Social media includes blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking (Delicious, Digg, Reddit) social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace), micro-blogging (Twitter), video sharing (YouTube) and photosharing (Flickr).
Social media – some call it new media – is easy to understand by looking at what it’s not.
First, it’s not a monologue. Old media – print, radio and television – all share one thing in common. Each is a one way conversation. One person speaks to many and the many rarely speak back. Letters to the editor are something of an exception, as is talk back radio. But the owner of the paper or radio station is still in control of the off switch. Social media is a many-to-many conversation. Sure one person can speak to many, but everyone has the same technology so many people end up talking to many others.
Second, publishing is no longer capital intensive. Starting a newspaper, radio, or television station takes capital; lots of it. That’s not the case with social media. Most social software is free. Facebook is free, blog software is free, Twitter is free. Anyone can start a blog or start tweeting with zero capital; and start conversing with a worldwide audience.
Third, social media doesn’t require skilled labour. There’s no need to train as a journalist, or a web designer, or a graphic artist. The only prerequisite is passion.
Fourth, unlike old media, the size of a social media audience is unrelated to the cost of production. In fact social media thrives on niche audiences. Publishing to an audience of one is no cheaper or more expensive than publishing to a million.
Fifth, social media has no geographical constraints. The profitable distribution of TV, radio and newspaper content is limited by distance. This is not the case with social media. This blog post will be read by people from Australia to Alaska, at no additional cost.
Sixth, social media does not privilege the wealthy with the power to publish. Social media allows anyone and everyone to become a publisher.
Finally, social media is transportable. It can be accessed in an Internet cafe, at an office, on a mobile phone, in fact anywhere with Net access becomes a publication house.
Want to know more? Check out Social Media in Plain English. It’s a short, easy to understand video that explains social media in, well, plain English. Enjoy.