If you want Wikipedia’s definition of Social Media, you can find it here.
I like the definition and I think it’s accurate, if slightly long winded. But if someone asked me what social media is, personally I’d reply with “Social Media is any new web tool or technology that connects people.”
I’ve been thinking about it a little more and essentially, all social media can be broken down into 3 simple categories.
Socially Created Content
A lot of what comes to mind when people think “social media” is really just the Socially Created Content piece. This includes things like blogs, podcasts, Flickr or Picasa, YouTube, and Wikipedia. Essentially anything where the main focus is content creation. This is one of the fastest growing parts of social media, primarily because of the shrinking the barriers to entry. You can start a blog that showcases your vacation pics on Flickr and links to your channel on YouTube in less than half an hour. Don’t believe me? Try it.
Socially Highlighted Content
The second major part of social media is Socially Highlighted Content. SHC works because when people find something truly great out there on the internet, they think “Wow I really like this! I think everyone should check this out.” Sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Yahoo! Buzz, Mixx, and many others, serve as a showcase/portal for content that people believe the community will find value in. If you’re looking for the consensus best of the web, check here first.
Along with Socially Created Content, Social Networks are the other half of what people think of regarding social media. By now, everyone has heard of Facebook, LinkedIn, and (unfortunately) MySpace. These networks, among many others, allow you to create profiles and connect with peers, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers to form a network of “linked” individuals. Social Networks have become the Rolodex or little black book of today’s generation, and represent an unparalleled way to stay connected.
Obviously not everything falls neatly into those three categories, hence my beautiful illustration (watch out Armano). There’s a lot of overlap, and a lot of sites that represent the intersection of two or even all three pieces. For example, a microblogging site like Twitter sits at the intersection of Socially Created Content and Social Networking, it’s the perfect blend of both. The same goes for Squidoo for Socially Created Content and Socially Highlighted Content and Google Reader’s share function for Social Networking and Socially Highlighted content.
But that’s Just my take on it.
Think I’m wrong? Don’t like the categories or found something that doesn’t fit? Let me know. I’d love to hear your feedback on this. It just wouldn’t be social without you.