Define social media and explain why these technologies are different from earlier manifestations of the web. 

The definition of “social media” that I liked the most broke down the components of the term and defined them individually before deriving a combined meaning.

  • “Social” refers to the social interaction of people bidirectionally sharing information with others.
  • “Media” refers to the form of communication, in this case, the internet vs. traditional forms of media such as television, radio, and newspapers.

Given this contextual understanding of the words “social” and “media,” we can now define “social media” as the use of the internet and internet-based platforms that allow people to share and consume information.  I will add to this definition that this sharing and consumption happens in a near-synchronous fashion.

Unlike traditional forms of media (e.g. – tv, radio, and print) where data is compiled, and the information presented to the consumer in what I will call a two-dimensional world. In the age of “social media” raw data may be shared by the user, and this data may be combined with other user data to create information which can be gleaned only through the aggregation multiple data points volunteered by social media users. The creation of this information, knowledge and alternate perspectives happens knowingly and unknowingly to the users who volunteered the data and metadata.

One of my all-time favorite examples of this was a website called Please Rob Me (now defunct, but still a great example). The use of social media, in particular, Twitter and FourSquare (check-in craze seems to be over but was hot a few years ago; another dead unicorn) check-in data is used to let bad guys know when you won’t be home so they can rob you unencumbered. This is a perfect example of how social media platforms take tangential data and leverage it to create new information.

When we contrast social media with early manifestations of the web, meaning the World Wide Web (and Gopher, can’t forget about Gopher), these were an alternate digital publishing platforms where the creator published information to the web. Early internet protocols like IRC built social communities and sub-cultures, but the data was transient, unlike social media which has turned transient 140 character snippets into information. Social media focuses on capturing the data and metadata (e.g. – geolocation data), the data provided by a single user is aggregated with other user data to determine things like sentimentstatistical inference, etc…

When we look at the difference between social media and traditional media (the early web was just a new delivery method for traditional media), with social media we opt-in to a system where marketing is cheaper, has greater reach and is targeted because of our endless desire to share so many things about ourselves. The quid pro quo created is the ability to interact and influence in a way not possible before the dawn of social media. The benefits to the marketers are obvious; we provide a continuous stream of data which they convert to information and pivot as required.

One of my favorite social media stories is the story of The Ritz-Carlton and Joshie the Giraffe (great read that highlights the power of social media).

I travel a quite a bit, and I write code for a living and for fun; I’ll spare you the details of an unpleasant recent travel situation, but I will share the social media story. Let’s just say I had a situation in a Hilton hotel which required me to check out of the hotel and move to another hotel. When I arrived home later that week traumatized, I called Hilton and filed a report online.  A week later there was no movement on the issue, it was like I was banging my head against the wall. At this point I decided to take to Twitter, my approach was two-fold, one, post a message hashtagging #Hilton, and two, write a Twitterbot that would look for tweets hashtagged with #Hilton and send a reply with a note and a picture of my #Hilton experience. Less than 24 hours later Hilton made restitution for my experience. The power of social media, but it cuts both ways.

My dialog with Hilton on Twitter:

Early manifestations of the web were unidirectional and asynchronous, near-synchronous communication protocols like IRC never really made it to the masses, and IRC was built around closed communities. There is talk that a shift may once again be underway, with social media groups giving way to smaller more target groups like Slack style communities.

The internet and the web are ever-evolving, the pace of innovation is increasing as are unicorn mortality rates. Twitter was the darling of social media four years ago and today they are seemingly embroiled in a sell or fizzle out scenario. No one even knows who Foursquare is anymore. Dare I say Facebook is for the elder generation, blogging seems to be dead, and the world seems to be hooked on pictures and filters (aka Snapchat). I don’t get the Snapchat revolution, but I am part of that elder generation who is still using Twitter, blogs, RSS, IRC, etc… I consider myself more a consumer of information than a sharer of information, I try not to share too much raw data and metadata, but we all do it. Social Media is everywhere; it’s not just the platforms we are all familiar with like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, Google+, etc… but there are sites I frequent like Stack Overflow, GitHub, Hacker News, figshare, etc… that have changed the way we live and communicate.  The internet (web) experience today is no longer a way to publish and consume static digital content, it is a near-synchronous platform which delivers an immersive experience.


Bennett, S. (2012, July 13). Marketing 101 – Social Media vs Traditional Media [INFOGRAPHIC]. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from

Frost, A. (2016, April 03). How and Why to Create a Community With Slack. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from

Hurn, C. (2012, May 17). Stuffed Giraffe Shows What Customer Service Is All About. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from

Nations, D. (n.d.). Serious Question: What Exactly Is Social Media? Retrieved October 04, 2017, from

Turban, E., Volonino, L., & Wood, G. R. (2015). Information technology for management digital strategies for insight, action, and sustainable performance. New Jersey (Estados Unidos): Wiley.