Getting Social: Newcomer’s guide to Social Media vs Social Networking


Happy Social Media Day! How are you celebrating? Me? I’m doing another blog post, this time to explain the terms Social Media and Social Network.

The terms Social Media and Social Network are often used to describe electronic forms of communication, but uncertainly still remains on how, or when, to utilize them.

Social Media consists of forms of electronic communication where users interact. The network can consist of Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, YouTube or content on any other platform. The idea of social media is to begin and sustain a dialogue amongst users, be those users brands, customers or peers.

Your Social Network is the actual creation and maintenance of these online relationships.

Networking involves communication. Social media is a great way to facilitate this communication since it allows you to talk, listen and react. You are able to publish content for consumption by the audience, be that content informational text, images, video, white papers or something else. Beware of the pitfalls of publishing content without engaging your audience, however. The point of Social Networking is, after all, to engage your audience.

So what exactly does that mean? Engage your audience? Isn’t posting something to Twitter engaging them? I wrote a blog post they can read and posted on LinkedIn that it is up. Isn’t that engagement?

Not exactly.

Engagement of an audience requires a two-way conversation. Even if you do not respond directly to an audience member, that person should feel as if the brand is current, relevant and listening. It’s a strange form of marketing, since brands have become reactionary in addition to remaining orthodox. No longer is an advertisement supposed to “talk at” the audience and be enticing and informative on its own, the message now needs to be the subject of an entire conversation.

This audience is your Social Network. The interactions with these people is Social Networking. Traditional networking may have taken place in a room of people wearing nametags, but now it is taking place on Social Media platforms. Good networking skills require the online equivalent of body language, eye contact and nodding at the appropriate times. The trick is using these platforms for communication to accomplish this.

As you figure out the right mix for your brand and message, you may need to measure your ROI (Return on Investment). How else will you tell if your social media presence and your work at social networking has paid off? After all, it can be rather time consuming, requiring effort above and beyond what most people realize when they embark on such a project.

The first question is to ask what it is you are measuring. The old way of thinking that you can or will judge success based on increased purchasing of a product is long gone. Now you want to determine if you plan to measure your social media ROI or your social network ROI. Will you determine success based on increased engagement across an audience? Increased audience size? Brand recognition in the digital world? Is the measurement more focused, such as wanting to increase the number of videos posted? It is important to remember that raw data can be daunting. It may be easier to give yourself realistic and controllable goals such as a hard number of videos or blog posts by a certain time. Perhaps you may want to choose twenty new people to follow and retweet on Twitter. These are actions you control. Later you can adjust your success goals based on a percentage increase in number of followers or other actions that you can influence but not control.

Just remember that it’s daunting, it’s hard work, it takes time and effort, but if it is done right, it is worth it in the end!