What is Social Media?

In these confusing times, where everyone has their own “facts” and “reality” it’s important to have definition. Like social media. What is it? What does it mean? How is it defined? What are the parameters?

What will the future hold for social media and your business?

I read a pretty interesting article on Lifewire about the broad definitions of what social media is. It talked about the distinctions between social media and social networking, if blogs are really social media and a number of other, rather detailed topics. But in my mind social media goes back much further. Way, way further.

Social media goes back to the founding of the United States. It goes back further still to the European renaissance, further still to the times of Constantinople and the Ottoman empires, even further to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and thousands of years further to great Eastern empires.

How do you think all of these time periods were known of?  How do you think that early pre-American history was defined?  By the revolutionary words and actions of Adams and Jefferson and Washington. What do you think Michelangelo and da Vinci were trying to communicate? What about Homer? Or the ancient Egyptians? What do you think hieroglyphics and those insanely erected pyramids were attempting to do?

In fact I’d argue that social media goes back to the very beginning of human engagement with other humans. The earliest hominids, scraping out the earliest artwork on cave walls with sharp rocks; what do you think that they were trying to achieve? Cave artwork; images of animals or spirits or even human hands; dates back some 30-40,000 years. By that rationale social media is as old as recorded time.

That’s what social media is, in my opinion. One person, coming to the desert cave or county well or town square or Instagram and sharing their own experience with others. Putting their imprint out unto the world for others to view and cherish and disagree with and deface and defend. That’s the thing that makes social media so vexing is this inherent conflict, the built-in potential for explosive emotional outbursts.

Good, bad, or indifferent social media is out there and has been out there for some time.  The question for today’s consumer and for today’s businesses is what is your business doing to capitalize on this most recent modern phenomena? We all act like social media is this evolving thing and it is. If you watch the pilot episode of The Big Bang Theory (from 2007) Jim Parson’s character Sheldon Cooper proudly proclaims the number of followers he has on MySpace. Remember MySpace? Today he’d likely be talking about Snapchat or Tumblr. or the behemoth in the room Facebook. Facebook is the “face” of social media for now. What will people be talking about in 1000 years? Or 40,000 years?

If humanity is even around in another 40K Facebook will have long since been replaced. But that’s okay. Because like the Ford Model T rolled off the lot more than 100 years ago, Facebook may still be around in 2117. Or maybe not. It’s tough to say how these things pan out. Who would have thought that when a hamburger stand opened up almost 77 years ago in San Bernardino that it would remain today be one of the most iconic and recognizable and loved and hated brands in existence?

So it is for social media and your business. How are you going to get your message across? What is it that you want your customers to know about your brand? Will your social media imprint be textual? Or video? Or photographic? Or auditory? Or something else? Will you use your social media  budget to do something benevolent like build a school, renovate a park, or build out something from nothing? These means are all social media enterprises as well and they shouldn’t be discounted.

So figure out what you want to say, how you want to say it, and then get to the task of assembling others around your tent and showing off your wares. Who knows? You could wind up building the next centuries long enterprise which will inspire the world.

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