It’s what the kids are doing.

What is the difference between social web, web 2.0, and social media?

Nothing, they are all synonyms for the same concept.

Social media (the term that I prefer) is centered on the ideas of community and user-created content.

The most common examples of social media sites are

Social networks (Facebook and MySpace): Sites where users can create a profile and post on other’s profiles. They can create and become part of a larger community.  

Wikis (Wikipedia) – Communal collections of information and knowledge.  The idea behind wikis is that they are the creation of the collective wisdom of the masses. The group is smarter than the individual.  Any user can add to and amend a wiki. Sometimes this system falls apart, but that is a discussion for another day.

Blogs (what you are reading now) – An online diary, log, or personal publishing site. The topic of discussion is up the creator, but any user should be able to comment on the site’s content.

Sharing sites (Flickr, Google Docs) – Sites that allow users to generate all of the content by posting their own material for public or private viewing.

Here is the confusing part. Not all blogs, wikis, and social networks are social media.

For instance, if I were to create a blog and block all or most users from commenting on the content, it is not social web. It is just a normal old-fashioned web site because the communication and interaction only flow in one direction.

Sender –> Receiver

Writer –> Reader

This essentially no different from a newspaper or TV broadcast in that the user has no ability to interact with the content.

The same can be said for Facebook groups that only allow certain special members to post comments on the boards.

The word “social” in social media is literal. If a site does not foster, or at the very least, allow for the creation of a community, then it cannot be social.

Why is this distinction necessary?

Corporations and government are becoming active in social media. However, there is always the urge to control the message by business and government. Control of the message provides protection and power to the creator.

Social media is not about control. It is about transparency and honesty. When people try to hide the truth on the Internet, the truth has a tendency to break free. When the truth breaks free of a cover-up, the fallout is usually worse than it would have been if the party at fault had been upfront in the first place.

Just because social media is new, and “hip” doesn’t mean it is ripe for exploitation. If an organization wants to have a successful foray into social media, it has to play by the rules.

Be honest, be transparent, and a social media site can be a real boon. 

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