Let me count the ways.
First of all, social media these days is whatever most people do online. To someone like me, it was about blogging and social bookmarking, with upstarts like Facebook and Twitter playing a secondary role. To most people these are social media with an assortment of web apps that involve interactions and scale to high heaven. Where is the line between the web and social media for most people? Once they are on Facebook and/or Twitter, it blurs beyond definition.
Secondly, social media, whatever it means to different people, at its most fundamental level is the combination of the internet architecture (i.e. a distributed network) with technology that enables individuals to publish and distribute online without the need to code and without a prior permission from an institutional authority. This, in the long run, will be as impactful as the printing press. (That said, with the rise of the super-platforms, individuals online are herded into silos, their autonomy and privacy taking a beating. But that is a different rant.)
All this has little to do with media, advertising, marketing and PR. Other than undermining them. Watching people from these industries discuss and pontificate on how to ‘do’ – read use, abuse, benefit from, exploit etc – social media is like listening to producers of leather harness for horses, carriage drivers and stable owners talk about cars and how they are going to use them blasted machines. After all, it’s all about transport. Right?!
So once more, with feeling. Social Media is dead as a driver for change. It was killed by the very people it meant to change. Ironically, just like the barbarians at the gates of Rome, they didn’t mean to kill it, they just wanted to have a part of it. But without changing themselves.
The good news is that those people (and their business models) will, eventually, be extinct. It just won’t be Social Media that does it.
Nothing to see here, move along…
Note: This rant was ‘inspired’ by one too many social media event, namely Social Media Reality Check at LSE, organised by POLIS and PRNewswire. Yep, dear reader, PRNewswire. Should have been a sufficient warning!