There was a phrase I heard not long ago that encapsulated what I’ve known and learned about social media. In fact, it was so influential that it touched on everything I knew as an average person using it to socialize all the way to using social media for profitable social media marketing.
You see, social media is far more than just a collection of a few popular apps and websites. But when someone says “social media,” the first image that pops into the majority of people’s minds is the Facebook homescreen.
Maybe for some it’s Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. But what about Snapchat? MySpace? YouTube? Pinterest? Medium? Quora? What about the blog you’re reading this on? ESPN.com? The Washington Post? Your local news station? The CRM you use at work? All of them together?
“Social media is not a few websites. It’s the state of the internet right now.”
That’s the quote I heard that took everything I’d known and experienced about social platforms and brought it all into focus. All media today is social. It’s personal. It’s integrated into everything we do, and everything on the internet. Rather than being a long term fad or some annoying trend, social media is the way we interact with the world around us, and with all the individuals that make up that world.
If you were 16 years old in 1985, and you weren’t apart of a sports team or some form of extracurricular activity, you weren’t going to be very social. Even if you were a part of a team or club, there was a strong chance you’d still only be socialized within your own gender.
If you were a 20 something trying to jump start your career, or even just find a job, you had to make your way over to every single brick and mortar location possible to formally introduce yourself. Both of these are still valuable, but think of what you can do now.
A 16 year old today can leave school and interact with their friends for hours on end, learning to navigate complex social structures, better relationships, and how to improve at anything they have a passion in: and they can do this from anywhere. If you’re a 20 something looking for a job today, you can fill out a resume, create a portfolio website or a solid LinkedIn profile, and apply for dozens of positions simultaneously.
As a business, you can get feedback from anywhere – Facebook, Yelp, your own website, or online surveys. If you’re trying to grow a following (which is a crucial process to gaining success these days), you can share your knowledge with millions of people instantly, and you can interact with all of those potential supporters in a personal and direct way. As a consumer, you can go to any website or read any article, leave your thoughts in a comment and actually be heard – you’ll probably even get a direct response.
Social media is the state of internet today. It’s what allows me to practice writing in front of a live, very critical audience to hone my skills. It’s what allows a wannabe success story like myself and thousands of others to be personal connections with Gary Vaynerchuck. It creates endless possibilities.
The whole “if you haven’t caught on to social media, you’re missing the boat” argument is nonsense. You can’t escape using social media, because it’s the only way to virtually interact with anybody or anything. It's happening every time you like or share an article, every time you email a link, every time you post a picture you are using social media. This means that every single website on the internet is an extension of your personal identity.
I love that “social” is the current state of things, because it means a guy like me from small town in Georgia has a chance at achieving his dreams. It means that everyone with an internet connection has the same opportunity to learn, to fulfill their passions, and earn a decent (or extravagant) living.
Social is the reason so many startups can exist, and a large part of why “entrepreneur” has gone from a very derogatory term to a happy buzzword in the last twenty years. The fact that we can interact with the world around us in such a personal way at anytime from anywhere is what makes it all such a beautiful thing.
Image Credit: Flickr / cropped, resized