There was a time when I thought social networking and social media were synonymous. Lately, I’ve come to think we can make a useful distinction here- because when “social media” was young in 2008 and 2009, it was dominated by CONVERSATIONS on Twitter. But now, Facebook and Pinterest are moving us toward CONTENT.
What is media? What is networking? There are many definitions for media, but here’s what I think is most useful:
The means of communication that reach large numbers of people, such as television, newspapers, and radio. Any kind of data including graphics, images, audio and video, though typically excluding raw text or executable code.
Connect to a network. Cultivating people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position.
So should social MEDIA refer to social sites that are more multimedia, and those which reach the masses? Sites that provide a great way to distribute content to the masses yet still allows them to be social around it? Sounds like Facebook and Pinterest.
Should social NETWORKING refer to social sites that are primarily relationship-building? Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus, though they allow the posting of media, are used more for conversation and networking than the sharing of media (with the exception of blog posts, which are often professional in nature).
As Pinterest and Facebook have driven home the value of viral content (puppy pictures and infographics), I’ve come to think there’s a big different between the social platforms that do a great job with media and those that are more predominantly conversational.
The Most Important Social MEDIA Sites
Facebook: The most interacted with content type is the photo. The most common action is to LIKE, which is interactive. It reaches 800+ million people, at least 4x as many as Twitter. People love video like they love TV, and video looks good here.
Pinterest: It’s only photos. The most common action is to REPIN, which is viral. It’s mainly used by 25-34 year old females right now…. moms. The center and backbone of society. Its growth is exponential, and its potential audience is huge, because it’s so easy and fun to use. Because it centers on Facebook’s #1 content type and is more viral, it could steal part of Facebook’s thunder. Watch for FB to try to acquire them in 2012.
It’s not that networking and conversation don’t happen on social MEDIA sites- it’s just not the primary thing.
(Of historical note, this content/media thing really began with Digg and StumbleUpon, but digg’s interface was not as fun as Facebook or Pinterest, and SU has always been a weird way to use the Internet that people didn’t really seem to go for- and having to install a toolbar isn’t easy or fun.)
The Most Important Social NETWORKING Sites
LinkedIn: The most professional network. Exceeding Wall Street expectations. The least likely to get you fired. 150 million people. Favored by B2B marketers over any other social site.
Twitter: The favorite of the early social media gurus. Lots of techies, journalists and bloggers. Growing and evolving. Still too geeky for most people. But a great way to get blog posts out- that makes it a bit more social MEDIA under my definitions, but it’s not good for the most popular media types, photo and video.