If you poke your head into the wondrous world that is modern marketing you might find people jockeying for prominent placement in a quickly-shaping landscape that has been transformed by the latest tools and possibilities that we lovingly dub web2.0. Indeed, the blood-stained comment trails on a number of blogs and wikis suggests that territory is up for grabs in the effort to define the very term that many have claimed as their job title and/or area of expertise. “Social media” has landed in the lap of the marketing industry like a complex, alien contraption dropped upon Earthlings struggling to make sense of its origins, ethics, capabilities, and meaning. Seeking to find profit in the explosion of internet tools and web services, large corporations have found themselves on equal footing with independent freelancers. Major labels stand beside self-funded musicians at the horizon of an unknown destination armed with the same weapons to achieve their goals. We look forward together because we are somewhere brand new, moving so quickly that the most successful strategy is the one that is agile and open-minded.
“Social” means “tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social). For clarification, I think it’s helpful to specify that this includes communication from one-to-one and extends to many-to-many (one-to-many and many-to-one are within that range).
“Media” means “tools used to store and deliver information” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media). This is trickier, but based on the various uses of the term media, it seems fair to include physical and non-physical “tools”.
Now, web elitists will have you believe that social media is a term strictly relating to new internet technologies (instant messaging, blogs, social networks, etc). I certainly see what all the excitement is about; I, too, am a beta junkie willing to try any new web service that seems remotely valuable or interesting. But, let’s not be so hasty, and frankly sloppy, with our language. Leaping ahead like this passes by some wonderful possibilities.
Here’s an example. Dogs tend to “form cooperative and interdependent relationships” with other dogs. Witness two dogs passing by each other and you will see that they have a communication structure built-in even in these new, fancy hybrid breeds (poodle-doodles, or whatever you call them). Spend some more time watching these dogs and you will likely see them lift a leg onto, well, just about any physical object they deem appropriate and do something that has become familiar to all dog owners. Pissing on objects may not seem like a very valuable social skill, but when the information carried by scent passes through the highly sensitive pee parser that is another dog’s nose, the message is understood clearly. One could even go as far as saying that dogs utilize pee combined with an object as a “tool used to store and deliver information”. Ladies and gentleman, I give you social media in the form of dog pee.
How about another example? Perhaps something a bit more inspiring and artful? Birds are social. Sound can be media. Birdsong is therefore social media! Or if you prefer a more tangibly physical form of media, refer to the wonderful bowers of bowerbirds:
The bower is an elegant example of media because both the bower itself and the contents skillfully placed within store and deliver information.
There you have it, some new examples of social media that have absolutely nothing to do with Twitter, blogs, or even the internet.
Bird and Dog photo credit: Veronica Belmont