Most people can’t distinguish between “social media” and “social networking”. But a clever marketer not only sees the world of difference, but uses it to their advantage.
1. Social Media vs. Social Networking – Defining and Explaining
First things first, let’s work out what each of these terms actually mean.
Social Media – a platform that uses web-based 3G technologies to upgrade in-person communications into an interactive multi-media dialogue
Social Networking – a social gathering of people who form a community built around a common interest.
In our modern usage, they can seem identical. However, in reality, where one facilitates interpersonal interaction, the other facilitates online sharing of ideas on a central theme.
Before the Internet became a daily part of our lives, “media” just meant television, newspapers, or even radio.
However, the World Wide Web brought us a big jump forward, into a world where our media constantly evolves. In today’s media, everyone has a place to be heard, and it can seem almost more directly interactive than the face-to-face conversations of the past. Here is the point of commonality between social media and social networking – personal interaction with other people. But, due to its shifting nature, social media is a very broad term. It includes all sorts of different types of media, e.g. blogs, podcasts…
Social media is a place where you send information to other people, usually by sharing content, which is then shared again to a further audience. It is the content that makes social media.
On the other hand, social networking focusses on people and their interconnections. The main goal of social networking is to connect people. It shifts the focus from external content, to the content people generate in their interactions. It puts an emphasis on the human side. You build your profile with personal details. You can read about the personal details of others. Whether you connect for business or pleasure, relationships formed through social networking can easily become very strong.
In social networking, it’s all about mutual communication.
2. Social Media vs. Social Networking – Differences and Pros/Cons
To clarify the difference, consider Twitter. The tweet prompt used to ask: “What are you doing?”
Today it asks: “What’s happening?”. This neatly summarizes how social media is event- or idea-centered, rather than people-centered. Add to this the recent increase of the characters limit, which gives people more space to describe what’s happening around them, and you see where the focus lies.
From this flow their pros and cons.
Social media pros:
- A place to publish content, where you know people will interact with and share it
- Lots of buzz – the content is usually fun, relevant, and current
- Multiple functions available, meaning a vast array of opportunities
Social media cons:
- It’s mostly just you talking, so you receive minimal meaningful feedback
- You get lots of unusable data, essentially spam, which means you need to filter through depending on what you want
Social networking pros:
- You can get meaningful feedback on your content, usually with reasonable immediacy
- There are plenty of relationships to be made – the strong bonds you make set you up in both your professional and personal life
- You direct the content you receive, because it’s based on your interactions with others
Social networking cons:
- To properly communicate , you need to both speak AND listen, so be prepared to contribute
- The content is fundamentally linked to the relationships you have: you have to be a part of community to access data
- No fancy alter-egos: social networking relies on you building a reliable and authentic personality
3. Social Media vs. Social Networking in business
How can we measure the difference between two things so similar, yet fundamentally different when it comes to business? The safest bet is to focus on ROI and time investment, responsiveness, and sensitivity.
Return on Investment (ROI)
What is ROI? It is how you measure the effectiveness of several different inputs on the general outcome. In business, you do something to get something in return, of course. And it is generally difficult to determine ROI when it comes to social media. You can post content, share info, offer product/services and get results, but not know how you got there. This is because once your content is out there, it is very difficult to track or control the path of sharing it takes. You have no numerical or any other mark or response to use as a measure! Your content will easily have a wider reach, but not necessarily a more meaningful one, although SEO can help.
Social networking, on the other hand, offers all the depths of relationship, response, and interaction. It’s a lot easier to gather concrete info on ROI for social networking by measuring the traffic in your site, and specific analytics as to which pages are visited. That way, you can easily outline the curve of the investment that you need to make.
Time sensitivity and responsive
Time is money!
Social media has smaller degree of automation available, and the actual chain of communication, whether automated or manual, is a lot longer than in social networking.
Social networking is founded on direct communication between community members, and it takes less time and effort to actually get response. However, the effort (automated or manual) is considerably smaller than with social media. You do not have to dedicate more time as your network grows. In fact, growing your community grows your network!
4. The Final Conclusion
When it comes to business, you absolutely need to interact more and interact with both the market and your audience. Feedback, quick response, and relevant data can make all the difference between a success and mediocrity. Because what you need is people involved with your brand, not just large quantities of content out on the internet. You need to establish meetings, group talks, trials, research and insight-gathering sessions. Understanding your community is importend to know what value they want you to deliver. And this can only come from social networking.
This round, social networking wins.