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.

Here is a detailed table that categorizes various aspects of social media, including sections and subsections, along with explanations for each:

1. Social Media Platforms1.1. Social NetworksPlatforms focused on connecting people and enabling them to share content and communicate.
1.1.1. FacebookA platform for sharing updates, photos, and videos with friends and family.
1.1.2. LinkedInA professional networking site for connecting with colleagues and industry professionals.
1.2. MicrobloggingPlatforms for sharing short posts or updates.
1.2.1. TwitterAllows users to post and interact with short messages called tweets.
1.2.2. TumblrA platform for sharing multimedia and other content in short-form blog posts.
1.3. Photo SharingPlatforms for sharing and discovering photos.
1.3.1. InstagramA photo and video sharing social networking service.
1.3.2. PinterestA platform for discovering and saving creative ideas and inspiration in the form of images.
1.4. Video SharingPlatforms for sharing and discovering videos.
1.4.1. YouTubeA video-sharing website where users can upload, view, and share videos.
1.4.2. TikTokA platform for creating and sharing short-form videos.
1.5. Messaging AppsPlatforms primarily used for sending messages and communicating in real-time.
1.5.1. WhatsAppAn app for sending text messages, voice messages, images, and videos.
1.5.2. WeChatA multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app.
1.6. Discussion ForumsPlatforms for open discussion on various topics.
1.6.1. RedditA network of communities where people can dive into their interests, hobbies, and passions.
1.6.2. QuoraA platform for asking questions and getting answers from people with expertise or experience.
2. Social Media Features2.1. User ProfilesPersonal pages where users share information about themselves.
2.1.1. Profile PictureA photo that represents the user on the platform.
2.1.2. BioA short description or introduction about the user.
2.2. Content CreationTools and options for creating and sharing content.
2.2.1. PostsText, images, or videos shared on a user’s profile or feed.
2.2.2. StoriesTemporary posts that disappear after a set period, typically 24 hours.
2.3. InteractionWays users can engage with content and other users.
2.3.1. LikesA feature for users to show appreciation for a post.
2.3.2. CommentsText responses to posts.
2.3.3. SharesReposting content to one’s own profile or feed.
2.4. Privacy SettingsOptions for controlling who can see and interact with one’s content.
2.4.1. Public/Private ProfilesSettings to make a profile visible to everyone or only to approved followers.
2.4.2. Blocking and ReportingTools to block or report users for inappropriate behavior.
3. Social Media Marketing3.1. AdvertisingPaid content aimed at promoting products or services.
3.1.1. Sponsored PostsPosts that businesses pay to have displayed prominently.
3.1.2. Pay-Per-Click AdsAds that charge businesses each time a user clicks on them.
3.2. Influencer MarketingCollaboration with influential users to promote products or services.
3.2.1. Brand AmbassadorsInfluencers who represent and promote a brand over a longer period.
3.2.2. Sponsored ContentContent created by influencers in partnership with a brand.
3.3. Analytics and MetricsTools for measuring and analyzing performance on social media.
3.3.1. Engagement RatesMetrics that measure interactions (likes, comments, shares) with content.
3.3.2. Reach and ImpressionsMetrics that measure how many people have seen content and how often it has been seen.
4. Social Media Impact4.1. Social ImpactThe effect of social media on society and individuals.
4.1.1. Mental HealthThe positive and negative effects of social media on mental well-being.
4.1.2. Community BuildingHow social media fosters communities and support networks.
4.2. Economic ImpactThe effect of social media on businesses and the economy.
4.2.1. E-commerce IntegrationHow social media platforms facilitate online shopping and transactions.
4.2.2. Job CreationNew jobs and roles that have emerged due to social media.
4.3. Political ImpactThe influence of social media on politics and public opinion.
4.3.1. CampaigningThe use of social media for political campaigns and advocacy.
4.3.2. MisinformationThe spread of false information and its consequences.

This table covers a broad range of aspects related to social media, from platforms and features to marketing strategies and societal impacts.