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What is Social Media?

What is Social Media? That’s the starting point of one of the presentations I deliver at speaking engagements. After the ice breakers and a joke or two I ask the audience:

“What is Social Media?” … “Anyone?” … “Somebody give me your definition; what is Social Media?”

That sounds like a pretty basic question but the answer I’m looking for isn’t. I don’t talk about tips and tactics. I’m not up there to talk about Facebook or Instagram. I’m looking for something bigger.

Sometimes I get an answer; sometimes I don’t.

So I move on … How about you? What do you think Social Media is? Is Social Media marketing or advertising?

Let’s look at some definitions:

  • Marketing: Marketing is the activity, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Is Social Media marketing?

  • Advertising: The non-personal communication of persuasive information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products services or ideas by identified sponsors.

Is Social Media Advertising?

  • Conversation: The interactive exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas.

Is Social Media Conversation?

  • Social Networking: The use of digital media (social media) to communicate informally with others to find people with similar interests to oneself.

That just said Social Networking uses Social Media. … Like a tool?

And finally …

  • Social Media: Is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.

I’ve highlighted some key words and phrases in each of those definitions. Depending on the goals of your company any or all of those definitions may apply to your Social Media efforts.

I like to say that Social Media is a tool. Social Media is a tool that can be in your marketing toolbox but it is not necessarily a sales or advertising tool.

This is a graphic called the “Conversation Prism.” In 2008 Brian Solis and Jess3 designed this image to give us a view of the entire Social Media universe as it existed.

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3

 

Brian Solis is a digital analyst at the Altimeter Group, a marketing research company and Jess3 is a creative interaction agency.

It shows us all the platforms that were available; it categorizes their use and media type and even drills down into their purpose and maybe what business segment uses them most. (In the years since it was first published, the Conversation Prism has been updated regularly to reflect the changing landscape of digital media.)

Talk about overwhelming. That’s a pretty full tool box. It doesn’t really seem like a setup for the DIY crowd.

Its Not About The Bike

Do you know who Lance Armstrong is? I’m a huge fan of Lance and cycling in general. He once said “It’s not about the bike.” At the time he was talking about cancer and life, but if we take his statement at the surface level it’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re thinking about Social Media. Yes, it’s a tool but don’t get lost in the toolbox. It’s not about the bike.

A while back I was watching an interview with Seth Godin on YouTube. They’d been talking about figuring out who your audience is and where they are and how to connect with them and about his book We’re All Weird. Then the interviewer asked Seth what he thought the most important or effective Social Media platform was.

I think he was fishing for an answer like Squidoo (which Seth actually owns) or Facebook or Google+. But instead of picking a platform Seth likened it to 1-800 numbers.

He said:

“Before 1960 there were no 800 numbers. By 1970 the 800 number industry was generating billions of dollars of revenue. More phone calls were being made on 800 numbers than any other kind. But nobody was asking what telephone carrier was having the most impact on the growth of companies that sold on the phone. They didn’t look at the phone as much more than a tactic. There was something bigger behind it. … It’s not Twitter vs. MySpace vs. Facebook vs. This vs. That vs. Google+, it’s human beings want to connect.”

Finally the Interviewer brings it all back around with what I thought was a great statement in itself. He said:

“So instead of targeting one place and figuring out where all these weird people are, it’s becoming a part of them and really understanding them and contributing to them.”

You can watch the full interview below:


That’s a key that you need to remember:

Success in Social Media comes from identifying the group that you need to communicate with, finding them where they are, really understanding what they’re doing and contributing to them in a meaningful way.

And I contend that taking these meaningful connections and contributions made online into the offline world is the most important and profitable use of Social Media there is.

So how are you making meaningful connections? Where are you finding the important conversations? I’d like to know. Let me know in the comment section below.

My goal is to start an open dialogue and let Architect of the Internet be a forum where we can all learn to have success in the business of architecture through Social Media.

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About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.

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