In my first post for MI621 I wrote about how I went from being a skeptic of Twitter, to someone who embraced Twitter and who had an open mind to all forms of social media. What I didn’t realize, was how many social media outlets are actually out there. In my mind, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine were the only sites/apps that fell under the realm of social media. And then class happened and I learned… the reply button counts as social media?
Mind blown. Now, when I think about all of the different types of social media my mind explodes because it seems never ending. I didn’t have a clue as to how many ways the term “social media” could be interpreted or the countless shapes and sizes social media could take. I knew about the social networks, but somehow I forgot about bookmarking sites (StumbleUpon, Delicious), various blogs and forums, wikis, media sharing sites (How could not think of Youtube?), social news sites (Digg, Reddit, Buzzfeed), and all of the apps that wrap up social into their mix. I also left out internal social media for companies and economies that are based off of social media (ex. gaming + sharing).
So what is social media again?
In one of the earlier Kane blogs that we read in class, we learned that we (managers included) should not focus on what social media is, but rather what it allows people to do. And when it comes down to it, SM is about organizing groups, sharing information, and collaborating. And while technology has made this easier, faster, and cheaper, the internet is not the only place where these three actions have all taken place together, for social media was taking place centuries ago.
Again, my definition of social media had changed. My last two blog posts challenged the idea of what social media is: Can social media be a scroll that is carried across the land and written on by multiple people? Did Martin Luther go viral? Can a self-portrait be a selfie? In the end, I have decided that social media does not have to be online, and indeed social media has existed offline in the past.
In his book about ancient forms of social media, Tom Standage raises three lessons that we can learn from social media’s history. And after taking MI621, I have learned these lessons as well.
1. Social Media is Not a Waste of Time
Can social media be a distraction? Sure. Social media can certainly be a timesuck. However, social media itself is not a waste. Pre-internet, the social media-esque Thomas Paine coffeehouses were places of real innovation. SM as a place for collective intelligence is proof that it is not a waste; I think all of us can agree that Wikipedia is certainly a better use of people’s time than watching a television show. Some managers have seen this value in SM, and internal networks, wikis, forums, etc. are leading to more engagement and innovations in companies.
2. Social Media Can Make Change
Social media has helped create change in the past (ex. Payne and Luther) and is continuing to impact the world in the present. Today in the Arab-Spring, social media is making its mark. Ai Weiwei and other social media activists are changing/trying to change their governments off and online. And people are coming together online and fighting for their causes on change.org. Real change can happen on social media.
3. Social Media is Here to Stay
If social media really began 2000 years ago (and I think it did) and it is still here today, than it obviously has staying power. Although it has survived and will continue to survive, does not mean we know what it will be like in the future. However, we don’t need to know what the future of SM looks like, we just need to be able to adapt to it. Focusing on what social media allows us to do and the lessons that we can learn SM’s past will help us do that, no matter what shapes or sizes social media will take. So when it comes to defining social media the broader the better. Be open, be adaptable, and be ready to expand your idea of what social media really is.