What Is Social Media?
Social media is absolutely everywhere. We have all heard of tweeting, blogging, vlogging, Facebook updates…the list goes on. But what is social media exactly?
People are sharing every little aspect of their lives online through social media. Who hasn’t seen the countless Instagram pictures of delicious food and exotic holiday locations, or the “hungry, don’t know what to eat” Facebook statuses, or even viral cat videos on YouTube?
Just this morning I opened my browser to my usual news site, only to get met with “Celebrity Instagrams of the Week.” Social Media is everywhere, but what is social media exactly?
In its most basic form, it is a way to get people to interact with brands, companies, and people. This is done via social networking sites such as Facebook; communities where content is shared like YouTube and Flickr, and microblogs such as Twitter.
A big part of the attraction to social media is that it is a two-way communication where interaction is encouraged. This differs greatly from traditional media such as radio, TV, and newspapers. These are a one-way stream of communication with information poured out to the masses.
With so many different forms of technology around now, people can tweet with their smartphone, update Instagram on the iPad, or pin something on Pinterest with their computer. There is no getting away from it, social media is here to stay, and evolving at a rapid rate. Because of this, the definition of social media changes too.
Common Uses of Social Media
Let’s take a look at some of the most common uses of social media.
Blogs are like an online diary where you can say anything you like, be it business or personal. Generally, they are casual and conversational, and they encourage comments and feedback from readers.
Microblogs limit the number of characters which you can use. Twitter is probably the most well-known microblog. It allows users to post status updates, thoughts, or links.
Wikis encourage people to provide accurate information on a document or website. These sites are a community where people are able to engage with the content. The most well-known being Wikipedia.
Forums are one of the earliest forms of social media and are still hugely popular today. This is where you can find communities for specific topics. There are forums out there for every subject that you can think of.
Podcasts are where audio and video recordings are shared via channels like iTunes and are subscription based.
Content specific communities encourage networking via a certain form of content. YouTube (there are those funny cat videos again), Flickr, and Pinterest allow you to share videos and pictures.
Now that we have looked at the common uses, let’s take a look at the most common types of users.
Types Of Social Media Users
No-shows are people who have not been on any social media platform within the last thirty days. Typically, they have no interest in telling everybody what they are doing or finding out what their high school classmate’s best friend’s cousin had for breakfast. A lot of older males fall into this category.
Newbies tend to use a single social media site. Facebook is often their platform of choice and they have joined so that they don’t feel “left out”.
Lurkers usually visit a few sites but do not post. They tend to look at social media as a way to keep up with the lives of others, but do not wish to share any details about themselves. Quite often they want to make sure that they are the only ones with any control of what information of theirs is shared online.
Facebook is where you will find Cliques. Usually, women who share pictures, comments, and update their status; they can be quite influential on their family and friends who tend to form their small network.
Keeping up with the latest news and receiving offers is what Minglers do. Many of their friendships have been formed online, and they are quite influential within their own networks.
The most active, and also most engaged users of social media, are the Sparks. Social media is their main form of self-expression. They quite often boast openly about achievements and lifestyle and are frequently the most enthusiastic ambassador for their favourite bands. They love to be in total control of any online conversation in their network or friends, family, and “followers”.
For a long time, social media was thought of as the domain of younger people. This could not be more incorrect now. People of all ages have realized that social media can open up a whole new world.
Everything is now to be found on the internet. Don’t know a good plumber? Ask on Facebook. Not sure where to find a certain book? Find out on a book forum. Lost in a foreign country and don’t know how to ask for directions? Get a real-time translation.
The advent of social media has made our lives so much easier. You can discuss health issues, find old friends, buy, sell and exchange, find out whether your ideal holiday destination is really what it is cut out to be, or just check out how the other half of the world lives.
For those of us who haven’t been active on any social media platform, now is the time to take a look what it has to offer. There is something for everybody out there. Most of all, have fun and explore what social media has to offer you.
It is not all good. There will be some things that you don’t agree with, but you will find some of the most useful and interesting information out there. Who knows, you may even find that long-lost friend, lost love, or land the job of your dreams.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to tweet an update and check Facebook to see what my friends are up to.