« The Power of Social Media | Main | Socializing the SuperBowl »



from a socialist's - pardon - sociologist's point of view the term "social media" could be accused of quite some redundancy. - "social" always holds the aspect of "communication" already - and "media/medium" always holds the aspect of "society" too.

so what is "social media"?
if we take the doubling of meaning at face-value, we end up with an equation that is composed out of the square of "social" and the square of "media"... and probably that brings us quite close to its impact in reality...

according to the recent interbrand study the top-ranking brands in north america are:
1. Apple
2. YouTube
3. Google
4. Starbucks
5. Wikipedia

vs in south amrica:
1. Corona
2. Bacardi
3. Movistar
4. Havaianas
5. Bimbo

and in asia:
1. Sony
2. Toyota
4. Samsung
5. Honda

when reading these selections of brands whole cultures arise before our eyes -(ok. they know how to party in the south - i wish i would be there...)- and it leaves little doubt that social media already has massive impact on how we communicate AND on how our culture is - and even more: will be - shaped.

Chris Kenton


That's a cool read of the top brands list. Every one of the companies on the American list has a very strong social component, and three of the five are very active in social media.

Do you have the list for Europe?




(it is for europe AND africa)!?

the whole this here

it is apparently interbrand's brandchannel reader's choice award, which is about the brand that had the biggest impact on your life in the last 12 months - if i remember correctly.

Victor Cook, Jr., New Orleans, Louisiana


As a marketing professor (Tulane) and advertiser (AdWords, The New Yorker, MySpace) I wonder: Isn't it important to include in the definition of "social media" (vehicles) the idea that they have no subscription and no transaction costs?

Chris Kenton

Hi Victor--

I think the concept of using transaction and subscription costs as some line of demarcation is fascinating, but does it mark a division within social media, or does it set social media apart from other media? I mean, I could apply a social media platform to a private network, and it would still be a social media platform--in fact Dark Nets are a good example of that idea. If I charged entry into that community, I don't think that in and of itself would make it no longer "social", though it would certainly no longer be "public".

I think "social", so far as I understand it, means that all participants can shape and share content, rather than being passive consumers of a central broadcast. That said, the concept of cost and profit is a big discussion in social media--most recently as trial balloons have gone up over how Google can put advertising on YouTube. A Harris poll just released shows that more than 70% of YouTube watchers would go to other video sharing sites if Google puts an ad in front of each video.

Can you flesh out your thoughts about how subscription and transaction costs impact the concept of social media?



Tom Asacker

I wonder if Professor Cook is onto something. One could try to limit public participation by narrowing the audience through a paid subscription model. But given the nature of the communication platform (Web-based cut and paste), dissenters could easily find a way to express their views to a broader audience.

In the pre-social media days, one could write numerous "Letters to the Editor," but it was solely in the editors' discretion to publish said letters. Take a look at what happens when someone tries to limit public participation in the dialogue today (although this is probably a joke, it's still a great example): http://www.churchofthecustomer.com/blog/2007/01/dont_allow_comm.html

Chris Kenton


That's a really good example. Let's explore it:

A prominent blogger doesn't allow readers to comment on his site. So someone goes out and creates a new site that sucks in the blogger's RSS feed, and allows others to comment. The original blogger then links to the new site, rather than calling his lawyers.

What's useful about the example is that it shows social media can easily bleed outside any boundaries you may want to set. In that sense, you don't control the conversation--especially if you're saying anything that people think is worth discussing. But I'm not sure how it changes the definition of social media.

If I decide to create an exclusive network of 200 top marketers, and I provide a social networking site that allows them to link, and chat and discuss interesting topics, I would argue that my network is an example of social media, if not public media, because each participant can contribute to the creation of content. I may be very mistaken in thinking that my boundaries will prevent people on the outside talking about my group, or setting up other groups that render mine obsolete, but now we’re talking about different types of social circles, and not the nature of “social” itself.

I think most of the major examples of social media we see today are free because it’s the opportunity to build a large consumer audience that has provided the energy and attraction for developers to build the tools. And it may be that for many of those sites, like MySpace or YouTube, they’ll have to remain free because it’s easy enough for consumers to defect to the next alternative. But I don’t think that is what defines social media, even though it’s a significant part of the social media culture.

What do you think?


Victor Cook, Jr., New Orleans, Louisiana

There are several dimensions that will flesh out our views of "social" vs. "private" media. Here's a short pop quiz: take three media vehicles (Google's AdWords, MySpace, and The New Yorker) and compare them on the basis of the ability of advertisers using each of these vehicles to manage (1) audience profiles, (2) insertion frequency, (3) reach, (4) response tracking, (5) message control, and (6) CPM.

I know some "old media" mavens who are busy producing massive ethnographic studies that show the new media have made no real inroads. In fact, their studies show it's just the opposite. We are watching more TV today then ever before. Build broadband and consumers will watch more traditional TV as well as more YouTube!

They would probably say the zero CPM of MySpace is the distinguishing factor ... and point to the fact that all social media vehicles suffer from a lack of audience profiling, with no control over insertion frequency and reach, and little reliable response tracking. Since all four of these traditional media metrics depend on circulation, and there is no measure of circulation in social media, they will never be commercially viable. It costs you nothing, but you get what you pay for!

From my very brief exposure to you and other "social media" mavens I get the idea that you could care less about traditional media metrics. Forget audience profiles, insertion frequency, reach, response tracking, and CPM. It's all about freedom of expression!

Chris Kenton


Finally some red meat for discussion!

Watching the current debate, I think "social media" mavens would say to "old media" mavens: you don't get it, it's not about what marketers want--whether that's metrics, or reach, or audience insight--it's about what consumers want. Consumers are tired of the Lowest Common Denominator pap that's been served up on a cold plate by marketers for the past 3 generations, just because it suits Madison Avenue to measure and manipulate us by way of easy psychographic profiles. Broadcast TV sucks, and it has for decades. When a few innovators came along with Cable, Madison Avenue freaked out and put up every road block they could, because cable represented the first fragmentation of their nice homogenous market segments. They couldn't conceive of how they could possibly serve what were then viewed as micro-markets--at least not profitably. Low and behold, Cable turned out to be a boon, and marketers figured out how to use that vehicle effectively.

The same cycle repeats itself with each new innovation. Sure, social media is hard to measure, at least it is now. But already RSS is being fed through services like Feedburner that make it more measureable. Already new ventures like Aggregated Knowledge are figuring out ways to use behavioral data online to understand consumer interests and trends in ways that help savvy marketers connect with consumers more effectively. It won't happen overnight, but metrics are a significant topic that people are grappling with in social media circles.

Message control is another story. From the perspective of a social media maven, marketers need a serious upgrade to their notions of positioning and how it works in a world in which consumers can compare notes on everything you promise and deliver, and 99 times out of 100 they don't trust a word that comes out of a marketer's mouth. That's a reality that marketers created, largely with the help of "old media". It may have been great while it lasted, but consumers are wiser now and use every tool they can to block, filter and defuse "controlled messages". We have Do Not Call Lists, spam filters, and TIVO. Marketers need to make some serious adjustments, and that's going to take some time, some effort, and some rethinking on the part of marketers of how they relate to consumers.

I think the question that most marketers should be asking themselves before they tackle issues of metrics, are how can they connect more effectively and authentically with consumers.

Thanks for the prod.


Victor Cook, Jr., New Orleans, Louisiana


How do you know if you are connecting more effectively and authentically with consumers without measures of "effectiveness" and "authenticity?"

Daniel Hester


I think one of the biggest differentiators of social media from the traditional forms of media is the tranformation of the communications model from one of transmission (or broadcast) to two-way (or n-way) communication. In the traditional media model writers and readers, broadcasters and viewers are separated by the medium as much as they are connected by it. The communication is one-way and follows a transmission model. Messages are transmitted, perhaps they are received, but there is little to no feedback loop except perhaps in the case of controversy. Yes there are ratings and letters to the editor but these are mere echoes compared to the level of interaction one might have in a conversation. Feedback is at the heart of peer-to-peer or n-way communication, we negotiate meanings and understandings. With social media there is feedback and the feedback is exposed to all participants in the exchange. The feedback is perhaps censored for spam, but other than that there is very little filtering (think of reader reviews) and each of us can make our mark on the information exchange. My contribution is published for all to see and the electronic technologies enable this. What? You actually care about what I think? And you'll publish it without censorship? Cool!

The comments to this entry are closed.