The term “social media” is something that has been used to capture social interaction on MySpace, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, etc.
Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. These sites typically use technologies such as blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs to allow users to interact. A few prominent examples of social media applications are Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Gather.com (social networking),YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and Miniclip (game sharing).–SOURCE: WebProNews Definition of Social Media
Even if you’re not tech-savvy or know the actual definition of what “social media” is, you’ve probably used the tools either for your personal or professional use. If you’re like me, you may also utilize “social media” for self-promotional purposes.
As you’re probably already aware, social media is a relatively “new” and “developing” concept because the tools that you interact with are always changing. There are articles upon articles telling you how you “should” use these tools, experts that say “you can’t do X,” and untold users who jump on the tools who only talk about social media.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that there is a difference between “best practices” and what these folk are saying, and it’s an important distinction to make.
Methods and techniques that have consistently shown results superior than those achieved with other means, and which are used as benchmarks to strive for. There is, however, no practice that is best for everyone or in every situation, and no best practice remains best for very long as people keep on finding better ways of doing things. See also best in class and leading practice.– SOURCE: Business Dictionary Definition of Best Practices
I love this definition, because this directly relates to the phenomena occurring with social media. You see, social media is about two things: tools and people. As the above definition represents, there is “no practice that is best for everyone or in every situation”. Since there are so many tools, I use them in several, different ways depending upon what I need them for. I also use them very organically and transparently, because I’ve made face-to-face contact with several of the people that are in my network. My Twitter account (@mlvalentine) is a reflection of my personality because I know that I might run into folk either at a convention or around town. Keeping that potential for face-to-face networking in mind, my social media interaction is the “real deal.” What you see is what you get.
So what does social media mean to my writing? Simple. It’s a way for me to share with readers, other writers and friends what I’m working on. It’s a good tool, because even if people don’t read my work it helps keep the idea fresh in everyone’s mind that I am a writer. Maybe someday they’ll follow up with what I’m doing, maybe they won’t. Since I’m using the tools to slowly grow a community of music lovers through my professional life for my day job, I’m also interacting with them to keep on top of changes and trends.
When you’re reading articles upon blog posts on the web about social media, keep in mind that those “social media best practices” are left to the “true” experts that can provide measurable (i.e. data-supported) results, and that those “best practices” are flexible according to what you need the tools for. Even then, some of those results may depend upon “who” you and your business interacts with through the tools. Not every customer or reader is going to interact with you just because they’re in your network.
When I think of all the content that I read about social media, I put it into this perspective: it’s quite possible to find an expert that really knows how the tool functions, but isn’t necessarily a “people expert.” For me and you, that group of people may reach far beyond our friends and family, it could also include your customers, clients and readers, too. Fundamentally, when we’re looking at these tools and how they relate to how we might use them, we have to consider not only how people interact with each other — but why.