Do you Hate the term “Social Media?” (I don’t) then help come up with a better term

Last night over dinner, Kristy Wells (who is one of the founders of Social Media Club) and I discussed the usage of the term Social Media. I gave a lot of thought to that term before using it. Before, I was using the phrase Community Marketing as that is really the corporate end result that these tools are doing.

The biggest criticisms folks have against Social Media is that Media can’t be social, I first heard that from Dennis. I’ve thought about some other terms such as “Socializing Media”, but that just sounds odd. “Conversational Media” doesn’t work either, as not all of the tools exhibit conversational traits, some have unwritten gestures. To me, the term “new media” is even worse, as how long will any technology or trend be new? Help me come up with some better terms, but please, don’t say “Web 2.0”.

Chris Coulter has been giving me his thoughts on this in the back channel, hopefully he’ll jump in here and give his opinion, which is always welcome.

If you can come up with a better term, I’ll be happy to change my vernacular, I’m always looking to improve.

Update: Loren hates Social Media, but be warned he uses harsh language, and um, well is not wearing much. If you’re ok with that, watch his video.

Update 2: I wasn’t clear on my stance in this post. I prefer the term “Social Media” as I’m unaware of a better term to use. There are folks that dislike the term “Social Media”, so this is a post asking those that don’t like it to suggest a better term. If they can convince me, I’ll change my vernacular.

I’ve changed the title of this post from:

Hate the term “Social Media?” help come up with a better term

Do you Hate the term “Social Media?” (I don’t) then help come up with a better term

Update Feb 22: Doc Searls responded to Brian Solis (but Doc didn’t provide any useful nomenclature to replace Social Media) Scoble is feeling defensive.

  • How about Media 2.0 🙂

  • I’m not a fan of anything ‘2.0’ actually. But that’s about all we have when it comes to indicating something is disruptive or changing.

    Rather than say “new” or “2.0” it would be better to indicate what are the actual features of the changes.

  • Actually this would be a great discussion – what does the 2.0 mean – why does social mean – and are they the same thing.

    In my mind Social is only one aspect of the change. The change is also about personal.

    Personal choice, personalization, personal transparency.

    And it’s about other things too. That’s why I like the generic 2.0 suffix.

  • It’s too late Jeremiah, marketers have already adopted it and are using it heavily.,GGGL:2006-10,GGGL:en

    Brian at Copyblogger tried to do the same thing to change the phrase “linkbait”, but that had spread too much.

    Your best bet is to define Social Media as a sub-set of a new term, that you’re happier with.

  • Andy

    I have no problem with the term, perhaps it’s because I’m a marketer? I find it somewhat descriptive and accurate.

  • Chris, I’m not a fan of “2.0” anything. What’s happening is the natural evolution of the web, it’s nothing really new is it?

    This is why I like the term “Social Media”

    Important: Social Media is about People.

  • I disagree – I have written a little more about it here:

    Social is a symptom of Personal – but whatever your definition – to try to foreshadow the destination/goal before we get there only limits the discussion/possibilities.

    2.0 gives people freedom to decide what the next generation will look like while still giving them a buzzword to rally around.

    The community and the market will decide what the 2.0 means – and I think you will find that ‘social’ is only part of that outcome.

  • Media are means of communications. Why can’t they be social? Kind of like saying “studies” can’t be social so we need to rename that field. Frankly, I think far too much energy is wasted on these esoteric debates. As if we can all decide what to call something and it will be thus!

  • Jeremiah-

    I’d resist incorporating the word “marketing” in such a term since marketing related communicatisn is only a subset of how people are using social media — and I see social media as being used within organizations to facilitate things like project management, innovation, and publishing.

    – Dennis

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  • “Important: Social Media is about People.”

    Great point.

    I understand why it is called Social Media by most. But I think one could make the argument that it is more “personalized media” because folks make the individual choice to do certain things defined as social (blogging, reading specific blogs,interacting in specific forums/blogs,social networks, etc.).

    I think social media is probably going to stick around….

  • Thanks for clarifying the title Jeremiah. I do like the term, too. But, as I’ve said before, “People Are Social and Media Are Plural!”

  • Social media is probably the best of a whole bunch of terms all of which are wrong in different ways. I’d never considered using Media 2.0, because that brings in connotations of mainstream media whereas I use Social Media to mean those things are contributed to ‘people’ even if the platform is managed by big business. The BBC is well on it’s way to defining its new kind of media but only elements of their pathway could be described as social. I’m OK with Cmmunity Marketing, but to me is a subset – it has the commercial aspects to it.

  • Hey Jeremiah,

    As they say down South, ‘my bad’. Last night’s 1-1/2 minute conversation on this subject left me realizing I really need to be careful with how I phrase things. My initial reaction to your question was to say ‘Social Media’ is a buzz word, however, I should have clarified what I meant, which is it seems buzzy at times as things get dumped into the ‘Social Media’ bucket that may not truly belong. The same holds true to me for the term Web ‘2.0’.

    I think this will correct itself, but it will require time, patience and a determination to educate folks on what it all means, and why it all matters.

    I truly believe the term Social Media has lasting power, especially if we are careful to avoid putting version numbers on it which is my real beef with the term Web 2.0 – seems to limit it where I think Social Media can still be called Social Media ten years down the road. I believe this in my heart and we would not have named our company ‘Social Media Club’ if we thought it was simply a buzz word.

    It is just now resonating with the masses, so I would not worry about finding something to replace it.

  • Dennis, that’s a wonderful quote.

  • In the ’90s it was “Virtual Community” with a simpler and clunkier toolset but a lot of the same many-to-many variations on expression and communication. (remember an event that ran for a few years under the name of the VirComm conference?) “Virtual” is pretty much out of style even in avatar spaces, probably for good reason — we see real and valued social networks and communities, with some computer-mediated interactions, but other ways of interacting blended in by the participants.

    In that light, specifying the mediating part makes sense. (But should this cross over to traditinoal forms to be understood as the novelty wears off? In ten years, is a box of paper party invitations a social medium? Is a classic telephone? Is an event poster on the wall at a cafe?)

    Will this many-to-many expression thing settle down, or will we keep having to tag things “social, social media, social networking, community, online community, web2.0, interactivity tools, …??? ”

    Fun to watch.

  • Christopher Coulter

    The focus should be on the PRODUCT not the endless chitter-chatter “social” conversations. Know your customers. No amount of community will launch a bad product, and on the flip-side MLM and other pyramid scams are VERY social, extremely social.

    Social Media and all it’s relative cousins are but ‘Marketing without Metrics’, just a way for marketingese types to hold parties and fire up blogs, without having to do real-trenched work, gerbil activity really. If you focus on the medium, over the message, you will get endless yabberings with eternal Conferences and Panels following whatever new trend hits the wires. And what you end up with is circular media, talking to the like-minded converted, or like Microsoft, having to pay off bigtime or create an entitlement program to manage all the supposed “social”. It will all show some starting movement, and everyone will get all excited thinking they found the Holy Grail, but its fleeting at best.

    So enough with the shop talk, get in customers faces, day in and day out, and yes that means pulling away from the video cameras and blogs and meeting them where they ARE, not insulting them, while somehow expecting them to “get with your Social Media program”.

    Community only sticks around when people get something out of it, either money, fame, status, gigs/jobs, friendships, info-sharing. If you want to create community, get out the wallet and dig deep; create incentives, been that way since the dawn of mankind, nothing new under the sun. And yes, it’s really that simple.

    Media is never social, people are, but people that try and sell you something under the guise of fake friendship are worse than anything; like going to a new church, and being warmed with people, who at first seemed nice, but then extend an invitation to some seminar at the local Holiday Inn.

    Social Media and it’s practitioners are but frauds, selling whatever snake-oil faddish techie development falls under the now new definition of “social”. It’s all just another distributional method, get over yourselves, the Second Coming hasn’t happened.

    My contributions…

    Simulation Media, Improvised Media, Imitational Media, Charlatanic Media, Feigned Media, Suppositious Media, Caricature Media, Postiche Media…of course they won’t stick, but the definitions are dead-on. 🙂

  • Kristy

    we were chatting about a number of things. And if i mentioned the terms social media as a buzz word i may have talking about others.

    I, like you, feel it’s a good term or phrase to use.

    likely any confusion caused is my inability to effectively communicate.

  • Well this isn’t fair Jeremiah – you have more readers and you’re on home turf. Someone want to back me up 🙂

  • Chris Saad.

    I think Chris Coulter just ripped me a new one:

    “Social Media and it’s practitioners are but frauds, selling whatever snake-oil faddish techie development falls under the now new definition of “social”. It’s all just another distributional method, get over yourselves, the Second Coming hasn’t happened.”

  • Vince Williams

    “Media is never social”.

    Friendly media would be refreshing.

  • “Social Media and it’s practitioners are but frauds, selling whatever snake-oil faddish techie development falls under the now new definition of “social”. It’s all just another distributional method, get over yourselves, the Second Coming hasn’t happened.”

    Yikes! Does he have a blog? I would be interested in checking out what he has to say.

    Note: If possible, check Tara out on what she has to say about “community” on the

  • I think Chris is ripping us all a new one. Or at least trying.

    Don’t worry Chris, TV was a waste of time. Newspapers will continue to be the only form of entertainment/news.

    Color TV will never take off either and had no impact on the way we experienced media. All those shades of grey were good enough.

    Also VCRs – no big deal.

    And if Media 2.0 was only on the magnitude of one of those previous changes in media I’d agree with you (that an evolution is not happening). But it’s on the magnitude of all those things and more. And the change is more rapid than any previously experienced.

    The point is Jeremiah is wrong and I am right – Media 2.0 is way cooler a name. Let’s stick to topic people hah.

  • Christopher Coulter

    But TV *is* a waste of time (see 20 plus years of Daytime Soaps), which is why DVD Season long-sets and media recorders in various forms, allow you to control such time, picking and choosing the good, out of the eternally vast wastelands. Newspapers still thrive, providing much entertainment/news, not as dominant perhaps, but things change, natural order of it all.

    But it’s the product, not “endless conversations”, that matter. Imagine if people went around championing ‘Ink Media’ or ‘Tape Media’…pllluuuzzze. Ink 2.0 (Color), Tape 2.0 (that would be a DVD). Just adding color, or upping the resolution, as is the HD trend, still can’t improve the product itself, merely its form, and there is a whole grand and glorious Hollywood golden era, all without color.

    It’s all a fad of the moment before becoming a commodity, that for the things that have lasting power, podcasting is but a delivery method, with existing content taking precedence, and hypertext is a navigation system, not a revolution, blog scribblings are but vapor, eternally chasing tails for the next new new thing. And most of what passes for ‘Web 2.0’ or ‘Media 2.0’, has but a 50 mile Bay Area radial footprint.

  • Chris Coulter

    Some of what you write in that post makes a lot of sense. Seriously it does.

    Of course, it just fuels my hunger even more to quest for knowledge, information, and to share it with others. Just as you’re sharing your opinions here in this vapor blog.

  • Damon

    If you don’t know Chris, he used to leave quite a few comments on Scoble’s blog. Scoble hired Chris at PodTech, where we became friends ourselves.

    Chris is off doing his own thing now, and is always welcome to chime in here at this blog in an on topic manner that doesn’t scare away readers 😉

  • Hi Chris,

    “And most of what passes for ‘Web 2.0′ or ‘Media 2.0′, has but a 50 mile Bay Area radial footprint.”

    Perhaps. But I would argue that this is where (Silicon Valley) things tend to break before going “mainstream”.

    Whether we like it or not, someone is always going to try and attach a “term” to something that is happening in order to give it “meaning” in a contextual sense. The terms Web2.0 and Social Media, while unfortunate, allow people to grasp *what* it is in a contextual meaning quite rapidly.

    A healthy does of skepticism never hurt anyone, however:-) I can be quite critical of the importance of some of these movements as well.

  • Hey, Jeremiah…

    You may be trying to lump too many things together under a single label. For instance, conversational media encompasses a lot of things — some of which overlap with “social media” and some of which don’t.

    Just a thought,

    – Amy Gahran

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  • Jeremiah, this post is still out there! Great work. I did my best to argue that Social Media is fine as is and doesn’t require a new term or category.

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  • Larz on Marz

    What’s wrong with social media?

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