The list of social media tools is long and constantly growing longer. New “it” are being released every few months and older tools reaching maturity very quickly. Given this mercurial environment, it doesn’t seem productive to focus on the tools when trying to understand social media.
In his book, Social Media ROI, Oliver Blanchard offers a wonderful metaphor that I have used many times when explaining social media to others:
The term social media describes the pipes; social communication and social interaction describe what people do with them.
Instead it is best to focus on understanding the sorts of interactions people have when using these tools and how that knowledge might be used to create better communication experiences and facilitate improved access to information
Focus on building relationships and connecting with people, then choose the best tool for the job.
The difference between using these social media tools in addition to or in place of more traditional communication tools, will be in your message’s velocity and reach.