Social media is best understood as a group of new kinds of online media which share most or all of the following characteristics:
Participation: social media encourages contributions and feedback from everyone who is interested. It blurs the line between the concept of media and audience.
Openness: most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage voting, feedback,comments and sharing of information. There are rarely any barriers to accessing and making use of content – password protected content is frowned on.
Conversation: whereas traditional media is about “broadcast”,content transmitted or distributed to anaudience, social media is better seen as conversational, twoway.
Community: social media allows communities to form quickly and communicate effectively around common interests – be that a love of photography, a political issue or a favourite TV show.
Connectedness: Most kinds of social media thrive on their connectedness, via links and combining different kinds of media in one place.
Read the e-report What is Social Media (pdf) from search engine marketing firm Spannerworks.