“She does social media,” is the go-to introduction my friends bestow on me at parties. In 2018, in a world where many of my millennial friends have more captivating Instagram accounts than me, this introduction sound about as impressive as, “She Googles real good.”
Currently, I don’t directly manage any brand’s social media channels, though I have in the past. Instead, I most often consult in overall digital strategies that involve many promotion outlets, be it email, website, social media, and/or display.
That said, my friends’ misleading introduction results in some lovely party conversations, the most recent being, “Do you think we’ll always call social media ‘social media’?”
As the resident social media expert person, I blurted out, “Of course! What else would we call it? We still call TV ‘TV,’ don’t we?” I chortled. My friends chortled. We all slapped knees (our own, not each other’s). The conversation pivoted.
I went home, brushed my teeth, changed into my egg jammies, and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night Don’t Wake Daddy-style. We don’t call it “TV”; we call it Netflix, Hulu, or whatever specific show we intend to binge watch. Unless we spent time staring at some reality show we’d rather not admit to watching, we rarely say, “I just watched TV.”
Now that my moment has passed to have this dinner party conversation with man buns (brotrepreneurs) over cheap wine, I ask you: When will we stop calling social media “social media”?
Don’t get me wrong—this will be a mass effort, a shift of the collective conscious—we will not solve it here. However, in the way someone circa 2010 started asking where she left her “phone,” abandoning “cell” as if the specifier was superfluous, someone will start calling social media “social.”
Oh, no. We already use “social” in isolation. Has the end begun? Probably.
The Evidence ‘Social Media’ Is on Its Way Out
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 (over five years ago?!). Almost immediately, the two began melding into one. Facebook introduced video; then Instagram introduced video. Instagram introduced Stories; then Facebook introduced Stories. Now, ads can be sent through both platforms at the same time, from the same tool, using the same audience parameters.
Will Instagram eventually just become Facebook? Will we call all newsfeed-centric social media platforms “Facebook” in the way we colloquially deem all search engines “Google”?
What happens when Facebook overtakes YouTube once and for all? YouTube, a platform I’ve always struggled to call a “social media,” had a rocky 2017. With ridiculous scandals, a massive redesign, original shows, and mixed Red reviews, who and what is YouTube anymore?
For one, YouTube is a sibling of Google and therefore, undoubtedly, a powerful ad platform. However, advertising alone social media does not make, young padawan.
What happens if Netflix introduces comments à la Youtube? What happens if Snapchat introduces a discovery section à la Instagram? Wait, did Snapchat kind of already do that? What happens if Twitter . . . nah, I’ve all but given up on Twitter.
Nevertheless, what are we going to call all these social media platforms as they evolve? It seems to me they are outgrowing their terminology.
Does Any of This Really Matter?
I don’t know, man. Maybe analyzing terminology just feels like splitting hairs. Still, sometimes you need a silly question like “when will we stop calling it social media” to get the brainstorming juices flowing, to tiptoe to the questions that really matter to your business as we cruise through 2018, such as:
- Where is social media going?
- Where is our audience likely to be in five years?
- What platforms should we consider adopting?
- Where should we be putting our digital advertising dollars?
- What type of content will we need to produce? Video? Audio?
- Are we ready to serve a mobile-first audience?
- What are we measuring in terms of KPIs?
- Are we converting? If not, why?
Scary questions, right? In time, they will need to be answered. But for now, tell me, what are your 2018 predictions for social media terminology? Better yet, what changes to individual social media platforms will necessitate the evolution of our current lexicon?