How to avoid saying “Social Media” (part 1)

Monday, page I wrote Six Reasons “Social Media” needs another name, Tuesday, why we’re probably stuck with it and yesterday, riffed a bit more on on the “socialness” of social media Today, I’d hoped to present a concise list of alternative terms – with some help from a few fellow bloggers and influencers. But the deeper I dug, the more potential candidates I found, and the more I wanted to write about all of them. So in the interest of space and time (and still doing stuff people pay me for), I’ll present just three, and add a few more on Friday.


1) “New Media”

This was suggested by Suzanna Stinnett who agrees with me that “Social Media” is “a limp and lifeless term.” As an alternative, she suggests “New Media”. And to add weight to her argument, certainly you’ll hear this one a lot out there.

I ran a comparison of hits for the two terms on
I ran a comparison of hits for the two terms on S+M is clobbering N+M.

I use it interchangeably with S+M myself, but mostly when speaking in old-school marketing and advertising camps as a broader term than “Social Media” – and as a way of contrasting it with “old media”. Check out how the term is used on the home page of Chris Brogan’s Inbound Marketing Summit, and  he’s not normally shy about the “S” word.

But sorry Suzanna, I’m not buying your argument that “new” is a term that can apply forever. The Model T was “new”, but even then “horseless carriage” worked better for its time.  New was never a meaningful modifier in the New Coke name – although I won’t blame that one on the name.

The biggest problem: “new” doesn’t capture what is new about it: primarily the senses that this is about two-way communication, narrower focus, and greater customization.

2) Web 2.0 (or Media 2.0, PR 2.0, anything with a “2.0” at the end)

Okay quick, before your eyes glaze over, I know that “Web 2.0” is an incredibly over-used – now dated – buzzword. And it has been applied by tech-heads to an entire range of Web tools, many of which didn’t deserve it. So while “Web 2.0” is bigger than “Social Media”, to my eye, the current discussions around Social Media is just the application of the Web 2.0 mindset to communications.Google Fight - web20 vs social

So what about Web 2.0 is like Social Media? Well, you could read the definition by the term’s inventor Tim O’Reilly or this slightly more accessible one by Paul Graham , and I owe a debt to Ottawa-based tech Web-tech guru Oliver Harte for distilling this enormous concept down to three simple elements (which I’ll re-package slightly to apply to communications) :

  1. Capability: online tools are increasingly powerful, easy to use, and easy to customize.
  2. Interactivity: information flows two ways – old monologues become dialogue.
  3. Accountability: as the power shifts, companies find themselves in the passenger seat, and need to be more humble, human even.

The biggest problem: it’s just too… well… too-point-oh.

3) (Web) Content Management System

This term is usually applied to tools that make it easy for people to update their own Web sites. But let’s face it, “social networking” tools like Twitter, YouTube, WordPress or Linked-In are really just a macro version of the same idea. They let average hacks with no programming skills create content, share it with the world, and connect it to other content (and people) out there.

The biggest problem: But of course, it’s way too narrow and descriptive to challenge “Social Media”. But perhaps some word nerd out there can hotwire a new combination? We wait with bated breath.

Tomorrow: more terms (less geeky ones)

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