I love social media sites. I spend entirely too much time on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter... especially Twitter, but I want to establish a clear distinction between social media sites and social networking.
“Social Media” is the term that generally groups together websites where the majority of content is created by the users. Typically they use log-ins, account names and personal profiles to connect people and focus on the “interactive” elements that have been key to the web 2.0 progression. We think of sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Flickr. But "Social Networking" existed long before Web 2.0.
Mankind is a social animal with a long tradition of societal interdependence. Ashton Kutcher, the self-appointed champion of the Social Web, recently said:
“[H]uman beings are born not able to even sustain themselves, so at the end of the day, if you ultimately did something in your life that was great, you at least owe your mom.” –Ashton Kutcher from AK FTW, SKY Magazine, Feb. 2010.
Social Networking is the normal and timeless practice of making connections and helping people out. Using technology to facilitate these contacts makes it easier and more efficient, but just as in the past, "It’s not about the number of contacts you have; it’s how you use them."
Another great quote about the effectiveness of this new tool today and its potential in the future comes from one of the all time greats in peer-to-peer marketing, Seth Godin:
“Social media is either a time-wasting, wool-gathering, yak-shaving waste of effort or, perhaps, just maybe, it’s a crack in the wall between you and the rest of the world. It’s a choice” –Seth Godin
Make your choice. Use your tools wisely.