Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Is attempting to kill off 'social media' about accuracy, or ego?

Apparently I am woefully out of touch with what the A-Listers have to say(fancy that), but it seems that there's been a steady campaign lately by some to have the term 'social media' put to pasture.

Steve Rubel has probably been the most vocal, and he adds this:
The problem with all of these balkanized phrases is that they connote that the content created by digitally empowered individuals is somehow bush league. It's like we're a separate entity from the rest of the so-called "mainstream" journalists, filmmakers, photographers, etc. who do what we do and get paid more for it. We sit in a special dish like leftover meatloaf so we need a special name. If you use these phrases you're unintentionally perpetuating that myth.

I've been chronicling the changes in media over the last three years on my blog and been in awe of it even longer. In 2004, 2005 and into 2006, as "we" became more influential, the phrases were helpful as the world began to take notice. But now, it's different. We've arrived.

We have?

Robert Scoble is one of the better-known bloggers. Adam Curry might be the most famous podcaster. If you ask 100 random Americans if they have heard of EITHER of these people, I will be shocked if more than 2-3 admit to knowing who either of them are. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if none of the 100 had heard of either of them.

It strikes me that this latest attempt to stop using the phrase 'social media' is more about ego and elitism than it is about accuracy. Do some people misuse the label, perhaps intentionally? Of course. But the bigger issue here is the accessibility of the idea. Blogs, podcasts, and other forms of created content that fall under the 'social media' umbrella are wonderful communication and expression tools. By giving them a label such as 'social media' (which IMO is still completely accurate), it makes it easier to spread the idea and concept to others. Why pull the rug out from under an idea that's starting to seep into the collective conscious on the nation, just as they appear to be understanding it?

What's more important, to expose as many people as possible to these ideas, so that they too can find and add their own voice to the conversation, or to be seen as the 'thought leader' that decided that the term was no longer worthy of us?

The label 'social media' makes the idea of these wonderful communication tools more accessible to the masses. That means more people are exposed to the concept of blogs and podcasts and other forms of social-media, and as a result, more people enter this space, and find and share their own voices with us.

More participation is a GOOD thing from where I sit. And I guess I get a bit cranky when I hear of anything that even hints at wanting to shut others off from having an invitation to this party.

UPDATE: Tony adds: "Social Media has arrived, its here to stay. Get used to it.
(repeat while chanting)."

Yep. Personally I'd rather hold the gate open than attempt to be a gatekeeper to this movement.

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Anonymous said...


And you thought I was kidding when I sent you that e-mail from my "A-list" summit. See—I told you "we" were re-writing the rules! :)

I totally agree with your assesment. Can we please call things what they are? Social Media as a label is accurate. Let's not overthink any of this.

PS. you'll be happy to know that I am officially no longer an "A-lister" as my Technorati rankings plunged into the 300's overnight!

The Technorati giveth—and taketh away. Life just isn't worth living... :P

Anonymous said...

Seems to be a case of some folks wanting to be invited to the big kid table. IMO, there's very little there worth eating.

Anonymous said...

The term Social Media is accurate and acceptable to multiple classes I talk with, whether corporate or mainstream media, consumer or small business. People get it without scrunching up their faces with that "huh?" look.

So many voices still dipping their toes into the water for the first time.

Just wondering about history...was there a movement to kill the term 'telephone' or 'postcard'?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that when old structures and ways of thinking come tumbling down that we try and reinstitute some of the barriers that we broke down in the first place?

Structure is always so seductive as is power. And exclusing new entrants is one way to maintain that power base ... it takes a lot more grace and generosity to maintain a commitment to open borders. I am with you Mack, more is always more.

Nedra Weinreich said...

I agree with you, Mack. Rubel's right that social media is part of the media, but to banish the phrase is ridiculous. We still distinguish between broadcast media and print media, and we need a way to refer to the distinctive genre of media that takes the form of blogs, online video/photo sharing, social network sites, podcasts, wikis, social bookmarking, etc. Using the phrase "social media" has nothing to do with denigrating people using it -- it's simply a way of being more precise.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, I picked up on this when he first proposed killing off in december:

the best thing i've seen written about what defines social media was by stowe boyd here:



Anonymous said...

That's just silly that some people want to change the name.

"Social Media" is a completely appropriate name, and I would feel like it would be a downgrade to be lumped in with mainstream journalists.

To be honest, I've been blogging for almost a year, and I just recently figured out what the phrase "social media" meant.

Please don't change the terms on me now! :-)

Anonymous said...

wait, those empowered by social media are trying to control it but still champion that we shouldn't be controlling with our messages and actions...but empowering?

Am I confused or did I get this right?

Anonymous said...

"Seems to be a case of some folks wanting to be invited to the big kid table. IMO, there's very little there worth eating."

I think Cam's comment summed it up quite nicely. Couldn't agree more...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,

Attempting to kill off "social media" is more about inaccuracy than anything else.

While Social Media is more about sharing media w/ each other, Media is about content consumed by one another. There are NO CONVERSATIONS in media, just content from THEM to US.

In addition, I believe it's also a case of provocative writing. Nothin more, nothin less...

gianandrea said...

I really appreciate Mario's comment. The big difference is the streaming which in Media is one way only.
Sometimes to be provoking is a way to test reaction.

Mack Collier said...

David: Must have been a fluke, looks like T-Rati has you back above 500. You can now enjoy the same popularity with Everyman as Scoble and Rubel ;)

Cam: Isn't MSM seen as old and stody right now, and social media is hip and cool? I agree, I think it's an ego thing.

Gavin: This was exactly how I saw it. We all are excited that we finally have a voice, then after a while, some decide they want to revert and attempt to tell others that their voice can no longer be heard.

Mario: I agree on the 'provocative writing' angle. IMO, that type of writing tends to give a short-term boost in traffic, and over time, regular readers are put off by it. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

We need to have name for every communications tool so we can discuss it. Since social media seems to be a phrase common to so many of us, changing its name is akin to changing a popular and successful brand identity--not a smart marketing move.

Anonymous said...

"Yep. Personally I'd rather hold the gate open than attempt to be a gatekeeper to this movement."

Well said. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Not to mention the fact that for every "a-list" blogger (like most of the commenters here), there are 1000+ crap bloggers that will either go away or think they're doing the world a service even though they have zero subscribers. You don't have that type of presence in mainstream journalism. Don't get me wrong, I agree that a lot of journalist are bad, but at least most of them are educated and have some formal training in writing.

The free nature of the blogosphere is one of the best and worst aspects of it. I think social media as a term is fine. There are a lot of various "media" tags (interactive, print, dynamic, broadcast, etc...). It's much broader than radio & television.