Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, do these words mean anything to you? Probably yes, they are names of the most popular social media apps. Most of us we use these apps daily. We have them installed on our smartphones. So, what is social media?
Social media refers to websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real-time. Though many people access social media through smartphone apps, this communication tool started with computers. Social media refers to any internet communication tool that allows users to broadly share content and engage with the public.
The ability to share photos, opinions, and events in real-time has transformed the way we live and the way we do business. Here are the basics of understanding social media and how it can be used to help promote your business.
What makes social media unique is that it is both broad and relatively uncensored. In other words social media “soft”. While many social media companies impose some limitations—such as taking down images that display violence or nudity—there are much fewer limitations on what someone can share than there with other means of mass communication like newspapers, radio stations, and television channels.
Anyone with internet access can sign up for a social media account. They can use that account to share whatever content they choose to, and the content they share reaches anyone who visits their page or profile. Yes, it’s just that simple.
Since social media covers so many different kinds of websites and applications, the function of these tools also varies. However, most social media sites start with a user creating a profile, usually by providing a name and an email address or mobile phone number.
Once a profile has been created, users can create and share content. For instance, an Instagram user with a new account can take a picture and share it on their profile with a caption. In addition to creating content for their profile, social media users can find other users whose content they want to follow or comment on. Depending on the type of social media, a user may “follow” another user, add them as a “friend,” or they may “subscribe” to another user’s page.
Social media often uses “feeds” that allow users to scroll through content. Social media companies use algorithms, based on a user’s profile data, to determine the content that appears and the order that it appears in. The feed will include content from “followed” users, as well as from entities that pay to promote their content.
Types of Social Media
There are many different types of social media, and many services could fit into multiple categories. Here are a few of the major types, along with some examples.
Social networks specialize in connecting and exchanging thoughts, ideas, and content with other users—often with users who share tastes and interests. Facebook and Twitter are examples of social networks. Though more professional than others, LinkedIn may be considered a social network, as well.
As opposed to social networks, which specialize in letting users share and exchange raw thoughts and ideas, media networks specialize in distributing content like photographs and videos. Instagram and YouTube are examples of this. A YouTube user, for example, will upload a video they’ve created, and other users can “like,” “dislike,” or comment on the video. If they enjoy the video enough, a user may choose to “subscribe” to the creator, so that new videos from that creator appear in their feed.
Discussion networks like Reddit are the ideal outlet for posts that can spark in-depth discussion among users. Users can leave detailed responses in the comment section, and other users can respond directly to those comments, allowing for conversations to grow and develop organically.
Blogging sites like WordPress may also be included in the discussion network category, though some would consider blogging its own type of social media.
Review networks like Yelp and TripAdvisor add social media aspects to user reviews of products and services. Users can interact directly with those leaving reviews, as can the businesses being reviewed.
Now we have it, we now understand what social media is right?