What? No such thing as social media?

Gary Vaynerchuk is an entreprenuer, internet (I was going to say social media) rockstar, TED talker, and big time wine guy. So what’s he doing in this video saying there is no such thing as social media?

If you don’t feel like watching YouTube right now, I’ll cut to the chase: the internet is social media and social media is the internet, so why do we keep calling it social media? I’ve struggled with this same question because I do believe that social media as a term has become much broader than it started out. PIER, the communication management system I created, was conceived in 1999. It featured even in its earliest versions web content management, list management, distribution, interactive management (which we called inquiry management), limited monitoring, analytics (reporting) and a lot more, But that was before the days of 2.0 which is when they started talking about the web as more than a platform to load up your brochure in html and start using it to actually work with customers and other people. Social media as a term, in my mind anyway, emerged with the likes of initially MySpace (remember that one?), then Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter, and Facebook, now raise similar questions. Is Twitter social media? It certainly was intended for that. But now it is used extensively for brand building, for emergency communications, for selling things. It’s a long ways from friends sharing information on what they are having for lunch. Similar with Facebook. What started out as a college campus replacement to the pre-teen MySpace is now used by most corporations as their website. Yes, their primary marketing website. Just watch some TV commercials and see how often the tag says: facebook/companyname vs. companyname.com.

You can certainly argue that by using it for out and out commercial marketing and sales doesn’t make it less social, because it its dominance as a means of social contact that makes it so attractive for marketing. Yet, the change in purpose is significant.

The internet has taken almost as many forms and functions as their people and organizations with the will and knowledge to take advantage of it. That, I suspect, will continue for quite a while to come (hmm, what will replace the internet?). A surprising amount of the internet’s functions will be aimed at strictly social purposes. But as we have seen, something created for social purposes will not necessarily remain there. A Facebook page for CocaCola with 35 million followers is not the same as a group of friends on a university campus sharing info. I suspect the terminology will evolve as well and I appreciate Gary bringing this elephant in the room into clearer view.