When the New York Times infers that social networking helped Barack Obama get the most powerful job in the world, you know there is a serious paradigm shift underway.
So when you decide your organization needs some of this “social stuff” for your own, how do you know what to ask for?
The social part is easy. You know you want a way for people to connect. Hopefully they’ll talk about your organization and your fantastic products and services. But what’s the difference between social media, and social networking? What do you need?
Social media is still media: a means to transmit information. The difference is that social media offers the opportunity for anyone to create or disseminate the information.
Social networking refers to people with some shared characteristics associating together, and social networks or social networking sites are where this happens.
We don’t think of television or radio as places; they are channels for communication and we can access the information at our home, in our car, or at our favorite sports bar. The message may be pervasive: it isn’t tied to a specific location. It is the message that is primary. Media isn’t a place.
Networking tends to be more context-focused. When we speak of social networking sites, we speak of Facebook or mySpace. In real life, we may think of where we like to spend our time: the golf course, the gym, the local starbucks. We may go to these places because of the people and the atmosphere, because it gives us the opportunity to engage with others with similar interests or experiences.
Do you want to create a radio station, or a coffee shop? Do you want to offer people an easier way to spread your message, or do you want them to hang out? Don’t worry, it’s not that easy a question to answer. It depends on what you want to accomplish, and who your audience is and what THEY want to accomplish. But getting comfortable with these concepts is a first step towards social success!