Social Media is PEOPLE!

by Jennifer Vides on April 13, 2011

in My Soapbox (AKA My Blog)

Not long ago I was listening to NPR on my way to work. The guest was a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper whose name is irrelevant to the conversation. The topic matter was Egypt and how “social media” had brought that government down.

Maybe I’m just a word nerd and this is all just semantics. But “social media” didn’t bring the Egyptian government down. It also didn’t spread the word about the events following the earthquake in Japan. PEOPLE DID.

Now, I say “I know, duh.” And I’m sure many of you do, too. What struck me was that here were two intelligent reporters from highly respected organizations referring to the people who had the passion and courage to stage those history-making protests in Egypt as “social media.”

I hear this time and time again. A certain global company infamously referred to people who questioned its policies on its Facebook page as “social media” in a written response, resulting in a ton of (deserved) backlash. Sadly, I continue to see this from brands – and individuals – who purport to “know social media.”

Fundamentally, those organizations who have failed (famously or not) at social media do so for one simple reason: they don’t know who “social media” is.

That wasn’t a typo: I said “Who” and not “what.”

Here I go again picking on “ gurus” who try to make social media out to be some newfangled and complex technology.

Well, it’s not. Social media is what email or cell phones were years ago. It’s a tool, a communications vehicle. And while these tools definitely help people to discover, connect and communicate in ground-breaking ways, they most certainly aren’t doing the work. People are doing the work.

You know whose voice is going through my head as I write this? Wait for it:

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