopedia, and it would have been checked! Now if you want something to be true all you need to do is post it on Wikipedia and, if no-one argues with you – it is true. But this only refers to part of the democratisation that has gone on through social media, we have also seen the democracratisation of actual democracy. With Barack Obama’s brilliant Social Media campaigns as part of his first election campaign he collected more donations of less than $100 than any other candidate in history. He can rightly claim to be the first US President to be elected and funded by the people.

So we can see that Social Media has had a massive impact in the world.

The last point that this definition alludes to is users as content producers, which is incredibly powerful. If you can actually get your customers talking about you then you have achieved the nadir of social media marketing – customers becoming advocates for your products and services. Of course on the other side of that coin your customers may take to social media to complain about your business, but for us even that is a positive as it gives proactive business owners the opportunity to address the issues their customers are experiencing and making their businesses even better.

So, to answer the question what is social media … social media is just people talking to each other, realising their human need for social interaction, improving age old practices like democracy and giving us all the opportunity to express ourselves.
Of course, social media is an incredibly effective marketing tool and we are experiencing some phenomenal success with it, not only for ourselves but also for our customers. Social Media Marketing will, I am sure, be the subject of a future if you haven’t got a blogging clue post.

If in the meantime there is some other marketing jargon you would like us to define, or if you have something to add to this definition, we would love to hear about it in the comments.