The Social Media Machine

I just ran across a post on Search Engine Watch that does a great job of highlighting the different types of social media content. Since there is a little confusion with most businesses and consumers as to what is really classified as “social media” here’s a quick reference.

Wikipedia probably defines the term “social media” the best:

Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.

See often we mistake social media as just one thing or concept when it is really a whole lot more. Social media mainly thrives on the social interaction between users. A few years ago the most widely adapted concept was to add a forum or a chat to a website to enable the communication between users, giving the user control over some of the content that was added to a website as well as facilitating the social interaction between users.

More recently social media has been embodied in “social networks” like Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Orkut, LinkedIn and more. The idea of creating connections between friends, co-workers, colleagues and more creating what’s been called the social graph. Social media is those networks and more.

I say more because it seems that almost all new websites that have launched in the last two and a half years have had some form of social media. Delicious exists to allow “social bookmarking”: a website bookmark list that is public and accessible to consumers and tracks the general trends and popularity between new stories, websites, blog posts and more.

In fact, a major push behind Web 2.0 is the idea of social media. Web 2.0 embraces the concept that the internet has matured into something that can be utilized as a platform. Social media takes center stage in embracing this new era by enabling user generated content or UGC. User generated content puts the user in control of the content that appears on a website rather than just one or two webmasters. This is the principal concept behind many of today’s popular social media websites.

In general, here are the types of social media as defined by Search Engine Watch:

  1. News Content – Time sensitive events and news stories. Through the proliferation of social bookmarking websites and RSS syndication technology, news stories are distributed, blogged, bookmarked and rated in a rapid pace. Businesses looking to track and monitor the daily flow of information that can affect marketing and online business can use a service like online reputation monitoring to help manage their reputation based on this information online.
  2. Sensational/Entertainment Content – This includes things that are aimed at attracting attention to something online. This category is most like to include “viral marketing” – where an ordinary video, blog post, or story can be proliferate through many thousands of people in a very short amount of time. YouTube videos are a perfect illustration of this category. Often people will blog, email or forward a link to a YouTube video they find entertaining or interesting making the video popularity increase immensely in a short amount of time.
  3. Resource/Educational Content -You noticed that I pulled something from Wikipedia. If you’ve done a Google search researching information in the past, you’ve most likely come across this website. Wikipedia exists to give the consumer the ability to create the authoritative content on a topic. This type of social media is a perfect example of user generated content and social media.

Social media can seem like a complex topic, but it’s more than likely that in the past you’ve engaged in some form of social media. Whether it be commenting on a blog or news article, asking a question or responding on a forum, creating a social network account, or even just creating an online account to share pictures with your family. It all is considered social media!