When we talk about social media, we're really talking about the combination of two things: social interaction, and media content. Each channel serves a different purpose based on the percentage of that combination.
The interesting part of the spectrum is that certain media channels will change based on the demographic using them. I'm always stunned by how many likes on Instagram (100+ for very normal images) my sister would receive in high school for a picture I might receive 15. Her friend's response? "Oh, I always like everything." For them, Instagram was more social than media.
Think about the transformation of Facebook. My newsfeed used to only exist to tell me about the mundane status of my friends' meals, emotions, and events. Now, we share articles and exchange information. Most of my media consumption comes from Facebook or Twitter, both originally used for much more social purposes.
Twitter, Facebook's snarky sister, changed completely for me when I started a job as a marketer. My first cringe-worthy tweets were sarcastic complaints about #whitegirlproblems. Now I see it as a vehicle for activism, news, and providing helpful, quick information. I've completely changed my outlook on it as I've grown up. Twitter's certainly banking on that being the case.
It's amazing to be able to follow the news in real time, and interact directly with those making news. There's so much potential for the future of democracy.
No one wants to become MySpace. (Remember that!?) Increasingly media channels compete to stay relevant. Facebook recently debuted two new features to bring it closer to trendier channels like Periscope or Meerkat with video. Instagram created a collage feature. And everyone is trying to capture Snapchat's magic formula.
Internet language is changing, fueled by changing channels. We speak in GIFs and Vines to act out, rather than say in words, what we're thinking and feeling. Because let's be real. This shows surprise or awe better than saying so:
That's why he's an actor and you're not. We've adopted a language of our pop culture as a new form of communication, all because of the social media spectrum.
I don't believe that social media is a timesuck anymore. With the increasing media nature of our favorite social channels, logging on becomes less about stalking people and more about getting informed. Because we choose who we follow and friend, we have the power to shape what we see online.
As for 2016? This year we'll see more video, more direct interaction, and more commerce in our social media. A year from now, it might not be a spectrum at all, but a cluster of media-focused channels intent on delivering content that'll drive you to buy.