Does all the hype surrounding social media make sense?
Isn't it time that somebody tried to deconstruct all this bullshit?
What are social media? Are they the same websites we used to call social networks? Why did we start calling them social media?
What is social media marketing? Are companies doing it right? Does it make sense to send your website visitors to Twitter and Facebook?
Do people really want to "engage" with brands? Do companies really want to have "conversations" with their customers?
What is the value of a Facebook "like"? What is "organic reach"? What happens now that the free lunch is over?
WHAT ARE SOCIAL NETWORKS?
A new type of website.
Or just a new word. "Community" was the word used to describe The WELL and later GeoCities. "Web2.0" - coined by O'Reilly to launch a conference and the idea that the web was back after the Bubble - was used for the first generation of "new" services, like Flickr, del.icio.us and Last.fm. But when Friendster, MySpace and then Facebook and Twitter came along, they were all immediately called "social networks".
The notion of social networks comes from academia. In the 1920s, the idea that the world was "shrinking" due to the ever-increasing connectedness of human beings became popular. The Hungarian Frigyes Karinthy went a step further and said that any two individuals could be connected through at most five acquaintances - hence the famous 6 degrees of separation - starting from their "social network".
WHAT ARE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Social media are what social networks start being called the moment investors start thinking about how to recoup the money they invested in these ventures.
Please bear in mind that the term "media" is not neutral.
First, it implies the idea that everything ("content", as they call it) is created - even if it were created by users, in which case they call it "user-generated content" (UGC) - so that it will be "monetised", rather than "just for fun".
Second, it implies the long-held idea that every place is a place where companies are welcome, even if that were not the case. And it implies ads or, in any case, paying for visibility of some kind.
As we shall see, this is exactly where social media are headed: adland.