Social Media Analogies

Let’s take a quick break from the serious topics today. In a recent conversation with a colleague of mine, I sat and watched as he struggled to come up with a new analogy for social media as a whole.

Of course, through those struggles, we both realized that it’s not quite the easiest thing to liken to another concept. At the same time, many people had already attempted to do so.

In honor of his struggles and our on-the-spot realization, I present to you the following possible analogies for social media. These all include citations if you wish to learn more about the thought process for yourself, and I’d welcome any commentary on whether you agree or disagree with my assessment of each.

Cocktail Party

This is perhaps the most obvious, and as a result, the most quoted analogy for social media. Essentially, it posits that social media is a virtual party, and we are just participants in the festivities. While that is certainly a plausible comparison, it overlooks much of the additional value that social media can provide above and beyond that of a cocktail party or other type of party (the latter of which says your blog is your home…welcome to my humble abode!).

For a simplistic model, I suppose, this would suffice. But once you really “get” what social media is all about, it becomes clearly too low of a target.

High School

Wow, I really hope this doesn’t stick, because I have no desire in any shape or form to go back to that stage of my life! Social Media Today shared one interesting write up that presents the thought process behind this idea. They hit on everything from parties, to gossip, to clubs and cliques. This is actually a pretty decent comparison overall, but it still fails to hit the nail right on the head.

Give the original write up as linked above a read to see what you think. Since I personally have a mental block against the idea of spending my time dabbling with a return to high school, I’ll leave it at that.

A Plague

I included this one just to see if you are paying attention. (Clearly, if you are reading this, you are.)

That said, The Relationship Economy did a post on this topic, but it didn’t deliver on the promise. Great example of why your blog posts should be titled something that actually relates to the content it covers (might as well make something of this otherwise wasted space).

Fly Fishing

Cheers for Marketing Profs for first proposing this analogy. This analogy boils down to some key attributes of social media that also remain similar when fly fishing: Go where your target audience is (or where the fish swim), let go of the urge to control, focus on executing properly, and dig in because you can’t fish without getting wet.

I must say, this is perhaps the best analogy I was able to find referenced online. Give a read to the original blog post and see for yourself. [January 2022 update: the original source no longer exists, but the analogy holds true.]

The Next Step in Human Evolution

Yes, I went there. This isn’t a commentary meant to elicit Orwellian fears of any sort. Back in 2007, a fellow named Arun Radhakrishnan gave his take on this viewpoint. I must say, he makes a compelling argument for why the development of language itself, long considered a key evolution point for homo sapiens as a whole, has striking similarities in impact to how social media is changing our communications reach, habits, etc.

While this looks to be just a clever brainstorm, it does raise the question for me…was Arun right? Is this the next logical step in human evolution, or just a shiny new toy? The biggest argument against this concept is that language actually originates and is mostly participated in by actual humans, without media involved. The written word, obviously, changed that detail, but it didn’t fundamentally change language. It extended our capabilities to use it, much like social media.

So I guess I might buy that social media is the next evolution of the written and/or recorded word. But certainly not of language or humankind.

A Symphony was the first place I saw this analogy, and they made the best argument for it as an analogy that I have seen. They spun together a clever tale about how the various instruments and parts of the orchestra must be aligned much like your various customer touchpoints and social media (website, blog, social profiles, etc.).

While this is a great inside-out view of social media, it fails to take into account the impact of true interaction and relationship building.  Good analogy, just not 100% real world.


There you have it…a handful of interesting and creative takes on how to explain social media to a “noob”.

Have you seen any other interesting analogies? Is there one out there that is far better than all of these? Do you have your own analogy that you’d be willing to share?

Please chime in below and let’s get a good conversation going here. Thanks for reading!

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As Founder and President of Return On Now, Tommy Landry provides the vision behind our SEO and SEM methodologies. With over 25 years of business experience and a deep understanding of modern internet marketing techniques, he spends his time providing hands-on consulting, insightful content, and engaging public speaking appearances to Online Marketers of all skill levels.
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