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Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Social Media Is NOT Media

By Jeffrey Eisenberg
November 18th, 2008

We’ve hated the name, but loved the medium, all along. It’s social but it’s not media!

Bryan wrote in Understanding and Aligning Social Media:

“The biggest problem I have with the term “social media” is that it isn’t media in the traditional sense. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the others I don’t have the word count to mention aren’t media; they are platforms for interaction and networking. All the traditional media — print, broadcast, search, and so on — provide platforms for delivery of ads near and around relevant content. Social media are platforms for interaction and relationships, not content and ads.”

We’re not alone in saying it. Ted McConnell, General Manager-Interactive Marketing and Innovation at Procter & Gamble Co., was quoted in AdAge from a talk to the Digital Non-Conference, a program by Cincinnati’s Digital Hub Initiative presented by the Ad Club of Cincinnati:

“I think when we call it ‘consumer-generated media,’ we’re being predatory,” he said. “Who said this is media? Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. … We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”

“You can do really amazing things. But I’m not so sure I want to be targeted like that. … I don’t think everything every consumer says to someone else and writes down is somehow monetizable by the media industry.”

Thanks for saying that Mr. McConnell!

Building and deepening relationships is hard work, just ask Mack, not simply something you can buy like media.

We can’t change the name at this point but what can we do to give companies more realistic expectations?

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Comments (33)

  1. I think Ted’s comments are dead on. Many of companies I’ve worked with want to find ways to use social media like traditional media — to talk at people, to interject and to force a message. But the reality is ads on sites like facebook and myspace, flickr, twitter or even a niche social community fail when they’re done to interject. Successful campaigns blend a presence (i.e. participation in the user’s experience) with messaging and offer value. Even then it’s still a questionable tactic and while I believe there can be great results in social advertising, they also have to be measured closely and not looked at just as an ad buy but rather an engagement opportunity.

    Many companies seem to want to avoid actually engaging due to lack of resources or knowledge and think buying ad space will give them the same success a properly run social campaign would. But the ads they buy show in the wrong places as much as the right ones and with no interactive communication to go along there’s little reason for the user to stop their current action to pursue the message. Participation and value go a long, long way to getting better results.

  2. I have but a few words to say to you media has changed, word of mouth has changed, it’s gone global. Links for blogs and clips are media as is microblogging, what else are they.Bloggers may become the Journalists of the future there isnt a major newpaper without a blog even now.

  3. I completely agree that the term “social media” is a misnomer, and is often approached inappropriately by many marketers. With traditional media, an advertiser can chose a variety of media to promote her products and choose not to use other media – without repercussions beyond a smaller reach. I think its interesting that with the Motrin debacle over the past few days, a basic reason they had such problems is because they apparently viewed social networks as another advertising medium – one they chose not to use for this ad campaign. However, ignoring those networks brought down their ad campaign.

    I think that shows a real shift in what advertisers have to consider when they run promotions. Having at least a ‘social media’ monitoring strategy in place is necessary. Trying to target and monetize social media in the same manner as traditional media is way off the mark – targeting an audience and listening/engaging them is much more realistic. And as seen in Motrin’s case, utilizing social media as a relationship platform could have saved them millions of dollars from a failed ad campaign and negative publicity.

  4. Social media is indeed a misnomer, but to suggest that the platforms that enable conversations between people and between people and brands are not viable ad opportunities is ludicrous.

    I do not think social networks are especially good ad vehicles – as I’ve written about extensively on my blog. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t at all viable.

    To suggest that communication frameworks are incompatible with marketing tactics would be to suggest that direct mail and email (both communication frameworks) are also off-limits and unworkable. Given that email generates more ROI than ANY other marketing tactic (online or offline), I’d disagree with that assessment.

    As currently constructed, ads on Facebook etc. don’t work well because they aren’t very contextual, and the actual ad holes suck. But, any place that consumer spend that much time will become viable for ad messages eventually.

  5. “We can’t change the name at this point but what can we do to give companies more realistic expectations?”

    Thanks for the link and great post, Jeffrey. I think we need to do a better job of educating companies/clients on what these ‘social media’ tools are, and why people use them. They are personal communication tools. They aren’t new channels to shove marketing messages down, and as such. This is the problem, cos are viewing social media as yet another form of ‘traditional marketing’, and trying to measure their efforts with social media as such.

    Does calling it ‘media’ make our job more difficult? Probably so.

  6. Ditto to what Ted McConnell said. Social media??? Are you kidding? The thing we call Social Media is about conversations. In fact, we call it Social Computing – just because it isn’t media – it is people using the plumbing (internet) to connect with others who share similar passions – across the boundaries of time and space.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

    TO’B
    MotiveQuest

  7. We’ve been engaging in “social media” for close to a year now and are 100% committed to the relationship, engagement & conversation we’ve created with our consumer because of the social technology platforms we’ve been able to use.

    I agree that Social Media is a bad term but it’s familiar to people.

    Being a corporate blogger & “social media manager,” here are my challenges:
    - What should my title be?
    - How do I measure our engagements and show “results”
    - How do I communicate with the c-suite about “social media” when it’s still a little elusive.

    Great quotes from Ted at P&G and great food for thought!

  8. Not to get into semantics, but actually it would only be a misnomer to refer to social media as a “mass medium”, i.e., a one-way publication or broadcast. However, in the more general sense, “media” simply refers to “means of effecting or conveying”, according to Webster’s. And social media is definitely a way of conveying information in a multi-directional exchange. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  9. Clicked through from Bryan’s advertisement on Twitter.

    Cute theory, though, Jeff.

  10. just because “social media” requires a company to DO something instead of BUY something doesn’t mean it’s not media.

    most companies don’t understand social media because decades of agency culture led them to conclude — and, gee, i wonder how this happened — that all interactions with customers can be bought. (un)fortunately, that’s no longer true.

  11. [...] Jeffrey cites something by AdAge that quotes Ted McConnell from Procter & Gamble Co marketing: “I think when we call it ‘consumer-generated media,’ we’re being predatory,” he said. “Who said this is media? Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. … We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.” [...]

  12. [...] Another fellow blogger put an intriguing blog post on Social Media Is NOT Media | FutureNow's GrokDotCom / Marketing …Here’s a quick excerptTo suggest that communication frameworks are incompatible with marketing tactics would be to suggest that direct mail and email (both communication frameworks) are also off-limits and unworkable. Given that email generates more ROI than … [...]

  13. [...] Another fellow blogger placed an interesting blog post on Social Media Is NOT Media | FutureNow's GrokDotCom / Marketing …Here’s a brief overviewTo suggest that communication frameworks are incompatible with marketing tactics would be to suggest that direct mail and email (both communication frameworks) are also off-limits and unworkable. Given that email generates more ROI than … [...]

  14. Social Media / When is defined as a verb / Resolves misnomer

  15. “Media’s” definition is bound to change over time. It will remain lodged in the fossil record of our lexicon like “telegraph” in AT&T.

    – - Tim

  16. Interesting post.
    The way I see it, media is not defined by the capacity to introduce ads or not, buy or sell, nor does it depends on who is the source and who the receiver. Media are communication channels.
    What about tv channels without advertising? Yes, it does exist and yes, we are talking about media.

    I have to agree with Jay Krall, Robert and Webster’s definition.
    Social media is media; “one” which might just be differently perceived by marketers, because they have a hard time categorizing it. Misnomer or not, what I like about this term is that we finally “socialize” media. Another big difference with traditional mass medium is that social media is not one platform such as radio or tv. Social media’s focus is not about the tool used to target a specific audience, but the actual content itself.
    This is why different platforms are starting to converge and offer connectivity.

    Those who think in terms of tools such as micro-blogging and social networks are still following the traditional media path and will not grasp its full potential…

  17. Where do you cast your line when fishing? Where the fish are biting of course. Social media does exist because social applications have been so successful. The question should not be *if* it exists, but instead *how* to approach this new marketing channel. Traditional marketing communications is changing to meet the new consumers approach to buying.

  18. Can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable with the term [social media] but I’m sorry Mssrs Eisenberg, it’s not often I disagree with you – but I do on this.

    Media is the plural of medium, and the relevant definition of medium is: “a means of communicating news or information to the public” [Collins].

    Notice no mention of ads – and aren’t my comments on a hotel review site ‘information’?

    No, my problem is that the medium that is the world wide web has been split into media in a way TV, radio etc has not [do you call phone-in shows on the radio 'social radio'?]

    I would have preferred the ‘social web’ to describe MySpace etc, so differentiating it from ‘commercial’ content.

    But then MySpace is a commercial venture, even if its content is ‘social’.

    The upshot of this rambling is – I suppose – that there are very few good definitions for most things related to the Internet.

    This is another, let’s just live with it.

  19. I agree that media is “a means of communicating news or information to the public” [Collins].

    Many of you have articulated similar understanding.

    Nevertheless, we are still left with the problem of perception and expectation based on calling it social media.

  20. Just because big media people think of social media as one-way or commoditize-able stuff doesn’t mean that the term itself is wrong. Media doesn’t mean “old media” or “big media”. It just means “stuff”.

  21. Heh, Alan Charlesworth wrote his comments the same time I wrote mine.

    The problem isn’t with the term “social media”, it’s with the people who don’t get it. Changing the terminology won’t help them.

  22. [...] hat das jemand anders mal richtig dargestellt. Hier, gefunden wie [...]

  23. Debating nomenclature is stimulating for us hawkers but irrelevant to organizations determining the relevancy of social whatever.

  24. The old method of advertising is interactive marketing. The term is misleading. Most people think it means that there is some type of interaction on the part of the person advertised to, and there is. But, it is not conversational. Instead, the advertiser wants you to interact with their campaign in a specific set of steps. Following the call to action and visiting a website for instance. It’s the push to make you do something. Live this image. Buy this now.

    Social Media Marketing is just the opposite. It’s the pull of the tribe. The tribe already has your trust so the actions they take are ones you align with. On a larger scale, it’s the allure of belonging in the group as you take action together. “I am doing this so why don’t you do it with me?” On an individual level, the attraction is to behave the same way to get the same results that benefits your fellow tribeswoman or tribesman. “She looks hot! I want to look hot too. I want to go to her hairstylist” and you do. Social Media Marketing uses the power of attraction.

    While advertising tries to use the same tactic, with a billboard for instance, of a gorgeous woman telling you the benefits of the salon, it doesn’t have the same impact because it’s pushing you to go. It is not pulling you in as a trusted friend. Your friends have your best interests at heart and advertisers do not. Social Media Marketing is based on building trust and that foundation will make Social Media a dominant player in Marketing.

  25. Hi.
    Social Media / When is defined as a verb / Resolves misnomer.
    Thanks…

  26. Social media, while it takes a while to weed thru the junk, is far more reliable than the traditional media anyways for exactly the point brought up here, the media can be bought – I mean, just look at Fox News for a prime example.

  27. [...] marketing and innovation for Procter & Gamble, summed the misconceptions up best when he shared his views at Cincinnati’s Digital Hub Initiative presented by the Ad Club of Cincinnati: I think when [...]

  28. How is it that the term arrived I wonder? I agree with the statements, it is interaction by choice or avoidance not social media but who coined the phrase?

  29. Great post. Since social is relationships and networking with people, adding media to it won’t make it more like using the social aspect as a medium to build reputation and brand in an attempt to market your products or services via content and ads. Wouldn’t that make sense? Some people even call it social media marketing. Many marketers are using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote their businesses. Or maybe they should just call it social networking simply. It’s purely networking initially.

  30. This was really well put together bringing together the power of social medial marketing into an understandable format for people who struggle.

  31. Really very good idear which provide new look to Website.

  32. [...] this subject. After reading the conversations on this pictualar site, I have a new understanding. http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/11/18/social-media-is-not-media/ this site reflects many onions, some I never took into [...]

  33. I think the main problem with using the ‘social media’ platforms is lack of education. Most businesses use them as advertising portals in much the same way as traditional marketing. What they fail to understand is social media is used as a mechanism for communicating and interacting to establish relationships with potential customers. Everyone is looking for a quick sell on these platforms and it’s definitely what they are about. It’s hard work, takes time, dedication and consistency to establish authority and value and after that the rewards come.

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Jeffrey Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. You can friend him on Facebook.

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