I’ve been doing an “Introduction to Social Media for Attorney Marketing” luncheon seminar, and one thing that people have told me they really appreciate is that I start out by giving a definition of social media. We can’t seem to read 3 pages on the web without encountering the phrase “social media,” but do we really know what it is? Here’s how I define it.
Social Media Defined
Social media are nothing more than a special class of web sites — second-generation web sites, if you will. Think of first-generation web sites as those that are created by an authority of some sort (the New York Times, WebMD, Smith & Smith law firm) that publish information to the internet for you to come and read using a “top-down,” one-to-many publishing model. Second-generation, social media web sites, by contrast, are platforms that provide users the ability and tools to create and publish their own mini web sites or web pages. The content on these sites is not created from on high, but created by the participants — from the “bottom up” — using a many-to-many model. We become active participants in creating, commenting, rating and recommending content rather than passive consumers of it.
Social media sites have 3 defining characteristics.
- Majority of content is user generated
- High degree of participation/interaction between users
- Easily integrates with other sites
By this definition then, social media platforms include things like blogs (such as Blogger, WordPress, Typepad), social networking (Facebook, Linkedin), social bookmarking (Delicious, Stumble Upon) news sharing (Digg, Yahoo! Buzz) and photo and video sharing sites (Flickr, Vimio and YouTube). These are, of course, just a few examples.
As time goes on, these categories are blurring. In addition, traditional media (such as the New York Times) are enabling social media capabilities within their traditional publishing models creating a new kind of hybrid.
Hope that helps. If anyone has anything to add to this definition, please feel free to comment.