Defining the Social Media Landscape: Virtual Shift to a Social Web

Image Courtesy of Geek and Poke
Image Courtesy of Geek and Poke

“You’d better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.” – Bob Dylan

Virtual shifting ahead

Are social networks (SNs) and virtual worlds (VWs) merging into one medium? – This was my original question. But when you consider the overall state of social media, it quickly becomes all but irrelevant. For one thing, the main difference between SNs and VWs is merely more than user interface (UI). Besides, I think the nomenclature all really depends on how you look at things, and in the end, the majority (if not all) VWs can be classified as either MMOG or SN (and all MMOGs are by nature VWs), which leaves little discrepancy between SNs and VWs at all. But I’ll get back to that soon enough…

Once I realized the broader potential of social media, and the enormous impact it has (and will continue to have) on our daily lives, my research turned in a new direction. Instead, what’s more important and worth asking – Where is social media headed, and is the whole Web going social? The shear wealth of information and aspects to consider on this new topic made my project, at first look, severely overwhelming. But now that I’ve digested the facts and figures, it’s really not all that complicated.

There is a virtual shift taking place in our culture. The physical world around us is simply becoming more virtual, more “linked-in”. And it doesn’t matter so much what we call these online “tools”, it matters how we use them. Social media can make our lives easier if used correctly (smartly), and granted, of course, that SN providers continue improving their services and giving consumers a voice.

There are new rules, a new organizational framework, new terms and definitions, new dynamics, new measurements and indicators of success, new forms and styles of media, marketing and communication, and a new flow of information. Old, outdated tactics and terms just won’t suffice in today’s uber-connected society. Technology sets the timetable, and we’re moving faster than ever to keep up. New jobs replace old ones. There are new expectations, adoption rates and life cycles, new challenges and disruptions, new leaders, new business models and goals, and a totally new landscape, for the internet and society as a whole.

The virtual shift has important implications not just for the gaming and tech industries; it’s a much wider-spread digital movement and goes far beyond “SN vs. VW”. It affects everyone from consumers and executives to marketers and media. The virtual shift influences personal and professional connections, relationships, competitions, games, workplaces, work forces, social norms, behaviors, organizations, news, entertainment, pace, mindset, mobility and so much more. So, as members of the Social Web, it’s our *civic* duty to demand what we want and need as we move toward tomorrow’s online landscape.

Next: Defining the landscape, my views and literally