It's Time We Defined Social Media. No More Arguing. Here's the Definition:

A nice side-effect of tracking the blogosphere’s reaction to my Mashable post on Social Media Jobs has been a debate on the definition of Social Media. What the hell is it?

I agree – the definition is vague and sometimes completely idiotic. So let’s finally put this question to rest and get a consensus. What is Social Media?

I’m going to define it in the most basic way possible – by breaking down the term into its core parts:


First line of Wikipedia: Social refers to human society or its organizations.

The social in social media refers to human society and human organizations. Broad, but it’s a start.


First line of Wikipedia: Media are the storage and transmission tools used to store and deliver information or data.

So Media is about communication and communication tools. Alright. Still too broad, but we’re getting somewhere. We’re talking about primarily electronic media – you haven’t seen someone use a chisel or a pen to Tweet, have you?

So now we’re talking about using electronic communication storage and transmission to deliver information or data. Because we have “social,” that means it’s the transmission of data to other people and other social groups.

So far, social media is the use of electronic tools by humans to communicate with one another.

Closer, but we’re not there yet.

The vein that flows between FriendFeed, Facebook, Digg, Twitter, etc. is sharing. The sharing of experiences, of information, of Rick Astley to unsuspecting YouTubers. Traditional media presents information to you for you to digest. Social media allows you to pick, choose, comment, parse, and retort – all at the same time.

Now we have it to this: Social media is the use of electronic and Internet tools for the specified use of sharing and discussing experiences and information with other human beings.

But doesn’t a general website do that?

Sort of but, social media tools do it more effectively and they do it faster. That’s the point of Digg – you can share something you found with a lot more people than your IM buddy list. It’s more efficient.

Social Media:

First line of Wikipedia: Social media is an umbrella term that defines…

From our deduction, here’s a standing definition:

Social Media is the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings in more efficient ways.

One too many “ands”, but oh well – I’m very happy with this definition. If you disagree with me, please debate it in the comments. Otherwise, someone change the first paragraph of the Social Media article on Wikipedia, because I’m tired of the ambiguity.