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What's the difference between social media and social networking?

What's the difference between social media and social networking? These terms seem to be used interchangeably, but I want to know how to use them correctly.

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Like many new technologies, the discrete definitions are hard to come by. I generally refer to "social media" as what the second word in its name implies -- a form of media. Essentially, social media is a platform for broadcasting information, whereas social networking is a platform for communicating with one another. Social media is a communications channel, whereas in social networking, the communication has a two-way nature.

Even with the description I have just given, there are nuances that can be pointed out. As an example of how they can differ and yet somewhat overlap, Facebook is a social networking site. You register and post your profile, connect with friends and comment on topics in a generally interactive way. On that same social networking site, companies set up a presence and use Facebook as a way to communicate their brand and gain a following. This is distinctly a use case for both social media and social networking.

Have a question for Paul McMillan? Send an e-mail to editor@searchunifiedcommunications.com.

This was first published in December 2011

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