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Social Media

Social media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC)
or consumer-generated media (CGM).

Distinction from industrial media

Social media are distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. While social media are relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media generally require significant resources to publish information. Examples of industrial media issues include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license.

"Industrial media" are commonly referred to as "traditional", "broadcast" or "mass" media.

One characteristic shared by both social media and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach zero people or millions of people. The properties that help describe the differences between social media and industrial media depend on the study. Some of these properties are:

  1. Reach - both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.
  2. Accessibility - the means of production for industrial media are typically owned privately or by government; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.
  3. Usability - industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Most social media does not, or in some cases reinvents skills, so anyone can operate the means of production.
  4. Recency - the time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response). As industrial media is currently adopting social media tools, this feature may well not be distinctive anymore in some time.
  5. Permanence - industrial media once created cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.

Community media is an interesting hybrid. Though community-owned, some community radios, TV and newspapers are run by professionals and some by amateurs. They use both social and industrial media frameworks.

In his 2006 book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler analyzed many of these distinctions and their implications in terms of both economics and political liberty. However, Benkler, like many academics, uses the neologism network economy or "network information economy" to describe the underlying economic, social, and technological characteristics of what has come to be known as "social media".

Andrew Keen criticizes social media in his book The Cult of the Amateur, writing, "Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering."

Examples of Social Media

Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, to name a few. Examples of social media applications are Google Groups (reference, social networking), Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook (social networking), MouthShut.com yelp.com (product reviews), Youmeo (social network aggregation), Last.fm (personal music), YouTube (social networking and video sharing), Avatars United (social networking), Second Life (virtual reality), Flickr (photo sharing), Twitter (social networking and microblogging), Open Diary (blogging), and other microblogs such as Jaiku. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms like Mybloglog and Plaxo.