Social Media is about The Rest of Us

On Monday I attended Healthcare Blogging Summit in Washington DC. This was a sub-conference of the Consumer Health World conference. The keynote speaker was Steve Rubel from Edelman. Steve gave a great presentation defining "Social Media". I took some notes and picked up some new ideas. One of the main points I picked up was his metaphor for social media as a "universe" that is populated by "galaxies" (centers of gravity such as mySpace, YouTube), "stars" (the A-List Celebrities), "planets" (the B&C list), "shooting stars" (flash-in-the-pan: Diet Coke and Mentos), and "comets" (recurring themes: authencity, transparency). It is a good image and I will probably use it.

The next thing he talked about was how to effectively operate in the social media space. Four simple points:

  • Find
  • Listen
  • Engage
  • Empower

The first three were to me straightforward and part of the story I try to tell others. The last point, Empowerment, was a light bulb. I had never carried the thought process to the next logical step. Empowerment is really the fundamental element of social media. To be honest, the light bulb did not really turn on until today (sometimes I process rather slowly).

My new mantra is:

Social Media is anything that empowers the rest of us.

Up until now, whenever I have been asked "What is social media?", I would usually list a string of technology terms. "It’s blogs & wikis & RSS & social networks & …" Not a very satisfying or compelling answer.

Now I have something to say.

Steve, thanks for the spark. I think that sometimes it takes listening to the words for a long time before you really hear the meaning.

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