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Social media are media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).
Social media can be said to have three components;
1. Concept (art, information, or meme).
2. Media (physical, electronic, or verbal).
3. Social interface (intimate direct, community engagement, social viral, electronic broadcast or syndication, or other physical media such as print).
Common forms of social media;
* Concepts, slogans, and statements with a high memory retention quotient, that excite others to repeat.
* Grass-Roots direct action information dissemination such as public speaking, installations, performance, and demonstrations.
* Electronic media with ’sharing’, syndication, or search algorithm technologies (includes internet and mobile devices).
* Print media, designed to be re-distributed.
* 1 Distinction from industrial media
* 2 Information outputs and human interaction
* 3 Examples
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Further reading
 Distinction from industrial media
Social media are distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. While social media are relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media generally require significant resources to publish information. Examples of industrial media issues include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license.
“Industrial media” are commonly referred to as “traditional”, “broadcast” or “mass” media.
One characteristic shared by both social media and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach zero people or millions of people. The properties that help describe the differences between social media and industrial media depend on the study. Some of these properties are:
1. Reach – both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.
2. Accessibility – the means of production for industrial media are typically owned privately or by government; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.
3. Usability – industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Most social media do not, or in some cases reinvent skills, so anyone can operate the means of production.
4. Recency – the time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response). As industrial media are currently adopting social media tools, this feature may well not be distinctive anymore in some time.
5. Permanence – industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.
Community media constitute an interesting hybrid of industrial and social media. Though community-owned, some community radios, TV and newspapers are run by professionals and some by amateurs. They use both social and industrial media frameworks.
In his 2006 book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler analyzed many of these distinctions and their implications in terms of both economics and political liberty. However, Benkler, like many academics, uses the neologism network economy or “network information economy” to describe the underlying economic, social, and technological characteristics of what has come to be known as “social media”.
Andrew Keen criticizes social media in his book The Cult of the Amateur, writing, “Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering.”
 Information outputs and human interaction
Primarily, social media depend on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words to build shared-meaning, using technology as a conduit. Social media has been touted as presenting a fresh direction for marketing by allowing companies to talk with consumers, as opposed to talking at them.
Social media utilities create opportunities for the use of both inductive and deductive logic by their users. Claims or warrants are quickly transitioned into generalizations due to the manner in which shared statements are posted and viewed by all. The speed of communication, breadth, and depth, and ability to see how the words build a case solicits the use of rhetoric. Induction is frequently used as a means to validate or authenticate different users’ statements and words. Rhetoric is an important part of today’s language in social media.
Social media are not finite: there is not a set number of pages or hours. The audience can participate in social media by adding comments, instant messaging or even editing the stories themselves.
Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures, video, rating and bookmarking. Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, to name a few. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms like Mybloglog and Plaxo.
Examples of social media software applications include:
* Blogs: Blogger, LiveJournal, Open Diary, TypePad, WordPress, Vox, ExpressionEngine, Xanga
* Micro-blogging / Presence applications: Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, fmylife
* Social networking: Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkut, Skyrock, Hi5, Ning, Elgg
* Social network aggregation: NutshellMail, FriendFeed
* Events: Upcoming, Eventful, Meetup.com
* Wikis: Wikipedia, PBwiki, wetpaint
* Social bookmarking (or social tagging): Delicious, StumbleUpon, Google Reader, CiteULike
* Social news: Digg, Mixx, Reddit, NowPublic
* Opinion sites: epinions, Yelp
* Photo sharing: Flickr, Zooomr, Photobucket, SmugMug, Picasa
* Video sharing: YouTube, Vimeo, sevenload
* Livecasting: Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Stickam
* Audio and Music Sharing: imeem, The Hype Machine, Last.fm, ccMixter
Reviews and Opinions
* Product Reviews: epinions.com, MouthShut.com
* Community Q&A: Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswers, Askville, Google Answers
* Media & Entertainment Platforms: Cisco Eos
* Virtual worlds: Second Life, The Sims Online, Forterra
* Game sharing: Miniclip, Kongregate
* Information aggregators: Netvibes, Twine (website)
In recent years, numerous companies and brands have used the platforms and channels above as well as many others not included here to market their products.  Healthcare and pharma companies have been slower than many other industries to adopt these technologies due to regulatory concerns.  Recently, this has changed with many healthcare and pharma companies using social media to communicate with physicians and patients. 
For more information > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media