Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just What Is This Thing Called Social Media?

Social media is a term that is heard frequently in this second decade of the 21st century, but many people may not be aware of what it really means. The word media can be defined as a tool or method of communication to a audience. As a tool of mass communication the so called traditional media filled this role.

First newspapers, then radio and television, gathered the news that was deemed relevant and communicated it to their audience. The problem with traditional media, and what has lead to the rise of social media, is that the communication goes only one way. Relevant news and content flows only in a downward direction to the media's audience. There really is no room for any interaction.

Interaction is the key to understanding what social media is and what separates it from the traditional media. Social media websites are places where information flows in all directions, because people are allowed to interact with the content and information that is presented to them and have the ability to present their own content as well. Communication can still flow downward, but it can flow upward as well in the form of comments, for example. Communication can also flow sideways in social media when people share something with their social network. Information that either flowed down to them or up to them, from somewhere else.

People interacting with each other and the information that flows through their social network, makes social media very three dimensional. It is also what gives it a social character, in contrast to traditional media. Social network sites, like the ubiquitous Facebook, have allowed a level of worldwide communication and interaction undreamed of just a few short years ago.

Social media is here to stay. It has gained such importance that world history events are actually shaped by it. Revolutions have been started, spread and propagated by the use of social media. From a business perspective, businesses need to embrace its use or be swept aside by it. Social media is one of those unique developments in the history of mankind that will leave us forever changed.
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