2008 / 15 December

What is Social Media? In Plain English

Social media is a broad term, so in theory the definition could vary from person to person based on what they use it for.

Wikipedia defines it more specifically as “tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences.” But then Wikipedia is written by the masses anyhow.

To me, Social Media is simply any online tool or site, that allows interaction with the users and visitors. If you can comment on a post, vote on content, or even just re-arrange the design of a site, then that is social media.

The Common Craft Show has a very easy to follow explanation of what Social Media is, and I wanted to share it with you all.

YouTube Preview Image

They also have a nice one for Twitter as well:

YouTube Preview Image

How do you define Social Media? Please leave your answer in the comments below.

  • My formal definition of social media is:

    “Technology that enables people (individuals, groups and companies) to easily publish, share and interact on the mobile and social web.”

    Being social is a real world thing and social media is just technology that offers easier, different and more efficient (and often times a time suck) ways for people to connect and relate.

    I think the major differences that occur with social media is how people use it. Personal vs business, SEO vs public relations or interactive marketing vs branding.

    I’ve been collecting definitions of social media from people interviewed in our Social Media Smarts series, but I’ve not collected them all in one place. Thanks for this post because it’s going to motivate me to do such a round up in the next few days.

  • As you said Brent, any site or service that allows users to interact, engage in a conversation or participate in one form another is Social Media.

    It is sort of like a bar. You can go order up drinks and play a game of pool with people that you might never have come across. It gives you an opportunity to interact, socialize in a civilized manner. Or you can either be a drunkard (spammer) and sink your overall value or how you are perceived at a bar (social media) due to irrational behavior.

    Social Media is simply a tool, a platform to bring in communities together for the overall good of the community and not just one individual. That to me is Social Media.

  • Social media is digital media that allows people to add their input, influence, opinions, comments and feedback.. and sites that empower people to become producers and editors, rather than passive consumers.

  • Hooray buzzwords! It wasn’t that long ago we called it “Interactive”… and it was supposed to be one of many components of “Web 2.0?… And while social sites have evolved greatly, it’s so far from being anything “new”… When was the Internet NOT social?! Email, chat, forums, usenet… Yes, we’re creating new and useful tools.. NO, social media is not even remotely close to new.

    I do think it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a critical mass of having enough people using online social tools that a whole range of new marketing opportunities is blooming…

    And marketing always brings… buzz words.

    The upside is, we can walk into any potential client’s office and start talking about “Social Media” and chances are someone has already told them it’s some kind of big deal.


  • @Zaskoda I see your point but disagree. Buzzwords are the marking of the evolution. Web2.0 defines an expectation of feature and feel just as Social Media has an expectation beyond email.

  • Besides the technical aspects of social media. The impact upon the consciousness of the individual, and how those individuals function in society are also poignant to the definition of this.

    On one hand social media is positive in many ways, but there are darker, more sinister aspects to it as well. Perverts, stalking, identity theft, are among just a few of the growing trends of social media underworlds.

    Also, it is not known if the ‘big brother’ is amassing databases of your online activities. It is known that there are demographics that try to predict market trends, but the military intelligence agencies are probably heavily involved with social media research.

    So this is a good question, what is social media? On one hand it seems benevolent, but on the other, it may seem to be a breeding ground for information divulging. Where people are becoming more and more uninhibited in what they can announce over this network, causing all kinds of personal psychic self assumptions, most notably, a culture of children that are becoming what I would say, more self absorbed, self centered, self serving, selfish, egotistical persons, that are using the social media to advertise their shallow, superficial traits, rather than developing, and expanding their consciousness with wisdom and intellect. Instead you see a carnal trend on the internet.

  • Social media is a tool that allows us to interact our input to the unknown people and at the same time it helps us to gain some good knowledge from them.Iam here to tell some of the advantages of social media in my experience.

    1.Good Relationships and conversation that leads to Good knowledge.

    2.Embracing to others about our passion and identity.

    3.Form a good community and connecting to them.


  • Brent,

    Great post. I recently did a similar post on my blog however it was targeted towards “new media.” In my experience many larger traditional agencies misuse the terms “social media” and “new media” far too often. They won’t take the time to find out what outlets like Twitter are really about and how they could become a part of driving meaningful traffic, sales and feedback from a target audience.

    By far the largest collection of social media definitions I have see thus far. Good work.

  • I have been using social media for a while but never can't get the meaning of it. Thanks for the video, Btw, here's what social media in my mind

    Social media is the place where you can meet with new people in separate country and have a relationship the same as social networking site but the different is, we share story and see whats their opinion about it while in social networking you only meet with new guy but don know where to start. In social media you can start by sharing your best story that you found in other site and your friend will soon notice about you and make a friendship if you keep sharing the best story. Also having a friendship in social media can help you to fin a job using your friend help. They can get the information you need.

  • Thanks for the easy-peasy summing up. Always nice to have a handle on the basics!

  • Social media describes how people are beginning to communicate online. I describe it as going to an industry conference where everybody is both presenter and part of the audience, delivering AND receiving information.