What the Heck is Social Media?

Because of the new developments of technology and the way people communicate with each other, a now form of media called social media, has emerged. Basically it's media that is shared or communicated through social interaction. However, this type of social interaction is mostly done online or with the use of the Internet. If in the past, media was communicated by means of a monologue style of deliverance, social media uses actual dialogues between the audience and media provider.

The different types of socialized media are concept, media and social interface. Concept social media refers to those that are in the form of art, information and meme. Whereas there is also physical, electronic or verbal social media. While social interface media refers to social media that is either intimate, direct, uses community engagement, is social viral, electronic, broadcasted, syndicated or physical media.

There are various forms that this new media is expressed. These are either by way of concepts or slogans that are designed so as to make sure that they are on the awareness of the audience at all times. Grass roots social-media meanwhile is done by speaking to the audience publicly, setting up installations, doing performances or making demonstrations.

There is also social-media in the form of electronic media, wherein the media can be shared; there is electronic media that is syndicated as well as social media that is done via search algorithm techniques. Meanwhile, print media is media that is meant to be circulated as well as distributed and redistributed.
Social media is distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. At the same time it is relatively inexpensive and has accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media generally requires significant resources to publish information.

Examples of industrial media issues include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license.
In order to fully understand the concept of social media more intimately, let us compare it with traditional forms or media. The more traditional forms of media are mainly broadcast or mass media. Although both forms of media, traditional and social, are able to effectively reach a wide audience in almost all parts of the world, media that is social is more accessible to people of all classes.

The reason why social media is infinitely more accessible is because it has tools are often free or available at a low cost. For example, the Internet is now being offered at a very low price to most audiences. In fact, many people are able to access the Internet for free, because of the availability of free wireless internet access in most places or locations today.

Meanwhile, traditional forms of media require subscriptions, such as cable television, magazines, newspapers and the like. Therefore, if there is a choice between having to shell out money for information or getting it for free, as with social media, the general audience will choose to get the information they desire for free.

Moreover, in order to engage in traditional forms of media, expertise and great skills are required. People expect more from people who write articles in newspapers and magazines, as opposed to someone who writes down his daily thoughts in an online blog. Therefore, there are less inhibitions and restrictions when it comes to expressing oneself in the realm of social digital media.

Social media is also oftentimes more updated and more accurate than the information that traditional media offers. The reason for this is that social media is released almost as soon as it is typed or uploaded online. And if there are any mistakes or corrections to be done, it can easily be corrected right away as well. There is no need to wait for the printing press to publish all those newspapers and magazines anymore.

US Media Going Social - Online, That Is

Online and social media adoption and consumption in the US is growing at an exponential rate.. You would have to live in cave to have not heard this before. If we look at user base as one dimension to consider, we could evaluate media growth and adoption by audience size goals or reaching a certain threshold such 50 million users (reference: socialnomics.net). It took radio 38 years to achieve an audience size of 50 million, while TV took 13 years, the Internet took 4 years, iPod 3 years. Drum roll please. Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months! As you can see online social media adoption in the US, based on the tremendous growth of Facebook and other social media sites, the adoption rate of online social media in the US been greatly accelerated relative to adoption rates of off-line media.

One could theorize that the adoption of social media has come at the expense of more traditional media such as newspapers, which according to an article in Yahoo Finance, 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation as more user seek news content online.

Those downplaying the growth of online social media in the US may point out that the US population is a lot bigger today than it was when broadcast radio was first introduced in 1906. Population size increase since then would account for some of the reduction in years for a media type to reach 50 million users (more people in US means lower % required to hit 50 million) and so perhaps a better comparison threshold would be achieving some saturation level or % of population. But come on. What about Facebook adding 100 million users in less than 9 months?, What about the current Facebook user base of over 400 million (April 2010), there's simply no denying the pace at which the media landscape is the US evolving, driven by rapid adoption of online social media with Facebook leading the way. Simply amazing.

Not only are the number of Facebook users large, but they are online nearly an hour a day and actively engaged. What's more, according to Facebook, the average user spends 55 minutes per day online or roughly 335 hours in a year! Talk social media, Facebook in this case, driving increased online media consumption in the US. Another eye opening statistic is the 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week according to Facebook. Not only are Facebook users spending a significant amount of time Facebook each day, but they are also actively engaged in the creation and sharing at a rate approach approaching 1 billion pieces of content per day. Not bad when you can get 400 million users to create and share content for free that can then be monetized with contextual and behavioral advertising.

Facebook is a leader in the growth and mainstream adoption of online Social Media in the US. Possibly the most telling sign the Facebook leadership in online social media leadership in the US is that, according to a recent news release by Hitwise, on Mar 15, 2010, Facebook was the top ranked destination of US traffic reaching 7.07% of US Internet traffic as compared to 7.03% for Google. Sure, Facebook had surpassed Google before as the top US Internet destination, but that those were special days when like Christmas and New Years when you expect the surge in Social Media activity, but Mar 15th? While I recognize that comparing Google whose primary focus is Search and Facebook whose primary focus is Social Media.

Growth in online media consumption is not new information. In fact, in a study by the Media Audit release in May 2009, it was found that the average U.S. adult spent 2.1 hours per day online in 2006, compared to 3.8 hours in 2008. This represents an 81% increase over the three years studied. It's possible that Internet usage today is even higher than the 3.8 hours per day from 2008. Another interesting statistic and sign of the times was a subject of a recent report issued by comScore Video Metrix service which estimated that 32.4 billion online videos where watched in the US in January 2010. If you do the math, that equates to 95 videos, on average per every man, woman and child in the US. For certain demographics, such as preteen to through 30s, the actual numbers likely skew much higher.

The Internet and Social Media are not just for the kids anymore. The Internet is now being embraced by all generations including retirees with disposable income. My parents, both of whom are in their 70s and whom I believe to be the norm and not the exception, are online connected anywhere in their home with a wireless network connected through a high speed Internet connection. They are not alone as 95% of active Internet users in the US are connected with high speed Internet connections, enabling them to enjoy a rich media experience online. What's amazing to me is that there are still 5% of US Internet users on dial-up connections. The only explanation I can think of is rural areas where high-speed Internet may be unavailable. Pricing for high speed Internet in a bundled package with phone and TV makes it comparable to the cost of dial-up which typically requires an extra phone line. High definition digital audio, video and online gaming content, fueled by ubiquitous high speed Internet access makes the Internet and Social Media accessible across all age groups.

Why not shop where we consume media? As US media consumption shifts online, then its natural for online sales to grow in conjunction.This is evidenced by the %of retail sales relative to all retail sales in the US, which has grown from.8% in 2000 to over 3.7% as of November 2009 according the US Department of Commerce statistics, representing a 362% growth during that period. So as US media consumption shifts online fueled by increased social media usage, ecommerce will continue to grow. That is why companies are advertising on Social Media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. This is especially true for large notational companies that are interested in reaching broad diverse audiences or targeting specific niches. The nice thing about Social Media is that it provides businesses opportunities for both.

The bottom line is. You can bet that companies that understand social media use in the US and its impact on traditional media are embracing social media and are integrating into their overall, multi-channel marketing and even customer service strategies. Shouldn't you?