Social media differ from mainstream (“old”) media in many ways: the immediacy of comment, the massive spread of citizen journalism (certainly citizen punditry), the ability for anyone to comment on anything, and more.
But there is one fundamental difference that stands above all others, the first among equals if you will.
It’s the ability for organizations to take action almost at once based on the comments made through social media channels.
In short, social media connect individuals with organizations.
What the organization does with the insight will vary. But it’s the actionable insight and the connection between you and them, the public and your organization, that makes social media what they are.
And if you don’t take action, social media are merely the latest manifestation of what’s gone before.