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Social terminology

When you’re in a business, the jargon is like the air—you just don’t notice it. Then you listen to people outside your field using the same terms, and suddenly you see, yes, that can be confusing.

Recently someone asked, on a fairly tech-savvy mailing list I participate in, how best to describe social networking in a nutshell. I realized that I see a lot of confusion at times about this (in general, not on the above list), possibly because of how terms like social network and social media overlap. So I offered the following, which I thought I’d share here:

  • Social media is the set of communication features (sharing, reviewing, blogging, message boards, comments, etc.) used by many sites. For example, Amazon is not a social network, but helped popularize using social media to improve both user experience and the business.
  • Social network (noun) refers to a site dedicated to social purposes. It can also refer to a personal social network. A social network site’s social media features don’t merely supplement or enhance its business, they are the business.
  • Social networking (gerund) is the process of developing a social network, typically a personal one.