The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Jul 29, 2010

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.

Grammar RonAmok!

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

Filed under: Social Media


[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Whitaker, Ron Ploof. Ron Ploof said: Social Media are Sausages […]

Tweets that mention RonAmok! » Media are Sausages --
August 3, 2010

I agree: using the blanket term “social media” causes more confusion than anything else. Vastly different audiences, formats, strategies are necessary in each of the mediums you list: the blanket term suggests there is a one size fits all social media strategy like a unified theory of marketing. It doesn't work.

August 3, 2010

Well written and cogently explained as always. There are clearly different “platforms” through which content can be transmitted. Although “mediums” makes the distinction that Ron wants to clarify, and is clearly related to a term that is already familiar (media), I think “platforms” conveys another sense of the differences that exist. One problem with my term, however, is that it lacks the association with older “traditional” media forms.

Perhaps an even better phrase might be “communication platforms.” That would cover the greater “breadth” of how the world is changing.

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