Tuesday evening I was in CNET's HQ in downtown San Francisco for my first Social Media Club experience. Social Media Club is a creation of my friends Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, and it consists of bringing together small groups of people to discuss subjects and to share in idea creation.
The format is "world cafe" which means people discuss and debate in groups of four or five. After 20 minutes or so, everyone changes groups, and continues the discussion. Then everyone changes groups one final time. Towards the end, the entire room is invited to share their experiences and ideas.
It was time spent in the way I love to spend time: talking about media with some very interesting people. The topic that evening was social media and what could be the most powerful thing social media could achieve this year, and our role in it.
Within my groups that evening, a common theme was trying to understand what is meant by "social media." It is a term that is used a lot these days, especially within the world of public relations agencies, who create "social media news releases" (BTW, I have never received a social media news release), and some agencies have "social media practices."
The term social media seems to have become a catchall for the world of blogs, online forums, search-discovered content, trackbacks and talkbacks. I'm not a big fan of the term but it is becoming more common.
I think a better term would be "conversational media" because it is more descriptive and more neutral than "social" which invokes many other meanings. But I can live with the term, especially since there is some sort of common understanding starting to slowly emerge.
Tuesday night we all struggled in defining social media, then we struggled to figure out what could be the most powerful things it could achieve.
There were many common thoughts expressed that evening and many uncommon insights. One common theme that emerged was that social media needs to become a lot more inclusive and relevant to a lot more people.
For example, blogging is the largest component of social media, yet only a tiny percentage of people read them, and even fewer numbers write blogs. We often forget, that for the vast majority of people, all of our chatter about blogging, social media, etc, is just so much mumbo jumbo.
Tuesday evening was full of mumbo jumbo. Our challenge is to translate it into a common language and make it relevant and useful to the majority of people. Because it is a powerful thing and one that can change society for the better, imho.