Social Media. What does that even mean??

By now, this term likely feels intuitive to most of the population, but for some it can feel pretty overwhelming, especially for business owners who are, perhaps now more than ever, expected to keep up with this ever-changing landscape.

 

As Quora user Dionne Lew, a strategic communications executive, puts it, “given that social media is now 15 years old and billions of new consumers emerging into the market have never lived without it, the risk of not being on social media is just as consequential”.

 

So to shine some more light on the topic, we’ve put together a 6-part series where we will explore key ideas related to social media and business, doing our best to answer three critical questions;

 

  • What is “Social Media”?
  • What makes a website or application a type of social media?
  • How can businesses leverage these platforms to their advantage?

 

In this first article, we will define social media and look at the difference between a feature and a function. In the following articles, we’ll take a deeper look at a number of popular platforms and use our definition to decide if it truly is a “social media”.

 

So if you’re ready, let’s begin!

 

According to the Oxford dictionary, social media are, “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”. Merriam-Webster cites that they are “forms of electronic communication… through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content…”.

 

Both of these definitions speak to the overall function of the services, namely that their purpose is to create and share content, to participate in social networking, and to create online communities.

 

Although this is a good start, we also want to look at the features of a platform. A feature means an action a user can take within the service, but is not necessarily central to its purpose. For example, the ability to “Like”, “Comment”, and “Post” are features of Facebook that serve the function of communicating between users, but the main purpose of Facebook isn’t just to go about “Liking” things. Features are most often related to some sort of interaction with content.

 

Make sense?

 

So, combining features and functions, as well as the obvious that it has to be an online platform, we have the following definition;

 

Social media is 1) A website, app, or electronic communication 2) That facilitates communication between communities, groups, or personal relationships 3) And allows the sharing of, and/or interaction with content such as videos, photos, and other information for personal or corporate uses.

 

Now that we have a proper definition and understanding of the term, we can move on to the second blog in this series, “Is Facebook Considered Social Media?”.

 

Let’s go!