Please indulge me. This is a short rant about the term ‘Social Media’. I hate it.

I hate it because it implies that the tools people use to conduct their daily social and community lives, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Meetup et al are simply another channel to be exploited by Brands and Companies to sell more stuff.

Indeed the only people who use the term ‘Social Media’ are the people who sell more stuff: Advertising and Marketing Agencies, Brand people and the people who work in the channels those companies have traditionally used to pitch ‘consumers’: The Media. (And let’s retire that other out of date and frankly insulting term…they are people goddamnit not consumers).

The people who actually build the likes of Facebook, Ning and Foursquare never use the term ‘Social Media’. They call the things they build “Social Technologies”, “Social Platforms” or “Community Platforms”.

You may be saying: “Who cares? Let’s just figure out how to use it.” Or “Atkin, you’re getting your knickers in a twist about a semantic nicety. Get over it”. And you’re probably right. I think I’ve lost this battle anyway.

However, within that semantic nicety lies an important truth. The people who build these platforms know what they’re doing. They’re building, literally, a neutral platform on which people engage in simple and complex ways with each other. These platforms are answering important and frivolous social needs that are universal, eternal and part of the human condition.

So, if you ever try to use these platforms like a channel…a media for your message or offer…you’ll screw it up. As a very large packaged goods multinational did a few years back when it tried to use Meetup like just another media and make the same kinds of offers there as they would on Print or TV. They very quickly learned their lesson and recognized the social needs of community members with a social response instead.

Even if you know all this because you’re one of the evolved and smarter breed of marketers who ‘get’ social technology, please don’t ever use the ‘M’ word. Subconsciously you might drift into old habits. Or, more likely, a less evolved person standing near you will think it’s OK and screw things up royally with lazy, old school, default thinking.




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