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What is Social Media? #mrushift | reMARCable by Marc Binkley
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As often as social media is talked about, it's rarely defined

Before I go on, can someone please move this 800 lbs gorilla off of me?

The term “Social media” enters at least one conversation or traditional media story every single day in my life. The funny part is, of all these conversations I can’t remember a single one that attempted to define what social media is. As pervasive as Facebook and platforms like it are, they are still brand new communication tools to the business community. Learning how to use social tools for business can offer competitive advantages but applying traditional tactics to has proven to be problematic.

Gaining a deeper understanding of what social media is, is one way to help us bridge the gap between traditional (the brand claims what they are) and social (the community of users decide what the brands are) business.

For the sake of creating a conversation that helps to clarify what social media is, I’d like to offer my opinion. Before I do that, I need to define what social media is not.

What Social Media Isn’t

Describing social media as a platform like Facebook is like saying that hockey is shooting a puck into a net. While it may be true that scoring on a net is a part of hockey, it’s not a very complete definition of the sport.

Secondly, unlike The Tragically Hip’s killerwhaletank, socialmedia is not one word. This is a good place to begin our understanding by breaking down the phrase “socialmedia” into two parts.


Social can be defined as a gathering of people meant to promote companionship, a sense of community and collaboration.


Is the plural form of medium. A medium is a substance (such as air, people, light, paper, Internet) through which something else is carried or transported on.

Drum roll please.

My definition of Social Media

Social Media is any substance, space, person or platform that hosts and forges a community of like-minded individuals who are drawn together by the frictionless exchange of emotions and ideas.

In a business sense, social mediums could be further clarified as any place where consumers gather to talk about your brand. That includes both the physical spaces (instore, events) and digital platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Review sites etc). These places merely play host to content; the sentiment of which can be good or bad depending on the brand experience you create for clients.

What do you think? Want to Play Along?

Great! Here’s how you play. Leave a comment below on one of two things.

1. Write your own definition of social media in the comment box below. Or…
2. Write a question in the comment below that you’d like me to ask Alexandra Samuel, Chris Brogan, Julien Smith or Peter Shankman that relates to bridging the gap between traditional and social media.

At noon on Tuesday May 8th, 2012 I’ll declare a winner from the best question or definition left on this post. The winner will win a $425 ticket to see Alex Samuel, Chris Brogan, Julien Smith and Peter Shankman speak at MRUShift in Calgary on May 10. To win, you have to be able to pick up the ticket in person from me by the end of day on Tuesday May 8th. That way, you’ve got time to convince a friend to buy a ticket to join you on May 10 at MRUshift.

What’s MRUshift?

MRUshift 2012 is Mount Royal University’s day long conference designed to help businesses bridge the gap between traditional and social media. MRUshift will host four of the biggest minds in social media today.

Chris Brogan – Cultivating Visibility: How to Amplify the Human Digital Channel
Alexandra Samuel – IRL: In RealLife
Peter Shankman – The Next Revolution Will Occur in Your Pocket
Julien Smith – The Adaptation Imperative

For a summary of these talks and a schedule of the day click here.

Now its your turn to let ‘er rip! I’m excited to hear what you have to say!

  • http://twitter.com/lowqis Laura Brouwer

    Social: networking and connecting with friends and strangers waiting to become friends

    Media: as you stated, the plural of medium. Medium is the middle state.

    Social media, therefore is the place or platform where 2 people meet halfway to connect

    A medium is also a person said to be  psychic so it could be the place where you know everything about your friends and foes often before they do. 😉

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks Laura –  I love that.  You’re not far off on the psychic part – there is a story about how Target (the store) used data from their consumer experiences and accurately predicted a teenage girls pregnancy before her parents did.  

  • Jdbruewer

    Social media is where many of the conversations that used to take place at back fences and coffee shops are taking place now.

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks for adding to this conversation!

  • Marissa Loewen

    Social Media happens every time there is a collaborative conversation. Anyone can talk online but getting someone to listen and engage (share, mention, comment) is that next level.

    The gap is clear but is getting smaller as traditional media leverages social tools and mediums to take their message past the push and pull method towards interactive and real time engagement. I would ask any of the panelists how they see mobile used past the QR code stage to engage. I would ask how we tap into the emotion cycle and make the inanimate computer become more than a flat interface.
    But I’m in #yeg and couldn’t drive down on the 9th in the afternoon alas if I was lucky enough to win. Just wanted to add to this conversation 🙂

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks for adding to this Marissa!  BTW, you’ve got the same spelling as my sister’s name – I’ve never seen her name anywhere else:)

      I love your questions and think the emotion cycle concept is really intriguing.  

      • Marissa Loewen

         It definitely wasn’t a common spelling when I was growing up but it pops up here and there. The difference is the pronunciation. I haven’t met another with the same. (Mah-reeesa instead of Mah-rihsa)

        • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

          Or as my dad says Mah-rish-a

  • Jeff_Maritn

    Hey Marc  Long time!
    Well Social Media to me has always existed in its purest form as “participation in a collective”  We used to only really be able to do this via Community groups, in neighborhoods or within business engagement.   The problem with the older methods are they did not enable us,  people needed to seek groups, step up to the podium or physically put themself out there.   This does not appeal to many people
    The big change is the Medium,  We are now enabling people that previously were not able to get the opinions out there because of Geography or personality. 
    I have read that many feel Facebook , LinkedIn and others will go the way of MySpace and there will be evolution or Social Media
    My question would be as the medium changes from Traditional to Browser based (sit at your Computer) to Mobile Social Media  what do you think the next evolution of Social Media will be and what further enablement will it provide?  

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks for the great question Jeff!  Can you expand a bit on your third paragraph? I don’t quite understand what you mean there.  it’s the “I have read…” one.

      Thanks again!

      • Jeff_Maritn

        Sure thing I think I confused myself ,  These days the rise to fame and the fall can happen extremely fast .  Myspace was launched in 2003 and sold in 2005 for almost 600 Million dollars , by 2007 valued at least 10 billion .MySpace failed to innovate and develop new features and move off of the Music lead portal delivery to its customers and in 2011 it was sold for 35 million.  Facebook has taken over and up to now has delivered what the user wants but with the push from “Internet” to a Mobile  “App” delivery will Facebook be able to change,  there will be a next evolution and it will be intresting to see who/what will be next

        • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

          Thanks for clearing that up – it’s a good point.  These platforms are all evolving just as fast as the adoption of them.  BTW, without your picture I can’t tell, but this is Jeff my old manager right?  How are you?

  • http://twitter.com/KellyAnnMorris Kelly Morris

    I agree with Marissa in terms of the conversation. 

    For me the “social” part of social media is the most important part to look at. We know traditional media has always talked AT people in various forms. The social part allows people to reciprocate, to have a voice and display their values, both positive and negative.

  • http://twitter.com/KellyAnnMorris Kelly Morris

    Marc – did you receive my comment? 

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      I’m reading it now:)

  • http://twitter.com/KellyAnnMorris Kelly Morris

    No matter, I’ll try to recreate! 
    I like what Marissa said! 
    I believe it is the ‘social’ part that is the most important.  Media has almost always existed as a method of receiving information and the social addition allows for reciprocal value to be gained by all parties, both positive and negative. 

    I’d like the gap to come together a bit more and for traditional marketing to really listen to what they are learning from their social media counterparts in order to really learn what people want from their particular brand – both personal and business. 

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks Kelly.  I love your thoughtfulness here.  

      I agree with the need for reciprocity – the bargain agreement between broadcaster and receiver has changed.  

      The bargain between broadcaster and consumer used to be that that the broadcaster absorb the costs of consistent deliverly of good content at little to no charge to the consumer.   The content consumer’s side of that bargain was that they enjoyed entertaining content at little to no cost to themselves the caveat being that the content would occasionally be interrupted by a few ads to help offset the costs incurred by the broadcaster.  With the mass amateurization of the media, everyone is a broadcaster and so the bargain has changed.    We are seeing that successful interruptions (ie. ads) are becoming a part of the entertainment.  Not only are the ads entertaining, they often encourage the consumers to become a part of the ad exerience.  Jay Z and the Bing case study is a great example.  http://youtu.be/XNic4wf8AYg

  • Leslie

    My question is:
    Why is it that people have an easier time connecting via social media versus traditional? Why can we be honest on twitter or facebook but not on camera or face to face?

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks Leslie! 

  • http://twitter.com/StephanieWarthe Stephanie Warthe

    Great contest! Would absolutely love to attend MRUshift!

    My definition of social media focuses not just on the word “social,” but also on the word “media” – meaning that the true power of social media lies in its ability to span multiple channels and formats of interactive communication, from video to blogging to images. A solid social media strategy is one that encompasses all of these different media formats, and does so in an engaging, socially-spreadable way.

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Great thoughts Stephanie, I love the idea of spanning multiple formats of interactive communication:)

  • Nancy Funke

    Hi Marc — I would be curious to know what any or each of the panelists sees in store for Facebook in the next year and over the next several years — in terms of growth and longevity. Also, will Facebook remain a good place for small businesses to connect with their clients, or are there changes afoot that will change this?

    • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

      Thanks Nancy, that’s a really good question.

  • http://blog.marcbinkley.ca Marc Binkley

    And the winner is … Stephanie Warthe!  Congratulations Stephanie! @twitter-28207253:disqus contact me via email to sort out your ticket marcbinkley@gmail.com

  • justingaberial

    Remarkable blog! I have no words to praise, it has really allured me.Todd Foster


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