Social Media is Simply Communication on Steroids

Having trouble explaining to your “non-blogging or non-techy” friends, family and co-workers what the fuss about “social media” is all about?  You’re not alone.

I remember reading a while back that 5 out of 6 people are classified as “casual” users of the internet.  Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re one of the 1 in 6 who are “in the know” about social media.

As a result, you’re probably seen as the “social media expert” in your circles.  When someone asks you about blogging or social media, you may be more than willing to share your passion for “blogging” and it’s role in social media.

If you’re having a face to face conversation – there may be some point where watch the listener’s eyes glaze over and their mind “check out” as you try to describe the intricacies and complexities that make up this ever changing thing we call “social media”.

This is a common problem – not only when it comes to describing social media but  when it comes to trying to describe exactly anything that isn’t currently “mainstream”.  Believe it or not, before it became “mainstream”,  there was a time when you had to explain why Google was better than Yahoo for search.

Several conversations offline recently have me trying to come up with a quick and easy explanation of what social media is and why it matters.

Social Media is Simply Communication on Steroids

Social media is simply communication – bigger, faster and stronger than ever before.

Trying to communicate the unusual and unique is not new to me because I am the proud owner of a Field Spaniel.  Unless you live in the UK, you probably don’t know what a Field Spaniel is.  In describing what a Field Spaniel is, I could share what it’s like to share your home with one of these quirky and “very vocal” dogs. I could regale you with an in depth explanation of how early breeders wanted to create a “better” spaniel.  I could also tell you how the breed was created in England in the early 20th Century by crossing Basset Hounds with Cocker Spaniels.

Chances are that you probably don’t care to know all that.  That’s why when people ask, I tell them that a Field Spaniel is a Cocker Spaniel on steroids. People know what a Cocker Spaniel is and they also know what steroids do to an athlete.  The result is a fairly accurate and strong word picture. This does a MUCH better job of conveying what a Field Spaniel looks like and doesn’t give the the listener a chance to “check out” during the explanation.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the word picture is as strong in the case of describing social media.   I think part of the reason it “falls down” is many business owners don’t recognize that the main “component” of marketing is communication.  Without that understanding – an essential element of the word picture is lost.

If social media is going to go mainstream, we need an quick, easy explanation of what social media is and why it matters.

The Blog Herald announced yesterday the new b5Media has been revealed. The 32 individual health and beauty blogs are being “re-packaged” as a single site known as Splendicity, taking the relatively unfamiliar concept of “a blog network” and creating an easy to understand “word picture” of a single site.

Instead of trying to explain to advertising agencies how the b5media network offers advertisers a specific demographic audience scattered across 32 different blogs… b5media can now say – “Splendicity offers this many eyeballs who are part of this target audience.”

It’s a quick, easy explanation of the b5Media product “formerly known as loose collection of 32 health and heauty blogs.” It’s a “rebranding” which allows you to easily tell someone who isn’t in the know what Splendicity  is and most importantly – why advertisers should care.

Ad agencies no longer have to explain to their clients the intricacies of a blog network.  Instead they can say, “Splendicity has the attention of the very people we want to reach with your marketing message and THAT is why we’re buying space there.”

What’s the simple, easy to explain word picture illustrating why social media is important?

While most of the Blog Herald readers nod knowingly as they read the post- there’s still a whole WORLD of people out there who still don’t know the difference between a blog and a website.  Many of these people are business owners willing to invest their hard earned money to place their marketing message in front of their target audience.

They just need to know WHY a blog is such a great place for that ad.

Social media is defining the direction of communication from national news to the latest viral video – but the average person don’t recognize the impact blogs and social media are having on our culture.

They won’t know until we come up with an easy to understand  word picture.  Once we have educated “the 5 out of 6 casual internet users” why social media is important – then the rest will be easy.

The magic sauce in social media is that it allows publishers to influence audiences more deeply.  Social media, in the right hands, is an important part of engaging your audience instead of talking at them.

Until we come up with a simple, powerful word picture which communicates this essential truth about social media- the rest of the world still won’t get what the fuss over “social media” is all about.

With this in mind, how do YOU explain this whole intricate and complex entity known as “social media” to your friends, family and colleagues?  What word pictures do you use to communicate the intricacies of social media to the 5 out of 6 casual internet users?


  1. Hi Kathy. People listen to me but they don’t get it. You’re right though, when I’ve mentioned I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn, and have been blogging, they do think I’m a social media expert. I have to smile.

    I think that unless they are interested enough to try it and find out for themselves, they don’t “really” hear. I use the words “connection” a lot. I’ve noticed that Twitter and blogging are spoken about quite often in the media and people seem to listen harder when the media speaks. That’s not always a good thing…

    Davinas last blog post..The Morning Muse — Just Write

  2. BTW, is that man in the picture above, someone you know? 😉

    Davinas last blog post..The Morning Muse — Just Write

  3. It’s a great point that most people don’t “get it” and that we need better metaphors or arguments.

    Then again, if most people don’t get it… maybe that’s an important fact too! You reach some people over e.g. Twitter, but most people not.

    One way I’ve put it is this: When the Internet first trickled into the brains of corporate America, they didn’t know what a web page was for, they just agreed that they needed one. All they knew was “this is what everyone’s doing.” In fact, even those of us “in the know” couldn’t have foreseen everything about how it would turn out, especially not the role of things like RSS and Twitter.

    But here’s the rub: At a certain point it time, it became true that if you didn’t have a website you were invisible. Not hard to find. Invisible. Enough of your customers or potential customers would ONLY find you on a website. So you MUST have one, even if you don’t know what that means.

    To me, the social media scene is approaching this point, although not quite there yet. At some point in the near future, you will be invisible if you’re not on Twitter or have articles appearing on

    In fact, for new companies you’re already there because Google search is too muddy with existing stuff and Google Adwords are too expensive for the good keywords. (Established companies have a head-start in those areas, but their day will come as well.)

    So that’s another way to explain it: Having a website no longer makes you visible. Social media is the next thing you have to learn.

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  4. GEEZ, Kathy!
    How did you get my picture here? I cannot remember publishing it online… LOL! 😉
    I must admit – i am seriously frustrated trying to get folks on board with blogging. Most of my friends flipped a bozo bit on me with this one… i am too frustrated…
    The only way to convince folks that works for me is showing the results the blog gets me – and that is the gigs i get through my blog
    Good topic and good coverage!

  5. Kathy, did you say something? Love the picture, bump the steroids!

    Valeries last blog post..Facebook, Who’s the 800 Pound Gorilla Now?

  6. Davina – that’s my cabana boy! He brings me drinks at the end of the day by the pool.

    Valerie – 🙂

    Alik- I was trying to protect your identity and cropped your face out! Now you’ve blown your own cover! Remember – I like my martini dirty and with extra olives!

    Jason – You’re a good man to ignore my bit of eye candy!
    I remember about 5 years ago I had a business owner come to me and ask for a website because they couldn’t get CREDIT established with vendors without one.

    You’re so right – the web continues to evolve and I can understand why those who aren’t “plugged in” might be frustrated with trying to “keep up”. However, business has always been quick to reward the early adopters!

  7. Kathy — You are SO right on with this post. I haven’t tried to explain Twitter and other social networking sites to my friends and family. Just getting them to understand blogging is a major task. By the time I get to “I am a blogger,” only the people who are friends of my youngest child seem to understand what I’m talking about. I like to think I’m just ahead of curve!

    Saras last blog post..Laugh Away

  8. Hi Kathy – it is so difficult to explain social media to most casual Internet users. I have tried and failed miserably.

    And as you say, we will struggle to attract advertisers until we can commuicate the importance of social media and why it is beneficial to them.

    Sometimes, even when they do get it – I get the impression that they still think we’re exaggerating the importance of social media to their business.

    Cath Lawsons last blog post..There’s Always A New Kind Of Shit To Deal With

  9. I have also been unsuccessful in explaining twitter and social media to people I know. The only person who kind of got twitter was my Dad, which really surprised me because he doesn’t even reply to emails. But he understands marketing and trying to find a large audience. I think when he was able to define it in terms that he already understood he was able to understand it the same that you have done to help people understand what a Field Spaniel is. My Dad, however, did not sign up for a twitter account.;-)

    Kim Woodbridges last blog post..How Twitter Can Assist You With Your Job Search

  10. Sara, Cath and Kim – I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my struggle of explaining the who-what-why of social media.

    I spent last evening explaining Twitter to my 18 year old son – who is now forced to admit that his mother is MUCH cooler than he is. He may have over 650 “friends” on Myspace – but his mommy GETS Twitter!

    Still working on coming up with a great word picture to tie it all together. Until then, enjoy the scenery at the top of the post. 🙂

  11. Hi Kathy,

    Add me to the crowd who has a hard time explaining this stuff. So…I don’t… I like what you’ve said, though, Kathy – that it’s communication on steroids. That at least gives people an idea of what it is.

    Lances last blog post..Sometimes…Life Beats You Up

  12. So true indeed! I simply explain that Social Media is what happens if the distance/time/space could be removed from real life conversations. Ergo – everything happens faster/sooner/nearer to you.

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coachs last blog post..RANT – When bloggers are PAINFULLY clueless


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