I’m a member of the generation straddling the eras of imagination and innovation.
A generation that grew up playing outside – racing down gravel roads on banana seated bikes, coveting neighbors' rope swings and making wishes on the fuzzy white remains of dandelion flowers – and transitioned relatively seamlessly into a digital world, reaping the benefits of nearly unlimited access to a vast network of experience and ideas.
We are not native to this new landscape, but we are comfortable navigators in it.
And, honestly, we need to define things. Make the new stuff understandable. Make it fit within concepts that are part of our larger experience.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
What is social media?
As a trend, it’s how people use decentralized, people-based networks to get the things they need from one another rather than from traditional institutions, like business or media.
What they need could be a sold-out game system, advice on what can be substituted for Canola oil in broccoli slaw, or the latest news on the Obama cabinet. It can all come from social media.
As technology, it’s just the tools and services that power those networks. Generally free- or low-cost platforms that can be customized for each person who uses them. To match the examples above, it could be eBay, wikis or blogs.
How do people use social media?
Seems like a lot, right? I mean you could be customizing a Dogster page to pimp your favorite pooch OR co-building a new Internet browser with a few hundred like minds and still comfortably be in the category of social media.
- Create: Someone (My Google is failing me) once famously asked if social media allows more amateurs to act like professionals OR if it really just gives us ACCESS to more true professionals. Whether it’s writing a blog about knitting, creating the next great viral video or building a virtual world, social media meets the human desire to create things – things that will be saved, read and – if we’re lucky – remembered.
- Recommend: Where once we trusted the opinion of 4 out of 5 dentists, today, we want the opinions of their patients. Social media has elevated both the value of individual reviews and recommendations and the ability of networks of people to elevate the very best content or ideas with little more than the vote of their mouse.
- Interact: People to people. Asking questions, hanging out, trading stuff. Interacting. It’s the foundation of social media. And, often, just the best thing about it.
If you have questions about specific tools, leave a note in the comments or visit the Common Craft Show for simple, smart 2-minute tutorials on a lot of the tech behind the networks.