Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks. While challenges to the definition of social media arise due to the variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available, there are some common features: Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications. User-generated content—such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions—is the lifeblood of social media.

In 2019, Merriam-Webster defined social media as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” While the variety of evolving stand-alone and built-in social media services makes it challenging to define them, marketing and social media experts broadly agree that social media includes the following 13 types:

Social media platforms allow users to connect with friends and family, share information and ideas, and build relationships. They can also be used for marketing and advertising, customer service, and political activism.

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. In 2022, over 4.62 billion people were using social media worldwide. This number is expected to grow to 5.92 billion by 2025.

Social media has a number of benefits, including:

However, social media also has some risks, including:

Overall, social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good or for bad. It is important to be aware of the risks and benefits of social media before using it.

“Social media” and “social networks” are related concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings and characteristics. Let’s break down the differences between the two:

Social Media: Social media refers to the digital platforms and technologies that allow users to create, share, and consume content in various formats, such as text, images, videos, and links. Social media platforms are online spaces where users can connect, communicate, and engage with others, as well as with content from various sources. Social media encompasses a wide range of online communication tools and services, including blogs, forums, microblogging platforms, image sharing platforms, video sharing platforms, and more.

Examples of social media platforms include:

Social Networks: Social networks are specific types of social media platforms that focus on facilitating connections and interactions among individuals or entities. A social network is a digital space where users can create profiles, connect with other users (often referred to as “friends,” “followers,” or “connections”), and communicate with them directly or indirectly through shared content.

In other words, social networks are a subset of social media platforms that emphasize building and maintaining relationships with other users. These platforms often revolve around user profiles, friend lists, follower counts, and the ability to interact with others’ content through likes, comments, shares, etc.

Examples of social networks that are also social media platforms include:

In summary, while “social media” is a broader term that encompasses various online platforms for content sharing and interaction, “social networks” specifically refer to platforms that facilitate connections and interactions among users, often centered around personal profiles and relationships.