Still have a hard time understanding what social media is all about? Here is a picture (originally posted by Douglas Wray on Instagram) that explains social media in a simple and creative way.


Now consider this version of the picture that I drew up.

Get ready for the definition and acronym wars to heat up in the months and years ahead. A similar war broke out in the late 90s (and is arguably still going on today) when software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions started to emerge. You had software start-ups at one end of the battlefield, with solutions built “from the ground up” using the latest Web technologies, and at the other end you had the established vendors putting Citrix front-ends on their client-server solutions and calling them SaaS (actually, the term du jour back then was “ASP” for Application Service Provider, which later morphed to On Demand, which later became SaaS, and is now more broadly referred to as “cloud computing”).

I expect a similar battle to occur in the enterprise software market, as start-ups and established vendors look to put their own spin on what defines a “social media for business” application, and why their solution and approach is better (purer to principle) than their competitors. Vendors and analysts will create various terms and acronyms to differentiate the multiple flavors of enterprise social media solutions, and there will be many debates about software architecture, scalability, security, and so on.

And when the dust settles…what?

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“I only use email at home, for personal use, but never at work.”

When was the last time you heard someone say that, if ever? Or say something similar about using the telephone. Yet, that’s exactly what many people say today about social media. “I only use social media at home, for personal reasons, but never at work.”

In some cases, it’s because employers block access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which as I wrote in a previous posting, is a futile and counter-productive effort. In other cases, people are actually using enterprise social solutions at work, like Yammer and Moxie Software, but they don’t view these solutions as “social media” because their definition of social media is limited to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And some people just don’t see the business value of using social media solutions at work; they see it as more work to do, more information they need to sift through in addition to countless emails and voicemails.

The day will come, however, when saying “I only use social media at home” will sound as silly as saying “I only use email and the telephone at home.” How exactly we get to that day, and how quickly, is the only question.

Then again, using email at home or work already sounds silly to teenagers and college students, the next generation of workers, who prefer to communicate via texting and view email as today’s version of the telegram. According to a September 2011 Pew Research Center report, “Young adults are the most avid texters by a wide margin. Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day—that works out to more than 3,200 texts per month—and the typical or median cell owner in this age group sends or receives 50 messages per day (or 1500 messages per month).”

The moral of the story is that we are human, and humans communicate, and just like other forms of communication have transcended the home-work boundary, so will social media and whatever follows it.