In order to fully understand what potential we can unlock with social media, it’s important to look at the different practices involved. I like to think of these uses of social media in four distinct buckets: create, perpetuate, innovate and consume.

Create.

Social media gives us the opportunity to express ourselves in entirely new ways. We choose the images and text displayed across a variety of platforms when we publish our content online. We also combine words or phrases and wordsmith a post or status so that it conveys the meaning we want it to.

Social media is an entirely new avenue for content creators because thousands of former users have all of a sudden become authors. Whereas a hundred years ago, writing a book, publishing a newspaper or writing a letter were your primary forms of creating readable content, the internet and new digital communities have all of a sudden given everyone the chance to choose their medium and trade the pen and typewriter for a laptop or smartphone. The amount of content created online daily is overwhelming, and that’s simply because social media makes it so easy to create.

Perpetuate.

It’s scary how fast ideas can spread in today’s digital world. And no, I’m not just talking about the DIY section of Pinterest, but I’m talking about the retweeting, sharing, RSS feeds, forwarding, emailing and reposting that is everywhere in online communities.

If you keep up on the most important and relevant news sources, you by now know that Psy’s “Gangam Style” recently passed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most viewed YouTube video. And you’re probably a part of the process that helped Gangam Style become viral.

Think about it. You probably watched it on YouTube, maybe shared the video or a parody of it on one of your social media channels and even sent it home to mom and dad. Each share button you use makes you powerful in the world of social media because you are a perpetuator.

The Internet has made it easy for us to informally vote on what topics and ideas are most important to us, and there are whole companies whose sole purpose is to analyze social media trends and analytics. Crazy, right? Well, not really because all of a sudden, you as a consumer and human being are the one who has the right and privilege to decide what is important and what isn’t. Together, we perpetuate content, widen the audience of each online posting and amplify the voice of the individual.

Innovate.

While similar to the first two categories, innovation is a buzzword that has quickly become linked to social media in the past several years. I immediately think of Kickstarter.com or TED, where great ideas and new concepts and products are introduced to online communities.

Social media has become this new form of communication that unites us together and really serves as a way to create new ideas, share best practices and knowledge, and communicate with those we might not be able to in person. Seriously, just go on Pinterest or Tumblr or Reddit or <insert your platform here> and check out some really cool and innovative ideas, all heard through your friendly neighborhood social media site.

Consume.

While most of us do so much more than just consume information online, it’s a big category that deserves some thought. How much do we merely absorb online vs. what we create and respond to? Yes, I’m talking about the “creepers,” the “stalkers” and of course people in the online dating scene that know WAY too much information about their potential date before their first meeting.

While creeping is a huge social media activity, many digital natives are also starting to get all of their news online and through social media. I recently started following @AntDeRosa, Reuters’ social media editor, and have been really intrigued by this relatively new way of covering news in short bursts of messages. His coverage of the recent Gaza crisis was quite interesting to read on Twitter.

So there you have it. Four buckets or categories for what we do in our online social communities.

What do you think? Tweet me @jtleeman. Please?

Joel Leeman

Joel Leeman, '13, hails from Apple Valley, MN, and is pursuing a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Music. Joel is heavily involved in music at Concordia and enjoys spending the rest of his free time divided between various other campus organizations and activities. Joel's passions and interests include but are not limited to: social media, music, technology, personal and professional branding, leadership and making connections.

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