The Differences Between Social Media and Technology

Monday, September 27, 2010

I often see technology and social media confused with each other. Even when I talk to people about social media, many will reply that they're "just not good with technology." At the other end of the spectrum, some people who are very tech-savvy and who live for the next shiny object will adopt social media in an ineffective way and then not understand why it's not working for them. While social media and technology go hand-in-hand, they are not the same thing and the terms are not interchangeable.

Technology is simply the software and programming behind the different platforms social media lives on. In order to participate in social media, you may have to learn how to use the platform's functions - for example, how to post a tweet from your phone.

Social media is the conversation that happens within those platforms. That's the secret: social media is a conversation, not a technology. The first step to using social media effectively is to be social. Listen to the conversations already happening. Engage with others by chatting with them (and not just about your company or product). If you wouldn't say something over a cup of coffee, don't say it in social media.

Take any social media "formulas" people give you with a grain of salt (for example, EIR: Engage, Inform, Retweet or the 70-20-10 rule: 70% sharing, 20% collaboration, 10% chit-chat). While these formulas may be well-intentioned, their use often comes across calculated and impersonal. If something would be awkward to do at a cocktail party, it will be awkward in social media, as is often the case with preset social media methodologies. In the same vein, if it would be rude to do at a cocktail party, then it is often inappropriate to do in social media (only talking with those you deem "important" or only talking about yourself and never talking to others). 

You don't need the latest technological device, software, or formula to make social media work. You simply need to be willing to participate in conversations, in a real way.

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