Have you noticed that people are saying “blogs and social media?” Heck, I’ve probably said it a few times. But, the plain and simple truth is blogs are social media, most of the time.
What is Social Media?
This is the best place to start, but the definition is changing. Brian Clark over at Coppyblogger wrote an article on how blogs are social media, using a Wikipedia definition of social media to support his point. Now, Wikipedia has changed since Brian’s article. I’m going to use the current definition in acknowledgement that definitions are changing. This is probably a good thing since it means this discussion is evolving and Wikipedia is our benchmark of where it is at today.
According to Wikipedia (today, at any rate), “Social media can take on many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking.” But Wikipedia also says that, “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.”
These two definitions are on the same page, but the second one is in the introduction while the first is down in the Examples section. While both definitions are right, the first definition, that Brian used, has the word “can” in it. Not to quibble with words, but basically blogs can be social media, but it is also possible for them not to be.
When Is a Blog Social Media and When Is It Not?
On an earlier blog post I discussed if blogs were publishing or not and if comments on social networks were, too. I concluded that an item is only considered publishing (in the traditional sense, not the “send this off to the world sense”) if the idea contained within it did not require a response to have meaning. Publishing and social media overlap, as with this blog, which is both social media and publishing.
But is all publishing social media? Nope. As the second Wikipedia definition clearly says, social media is media used for interaction meant to make communication a two-way street. This does not define all publishing, that’s for certain. Even if we disregard all off-line publishing, there are still plenty of online newspapers that do not allow comments (like I explore in my discussion of my hometown’s AZcentral). Even many top bloggers do not allow comments, such as Seth Godin.
Without the comments, are these forms of publishing still social? Even if blogs are generally social, are they always? I think without the comments feature on a blog, the blog is in essence the same as that newspaper’s website, not social media, though it is still “media” in the sense that it is published.
But Isn’t the Web Social by Definition by This Point?
Now Adam Singer at the Future Buzz does make a good a good point when he says that all content on the web can easily be social. I just copy past from an old-fashioned brochure website, post it to this blog and comment on it, forcing it to be social. Any presence on the web whatsoever is social to at least this degree. But I don’t think this satisfies Wikipedia’s definition. Yes, I would be using technology to turn communication into a dialogue, but I’m changing the platform. The website I copied from isn’t the technology that’s being social. Wherever I paste the content in order to add my comments is where the social element is coming from. That static website is not social at all.
The same goes for Seth Godin’s Twitter and Facebook plugins that allow readers to share his writings on those platforms. Those platforms are what are being social. Seth is making that social element easier, not contributing to it as a meaningful dialogue. After all, it could happen without the plugins, just as with my fictional brochure website.
It’s Not a Clear-Cut Definition
A blog is social if it welcomes dialogue. It is not if it doesn’t. But does that dialogue have to happen in a comments section? No, not really. I’ve linked to three other bloggers in this post. It is quite possible that linking like this could be considered social enough. Perhaps the blog post itself is the dialogue, without the comments, just that it takes a bit longer to occur.
I don’t think I’ve come up with a definitive definition of blogging as social media. I do hope that I’ve pointed out an interesting element to the discussion. Just as the Wikipedia definition has changed between my writing this and Brian Clark’s article, I expect it will again change shortly. We’re still discovering this world and testing its limits, after all.
What do you think? Is a blog social by merely being a blog or is it how the platform is used that makes it social?