What is social media and social networking? These questions are often asked to us by family members and our clients. So what is social media exactly? Well, social media surrounds us…I know it’s not the force but it’s true.

Social media is all about building lasting relationships. Social media also includes social networks that allow people to come together online that shares a common interest.

You can find social networks online for photo (Flickr), video sharing (YouTube) and a couple of others including blogs (WordPress) and micro-blogging (Twitter) sites. Social media also includes social  bookmarking and sharing of news as it happens. Real time information and news is better than news that is old and not relevant anymore.

No matter how you look at it, social media is about relationships. It is about the human equation and the need to share and interact. It is about conversations with your friends and peers. It is about discussing the latest news with your neighbour over the “back fence.” It is taking our basic human needs and applying it to this technology we call the web.

The Cluetrain Manifesto (Perseus Publishing 2000), written by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger, is perhaps the bible of philosophy of social media in general, and is one of the earliest books to identify the concept of the global online conversation.

On the internet, markets are getting more connected and more powerfully vocal every day. These markets want to talk, just as they did for the thousands of years that passed before market became a verb with us as it’s object.

The internet is a place. We buy books and tickets on the web. Not over, through, or beside it. …The Net is a real place where people can go to learn, to talk to each other, and to do business together. It is a bazaar where customers look for wares, vendors spread goods for display, and people gather around topics that interest them. It is a conversation.

Social media online is much more than technology. It is social interaction with technology assistance. The users of social media tools are normal people. They think, feel, act, react, desire, communicate and relate just as you do. This is done with emotion and a passion of life.

What makes social media different is that it allows participation by everyone that is involved with it. Social media is also different than traditional media as that everyone has the opportunity to interact to it at the time of their choosing.

Social media allows anyone to create their own content and broadcast it. It allows interaction and sharing that is not possible with traditional media that came before.

There’s six key attributes of social media that makes it a powerful tool in communication and building relationships.

  • Authenticity
  • Transparency
  • Immediacy
  • Participation
  • Connectedness
  • Accountability

Authenticity

Social media is unfiltered, un-massaged, spontaneous information coming directly from people and businesses around the globe. Successful social media relies on authenticity and it needs to be actively championed by any business stepping into social media circles.

Transparency

Social media can provide transparency into a company’s strategy, it’s progress toward meeting its goals, and its thinking about its products, services, markets, customers and even broader issues like the environment and corporate social responsibility.

Immediacy

Social media lets communication happen instantly. The online tools available today makes it easy to update a blog, community or a website. It is also easy to share video, podcasts and other media files.

Participation

On a company’s blog or social network, visitors can leave comments and ask questions about specific blog posts and news items. Consumers are very enthusiastic about the opportunity to be heard by the companies they do business with and to share their experiences with others.

Connectedness

Another aspect of social media, closely related to immediacy, is connectedness. Not only does communications happen faster, but with the web 2.0 infrastructure, it is also more widely distributed.

Accountability

Companies pertaining in social media must instil ethical behaviour in employees through tranining and policies and procedures, and above all, by maintaining an ethical culture. You might be the one responsible if you receive negative feedback from social media.

Social media and social media marketing (SMM) is here to stay. Contact us if you require assistance with this new online trend or feel free and leave a comment below.