What is Social Media?

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The term “social media” has rapidly become a standard in both web and cultural vocabulary, and the more you know about it, the better. Social media describes the powerful new ways individuals are engaging with content on the Internet, and vice versa. At its essence, social media is user-centric; it is, just like its name suggests, media that focuses, applies, and depends on social interaction.

Through the use of the web, individuals have never been more closely and immediately connected, and this reality has revolutionized the business community. A true expression of Web 2.0 principles, social media moves past the more traditional forms of marketing, data gathering, and storytelling, and incorporates user-generated content (UGC) as a valuable new medium.

Businesses and organizations care about reaching consumers where they are, and today’s traditional methods support that claim: there are radio commercials (or billboards) for consumers in transit or on the job, television commercials for consumers at home, and print ads (magazines, periodicals, direct mail, etc.) to fill in the cracks. Since the web has become a new “destination” for millions of people all over the world, a new form of communication has appeared out of necessity. Social media charters new waters, and is still being pioneered by everyone from CEOs, schoolteachers, sales clerks and school children.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia demonstrate the great value that has been placed on the user. From a user’s attention to his or her opinions and feelings about products, current events, and much more, social media presents an outlet for (often immediate) expression.

Through the use of social media, businesses now have new ways to reach consumers and markets. They can influence and promote by simply choosing to engage. Influential brands have become more “human” due to their presence and engagement on social media sites. From the user’s perspective, individual opinions and contributions that were once thought insignificant and without the means of expression are now amplified through social media.

Many of today’s companies are reorganizing their resources in order to devote appropriate energy entirely to social media. This new way of communicating and doing business is global, and it’s shaping more and more the way people think and express themselves online.

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