Words are supposed to convey meaning. But what happens if a word becomes so overused, so overburdened, or is used so interchangeably, that it stops conveying meaning? Or worse, what if its use confuses more than it enlightens?
Picking up from my post, Social Media Enthusiasts, let’s address the challenges of explaining social media to business people who are new to the concept. Our problems stem from the word media.
Media and Sausages
The definition of the word media has been generally accepted as a substitute for “print,” “broadcast,” or “the press.” But as we’ve added new communications technologies, instead of addressing their vastly different traits, we’ve lumped them together into one media category. Within a very short period of time, we’ve crammed the following into the word media:
- the medium of the Web
- the medium of the blog
- the medium of the podcast
- the medium of online video
- the medium of Twitter
- the medium of Facebook
- the medium of the mobile app
As a result, we refer to media the same way we refer to sausages, describing the sausage casing rather than the sausage contents. By squeezing these vastly different technologies into one media casing, we’ve made it difficult to discuss them individually. And then we’ve made it even worse by adding an adjective (social) before media, essentially coining a phrase (social media) that’s devoid of any meaning whatsoever. No wonder why business execs are having such a hard time grasping social media…the term is woefully inadequate.
We need a word that recognizes the diversity of the individual media components. We need a word that can help us describe the ingredients of the media sausage instead of the media casing.
I’ve found that a simple, grammatically incorrect word substitution does the trick. By replacing the word media with mediums, I’ve been able to dramatically reduce the time it takes to explain social media to those new to the game. This simple substitution breaks a seemingly overwhelming concept (the media sausage) into bite-sized concepts.
Give it a try. The next time someone asks about social media, change the rules and talk about social mediums. The substitution has made my job so much easier. I bet it’ll work for you too.
Photo Credit Cobalt123