I have been involved in social media since the early days when Facebook was exclusively used by college students. I helped build one of the first and largest social agencies, MRY -- now part of Publicis Group. I have since founded a social marketing platform for large brand marketers.
So, how can I view social media as the worst term in marketing when my career has been built upon it? In short, it's a misleading term that confuses both consumers and marketers. Here's how:
It's NOT media
It's communication. It's how we communicate with groups of friends, share photos, and make plans. It is also a filter that we use to personalize what we read, watch, listen to, and do. Our social filters are key to achieve relevance in what we consume and how we remove the rapidly expansive noise.
To marketers, social media is still media -- a term that leads the industry to focus on what can be bought and broadcasted. Media is a conduit to reach people, but social is a desired behavior for all of their communications. This behavior will deliver consumer engagement far superior to the mass media of the past.
Social media has its share of haters
There is still a significant portion of the non-geriatric population that doesn't feel that social media has a place in their lives. This is especially true of those of us who are not Millennials. I have many friends above age 34 who won't use Foursquare, Flipboard or Spotify because they "don't do social media." The stigma around the term immediately triggers thoughts of endless streams of spammy comments, useless personal updates, and compromised privacy. This nettlesome term stops the haters from improving their day to day life by instantly finding places to go, curating personal newsfeeds, or discovering new music seamlessly.
It's holding up superior marketing
Social media is not a siloed marketing discipline. This falsity continues to create artificial barriers for marketers and their agencies that greatly reduce their abilities to connect with consumers. In fact, Altimeter recently found that only 28 percent of companies had a holistic approach where lines of business and business functions were working together for a common goal. For most brands, there continues to be an agency that "owns social media." But why? Social amplification and engagement are (or at least should be) a part of nearly all messaging.
So, let's agree to change our vernacular
Perhaps this seems like common sense to most by now, but the mere existence of the term social media sets us all back. It does injustice to the experience and value that people seek when engaging online. People are not looking to visit a social media site or app, they are looking for the relevance and utility that comes when apps include social technologies.
So, what should we use instead? Much of what is referred to as social media is really social technology. It is the technology that has enabled people to message, comment, vote, blog, share, "like," tweet, vine, pin, check in, and view peer-curated content. It is social technology that enables marketers to listen, respond, test, crowd source, engage, connect, and collaborate with their customers.
Social technology innovations will continue to power a broader creative class, give voice to those without one, and help us all connect to the world, the people, and the interests that we care about.
So, let's all agree to stop using the phrases "Is social media a fad?" and "We need to determine our social media budget."
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