Social Media Or Social Networking

Have you seen the terms social media and social networking used interchangeably? I have; I’ve done it. But I was wondering if they’re the same or just similar. Is there a distinction without a difference? After looking it up and reading a few sites, the answer is…unclear to me.

What others say

I checked out a few articles about this:

I tired to glean key points, yet things are still fuzzy. Here are some thoughts.

What I think

When I think of social media, I think of Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t think of blogs. That said, if I’m not mistaken, the media part of social media includes things like:

  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • Videos

What these have in common is one-way communication. They’re like broadcast mediums (or media).

So while social media is one-way (and less time consuming), social networking is two-way (and more time-consuming). The former broadcasts your message out to a general audience, but the latter focuses on a narrow target audience.

I think that makes sense, though it doesn’t feel as distinctive as I’d like. Is social media a sub-category or activity of social networking?


When it comes to blogging, which grew popular before social networks/social media arose to dominate culture, I can see it being used as a broadcast medium and also as a networking channel.

If blogging is a form of social media, it’s my favorite, the only one I want to use.

On WordPress, published blogs can be followed in the Reader, a reverse chronological feed of posts from blogs you choose to follow. And they’re interactive, allowing “likes” and comments. It also allows reblogging and sharing. Such interaction is a key aspect of social networking.

Reblogging and sharing are simple ways for readers to further broadcast a blogger’s post, which is one-way communication – social media.

Likes and comments, though, let readers talk back to the blogger for two-way communication – social networking.

Speaking of communicating

On my blog, I recently removed the ability for readers to comment. Instead, I added a “Reply by Email” link at the bottom of posts. My aim wasn’t to cut off two-way communication with others but was to encourage greater discussion.

But in light of a new grasp of social networking, I’ve decided to promote greater discussion in both ways on my blog!

My posts will feature a “Reply by Email” link for readers who want to go deep. We can exchange emails back and forth over time, writing in long-form, to foster more discussion. It’s private discourse.

And I will enable commenting for readers who simply want to do just that, leave a comment. Not everything results in engrossing discussion. Sometimes a short casual conversation is best. It’s public discourse.

…Social Media or Social Networking? It’s nuanced.

What do you say?

I’m listening. I want to hear what you think. Let’s have a simple conversation in the comments area. Or let’s have a deep discussion via email. Pick what works best for you.

So…what do you think about social media or social networking? Are they the same? What differences, if any, do you see?