Many people do not understand what Social Media is. This is complicated by the fact that many Social Media "professionals" do not understand what Social Media is.
Before you can ask intelligent questions about what Social Media can do for your business, it helps to have a framework for those questions.
Today we're going to look at some basic concepts without the delusion provided by frenetic sales tactics or Next Big Thingese.
Social Media Marketing
These words are being thrown around like they are a known quantity, but they are not. To most people right now, "Social Media" means the specific popular platforms du jour.
First - take away the word "social" (in the last case "social media") and see what you have:
Media are forms of communication.
Networking is communicating with people who have interests (personal or professional) in common with you.
Marketing is communicating the value of products and services.
So, what does it mean when we put the word "social" back in front of these words?
Social Media is the media you use to communicate with people. It does not mean "online" or "Facebook." Any medium you use to communicate - to be social - is social media. Twitter is a form of social media. So is a forum or discussion group. So is a cocktail party.
Social Networking is using those media to make those personal or professional connections. A social networking site is just a site on which you can make those connections. It is not a whole new way of thinking. LinkedIn is a social networking site. So is a trade event.
Social Media Marketing is using social media to communicate the value of your products and services. If you are good at your business, you do this every time you talk to a customer. If you have a Fan page on Facebook, or a site on MySpace with updates and promotions, you are also doing this.
Facebook, Friendfeed, Orkut are all "Social Media," but "Social Media" is more than just the sites we are social on.
As I will say over and over here - the medium is not the message. It is merely a medium. If you can think of "talking to people" as a kind of medium - that's Social Media. You communicate something to them (wherever, however) and, if you do your job well, they communicate it to other people. The medium is "being social."