This is also archived on the We ARE Media.
What are Social Media?
Social media comprise the vast array of communications vehicles including blogs, wikis, e-mail, and social networking sites that are powered by the Internet.
Social media can be best understand by what they are NOT. Social media are NOT mass media, defined by Wikipedia, as "traditional means of communication" like television or newspaper or radio that were "envisioned and designed to reach a VERY LARGE AUDIENCE such as the population of a nation state. In addition, social media are NOT controlled by a select group of people or organizations - think ABC or Robert Murdoch. Instead social media are communications tools that are used for communication by "the masses." When you choose to use these tools - YOU! - become a writer, publisher and editor and other people can choose or choose not to join in conversation with you.
So What and Who Cares?
Social media are POWERFUL because they enable LOTS of people (at last count Technorati, a popular blogging search engine, noted that there were over 100,000,000 bloggers in the "blogosphere") to tell their stories, market products, frame or re-frame social issues, raise money - in short, engage in all sorts of communication on all sorts of issues. This "democratization of communication" means that people who previously had LITTLE or NO ACCESS (that's most of us) to the means of distribution for sharing thoughts, concerns and ideas, now have the same opportunity as credentialed "experts" and mainstream journalists to converse and talk about the issues that matter to us most.
Social media can be particular powerful for organizations and people who are interested in changing the world and need to connect with people across space and time. By using these tools and working OUTSIDE OF or IN CONCERT WITH traditional media gatekeepers (think Dean for America Campaign) inspired individuals can find each other, join together, solve problems, raise money, and make powerful change in a comparatively inexpensive way.
To Social Media or Not to Social Media? That is the question.
Like all successful communications tools and strategies, use of social media, must be driven the goals of the organization and the needs its' audiences. For example, if you need to mobilize 100 seniors to meet your organization's goals you may choose to use different communication's tools than if you need to mobilize 100,000 teenagers. Before using social media tools or any other communications vehicles, you should:
1) determine your specific goals
2) identify who you want to reach
3) choose the tools that are the best fit, i.e. most likely to reach, your targeted audience(s)
4) craft messages/begin dialogues that will resonate with your "publics"
Forrester Research and the authors of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies have created this tool to help organizations and individuals determine if and where their audiences "live on line." The Pew Internet and American Life Project is also an excellent resource for understanding who is online and what they are doing.
5 Key Points to Remember
1. Social media are powered by the Internet.
2. Social media are NOT mass media.
3. Social media are accessible to any organization or anyone with an Internet connection.
4. Social media enable people to connect to each other across space and time.
5. All communications strategies and tools must be driven by the needs and requirements of an audience NOT the needs of an organization.
Did I miss anything? What else would you add? How do you understand social media?