What is your definition of social media?

Social Media cloudAs I continue to write “lessons” about social media, I am more and more interested in what students actually want to know about social media.  While continuing to work on my thesis, I have conducted some in-depth interviews to try to answer the question, “What do you want to learn about social media?”

I have learned that many students are unclear about what social media means to them, therefore what they want to learn about it is a bit cloudy.  So, the question became “What is your definition of social media?”

The answers varied, and I realized that perhaps I should attempt to define social media.  First, here are some common definitions I’ve found on the web:

The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue (Wikipedia).

Merriam-Webster defines Social Media as forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

Although I easily found these definitions with a Google search, it is clear that the definition of social media is still evolving.  However, I made the mistake of assuming that everyone was at least familiar with some form of the above definitions.  In actuality, many students think of social media as much more than what might otherwise be referred to as “social networks,” such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

When I hear the term social media, I immediately think of social networks.  Do I have tunnel vision?  Is social media more than social networks and how we use them?  Over the last couple of weeks I have had to second-guess my definition.  Does social media have to be technology based?

Perhaps a more broad definition could be: “Social Media is media, electronically based or otherwise, that enables users to communicate in an interactive and highly social capacity.”

What do you think?  What is your definition of social media?

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