Social Media is a blanket term for the various components of what Tim O'Reilly dubbed 'Web 2.0' - and it includes blogs (web journals), podcasts (personal on-demand media), social networks (MySpace, Bebo), content communities (Flickr, YouTube) folksonomies (Wikipedia, Digg, Del.icio.us) and virtual worlds (Second Life).
There is no doubt that the emerging podcast market encompasses the other elements of social media, and that media strategies including podcasts are all the more powerful for taking them into consideration at the outset.
These strands of social media all have key elements in common:
The best way to approach these media is to understand their specific appeal and general usage, and to know the different demographics coming into play.
The name 'blog' comes from the phrase 'web log'. Blogs are easy to update web sites, with user-generated comments. An estimated 55 million blogs have been set up, although only a small percentage of these are regularly maintained by their authors.
Each new article or 'post' is presented at the top of the main page, preceding articles drop down the page, the blog's history is steadily archived, and the site grows. Comments add value to articles and stimulate debate - blogs often reference other blogs.
There are as many purposes for blogs as there are possibilities for communication, including personal diaries, citizen journalism, fiction, gossip, entertainment, sales and marketing, and both external and internal corporate communications. There are moblogs (mobile phones now have built-in blog software), audio blogs, group blogs, and password-protected private blogs.
Internet search engines are particularly fond of blogs because they update regularly and attract external links. This is especially true of blogs which concentrate on niche content areas and which attract high calibre links.
Technorati is a blog-based site which tracks the "world live web" via user-generated key words. Bloggers attach Technorati tags to blog articles, which are then searchable, grouped by kind, and listed by most recent.