18 April 2008

Blogging As It Relates to Social Media

I've read a few blog posts in the past day that has me scratching my head, wondering if maybe my understanding of blogging and social media is completely off base.

Blogging Is A Key Tool in the Social Media Revolution
To start, The Web Success Diva Maria Reyes-McDavis wrote this excellent article called "Bloggers, Get Into the Social Media Conversation… Carefully."

Now, Maria's message is dead on target. My only disagreement is the semantics of the way she uses the term "social media" to refer to what I've understood as "social marketing." Certainly, sites like Twitter, Facebook and Squidoo are social media tools that can be used quite effectively to market a product or service. But, to separate out blogging as not an integral or even a keystone tool of social media? I was scratching my head over her post's title. I mean, blogs are the most prolific tool in the social media arsenal, aren't they?

Her reply to my inquisitive comment was civil and well received. She even conceded that blogging is a key tool in social media. Yet, I couldn't help but thinking that maybe I'm just way off base in my understanding.

The Fount from which My Knowledge Springs
Admittedly, my experience with the term "social media" has derived from a mainly journalistic/literary position, not marketing. I've read and engaged in multiple blog conversations about the difference between social media and citizen journalism. Then there was the local publication that I helped launch, a print publication created from an online social network. The material we printed was called social media because it was created within a social environment.

My definition of social media was simple: Media that is socially created through blogging, forums and comments.

My Exploration of "Expert" Definitions
Maybe I am wrong in my understanding, so I'll go check out some expert sources on the matter. Yeah, yeah, I know Wikipedia is not exactly chock full of experts, but this is how social media is described there:
Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings....Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, message boards, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Technologies such as blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, to name a few.
Great! It looks like I'm not actually off base, but this is just Wikipedia's definition. Let me turn now to some other sources.

Of course, none of the traditional dictionaries have caught up to the times. (When will Merriam Websters and New Heritage start sweating their lack of staying contemporary?) So, I hit up Google for some "expert" definitions.

Brian Solis wrote an article for WebProNews called "The Definition of Social Media." In it, he defines social media as follows:
Social Media is, at its most basic sense, a shift in how people discover, read, and share news and information and content. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, tranforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many.)
Like blogs? Brian addresses the need to revise the Wikipedia to this:
Social media describes the online tools that people use to share content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself, thus facilitating conversations and interaction online between groups of people. These tools include blogs, message boards, podcasts, micro blogs, lifestreams, bookmarks, networks, communities, wikis, and vlogs.
Now I'm starting to definitely feel more firm in my understanding. It's about dialog. This is how the internet has helped marketing practices evolve. I'll look for another expert definition while I'm at it, though, see if I just can't find a differing definition.

defines social media in, again, the same fashion:
Social media is a terms for the tools and platforms people use to publish, converse and share content online. The tools include blogs, wikis, podcasts, and sites to share photos and bookmarks.
Was Maria's Definition Wrong?
No, just slightly skewed toward her own use of social media as a marketing tool. Then why this reactionary post? Well, she got me thinking about my own perceptions (Thanks, Maria).

I can't deny that I got hung up on the title of her post. After all, blogging is possibly the most widely used tool in social media today. Then there's Twitter with its microblogging approach. Maria's strongest point was in stating the dangers of letting too much involvement in a social "network" (my word choice) can alienate a blogger's already established readership.

The Trouble with Comments
Okay, I think the opinions of all the "experts" noted were all in consensus: social media opens up conversation between the person (author, seller, service provider, whatever) and an audience. The conversation aspect is primarily achieved through one feature mainly... comments. Troubles arise for an author when they receive negative or spam comments.

My advice for spam comments: Delete them!

Just be able to tell the difference. If you've written a post about learning how to design websites and someone leaves you a comment that informs you of a website design competition, that's not spam. They have identified you as someone who's probably interested. Now if the same person leaves the same promotional comment on your blog about raising and shearing alpacas, get rid of it; they're just trolling.

Negative comments are trickier, though. Negativity is so subjective.

Gala Darling recently supplied a guest post on ProBlogger called "How to Deal with Negative Comments." Her approach is certainly commendable, in that she will occasionally email those who leave negative comments on her blog and generally receives positive responses. This is awesome!

It's her act of deleting comments that point out her spelling errors that I find most troubling. Such comments don't reflect poorly on her or her blog; they just highlight that some people are still too hung up on the little things to see the bigger picture. I say to leave those type comments.

Now, if someone gets truly malicious, by all means, delete it and ban their IP address if they persist. (Note: Most ISPs now rotate, so you may have to ban several closely named IP addresses before you effectively build up your wall against the notorious commenter.)

A word of caution: You run a huge risk if you are too quick to delete comments! Remember, comments are an integral part of social media. If you censor others too quickly, you will be censored in return and possibly even ostracized into obscurity.

That does it for this lengthy post. In closing, I just want to say that I believe that social media's greatest impact is to reduce the power of "experts," in that it allows anyone to build their authority. Social Media is revolution in action! Viva la revolucion!


Maria said...


I love your analysis and comments :-)

Thanks for embracing the true meaning of social media - the conversations!

Maria :-)

Kyle Stich said...

Thanks, Maria!