No One “Consumes” Social Media

Food Mob! mac and cheese
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Ever notice the phrase “consumes social media” or a variant of that in market research and social media wonk discourse? Of course, media consumption as an idea matches our consumer economy, but the idea is a bit off. Think about it, no one “consumes” social media.

No one goes home and says, “I think I’ll consume Facebook for three hours.” “How about some Disqus or Quora at dinner, this is boring.” Or, “Can I have some Flickr for that blog?”

Perhaps this is a rant about semantics, but the phrase also denotes a siloed attitude towards the way we as people use media for communication, information and entertainment. Many Americans use three or more actively used viewing screens for media — TV, computer, and now mobile/portable. They use them for these purposes interchangeably, and often without specific thought of media type. Dominance in media form is passing. For example, “cord cutting” from paid cable services continues as a growing trend.

The reality for communicators is understanding how irrevocably intertwined media have become. Just a movie? Maybe, but it’s on Netflix, and you can watch it on your Android tablet. Or just a mobile check in? Perhaps, but on a laptop you can add in prescient tips. Then on a TV screen you can screen roll who checked in recently. How about watching a TV program, while using your phone to rate it on Facebook?

People see a mosaic of media throughout their day. Impressions about brands are formed through diverse experiences, media types as well as peer conversations, usually as a body of work. Rarely is a media moment, positive or negative, strong enough to form a stakeholder’s full impression. Thus the need to strategically integrate communications.

In a networked media environment, to assume siloed singular media use is to deny the true nature of how People (not consumers) interact with media. These media are increasingly dependent on one another, and digital makes them intertwined. “Social” or not, communicators need a more holistic view of media. And stop eating so much Twitter, it’s bad for one’s diet!