Why Social Media isn’t

Posted by on Dec 22, 2008 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments


Pic c/o Picassaweb.com

Just wanted to correct a basic assumption that I keep tripping over (twice today for example in different conversations). Or to write it down so I can point to it.

What we know as New or Social Media isn't media in the sense of being a channel or a "tube" [as a senior US politician recently called it] down which information can be poured. Even the Old MSM isn't really that – though you can see how the owners of it might want to think of it that way: sending packages of information and other bits of remotely created content one way done. At least they owned the hardware and the content being sent "down the wire"

NB David has dubbed this the broadcast mindset. Nice.

Social Media is very different: it isn't primarily an information conduit at all, but rather a means for people to connect with people. And to see what other people like them are up to. And to interact with them. And so on.

Your mobile (cell) phone is primarily for people stuff not for information transmission or reception.

Ditto Facebook and Twitter and all of the Blogosphere just about.

So, whether you're a mobile marketing maestro, a social media "specialist" [as Hugh calls them] or an airtime a*******, what you are selling is neither a medium nor – let's be frank – is it yours.

Please don't forget this: I don't want to have to explain it again…


  1. Charles Frith
    December 23, 2008

    Media has always been social hasn’t it?
    Town Crier.
    Radio Call In
    Letters To The Editor
    Also information comes from media. i.e. McLuhan describes the first media as light for the information it illuminates.
    So when we make contact with people. It’s just information isn’t it?
    So it’s social media for me until a better alternative is put forward. Which I can’t see Mark. Probably because I don’t see the word media as a channel or tube. It’s media.

  2. Mark
    December 23, 2008

    See what you mean, Charles.
    Here’s another way of thinking about what I mean by ‘social media isn’t’
    This cluster of stuff is not a means to transmit info from big business to little punter (in order to shape punter’s behaviour)
    1. It’s not a medium about information in the sense that we imagine MSM is: it’s prime virtue is connecting folk and allowing them to transcend geography, not to send messages (which is how almost everybody in advertising, PR, management and politics sees it)
    2. It IS social in the sense that it connects folk (but as you point out many aspects of MSM do this also); but it’s them-out-there-s social not on business’ terms.
    Clear as mud?

  3. Helge Tennø
    December 24, 2008

    I agree Mark :o)
    Some research we came across a while ago made it very clear to us. “The Internet” or whatever it is becoming :o) isn’t JUST a broadcast medium. To many people, and especially young people, it’s becoming more and more a communication medium.
    Here is a quote from the research, via ungelesere.no:
    “For young people the Internet is first and foremost a communication medium – a channel for chatting, email and IP-telephony.
    The Internet is also a media channel, with access to news and portals, and this is an important incentive for use. But it looks as if the features outside the traditional mass media’s role are the ones that are most important”.
    – Bjarne Kristiansen TNS Gallup
    This isn’t the first time this has happened; a great example is the telephone. Originally designed by Bell to distribute the sound from Broadway Musicals to people outside New York (or something to that extent). What happened was that it ended up supporting conversations instead. It became a tool for strengthening existing social ties. This is what is happening to large parts of the Internet, but brands seem to continue treating it as if it’s still a media channel, or broadcast medium.
    So, we are no longer exclusively pushing brand ideas down the pipes of media channels, but participating in communication mediums. This demands a new mindset from brands, new strategies. How do we ad value to an existing conversation, to an existing relationship?
    But it should also present extended opportunities for people with Herd theories, because even though we need to think differently. We are in a much better position to create, participate and emulate. (Grossly simplified theorizing :o)
    Merry Christmas Mark, and thanks for a most brilliant blog! :o)

  4. Charles Frith
    December 25, 2008

    Agreed Mark. It’s misleading if business see’s the media in social media and thinks it can use for it’s own means.
    Social Mediator?
    OK, just kidding…but…