There’s a lot of confusion about what is and isn’t a social media platform. And it doesn’t help that the definition constantly changes as new technology pops up and new social networking methods become viral.
If you ask most people what social media is, most will answer with popular social networking websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. But if you ask them if blogs are social media, they might stop and think for a minute. And you’ll eventually get a mixed bag of answers, too.
And it’s not only blogs that cause this confusion. Many people are divided on how to define other online platforms like video sharing websites (think YouTube), forums, email, and even some online video games.
So what exactly is considered social media? And do blogs fall under this definition?
Why Blogs Can Be Considered Social Media
Blogs can definitely be considered social media. In fact, blogs were one of the first prominent modern forms of social media in the early internet ages, years before the rise of famous platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
Many (if not most) blogs have traditional social media features, like user profiles and user-generated content, which enable people to build potentially massive online social networks.
Of course, there are some exceptions, like read-only blogs. If the blog doesn’t allow users to create profiles or, more importantly, doesn’t have a comments section, then it’s just a web 1.0 application, which is a one-way app that limits users to viewing and passive reading.
But it’s not so straightforward, and it gets confusing with more nuanced blogs.
For instance, a blog can operate without a comments section but enable an alternative form of dialogue through a chat system or an affiliated forum. Would that be considered social media?
Perhaps it would be, but it ultimately comes down to your perception of social media. Sometimes, it’ll also differ on a case-to-case basis.
What Is Social Media?
People change their definitions and perceptions of social media as the internet evolves and new platforms become trendy. But we can all agree that the most basic definition of social media is a platform that enables people to communicate.
This definition covers several platforms that very few people would consider social media. For example, phone calls, letters, and even telegraphs pass this definition.
Others like to specify that it’s only online communication that counts. But this still gives us platforms like email, IRC (remember it?), and online video games. And hardly anyone would consider these social media, especially nowadays.
These definitions are clearly very broad, so let’s get more specific.
Virtual Networking and Collaboration
A more specific definition of social media is a platform that allows people to consistently share information, ideas, and interests in the form of text, pictures, video, or a combination of these three. This eliminates many chat clients like IRC and iChat.
Social media should also allow you to build virtual connections and be part of online communities. In other words, users should be able to interact with each other on that platform. And this eliminates many read-only and passive websites, like many blogs that don’t have a comment or chat feature.
Mass communication and collaboration are also often seen as required on social media platforms. For instance, think of video skits that get millions of views or posts with thousands of comments.
I’m not saying that every post should get such a massive amount of user feedback. My point is that scalability is vital to social media.
This aspect eliminates email communication. And yes, I know some people have email lists with tens of thousands of subscribers or more. But subscription lists don’t allow collaboration between users, so they still aren’t social media.
A platform could have these social media-like functionalities and still not be considered a social media platform if its primary purpose isn’t to enable collaboration between users.
For example, sites like Craigslist and many online video games can enable users to share information and reach several other users. But would you consider them social media?
In my opinion, no, because these services don’t focus on the social networking aspect.
Yes, they can facilitate it, and users can build communities there. But if users choose not to participate in any communities, discussions, or networks, they can still get the full product experience. And that’s something you can’t say about other social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok.
So, Are Blogs Social Media?
Perhaps you have a specific blog in mind while reading the definition of social media, and it passes or fails some of the criteria, but not all. Would that be considered a social media platform?
In reality, not all blogs were created equal. Some blogs pass the “social media check,” while others fail.
When Is a Blog Social Media?
If a blog…
- allows a user (i.e., the blogger) to share information or ideas with other people, and
- enables these people to hold a dialogue about it through a comments section, a chat system, or else,
then it’s social media.
When Is It Not?
Blogs without a comments section are more similar to editorial pages on newspapers than to social media. However, if they don’t facilitate communication between users, then are they really social media?
Although I’ve given you the definition of social media above, some people will disagree with it partially or fully. For example, some will argue that it’s too broad, too narrow, or should be changed to include or exclude a particular service or platform.
The reality is that there’s no clear-cut definition of what a social media platform is.
And to add to the confusion, blogs can have different features or functionalities. So while one blog might allow you to create a profile, chat with other users, and comment on posts, another might have read-only posts with a sister project where you can communicate with the blog readers.
So it really boils down to your definition of social media and the particular blog in question.