What Is Social Media?

what is social media?

Before you dive into a subject, learning the complex strategies, it’s always best to start with the basics; gain a foundation of the fundamentals before you venture into the complexities.

Even the football coaching legend Vince Lombardi, believed this to be true. Season after season he would take the first meeting with his players (no matter how experienced) and start with the basics. He would start his first talk (football in hand) saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Consider this our first talk.

Just FYI, this is part of my How To: Social Media series.

Before we talk about what social media is, I want to first tell you what social media is not. If you go into anything with the wrong outlook, you will not create a proper outcome. So here are 3 things social media is not:

1. Social Media is not an opportunity to SPAM

If you plan on just signing up and blasting your personal marketing agenda into the social sphere, do us a favor and save yourself some time – don’t sign up. You will end up spending a whole lot of time getting on people’s nerves and getting 0 results. There are enough spammers out there, don’t become one of them. If all you wish to do is exploit some free advertising for yourself, your business, or your brand, you’re missing it.

2. Social Media is not a FAD

I covered this in my first post of this series. Social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate with one another. It is a way of connecting and interacting in ways that were never possible before. It’s a shift that affects everything from the way we share photos with friends and family, to how products and services are delivered.

3. It’s not as complicated as you think

It boggles my mind every time somebody tells me, “I just don’t get it.” Listen, if you’re smart enough to sign up for a Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail account, you get it. Some platforms are more complex than others, but trust me – they are all pretty much based around the same principle, communication. It only looks intimidating because it’s new to you.

Got it? Good. Now let’s talk about what Social Media is:

According to Wikipedia: “Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.”

I love that definition, but lets break it down a little bit.

Social Media is about connecting

From the revolution of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and the like came a way of connecting and reconnecting with family, friends, classmates, and co-workers. We are able to keep up with family across the country or across the world. We are able to find classmates who have long moved away. We can quickly see photos, share videos and have conversation with people all in a few clicks of a mouse.

Social Media is about Engagement

Not “let’s get married” engagement (although if you’re looking for a cool story about that, you can see my proposal story (here). It’s about starting and participating in conversations. It’s about interacting with people you care about, brands that you love, or topics that interest you. It’s about interacting and being (wait for it…) social. So instead of being a bystander and watching what is going on in the world, be an active participant in the conversations taking place. An easy way to practice this – write your thoughts in the comments section below!

Social Media is about GROWTH

Like my friend Ben Kolarcik said, social media is a “global unfiltered information center that brings us closer to people and events…” We can leverage this social medium to learn from one another, encourage one another, and more importantly grow from one another (which is different from learning). If used in the right way, social media can be a powerful force that propels our society to a level of interconnectivity that can be used for all kinds of good. There are already numerous causes out there using social media for good.

This is where the voice of Uncle Ben comes in…

With great power comes great responsibility.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben

It is true that the power of social media can also be used for bad. However if you start with the right outlook, and the proper mindset, with pure intentions and a heart for adding value to the social collective, then I believe we can make a positive change. I believe if we take the time to understand how to use this powerful tool of social media, we can do a whole lot of good.

What are your thoughts? Was this helpful to you? Is there anything I’ve missed?

Dustin W. Stout Avatar

8 responses to “What Is Social Media?”

  1. Wade Harman Avatar
    Wade Harman

    I love it that you said social media is not a soap box for people to spam their marketing links from. That’s so true, but being a marketer, what do you feel is the necessary measures to take in order to not become seen as a spammer?

    Of course we all want to make money online and I can see where some people, even me sometimes, wants to just blast their blog links out there and hope for the best. I get what you’re saying, I really do, and I had to learn this early. Sharing other people’s posts really helps the whole marketing perspective, I believe. Sooner or later, people will start seeing you as someone worthy of sharing too.

    I’m just venting here, but one thing that aggravates me is the whole 80/20 rule. Share 80% of things that aren’t yours and 20% of things that are. Most of the platforms that I get on, like G+, I see a lot of beautiful pictures and scenery. You, for one, are probably the best person I know to touch Photoshop…they’re great! But what gets me is this: what about the people that are trying to make a living online? Who has time to search for fluff to share when they need to be making money?

    I have opted that my 80% not be beautiful pictures, but to share articles like yours to my followers. I think that really helps people rather than the photo’s. But what do I know? I’ve only been doing this 17 months!

    Your thoughts?

  2. Ana Avatar

    Wow, this is a great article Dustin!! Just love it!! This is an original way to explain Social Media 😉

  3. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Haha! I love me some comic book references… Even though some people don’t get them!

  4. Erin Jackman Avatar
    Erin Jackman

    A post I should have read before I read some of your other social media how to stuff. Oh well. But now that I am into it more, it makes sense.

    And since I’m kind of a foodie when you wrote “Uncle Ben” I first thought of Uncle Ben’s rice. So thanks for putting in brackets about comic books! 🙂

  5. Dustin W. Stout Avatar
    Dustin W. Stout

    Thanks James, that really means a lot!

  6. James Brooks Avatar

    Great stuff Dustin! Loving the look of your blog! 🙂

  7. Dustin W. Stout Avatar
    Dustin W. Stout

    very true David! Thanks for sharing!

  8. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Very well said. I owe a great many things including my very faith to the power of social media. Is it possbile that God would have found another way to bring me to my salvation if I had never joined a Social Network? Certainly…but he used where I was to bring me in, and through that a life was saved. I use Social Media to talk to family, post pictures, and to let friends know what I’m doing with my day but I also use it to express my faith, speak into the lives of those who read my posts about what God has put on my heart and the benefit is they can’t talk back…LOL. I also use Social Media to voice my opion about the market place…goods and services. Chick-fil-A is awesome and my friends know it because I rave about it every time I check in :-). Just remember…when you say something bad about someone or something…many eyes see that as well. So don’t let your tweets or statuses become idle gossip.


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