Recently, I stumbled across a debate I could never imagine taking place. My friend Joe Pulizzi at was recounting his numerous discussions with individuals in the custom publishing business who view it as being separate from services related to social media.

As anyone who knows me will easily know, I can’t comprehend how anyone — a marketer or any creator of custom media — could perceive that “social media” is not only a part of what a custom publishing firm does, it’s the heart of what we should be about.

First, let me explain a few things.

  1. I believe the term “social media” is just a temporary label. Those who follow the media, marketing and technology fields need an umbrella term to describe all the methods people are using to identify and express themselves online. For the moment, the term “social media” is a catch-all phrase to describe everything from Twitter to Facebook. So, remember, “social media” = “the way in which people identify and express themselves online.”
  2. At Hammock Inc., we have never described what we do in terms of “creating content.” We are in the relationship-building business. From the day our company was created nearly 19 years ago, we have always clearly conveyed that our job is helping our clients create longer-lasting and deeper relationships with customers, members, supporters, alumni or whatever term a marketer applies to those with whom it has a relationship based on a shared passion.
  3. To us, “custom publishing” has always been a means to facilitate conversation among all those who share a common love, passion, commitment or special relationship. Before the word became a cliche, we used “community” to describe the goal of successful custom publishing.
  4. While we are known for our magazines — and our love of magazine story-telling, photography, illustration and design — Hammock Inc., from Day 1 of its existence, has also been committed to being on the leading edge of technology that supports our clients’ efforts to build strong relationships with their audiences. That means we were early developers of a wide array of interactive media in the early 1990s and managed listservs and CompuServe forums in the mid-1990s and created and managed web-based forums and communities beginning in 1995.

So you can see, I don’t even comprehend why a custom publishing company can say it’s not in the social media business.

To me, whatever media — magazines, online, video, audio — that help communities build around shared passions is the business we’re in. Building stronger, longer, more mutually-beneficial relationships is what we do.