What Is Social Media Really All About? Who Knows

When The Financial Brand wrote an article titled “Why Social Media Is a Waste of Time for Most Banks & Credit Unions,” it sparked a fiery debate about the role of social media in the retail financial industry. One of the most striking facets of the discussion was the general confusion about what social media really is.

For starters, people can’t even agree on which tools are part of social media and which aren’t.

“I think there is a lot of confusion about what social media is in this debate with no clear definition,” commented Tim McAlpine, CEO/Currency Marketing. “Is it just monitoring? Marketing? Part of an integrated strategy? Sales? Blogging? UGC? Contests? Facebook? Twitter?”

Checking the Wikipedia entry for “social media” defines it as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques…which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” But then when you scan the rest of the web, you quickly realize there is little consensus among social media experts and evangelists regarding what social media is about. For instance, a Google search for “social media is really about” produces these results:

How about taking a look at the definition from the other direction, what social media isn’t. Searching the web for “social media is not about” produces results that include:


So to paraphrase: Social media isn’t about the media, it’s about being social. It’s about listening but it’s also about conversations and telling stories, just as long as those stories aren’t about you or your brand. It’s about raising awareness and creating credibility (even though it isn’t about marketing), but don’t expect it to lead to sales, new customers or ROI. It’s a networking tool about people, but don’t use it as a prospecting tool. It can be used to build relationships and enhance customer service, but it isn’t a Customer Relationship Management tool.


Bottom Line: It’s no wonder bank and credit union marketers have mushy, murky social media strategies when even the so-called experts can’t agree on what social media is or isn’t about.

For Discussion: What’s your definition of social media? What is social media really all about?

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