This week's article on social media in AdAge Digital (The Brutal Truth About Social Media) sparked much water-cooler conversation here at Acsys, prompting at least one person to ask whether social is, in fact, a broadcast medium. I say of course it is. It puts the power of “push” into the hands of all. While yes, a lot of us pay a tremendous amount of lip service to building a dialogue, the fact remains that years upon years of conditioning by traditional media have conditioned the masses into passive consumers of whatever the marketing world feels the masses need to know. Building community is not a new term, and is not exclusive to the recent proliferation of social media. From the beginning digital has talked about the power of community and how this new medium would result in the formation of active user forums and community groups, all tied to specific digital landmarks. So far, it seems as if efforts to do this have fallen short of the mark. Is there a brand or organization in the country with practices and policies that have been dictated by a vocal, vibrant online user community? Or that has changed practices due to such an active online user community? If so, there's been very little buzz about it. (I'm referring specifically to brand-created communities, not responses to crises or changes in brand or organizational policy due to said response to crises.) There are extremely active user communities out there, yes, but they serve more to bring people with similar interests together and widen their horizons than they do to create a dialogue with a particular brand. My brand loyalties have nothing to do with the strength of those brands’ online communities – or lack thereof, which is often the case. They have to do with traditional advertising that I’ve been subjected to over the last several decades, and practical use on my part. For example, I love Nike from a branding and messaging standpoint, as well as the work their foundation does to help young women in third world countries. But I buy KSwiss running shoes religiously because I’ve never found a pair of Nikes that was comfortable enough to run in, and my KSwiss are so comfy I could practically sleep in them. I have no interaction with KSwiss outside of buying their shoes; but I follow the Nike foundation and the work they’re doing. The point is that no medium, no form of media, is ever going to be a panacea to all marketers’ woes. If social media opens a dialogue and gets people talking – amongst themselves, not necessarily with a particular brand – then those broadcast messages have succeeded. Social is not about building community with a brand, it’s about building community amongst the consumers.