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Video: Social Networking in Plain English

The folks at Common Craft have posted another interesting video, “Social Networking in Plain English.”

As usual, it's informative and fun to watch , but I found myself shifting in my seat and wondering if I’d entered the wrong auditorium. Why all this talk about people and highways? Why is LinkedIn not mentioned until the last 7 seconds? And where are Flickr, YouTube and LastFm?

WHOOPS. Of course, the confusion was my own: Common Craft’s video emphasizes the power of connecting people, and I’d temporarily blurred the distinction between social networking and social media. When marketers start riffing , our shorthand is sometimes imprecise. Terms like “social networking” “ social design” and social media” are increasingly used interchangeably, even though meaningful distinctions exist.

For a good discussion of these differences and why they matter to marketers, see Ryan Turner’s recent post. Ryan does a nice job with the defining differences:

social networking sites like MySpace... are structured around the individual identities of users, and "social media" sites like YouTube ...are structured primarily around individual pieces of content.

Ryan also challenges marketers interested in entering the social space to push beyond an emphasis on individual sites. In principle, we’d agree, but our own social media experiments confirm that in any network, there are hubs and users powerful enough to merit special attention. It will be interesting to see how the essential human need to connect and the essential marketing need to create buzz continue to influence the choices available to us online.

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