Going Mobile. Going Social. What’s It All Mean?

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Think about this: Are you socially aware?

During a new client consultation our conversation spun through a bevy of topics enough to make any marketer’s head spin, but the most heated discussion involved social technology. It seems everyone is social these days. Or wants to be. Clients, customers, employees, job seekers, celebrities and even entities and products all are clamoring to be more social. Is this new? Hardly. Perhaps I’ll date myself here, but I remember throughout my elementary education I had nearly daily classes of social studies. One of my favorite school field trips was chaperoned by my social studies teacher, Mr. Kline. He took us to Washington DC to watch our government in action. But the experience of being away from home with my 7th grade friends was certainly a study in social behavior–even if I wasn’t familiar with the lexicon, I certainly had my social skills tested that long weekend.

So why social? It’s the buzz. The other shoe has dropped. As marketers struggle with controlling the reputation of products, personalities and people, the unbearable weight of a vast universe of social technology has them reaching and trying anything–usually to minimal success. Why? Because most don’t understand what it means to be social. They don’t even understand the lexicon.

So let’s just quickly set the record straight on the jargon, or lexicon as I like to say.

Since we’ve always been social and studying and lived in social environments, it’s important to identify what’s different or what’s changed our social environment. It’s simple: technology. That’s what’s causing the confusion.

Social Technology: The umbrella or header which all new social behavior and interaction is taking place. In simple terms, it’s social, propelled by technology and internet connectivity. Underneath this we have subcategories such as social media and social networks.

Perhaps the most common term we hear thrown around board rooms and coffee shops is Social Media. Again, some will use such words as a substitute to truly understanding. So I will try to clear the air. Social media relates to content.

Social Media: The creation and distribution of content designed to influence, persuade, generate relevance, opine or simply share with an emphasis on the solicitation of input and commentary. In the context of Social Technology social media are primarily internet and mobile platforms. Social media include personal, business and brand blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Slide Share and others. Social media are methods for sharing, distributing and providing a platform for the searching and mining of that user generated content.

Then what about those pesky social networks?

Social Networks: This is where people connect with other people online. They are virtual communities whose participants are connected by common interest, experience, proximity or other bonding criteria. Social networks provide a platform for interaction, communication and collaboration between friends, family, and other members and participants. Top social networks include Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I realize that the above definitions are simple descriptions to complex concepts. Yet, it’s important to simplify and provide common ground so everyone is ‘on the same page.’ Where it gets tricky is how all this ‘social’ business works and why that’s important. Again, my objective is to simplify these things so that we are playing on the same field.

There are plenty more buzz words in the social space and the discussion of such is beyond the scope of this short post. Suffice to say that the most important concept in social technology is relevance. The use of social media and social networks can enhance or reduce a person or organization’s relevance. So the use of it should be carefully considered. While I’d be stretching the idea if I were to espouse that individuals need to develop a social strategy before posting anything on their Facebook page or Twitter feed. But I’m not far off the mark. To be sure, it’s critical for business to develop a social strategy, social user guide for employees and well thought out objectives on how social technology will impact both relevance and reputation.

There are plenty of discussions surrounding this concept floating everywhere on the net. There are plenty of self-described experts, too. Fact is, this ‘social’ business is too young and immature for anyone to be an expert. It’s shaking out. One thing is for sure, it’s serious business. And without the thinking, discussing and planning necessary, using it carefree might put you or your organization in a precarious position.

Now, think about that.