Saturday, December 5, 2009

What Is Social Media?

Social Media

Have you ever wondered what Social Media was or how you might be able to explain it to someone that didn't already have any knowledge of the subject or perhaps someone that had only heard some of the buzz words? Since a picture is worth a thousand words and can be so much better in getting our point across, I created the mind map above to try to make things clearer.

What Does Social Media Mean to You?

When explaining social media to someone it is good to get an idea of where they're coming from and what it means to them. Maybe they have a good idea of what it is already and only need to have some minor things explained or maybe you need to start a square one.

The Old Media And The New Media

Have you ever bought or read a newspaper, watched television, listened to the radio, or read a book or magazine article? These are all what could be considered "the Old Media". Newspapers are going out of business at an alarming rate, and there are lots of reports that suggest that more and more people are getting their news from the internet. This is where social media comes in. Almost anything that you want to "sell" or communicate is already being done on the internet via social media. The New Media makes use of many social media tools and will hopefully become a little clearer after reading this article and looking at the picture above. Social Media allows you get your message out in ways not even imagined even five years ago. I created the mind map based on an article that I saw in wikipedia on social media, so my structure started from there and I branched out a little. I used FreeMind to create the mind map. The mind map does not include every facet or tool available because there are many but it does give you a good picture of social media. I put a cloud around things that I use or are more famaliar to myself and possibly others. These are also areas where people might wish to start when there are lots of other options in any one area.


Communication is at the core of social media and all media for that matter. In the mind map it is one of the branches that includes:

  • Blogs- A blog (a contraction of the term "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. (according to Wikipedia). You're in fact looking at a blog now. For the mind map this is referring to various blogging platforms like Blogger, LiveJournal, Open Diary, WordPress, Vox, ExpressionalEngine.

  • Micro blogging- This is a smaller version of a blog that is easy to do and maintain. While Twitter is probably the most recognizable member of this category, it also includes: Plurk, Tumblr(I use this to share links and other things from my blogs), Jaiku, and fmylife.
  • Social Networking- There is a good chance that you're already using one or more of these sites that include: Bebo, Big Tent, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkutt, Skyrock, Hi5, Ning, Elgg, and Drupal.
  • Social Network aggregation- These are sites that aggregate or consolidate your various social network activities into one location. FriendFeed and NutshellMail are two examples.
  • Events- These allow you to promote and share events with others and include: Upcoming, Eventful, and
  • Social Networking Tools- These are tools that can be used to update one or more of your social networks and they all allow you to update Twitter (which as been listed under Micro blogging). Ping allows you to update several sites without having to log into each one individually. TweetDeck is an Adobe Air based tool that allows you to do all sorts of things with Twitter and is quite amazing. HootSuite is very powerful because you can use it to do a lot of things in Twitter but you can integrate it with Ping so that you can update several sites at once and you can schedule when your updates appear.


Multimedia is probably as you'd imagine it and includes:

  • Photo sharing- Flickr, Zoomer, Photobucket, SmugMug, and Picasa.
  • Video sharing- YouTube, Viddler, Vimeo, and sevenload.
  • Livecasting- These allow you to broadcast an event live over the internet and include:,, Stickam, and Skype
  • Audio and Music Sharing- imeem, The Hype Machine,, ccMixter, and


Collaboration allows you to work with other people and includes:

  • Wikis- According to Wikipedia a wiki is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor; are typically powered by wiki software and are often used to create collaborative websites, to power community websites, used in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems. Wikipedia is by far the best recognized within this category but it also includes PBwiki, and wetpaint

  • Social bookmarking- Is a method for Internet users to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren't shared, merely bookmarks that reference them (according to Wikipedia). Some sites include: Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Google Reader.

  • Social news- Refers to websites where users submit and vote on news stories or other links, thus determining which links are presented (according to Wikipedia). Digg is probably the most recognisable of this type of site but it also includes: Mixx, Reddit, and Now Public. When an article or link reaches the front page of Digg, there is the potential for a lot of web traffic to it, something most people putting content on the web want.

  • Opinion sites- inludes: epinions, and Yelp.

Reviews and Opinions

Reviews and Opinions focus on reviews, opinions, and getting answers to questions that you might have and include:

  • Product Reviews- Includes: epinions and
  • Business Review- is an example.
  • Community Q&A- These sites allow users to submit questions and get other uses to answer them. Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswers, AskVille, Google Answers are examples.


Other here is referring only to...

  • Information aggregators- These are typically sites that collect information from a variety of sites and sources and include NetVibes and Twine (website).

RSS Feeds

RSS (Really Simple Syndication)- is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format
(according to Wikipedia). This allows publishers to easily notify subscribers when there is new content or something has been updated or changed and it allows people to easily follow their favorite blogs and websites without have to check all the time if there is anything new or updated. RSS Readers allow collect the "feeds" from the sites and blogs you've subscribed to and include: Google Reader, NewsGator, FeedDemon, NetVibes, Sage (Firefox extension), and Bloglines. RSS Publishers allow websites and blogs to "publish" when there is new content or something has changed, one of the most widely used RSS Publishers is FeedBurner.


Entertainment includes:

  • Media & Entertainment Platforms- Cisco Eos.
  • Virtual Worlds- According to Wikipedia a virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations. You might have heard of Second Life, The Sims Online, or Forterra.

  • Game Sharing- sites allow multiple users to play each other in various games are becoming more and more popular all the time. Miniclip and Kongregate are a couple of game sharing sites.


Podcasts is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and downloaded through web syndication (according to Wikipedia). There are a thousands (if not millions) of different podcasts about a variety of subjects. More and more companies and people are seeing podcasts as a way of marketing themselves. In my mind map I broke podcasts down to:

  • Search- These sites allow you to search for podcasts and include: Podcast Alley and iTunes.
  • Subscribe- Allows users to download new podcasts that they're subscribed to. One of the more famous is iTunes.

Social Media is at its heart, social and provides a variety of channels in which you can communicate ("sell" and "market") your product, service, or idea. Unlike the "Old Media", you have a lot of possibilities of doing it yourself and aren't dependent upon the old networks to distribute your message. You have a message that you wish to get out and you want to find an audience that wants to "hear" your message, with Social Media you can find these people and they can find you, and better still is that it happens 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Social Media allows communication and conversations that never existed with the Old Media and people that receive your message can let you know what they think about it, maybe how you can improve it or what they like about it. Reaching an audience with Social Media is way easier than via the Old Media and getting your message out is a lot less costly to do than via the Old Media and you have a better chance of reaching your target audience. Because everyone has some sort of message that they wish to get out (regardless of if they realize it or not yet) the people making use of it and those that become active in the field will only grow. I've embedded a video put together by Common Craft that gives an even higher level simple view of Social Media below and I've written (and will continue to write) about several social media topics at this blog, so why not subscribe in your rss reader of choice or via email.

Social Media In Plain English

Other Articles that you might be interested in...

Credits: Social Media mind map created by myself. The Social Media in Plain English video is part of a series of video tutorials that make complex subjects easier to understand visit the Common Craft YouTube channel to see other In Plain English videos or visit their website.
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