Blogging isn’t social media

Every time I turn around there seems to be another study being conducted about who is responsible for social media at a company or organization. Is it the role of public relations, media relations, marketing, advertising, customer service — or a combination of all the above? What I’ve found most interesting about these studies is that many seem to still be lumping “blogger relations” in with “social media.”

I’ve long held the belief that bloggers are not journalists. There is something to be said for a professional journalist who has been properly trained to research a story and write a compelling article that people actually want to read. At the same time, however, I don’t believe bloggers should be relegated to the social media realm either. When I think of social media outlets, I think of 140-character tweets, two-sentence Facebook status updates and comments, a photo with a cutline on Flickr or maybe even a short video with comments by viewers on YouTube.

Social media is more about the continuing small-talk conversation being carried on between you and the world. Blogging is different. It can be weighty stuff or it can be about fashion trends. It can challenge your thinking or it can be something sarcastic and entertaining. But it is not social media.

Perhaps the problem is society’s insatiable need to classify things — especially new things people don’t fully understand. Now, certainly, blogging isn’t new, but for many people it is uncharted territory, as is social media. And since both are done via the Internet it makes sense to folks to drop them into the same bucket. That’s a mistake. Blogger relations is a new component of a very old discipline: media relations. As I said, I don’t believe bloggers are journalists, but they are a segment of writers that need to be dealt with professionally.

That’s why I’d argue that blogger relations is a function of whomever is handling media relations in your organization. Bloggers need information, either on background or on the record. They need assistance gathering photos, videos, soundbites, facts and figures. In short, they need information to complete the publication they are working on. But it is not enough for the media relations department to simply send them a press release and a link to some photos. For years, media relations professionals have spent time honing their craft by learning about news outlets and what makes individual reporters tick. It’s time we started doing that with bloggers, too. It is going to add a lot to our workload, but passing the buck and letting marketers or customer service departments deal with blogging because it is “social media” is not productive. It may even come back to bite you in a blog post that is anything but social.

What do you think? Do you believe blogging belongs in the social media bucket, the news media bucket or all by itself in a shiny new bucket?

(Photo courtesy of Chris Jones’ Flickr stream.)

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15 comments on “Blogging isn’t social media

  1. It’s probably impossible to place blogging into a single bucket, but if I had to I would place it in the social sphere.

    Media relations, to me, seems more about pushing information (one-way). Blogging has always been about the conversation, just like Twitter. Hard to say that Twitter is a social tool and blogging is not; they’re the short-form/long-form version of the same animal.

    Twitter started life as a micro-blogging platform. I suppose you could argue that it has morphed into something new, but it is still – at minimum – loosely coupled to the blog form. I would agree that much more craft has to go into a blog post, but I’m not sure the weighty matter really changes the goal of two-way communication – it’s still meant to be social.

    If it weren’t, i wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to reply to you. 🙂

    -Mike

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    • Thanks for the reply Mike. It seems you’re not alone in believing that if there is two-way communication involved then the platform is a social one. Doesn’t the interaction between readers and a newspaper make mainstream media a social medium based on that parameter? If I post a reader comment to an article, does that make the newspaper’s website a blog? Or is it only if the reporter responds that it becomes a social medium? Plenty of people write blogs but don’t allow comments or don’t reply to those comments. Are those blogs still considered social media?

      My point is that bloggers aren’t journalists, but they are becoming more than something to be be dismissed as “social media,” which is what many organizations are doing. I think your point about morphing is valid. I suppose all forms of media are morphing in some way and none of us really know what everything is going to look like when the evolution is complete. Of course, that’s assuming the evolution ever stops!

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      • Ari, I think the newspapers have completely lost the plot. They’ve overreated to blogs to the point that they’re trying to emulate them (poorly) when they should have been capitalizing on their strength (which is presumably their ability to tell a compelling story about a subject the public cares about). No one that’s spent a modicum of time cringing at the paper’s commentary section would mistake that for social.

        Nevertheless, your point is well taken. Bloggers (at least a certain subtype of the blogger archetype) are more than just ‘social media’, but those are generally the ones with an agenda above ‘the discussion’. They are Social Representatives of a particular Cause/Company. It could be argued that these people care more about the message and the image than the discussion, in which case I would place them more in the New Media bucket.

        Thanks for the reply.
        -Mike

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      • Indeed, I wouldn’t say that social media and print media are exclusive to the other. Though it doesn’t meet all the requirements set by accepted definitions of “social media”, I would personally agree that print media could be social. I’d say so because people photo-copy newspaper articles frequently, and also frequently post them to their walls (physical, not Facebook). Of course, most print media publishers seek to prevent this social behavior — but it still happens, so I figure it meets the distribution/dissemenation clauses of the standard definitions for “social media”. Further “social media” can be printed, and handed around (much like modern strategies for creating manifesto content in digital inbound marketing strategies), so I’d say that social media can be print media, too.

        The question to focus on here, I think, relates to “the medium being the message”. How does the choice of medium affect the response to the message being distributed by that medium?

        Wow, I’ve been hanging around on this post now for a long time…. like half an hour. I’m gonna move on now! Very provocative article! 😀

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  2. Pingback: Blogging isn't social media « Here Comes Later | Blog about Blogs

  3. I also agree with Mike in the case that it still belongs in the social media bucket. Blogging is just telling people things on a larger, longer scale. But all based on starting a conversation with people.

    I do agree that blogging is becoming more corporate now that most large companies now have a blog, but this doesn’t mean that blogging has to change being social. The thing companies have to remember is that blogs & social media platforms are there to make the company seem more personable to its audience. Listening and responding is key.

    my two cents.

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    • Andrea, as I mentioned to Mike in my reply to his comment, how would you classify blogs that don’t allow comments or on which the authors don’t have a conversation with their readers? Is that still a social medium? Or if it becomes a one-way broadcast mechanism, then what bucket does a company blog belong in? I would suggest that such an endeavor is a marketing or advertising tool, and not a blog. I would also argue that they are a failure because of what you said — listening and responding are key. So, I suppose I would agree that successful blogs do have a social component to them, but I still don’t think they are part of “social media” anymore.

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  4. Pingback: Blogging isn't social media « Here Comes Later | E-Commerce world news, ecommerce best solution, online e commerce platform

  5. It wasn’t very long ago that blogging was considered the most critical basis for all the rest of the social media outreach. I think blogging, along with Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and all the other emerging social media services are nothing more than more channels an individual or an organization can use to reach to broadcast and connect with its various audiences. No matter what the medium, it’s still about getting a message or hearing feedback from specific audiences. When you think strategically about how to use these various platforms, it still comes back to what’s the goal, what’s the message, who’s the audience and what’s the best way to reach the audience with the message and arrive at the desired goal. Strategically targeting bloggers can be both a function of media relations or it can also be a function of marketing, depending on the message and purpose for the outreach.

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    • Colleen, it seems that if you put your marketing people out there trying to deal with bloggers that there is going to be some backlash. Many bloggers won’t write about a product or an organization that pitches to them other than to complain about the pitch. Some bloggers are becoming so self-important that they can’t imagine anyone “bothering” them with a marketing pitch. That’s where your media relations staff can be key. After all, you wouldn’t have your marketing department try to pitch a news reporter, would you? The reporter would immediately be turned off and you probably would lose some credibility points with them. Why then, is it acceptable to treat bloggers as someone to be sold to?

      Certainly there are bloggers (and reporters) that are specifically product reviewers, and pitches to them take on a different tone. But much like we would never lump all mainstream journalists into a single bucket, I don’t think we can do that with bloggers either. The more I’ve thought about my post and the comments, it seems bloggers belong in their own bucket for now. Maybe they belong in a lot of little buckets inside a larger bucket, or perhaps we should see them as those little Russian nesting dolls.

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    • As I’ve said in some other replies Ari, if you use comments and replies as the defining factor, then is a newspaper website that accepts reader comments a social media site? I don’t think you can use comments and replies from the author alone as a single defining factor for what constitutes “social media.” Perhaps we can’t define social media at all — and perhaps it’s the lack of definition that makes it such a compelling medium for some and such a frightening prospect for others.

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  6. I’m sorry, because I would really like to agree with you on this point, but can’t. Blogging is definitely social media. Perhaps the basis of all social media. I mean, Twitter is itself a “microblogging” service — a “short post” version of blogging… Facebook’s wall, too.

    Let’s deconstruct the term “social media” to better understand its meaning.

    Media

    “A medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression.” MW

    “In communication, media (singular medium) are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose.” WP

    Social

    2 c : of, relating to, or designed for sociability
    3: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society
    MW

    So, “social media” would naturally mean “A medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression of, relating to, or designed for sociability.”
    Or “A medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression of or relating […] the interaction of the individual and the group.”

    Both of those definitions obviously would include the medium of blogging. This blog, as an example, is a medium of expression. And it is designed for sociability (this comment). And this blog relates to the interaction of the individual (the author) to the group (the people who comment).

    Here are some accepted definitions of the full term “social media”:
    “forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)”
    “Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.”
    “media that is created to be shared freely”

    Blogs fall into these definitions, as well. Blogs are electronic communications. Users (the word used by WordPress, btw) create online communities here to share information and ideas. There are little badges on this blog, for example, promoting users to tweet a link to the post or share a link on Facebook. These fall in line with the definition that social media is media designed to disseminate through social interaction created using accessible and scalable publishing techniques.

    So, let me answer your question, “Do you believe blogging belongs in the social media bucket, the news media bucket or all by itself in a shiny new bucket?” Blogging belongs in all three, because none is exclusive.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article!

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