Social Media, Social (Media) Marketing and Where the Difference Lies…

I’ve finally put my finger on what it is that’s been chaffing my britches about the new found popularity of Social Media; that is most people are using the wrong term.  They’re not talking about Social Media, they’re talking about  Social Media Marketing.

I’m sure a lot of you are saying the same thing right now: “What the heck gives this bozo the right to define what is and what is not Social Media?” Let me answer that for you.

I’ve been building online communities, doing user generated content, and generally fostering what you all like to call “the conversation” since 1995. That’s before most of you had Internet connections, and certainly before most of you ever thought about blogging, commenting, or the like. If you don’t like my opinion on what is and what isn’t Social Media, talk to Dave Winer, or Doc Searls, or some of the other folks who have been around since the early days.

So here are the defininitions I believe would be more correct:

  • Social Networking – anything having to do with the major sharing and online networking sites and applications.  Think about LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, etc. here.  Generally these are communication based sites.  Wikipedia does a good job of defining:

    “A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services. “

  • Social Media – development of and operation of content driven websites in which user generated content, comments, and discussion forums play a large part.  Wikipedia offers a definition, but I believe it is overly broad, although it does hint at the consumer generated content aspects:

    “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based 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. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

  • Social Media Marketing (I’ve edited the post here due to concernes that the lack of the word media here was confusing – using either Social Media sites or Social Networking to sell, advertise, promote or develop “the buzz” for a product, brand, website or person.  Wikipedia prefers the term Social Media Marketing, which I don’t utterly hate, however their definition is somewhat mealy mouthed, so I won’t republish here.
  • Social Media Marketing Consulting (edited to add ‘media’) – telling other people, generally via Twitter, or at expensive conferences in out of the way place, that they should be doing Social Marketing.  If you’re telling people to “join the conversation”, you are probably a Social  Media Marketing Consultant.

My case in point is this: there is a fellow offering certification  in Social Media, yet when you read the prospectus, it’s obvious he’s pushing Social Media Marketing.  It’s more about how to game the system, than how to build the system, a rather fundemental difference in my mind.  

To recap:

  • Social Networking:  a communications service
  • Social Media : the consumer generated content aspects of content driven websites
  • Social Media Marketing(edited to add the word “Media” to avoid confusion): selling or promoting products, brands, people or things via Social Networking services or Social Media sites.

So please, if you’re going to consult on Social Media,  or Social Media Marketing, at least get your terms straight.