Social Media has everybody talking, but are they all talking about the same thing? Social Media is such a vast subject, with many different nuances, disciplines, approaches and reference points.

What do we use social media for? I asked a sample of people, male and female between the ages of 16 and 40. Here are some of the answers.

  • To share pictures, videos, links and posts with friends.
  • To connect to friends and family.
  • To find out stuff.
  • To keep in touch.
  • For entertainment. Etc.

Perhaps the most interesting answer came from a 16-year-old female. (I will call her Emma)

“I don’t use social media for anything specific. It is not like I set out to use social media, it just exists. It is a part of my life. This is a dumb question. You don’t ask people what they use a telephone for. I could list a thousand instances where I would use a telephone, but really everyone knows that a telephone allows you to talk to people over distances. Well social networking allows you to do this better. It is a fuller experience.”

Emma’s answer makes sense to me. Social media allows us to communicate with people in ways we never thought imaginable. It provides us with easy to use, intuitive tools that cross over multiple learning styles, allowing us to be a part of that communication. We don’t think about how this happens, we just accept it. Providers of these tools think for us. We want to run with these tools from the offset. We accept that it can exist in real time, that we can mix sound with visuals, with text and participate in multiple dialogues. We do not only accept it, we now expect it.

Right? Well, these are our expectation. These expectations are what a handful of social media sites have engrained in us. But this is not always the case. So many social media providers don’t think for their users, they don’t even talk to them. They get fixated in the technology. This is pretty dismal for a discipline that is all about people and communicating. The how is important I agree. There is a need to have world-class technology in order to supply a world-class service, but that technology needs to be applied correctly, with understanding and after dialogue.

When we think social media, we need to think people and connections. If we understand our audience, I mean really understand the audience and then marry that understanding with our objectives, the right technology, applications and tools will follow.