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The semantics of social media

We have a new piece of furniture in the office. It’s not ergonomic. It’s not a standing desk. It is, in fact, a jar.

Propel social swear jar


We’ve made a conscious decision to publicly practice what we preach. We’re adding a new layer of accountability to ensure we refer to social media — the digital channels or platforms we use to communicate and exchange information with others, whether businesses or consumers — as we should. A set of channels.

The jar is our commercial commitment.

‘Social media’ is a phrase often associated with the desire to:

  • Solve any and all existing customer relations issues
  • Launch a new product line to widespread praise and approval
  • Acquire an unheard of and exponential number of prospects
  • Quickly convert all those prospects into customers
  • End world poverty…

The list, of course, goes on, but hopefully you get my point: ‘Social media’ is not a thing. They are things. Channels.

Industry should instead be focusing on the real opportunity: the strategy behind use of these channels.

The sooner we all refer to ‘social media’ as means to ends rather than the ends themselves, the sooner we will properly consider how they should be used. We need to stop viewing ‘social media’ as solutions, but rather ways through which the right, considered strategy can be implemented to reach solutions.

The phenomenon is not the channels. The phenomenon is what the channels represent: the growing demand for individuals across all stakeholder groups to have a say in how they interact with the world. And it’s the shift towards collaboration, accessibility and authenticity — social principles — that we’ll continue to reinforce with our clients.

Knowing how to introduce and embrace these principles within organisations is the sweet spot for business performance improvement. Pursuit of these principles — not social media channels — drives decisions which benefit both businesses and customers.

Please do call us out on this. If you see or hear us talk about ‘social media’ as a thing rather than a set of channels in the wrong context (e.g. ‘is’ versus ‘are’, ‘it’ versus ‘they’), let us know and I’ll do something awful as punishment. Like burpees.

Or I — and the rest of the team — will simply continue to tip into the #socialswears jar until we’ve well and truly changed our behaviour. I’ve already added the first dollar.

We all need to take responsibility for the way businesses view social media channels and social strategy, and this is just one small way we’re choosing to do so.

Author: Roger Christie

Roger Christie is Founder and Managing Director of Propel. He understands the importance and value of a customer-centric approach to business, and has worked with a range of public and private sector organisations to help them leverage data, technology and operational change to deliver practical business solutions. Over the past decade, Roger has advised boards and executive teams across government departments and ASX top ten corporations, and understands the challenges facing organisations looking to excel and remain viable in an increasingly competitive, discerning marketplace. You can connect with Roger on LinkedIn and Twitter, and follow his thoughts on Medium.

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