My recent conversations with marketing people brought this home to me. They tend to refer to Facebook, Twitter, Myspace et al as social media.
The people who build these things call them social platforms or utilities. The people who work at Ning, Meetup, Facebook etc see them as new social infrastructure where the Internet can remove the friction that impeded social interaction and community-building in the analog world.
You might think I’m parsing this too fine, but I believe that what they’re called is indicative of how they’re used.
For many marketers, these tools are simply media. They’re another way to reach a target audience. Not only that, they use them akin to the old broadcast media. Twitter and Facebook Fan pages are there to blast ‘messaging’ to their audience. (Not all marketers…the smartest brands use them as part of sophisticated community-building or customer service strategies).
The builders of Meetup, Ning, Facebook, Twitter etc see them as platforms on which people self-organize to form relationships and communities, often in ways they never envisaged.
They’re not ‘channels.’ They’re the new town halls, or social mixers, or forums or village squares.
Or are they? I could also argue that Fan pages are like the old media. They have an audience that receives updates and can respond in a limited fashion. But the degree of interaction between others on the Fan page is rudimentary at best. It’s not a real community.
Likewise with Twitter. Each person or organization or brand is broadcasting a point of view or an interesting link. Again, there’s limited functionality for interaction. And that’s just fine. It’s there as a personal radio station if you like with limited ‘call-in’ ability.
What do you think? Do you call them media or platforms, and why?