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:
- Blogs (ex. Huffington Post, Boing Boing)
- Business networks (ex. LinkedIn, XING)
- Collaborative projects (ex. Wikipedia, Bitcoin)
- Content communities (ex. YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest)
- Discussion forums (ex. Reddit, Quora)
- Instant messaging (ex. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
- Microblogging (ex. Twitter, Tumblr)
- Online social networks (ex. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Personal websites/blogs (ex. Blogger, WordPress)
- Professional networking sites (ex. LinkedIn)
- Social bookmarking (ex. Delicious, StumbleUpon)
- Social gaming (ex. FarmVille, Candy Crush)
- Virtual worlds (ex. Second Life, World of Warcraft)
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:
- Staying connected with friends and family: Social media allows us to stay connected with friends and family who live far away. We can share photos, videos, and updates about our lives with them.
- Sharing information and ideas: Social media allows us to share information and ideas with a wide audience. This can be a great way to learn about new things and to connect with people who share our interests.
- Building relationships: Social media can be a great way to build relationships with people who share our interests. We can connect with people who live in our area, who work in our field, or who have similar hobbies.
- Marketing and advertising: Businesses can use social media to market and advertise their products and services. They can create social media pages and groups to connect with potential customers.
- Customer service: Businesses can use social media to provide customer service. They can answer questions, resolve complaints, and offer support to their customers.
- Political activism: Social media can be used for political activism. People can use social media to raise awareness about issues, to organize protests, and to mobilize voters.
However, social media also has some risks, including:
- Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.
- Privacy concerns: Social media platforms collect a lot of data about their users. This data can be used to track users’ online activity and to target them with advertising.
- Addiction: Social media can be addictive. People who spend too much time on social media can neglect their real-world relationships and responsibilities.
- Fake news: Social media can be used to spread fake news. This can have a negative impact on people’s understanding of the world and can lead to political polarization.
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:
- Facebook: A platform that allows users to create profiles, connect with friends, share posts, photos, and videos, and engage with content from others.
- Twitter: A microblogging platform where users can share short messages (tweets) with their followers.
- Instagram: A platform for sharing photos and videos, often accompanied by captions and hashtags.
- YouTube: A video sharing platform where users can upload, watch, and interact with videos.
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:
- Facebook: It serves as both a social network and a broader social media platform where users can connect with friends and engage with various types of content.
- LinkedIn: A professional networking platform where users can connect with colleagues, employers, and other professionals.
- Twitter: While it’s a microblogging platform, it also functions as a social network where users can follow and interact with each other.
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.