What Is Social Media?


I was going through my feedreader this morning and found Gwenbell had posted this video over at her blog. I watched it and sat there mesmerized for four minutes and 22 seconds. Now it’s your turn. Give it a watch and try not to let your jaw gape open the whole time, if you can.

Crazy, right?

I’m almost scared of the social media represented in that video. It looks intimidating. Like it could bowl me over and I’d never get my life back. And…that’s probably how a lot of executives and higher ups feel about it, too. That’s why they’re so slow to adopt. Why they’re skeptical. Why they’d rather you just keep throwing money into the same old things that have “always worked”. Only, they never worked.

And that’s a problem.

But that’s not what social media is. It’s not a fad or an addiction or something people need to run away from. Social media is people. It’s your ability to be you, as loud as you can, in front of those people in order to get their attention. It’s an opportunity to build trust in your core group by simply showing them who you are and going out of your way for them. It’s how you make money by being human, instead of being the douchebag you traditionally were online (and, you know, off.).

Around the four minute mark, the video calls social media a fundamental shift in how we communicate. I think it’s actually us going back to how we used to communicate. Before “communication” became “marketing”. Before “customers” became numbers. Social media is realizing that your cold marketing message just doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumers want you. And if you want them, you need to give them what they want.

That’s what social media is to me: It’s using the tools around you to be YOU as loudly in order to attract YOUR  kind. It’s being human to market to other humans.

I’m curious how you define it for yourself and your business.

Your Comments

  • Byrne

    My jaw dropped when I realized that so many of the statistics presented in the video were exaggerated, misinterpreted, or just made up.

    Social media may or may not be a fad. But if this video is the best case you can make for it, social media is a fraud.

  • Lisa Barone

    Yeah, I did my homework on the video, as well. Some of the stats are off, but I think many of them are valid. And whether the numbers are exact or if they were misinterpreted, I think the picture it paints on the industry is still pretty valid. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. And you (general you) need to learn how to properly acknowledge it and decide what it means for you. It’s certainly not fraud.

    Thanks for dropping the link to that post, though. I had seen others, but not that one. Gives it context.

  • Allison

    Wow Lisa… this video was really thought provoking. I kinda dug the Fatboy Slim track in it too. ;o) It brought back memories for me – not only of the music of the late 90’s that I was diggin’ at that time, but of my own career path over the years. Back in the early 90’s when I ventured into college, I had dreams of being in an exciting and creative field of marketing and advertising. But I soon found that I didn’t like the “shove it down your throat” approach to advertising. I graduated college in ’95, not quite sure what I was going to do with that degree or what this new “Internet” thing was all about. But I soon found my niche where the marketing concepts I had learned fit into a “let them come to you” approach. And I’ve been in the business of Internet Marketing for over 10 years now and love being able to create good content that people are searching for and let THEM come to ME.
    When social media emerged, I was excited because it took everything I’ve been doing for years to the next level. I see regular people (not marketers) marketing things all the time on Facebook and Twitter as they brag about products/services that they love or hate. And now it’s more important than ever to actually provide something of quality because that’s what is going to naturally rise to the top – the people/sites/businesses/etc. who actually deserve to be there. And their “fans” or “followers” or whomever are the ones that will help them get there.
    So for me, in my business, and with my clients, it all comes back to that mantra: “create good content”… or service… or product… Build it RIGHT and they WILL come… and buy… and make you rich. Or something like that, right?

  • Dylan Spencer

    I think the concept that social media is people who’s attention has to be earned, rather than bought, is lost on a lot of those that are slow to adopt. People that are accustomed to buying that attention are intimidated because it’s very difficult, or impossible to do that with social media.

  • graywolf

    wikipedia more accurate than other encyclopedia’s … really somebody wants to go with that factoid

  • Phil Buckley

    @graywolf, there’s been a bunch of studies of that one. Maybe a better way to look at it is that they both have about the same number of mistakes.

  • Lisa Barone

    Allison: Awesome story. Thanks for sharing that! And definitely something like that. :)

    Graywolf: On occasion, I often find Wikipedia to be highly accurate. http://tinyurl.com/y54vhm

  • Dave Curtis

    Hi Lisa,

    Several months ago I performed similar research to that done by you to check the validity of many of the assertions made in this video months ago. While some of the figures may be off, many are essentially correct. After all, it is just as difficult to write (or make a video) about social media statistics as it is to take a snap shot of the stock market today and expect that everything will be accurate six months from now.

    For me the video’s most important point is in the last lines shown: “Successful companies in social media act more like party planners, aggregators, and content providers than traditional advertisers.”

    Not one person posting to your blog or who has tweeted with you on twitter can deny that @Outspoken, @Rhea, @Sugarrae, @LisaBarone, @GrayWolf and so many others haven’t successfully mastered social media by planning the fun stuff online in front of followers, aggregated and shared tons of relevant interesting AM and SEO sources and provided hundreds of unique and valuable content pieces… and it’s worked for you as the data shows in Rae’s Commercial Twitter Case Study Revisited article on Twitter alone.

    Based on the results of a Forrester Research study (North American Technographics Media And Marketing Online Survey, Q2 2008) The statistics on trust are almost accurate at the top end in stating that 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations and somewhat less so on the bottom end with the claim that only 14% trust advertisements. Forrester’s study shows 77% trust from recommendations emailed from someone they know, and various forms of advertising trust ranged from a high of 48% (print yellow pages) to as low as 16% (company blogs). Since we don’t know what form of advertising the video was referring to as 14% trusted, it’s difficult to outright condemn.

    In the end though, I don’t see any better way to win friends and influence people than through social media. The Dale Carnegie reference was right on there. Social media is definitely the way to go.

  • Dave Curtis

    Lisa, Hi, Thanks

    Please replace the first sentence “Several months ago I performed similar research to that done by you to check the validity of many of the assertions made in this video months ago.”

    With this: “Several months ago I performed similar research to that done by you to check the validity of many of the assertions made in this video.”

    Second paragraph:
    “Not one person posting to your blog or who has tweeted with you on twitter can deny that @Outspoken, @Rhea, @Sugarrae, @LisaBarone, @GrayWolf and so many others haven’t successfully mastered social media by planning the fun stuff online in front of followers, aggregated and shared tons of relevant interesting AM and SEO sources and provided hundreds of unique and valuable content pieces… and it’s worked for you as the data shows in Rae’s Commercial Twitter Case Study Revisited article on Twitter alone.”

    replaced with:
    “Everyone who reads your blog or who has tweeted with you on twitter will attest that @Outspoken, @Rhea, @Sugarrae, @LisaBarone, @GrayWolf (and so many others) have successfully mastered social media by planning the fun stuff you do online right there in front of your followers, you have all worked to aggregate and share tons of interesting Affiliate Marketing and SEO related sources and you have worked to provide hundreds of unique and valuable content pieces on your various blogs… and it has definitely worked as the data shows in Rae’s Commercial Twitter Case Study Revisited article on the topic of how a business can benefit through the use of Twitter.”

    I think that’s better. Thank you. :)

  • graywolf

    @Phil Buckley and @lisabarone

    go look at the wikipedia page foe rubella


    it says rubella has been eradicated from the US, now go view the history and look at the edit turf war over well known podcaster in the US who got rubella.

    the standard for entry in wikipedia is citeability not truth, go check, its scary

  • Evan Morris


    So I watched this earlier and read the post, then nodded with approval and I was going to go on about my “busy” work day. But I’ve been thinking about you/social media ;) all day and so I’ve decided to come back and leave one of these comment things.

    I thought the video was very interesting, although I have forgotten all the facts it threw out at me even though the twitter and facebook update part was very creative! The point I think I was supposed to take with me is that social media is sort of a big deal right?

    My first thought is how does a business create human connections using social media? The messages can’t be automated, and must be monitored, which usually means one or two people manage the twitter, facebook updates, responses, etc. Does this run the risk that the online presence of a company will take on the personality of their social media guru? And is this the perception they want? For instance, any interest or connection I have to Outspoken Media is due to the blog, or your social media prowess / twitter hilarity! ( That and Kitty Cornelius’ Twitter Page! ) So I think maybe one of the reasons many companies are slow to adopt social media is because they don’t know the secret to your social skillz!

    As far as social media being a fundamental shift or back to the way things used to be I really don’t know. A time before “communication became marketing” is before my time, and we are around the same age so I don’t know what that’s about :) I would say it’s probably both. Social media has changed the way we communicate, and in doing so created a new avenue for businesses to reach consumers, that may SEEM like it’s not marketing, but in reality probably is. I’m sure the first TV commercials felt the same way, and now we DVR the shit out of anything we can so who knows.

  • RavenAlyson

    Although several have argued the accuracy of this video, I agree that although these statistics may be inflated, most likely they will be true… in a few months to a year.

    I can definitely relate to the story of the other Allison (oh really, there must be something about people named Allison who are awesome!). I am a quite fresh college graduate (Class of 07). My freshman year was when Facebook hit, and the rumor of Facebook hit before my university actually got it. And WHEN we got it, it was a BIG DEAL, I’m talking HUGE.

    I think what should be taken from this video is that even to some Generation Y or Z (I have no idea where I fall when it comes to those classifications) Social Media scares the shit out of you. The fact that it moves at lightning speed means that companies and persons have to be on the top of their game when it comes to responding to their customers needs, complaints, and wants.

    It is even incredibly intimidating to me, and I’m of this generation. Literally, right smack dab in the middle of it. I graduated college with a sociology degree and it is so fascinating to see that back then, the subject was still being taught in terms of physical societies and very little was put forth into realizing that a dramatic shift has happened. I am more likely to receive an evite than an invitation in the mail (except for the 18 I got this summer for weddings). I am more likely to discuss dinner plans over IM than on the phone. I communicate with my co-workers through IM, and they are literally within a 15 foot radius of me and some are within yelling distance (ahem @RavenGeordie). Although the number of front porches in America is shrinking, millions or billions are connecting over the internet.

    Social Media is totally shaken up the way marketing and businesses work (um… and life). And yes, its REALLY intimidating and scary. I struggle so much with just getting over the fear of, “What if someone thinks my tweet is stupid?” or “What if in one year, my daily blog readers are still under 10?”. But I think something that Outspoken Media (and others) have really encouraged is to get into it and get your hands dirty. You fail? Big deal you fail… Get over it and share a link that’s actually interesting.

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    Oh no, it’s more of what Social Media does so very well. FLUFF.

    Adverts like this (I hope they paid to licence that music?) that draw out statistics without sources are not subject to be taken with a ‘pinch of salt’, but rather a quantity of salt so big it would make the residue left from boiling the Atlantic ocean look like ‘a pinch’.

    Again your ability to time your posts with my own on the very subject of looking at Social Media beyond its fluff makes me thing that we’ve got some kind of spiritual link goin’ on.

    Shout loudly yes, but shout about something and make sure it’s shouted with a degree of control otherwise, your Tweet might come back and haunt you and your competitor will have the last laugh.


  • john andrews

    I watched it again here, after having seen the original a while back (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY). The whole time, I wondered if Fat Boy Slim got paid for the use of the song. The music is central to the success of the propaganda, and the question of whether or not they got paid, is central to the fallacy that is “social media vs. traditional advertising”.

    Advertising is an industry. Social Media is a label. Advertising is dying, but not because Social Media has eaten its lunch. Advertising (the industry) is dying for many reasons related to business performance. And business performance is tied to economics and society, which is (supposed to be) governed by the rule of law, which is (supposed to be) based on a concept of justice and the protection of inalienable human rights. If the law and the economic system fail to deliver the supports they were designed to deliver (such as the right to the pursuit of happiness), the business rules written to operate within those laws (such as advertising transactions and copyright rules ) will fail to perform. I don’t argue the “right or wrong” of our current laws and rules, but if we operate under a rule of law (as opposed to a dictatorship, for example) then we have to enforce the laws and protect the rules, or the system we call “civilization” will break down (in our local society). You’ll be out of work, or working hard but still poor, or unable to improve your situation due to oppression, etc.

    If we view “social media” as a grass roots land grab, taking place while the law is disregarded or corrupted (justice being tossed aside, hard work deferred because celebrity and monopoly are easier to obtain and more profitable) then yes, it should be easy to “show” how social media is taking over. More accurately, though, anarchy is taking over (in niches like multimedia production for social media… e.g. fatBoySlim not getting paid) and the political-economic system is corrupt (lawmakers and the media being pawns of paying corporations, acting to alienate individual people to reward shareholders).

    The saddest part: if I scoff this off as an attempt by a slick marketing video producer to get some attention, I can’t help but note the less-than-stellar-quality of the production (transitions too fast towards the end, some off-center positioning, and an over dependence on the music for rhythm, not really well synched to the viewer’s thought process). I can’t help but notice the failure of execution in a branding and reputation management sense. But I see it is meant to sell pop-psychology pulp fiction…. a book about social media… so okay, I guess it might be good for that.

    I am also sad that so many people read the blogs and get their news from twitter and never read “real books” that the corrupt system doesn’t want them to read. Pawns, every one. Including, lately, perhaps out of desperation, the last institutions still trying to round out the truth (look how “seo” causes even these guys to produce spammy junk content http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/52769.. it ranks for searches for those authors ).

    Prefer positive thought over reality? Okay… it can’t get much worse for very long, and then things will have to get better!

  • Elisa

    Oy, copyright law. So fraught. I feel like as long as things are credited, exposure can only be good. I’m a poet, and if someone posts one of my poems on their blog, I don’t ask them to take it down because it’s copyrighted, I hope that someone will see it and like it and seek out more of my work. The viral video about the wedding entrance that was on this blog a month or so ago ended up causing a huge spike in sales for that Chris Brown single. I can see people viewing the Socialnomics video and then buying the Fat Boy Slim single from iTunes along the same lines. Basically seems like free advertising. So what exactly is the big issue? I guess the argument is that the song is being used to sell the book so the artist should get a cut of the book sales? It just doesn’t seem like exploitation when it’s the relatively little guy doing it (via social media) as opposed to a huge corporation using an artist’s song in a car or software commercial.

  • Jonah Stein


    I couldn’t agree more about much of what you say about the breakdown of economics and law and I hope you’re right when you say it can’t get much worse. The corporations aren’t even in it to rewards shareholders anymore. That fascade has been ripped of, revealing that the corporate CEO and the politicians are essentially co-conspirators in a cleptocracy.

  • john andrews

    @Elisa your poetry example may be very true for YOUR case, which is why YOU have the right to license YOUR work as you see fit. I would like that right for myself as well, if you don’t mind.

    Photography may be a better example than poetry. My friend pays $30k/month to maintain his studio (payments on financed gear, staff, rent) and an image can take all day and 12-15 shoots before it’s right. You think he wants to trade that image for “exposure”? Maybe he does.. but that should be his call not ours.

  • Blueprint Marketing

    The problem with highlighting something like people trust personal recommendations more than ads is that with convergence the two are becoming harder to distinguish between. A personal recommendation is one from someone you personally know, not a web identity/blogger/Digger/whomever. Harmony Central used to be reputedly reliable for musical instrument reviews. See something tasty on Ebay, check it out on HC for reviews. If it gets good ones, buy it. That reputation has apparently suffered since HC got bought out by a big related industry company. I know about this, maybe not everyone coming along will. What’s a genuine peer review? One made by a peer you have a personal relationship with, one with whom you have personal interaction, physically or virtually. That’s a lot harder to create than you might think, in fact making adverts is probably cheaper and easier.


  • BP

    “It’s using the tools around you to be YOU as loudly in order to attract YOUR kind.” That’s all it seems to be, a lot of people shouting a lot of useless information and self-serving plugs. It’s one of the greatest excuses for call reluctance for salespeople ever. We’re hiding behind the blanket of social media instead of making personal contact with people. Want to be human? Talk with someone. Don’t hide behind a keyboard.