To answer this question properly we have to ask, how exactly does one define social media? Is it a bunch of websites that allow people to connect? Is it a new wave or new media form that is sweeping the world? Is it just Facebook and Twitter?
Let's look at how Merriam-Webster defines social media - forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos) The truth is social media can be defined a lot of different ways and in many different forms. So lets look at what social media is not: it's not news, it's not TV, it's not radio, it's not magazines, and its not even a generic website. Social media is not the sound, it's the instrument, or a better way to put it, it's the 2-way channel or medium through which we communicate.
So how can a podcast be a part of this? Some would say because it is more closely likened to radio than a social media outlet. The first thing people think of when they hear the words social media are generally Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Naturally this makes sense because these are among the biggest social networks, which is in a subcategory under social media.There are also categories like Social Bookmarking (Delicious, Stumble Upon, Squidoo) Social News (Digg, Propeller, Reddit) Social Photo and Video Sharing (Youtube, Flckr, Vimeo), Wikis (Wikipedia, Wikia). So there are so many unique variations of social media that it cannot just be rolled into "social networking sites." The podcast in itself is not part of social media, just like a website by itself is not part of social media.
The way a podcast can be added to the social media realm is by adding elements that make it social. A great example is the way blog talk radio has features that allow you to comment and interact with the show while it's live. What about traditional podcasts that do not have live capabilities? We'll use my company TerraCycle's podcast called "Talking Trash with TerraCycle" in which we interview special guests from brands we work with like Elmers, L'oreal, Dropps, etc. (If you want to Listen Search: Talking Trash with TerraCycle on Itunes)
After an episode is produced we want more than just an audio file on the Internet we want engagement and interaction. We first make sure that the content is appealing and valuable information that someone would want to share. On the podcast we put a question in the very beginning, listeners are to post their answer (found later in the show) on our Facebook or Twitter in order to get a prize. The great thing is that in order to find the answer one has to listen to the podcast to get the correct answer. This has generated engagement with fans on our social networks and we have been able to have discussion in a two-dimensional manner in what was originally a one-way channel. Since we first started the podcast we have looked for ways to generate involvement, we've had people send in the questions they wanted answered and we have had them provide feedback every step of the way.
At the end of the day you can make podcasts sociable (or better yet Soshable) by incorporating aspects to make it intuitive. The argument still may remain for some if a podcast should be considered Social Media. Post your thoughts below we would love to hear what you think.