Understanding Social Media Tools

WTF is Social Media?!

That’s what Dare Obasanjo asked on his blog post, back in early 2007 when he started to see that more and more blogs were using the term Social Media a lot; but when he tried to look the phrase up in Wikipedia he was even more confused than ever.  Indeed, if you read the ‘old’ Wikipedia entry for ‘Social Media’ quoted below, you would be forgiven if you think Social Media is just a synonym for the World Wide Web.

Social media describes the online tools, platforms and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. Popular social mediums include blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs.

Dare’s question was quickly picked up by some of the Internet Pundits including Scobleizer, Brian Solis, Steve BoydChris Heuer, and many others, hence created the Social Media Meme.

Answering the question, Doc Searls wrote that he didn’t like to use the term Social Media at all, saying that the term was too limiting to describe all the phenomenon that were happening at that time.  In the meantime Jeremiah Owyang’s call for help to find a better term, to replace Social Media, didn’t go very far.

Meanwhile, Steve Rubel actually went as far as to say that Social Media was dead, which Brian Solis quickly disagreed.

Well, this was 2007.

Fast forward to the present time; we’ve witnessed ourselves, not only that Social Media is far from dead, but it is very much alive and kicking, even growing, exponentially!

For me, Social Media is not going to go away, it is here to stay for a very long time.  This new generation (the teens and the 20s) who has been growing up with the like of Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, or Twitter will always relate the Internet and WWW to these Social Media tools and services.  For them, Facebook IS the internet, and vice versa.

The new Wikipedia entry on Social Media gives a better explanation on this term, which means that collectively we have had a better understanding in what Social Media is all about, and judging from the video below, we can even joke about it too (while describing it).

Read Write Share

One of the reason that started the Social Media Revolution (as depicted in the video above) was the so-called ‘Democratization‘ of the publishing tools.
In the past, only professionals with big budget were able to produce and publish media content.  They were the like of mainstream Newspapers, TV Networks, Movie Producers and big Media Companies.  But as the cost of acquisition of the publishing tools got lower, so did the barrier of entry for semi-professionals and even amateurs to produce and publish contents.  This, and the ever-spreading/deepening Internet Broadband penetration all over the world and the latest advancement in mobile technology, has empowered content producers to be able to reach their consumers in ways that we have never imagined before.  Suddenly the Read-Only Web has become the Read-Write-Web (Dan Gillmor in ‘We The Media’).

This is the ‘Media‘ part of ‘Social Media’.  What makes it even more powerful is the ‘Social‘ part.  This is the part where consumers are not only consuming the media, but also Sharing it with their friends, families, colleagues, the whole world.  This is when people are
commenting on each-other’s blog post, tagging each-other’s picture, collaborating on each-other’s document, mashing-up each-other’s content and creating yet another new shareable content.  This is when people are following each-other, and adding each-other as friends, and creating an ever-expanding Social Network.

For the first time in our life, we can be truly connected (or re-connected), everybody to everyone if we shall choose, more than ever before.

I think this is one of the essence of Social Media.

Understanding Social Media Tools

Earlier I mentioned the Democratization of Tools as one of the reason that Social Media Revolution started.  These tools are very critical pieces of the whole Social Media experience. They are the ‘glue‘ and the means that enable all the wonderful things that are mentioned above to happen.  And just like our pre-historic ancestors, without these tools, we would’ve stuck in the Jurassic Web Era (though as they say, ‘Life always finds a way‘).

To understand more about Social Media Tools, lets divide them into categories.  Charlene Polansky has summed this up quite nicely on one of her post at Essential Keystrokes.

Here are a summary of what Charlene said:

The 4 main categories of Social Media Tools are the following:

1.  Social Content
This is where people can produce and manage content, be it text, photos, audios,  videos or other type of media.
Example: Blogs in general, Wikipedia, Podcasts, Video Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Microblogs (Twitter, Friendfeed, Plurk, Identi.ca).

2.  Social Networking
This is where people can network each-other through somekind of relationship mechanism.  The goal is to connect you to your friends, families and collegues, or complete strangers who happen to have the same interests with you.
Example: Facebook, Friendster, Orkut, MySpace, LinkedIn.

Here is another video that describes Social Networking in a lightweight manner:

3.  Social Bookmarking
This is where people can save and manage their favorite links, all in one online place.  Bookmarking by itself is obviously not a very ‘social’ thing.  What makes it social is that you can usually ‘share‘ these links to others.
Another aspect that characterize Social Bookmarking is the ability of the users to tag the saved links with keywords.  This is also called Folksonomy.
Example: Delicious, Ma.gnolia, Furl.

4.  Social Recommendation
This is where people can submit a link to a content that they like, which other users can then vote for.
Example: Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Reddit, Newsvine.

Most of these Social Media tools don’t fall to one category only.  They usually offer a combination of one or more of the above.
For example, Flickr is mainly a Social Content tool where you can upload and manage your photos (and recently video), but it also a Social Networking tool because you can add other Flickr users as your contact (and vice versa).  In addition, Flickr was one of the first Social Media sites that employs Folksonomy (tagging).

Let’s not forget also about one of the key-stone of Social Media Tools, the Really Simple Syndication, A.K.A RSS, or just Feeds.  Thanks to RSS (and to Dave Winer), we could enjoy Blogs and Podcasts like we are now.  It enables Content Producers to reach potential readers or listener like never before.  It revolutionises the way we consume media.

Once again, our friend from Common Craft, has something to share:

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3 Responses to Understanding Social Media Tools

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Julian

October 2nd, 2011 at 05:50

Thanks for the info.

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