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Social Media: What Is It?


Social media
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Question: Social Media: What Is It?
The last decade has seen the Web evolve from a limited network used to share bits of information to a global phenomenon offering more information, resources, and social connections than ever before in history. One of the more recent evolutions in Internet history has been social media, basically, a Web-based mode of dialogue that uses a wide array of tools, websites, and other applications to encourage communication between individuals, corporations, non-profits, and other organizations.

Different types of social media

Social media actually encompasses many different technologies, yet the underlying goal of these conduits are the same: to encourage communication. Examples of social media formats include:

How we communicate

Just as there are a wide variety of social media formats and delivery methods, there is also a wide array of how we communicate within these social vehicles. Here are just a few of the ways we are able to connect with each other:

  • Email
  • Blogging
  • Sharing images
  • Instant messaging
  • Sharing videos with friends via email, embedding on another site, or via social networking channels
  • Social networking sites: posting on a Wall, sharing with a specific group, sending a private message to an individual or a group

Different types of social networks

Most social media sites focus on a specific type of social engagement. For example, Facebook users are primarily interested in conversations, connections, and sharing between both individuals and organizations, so their structure makes this kind of engagement as easy as possible to indulge in. Users at LinkedIn are more professionally oriented, focusing on business relationships, branding, and job-related information, so that structure makes relationships less casual and more businesslike. Twitter users enjoy sharing, conversing with other users, becoming part of a larger group/movement/trend, and building reputation, and the structure of Twitter lends itself nicely to these goals.

The top social networking sites

There are many different social networking sites. The most popular are as follows:

Different from "old media"

One of the most revolutionary aspects of social media is that it delivers information for free to a wide group of people with little to no lag time behind the actual event. In addition, anyone can publish news, information, or other resources, which makes anyone with access to the Internet a content creator.

Content shared via social media has the potential to reach one person or one million people, depending on its reach, message, and audience. This makes social media and the people who use it just as powerful (potentially) as the pillars of "old media"; i.e., newspapers, television, and magazines.

How social media has changed business

Savvy organizations recognize that social media gives them a uniquely personal way to connect to their consumers. A one-way, professionally managed public relations monologue is no longer the only choice that businesses, organizations, and non-profits have. Nowadays, smart businesses create online communities (via the social media sites already detailed above) where customers and clients can exchange ideas, share experiences, and encourage innovation.

One of the most popular online activities

Communicating via social networking channels makes up an astonishing amount of the time we spend online. Many sources report that there are over 40 million "tweets" sent on Twitter every single day. Socialnomics reports that Facebook actually gets more daily traffic than Google, the world's largest and most popular search engine. According to Nielsen Ratings, "total minutes spent on social networking sites has increased 83 percent year-over-year", and "social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the US". Obviously, social media is no longer a trend, and is growing more popular every single day.

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