- Concept (art, information, or meme).
- Media (physical, electronic, or verbal).
- Social interface (intimate direct, community engagement, social viral, electronic broadcast or syndication, or other physical media such as print).
- Concepts, slogans, and statements with a high memory retention quotient, that excite others to repeat.
- Grass-Roots direct action information dissemination such as public speaking, installations, performance, and demonstrations.
- Electronic media with 'sharing', syndication, or search algorithm technologies (includes internet and mobile devices).
- Print media, designed to be re-distributed.
- Creating buzz or newsworthy events, videos, tweets, or blog entries that attract attention, and become viral in nature. Buzz is what makes social media marketing work. It replicates a message through user to user contact, rather than the traditional method of purchasing of an ad or promoting a press release. The message does not necessarily have to be about the product. Many successful viral campaigns have gathered steam through an amusing or compelling message, with the company logo or tagline included incidentally.
- Building ways that enable fans of a brand or company to promote a message themselves in multiple online social media venues. Fan pages in Twitter, MySpace of Facebook follow this model.
- It is based around online conversations. Social media marketing is not controlled by the organization. Instead it encourages user participation and dialogue. A badly designed social media marketing campaign can potentially backfire on the organization that created it. To be successful SMM campaigns must fully engage and respect the users.
- It’s natural. Not only do you get natural links without any discernible pattern, your website is exposed to large groups of people in a spontaneous fashion. This differs from paid advertising which has overt commercial overtones.
- It’s defensible. Once successfully mastered, social communities can be a great source of web traffic on top of any traffic you are already receiving from search engines. While you can’t easily increase your search engine traffic, social media traffic can be very easily controlled through strategic marketing.
- It’s low-cost/high returns. If done by yourself, costs are limited to only time and perhaps the expenses involved in hiring a freelance programmer/designer. The benefits will often exceed the cost. It would take you thousands of dollars to buy many links; social media has the ability to give you that for free.
- It complements other efforts. Social media optimization and marketing is usually community-specific. It doesn’t interfere with any other methods of getting traffic to your website. It can and will fit perfectly with an advertising campaign targeting other websites or search engines.
"Industrial media" are commonly referred to as "traditional," "broadcast" or "mass" media.
One characteristic shared by both social media and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach zero people or millions of people. The properties that help describe the differences between social media and industrial media depend on the study. Some of these properties are:
- Reach - both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.
- Accessibility - the means of production for industrial media are typically owned privately or by government; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.
- Usability - industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Most social media do not, or in some cases reinvent skills, so anyone can operate the means of production.
- Recency - the time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response). As industrial media are currently adopting social media tools, this feature may well not be distinctive anymore in some time.
- Permanence - industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.
In his 2006 book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler analyzed many of these distinctions and their implications in terms of both economics and political liberty. However, Benkler, like many academics, uses the neologism network economy or "network information economy" to describe the underlying economic, social, and technological characteristics of what has come to be known as "social media".
Andrew Keen criticizes social media in his book The Cult of the Amateur, writing, "Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering."
There are various statistics out now that account for social media's usage and effectiveness for individuals worldwide. However, some of the most recent statistics are as follows:
Social networking now accounts for 11 percent of all time spent online in the US.
A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009.
Twitter is as of December processing more than one billion tweets per month. January passed 1.2 billion, averaging almost 40 million tweets per day.
One in four (25%) US Internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up 83% from 13.8% in December 2008.