When talking about Social Media most people will probably just frown at you, having absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. A remarkable reaction considering that more than a half of these people probably use Social Media themselves. Just simply clicking on a video on Youtube for instance, already makes you part of the huge community that Social media has and you don’t even need to be registered! By watching a video, it will get more views which will result in a higher view-rate and therefore, the video will gain more popularity and catch the eyes of more viewers.
Having that said I dare bet that every Internet-user is or has been part of the Social Media community. Yes, even you. Because, admit it, have you ever watched a video on YouTube? â€¦ So I thought.
Social Media is however more than just YouTube. The experience goes much further than simply watching movies on the internet and that is exactly what captivates me. How can one kind of Media become so huge in such a short time? How is it possible that both companies and private-individuals use the same medium on different ways? And, more importantly, why is it that Social Media is still expanding instead of fading away like most of the hypes we know? Let it be clear; Social Media is one big, important and yet complicated format which we know little about. Time to dig a little deeper!
First I’ll start with discussing the definition of Social Media thoroughly. Only when knowing EXACTLY what it is, we’ll be able to understand what makes it so interesting and vital.
Secondly, I’ll be digging a bit in the history of Social Media. How did this new medium come to be? Did it just appear out of nowhere or did it take a while before it caught the eyes of the public?
Third, I’m going to investigate who use Social Media and why? I’ll split this question in two sub-questions for you; Social Media used by private-individuals and Social Media used by businesses.
Knowing what Social Media is, how it came to be and who use it and why, I’ll be able to think of the influence Social Media has on our society. Is social media really that important, or do technophobias have nothing to fear?
After concluding whether Social Media has a big or small influence on our society, I’ll look whether I can confirm this conclusion by looking how much is invested in the world of Social Media.
Finally, I’ll be speculating about the future of Social Media. Will Social Media become vital for every company, or will it just fade away as hype?
Welcome to the complicated yet most interesting world of Social Media.
What is Social Media?
1.1 Social media as definition
“Social media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content”. — Kaplan and Michael Heanlin in Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media, business horizons (2010).
In other words, social media is a new medium (it was, arguably, introduced in the second half of the 20th century), that allows people to globally interact through the media. It is a collective term for all the internet-applications that enable us to share and discuss information, not only in the form of text, but also through sound and video.
But since social media is a collective term, you probably won’t take my brief description for granted. You want to know the different forms that social media has and where they are to be found on the web.
Take a seat. This may take a while.
So, social media knows six different forms; communication, collaboration, multimedia, review and opinions, entertainment and brand monitoring. I will discuss each and every one of them.
Communication is currently the biggest form of social media. Three very important aspects of communication are; blogs, micro blogs and social networks. You’ve probably heard of them.
Blogs are websites, or parts of websites, where people can write articles, columns, reviews, etc. Blogs are usually aimed at a specific subject. Basically, there are two types of blogs; commercial blogs and non-commercial blogs. Commercial blogs are mainly used by companies (d’oh) for a variety of reasons (for instance; promoting their product or getting to know the customer), but also by people who like to write, professionally, about certain subjects.
Non-commercial blogs are mainly used by private-individuals, like you and me. These blogs usually define themselves as ‘blogs written due to boredom’. Usually, I said.
A couple of known blogs are; WordPress, Bloggers.com and Open-Diary.
Micro blogs are basically the same as normal blogs only they are much smaller. Micro blogs contain fewer characters and aren’t always aimed at a specific subject. Micro blogs are an excellent way for companies to make small announcements. Just like normal’ blogs, there are two different kinds of users (businesses and private-individuals, remember?) using the micro blogs. Known micro blogs are Twitter, Tumblr and FML (Fuck My Life).
Social networks is arguably the most important component of social media (thank you, Facebook!). A social network is a big networking site where people can communicate with each other and share information. In a social network you represent yourself using a profile picture and by writing down a biography. That way, it is easy to locate people with the same interests which can result in an online friendship. The problem that this feature however brings is that the accessibility of social networks can also be seen as an invitation for perverts. Social networks are an easy way for perverts to hide their true identity and gain the trust of good-willed girls. And for that very reason, I don’t blame parents for worrying sick when their children are uploading new photos on Facebook or other social networks. Undoubtedly, social networks are something to be careful with.
Luckily, social networks, just like any other form of media, mostly support the option to set your private status to ‘friends only’, or to restrict certain areas of your Facebook for unwanted visitors. It’s a great way to make your photos pervert-free.
Communication however doesn’t only consist of these three aspects, but also contains location-based social networks, events, information aggregators and online advocacy and fundraising.
Location-based social networks are social networks that aim at geography. People can indicate where they are, when they are there and why they are there, which will all be shown on a big map. That way you will be able to see where your friends are and you to notify them about your current location.
The events section looks, in one way, very much like the location-based networks. It also relies on a map, only in this case the map indicates where and when events are held, together with more additional information such as who are performing, what kind of an event it is and the ticket fee. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date about your favorite artists and to not miss any appealing shows.
Social media is used by more than 50% of the American population, and for that very reason it should come to no surprise that there are lots of different sites with reference to social media and they are all very crowded. Amongst the common social media users there are celebrities, publishers and developers writing their thoughts down and making announcements. Social media is a huge center of information and it didn’t take long till ‘information aggregators’ were introduced to the market. Information aggregators are sites with big, huge dashboards that gather information from all social networks.
The last part that communication knows is advocacy and fundraising. I believe A&F is a rather peculiar element of communication, because it’s usually integrated in other social media (mostly social networks). The main goal of A&F companies is to raise as much money as they can for charity. They do this by advertising on other sites and by striking up partnerships. Especially live broadcasting sites such as BlogTV and Stickam attract A&F companies.
Where communication specializes in a belonging community, collaboration is recognized for its involvement with other sites; sites that fall under the ‘collaboration’ category usually gather information from other sources.
The six aspects of collaboration are; wikis, social bookmarking, social news, social navigation, content management systems and document managing and editing tools.
Wikis are a perfect example of sites gathering information from other sources. Take a look at the end of a Wikipedia page and you are high likely to see a list full or sources. For instance, when looking up ‘social media’ the most famous wiki; Wikipedia, gives me this;
Wikis are generally known for their reliability because they make use of the ‘knowledge management system’, meaning that every user can contribute to the site by creating and editing articles. That results in a huge database.
Another social database that collaboration knows is social bookmarking. Social bookmarking collects links of all kinds of sites and then categorizes them. Users are able to rate (or as I like to call it; ‘digg’) and share the links. That way people can easily find good, reliable sites that fit their interests.
Known social bookmark sites are; Stumbleupon, Delicious and Google Reader.
Social News looks a bit like social bookmarking; it also works with a rating system. Unlike professional news sites however, people write their own news on social news sites. Readers have the ability to vote on articles; deciding what is important and what isn’t. Social news sites are obviously a magnet for information aggregators. For them it’s like killing two birds with one stone; social news sites contain a lot of information and the community already picks their favorite articles.
Known social news sites are Digg, Newvine and Reddit.
Social navigation, content management systems and document managing and editing tools are the lesser known social media components of collaboration, which comes quite a bit to my surprise because social navigation and content management systems can actually come in quite handy.
Social navigation, for instance, provides information about the public transport, and content management systems is a software-application that simplifies the complicated ‘code-language’ of the internet for common users like you and me.
In the case of social navigation, I’m guessing that mobile phones and global positioning systems are preferred by today’s customers because these are more frequently used in vehicles.
I don’t blame Document managing and editing tools for being little popular though. They are online (free) writing tools and also allow users to share their documents with the Interwebs, but why would anyone want to share their articles randomly with these tools on the internet? Most of the articles that are published on the internet are published not through document managing and editing tools but through own websites. The documents are usually written in Word.
Multimedia is a term you have probably already heard of. It is generally favored by the youth. Multimedia can be divided in five aspects; photography and art sharing, video sharing, live casting, music and audio sharing and presentation sharing.
It’s very common for multimedia sites to be used for other kinds of social media. Think of it; multimedia sites are perfect databases to store your pictures and videos because they can easily be linked in your articles thanks to embedded codes.
Though the names already give away where the aspects actually function for, I have decided to explain them anyhow. As you probably have already noticed, I like being as thorough as possible.
Photography and art sharing are, as the name already says, sites where people can share pictures. They serve as a great way for people to save (and optionally; share) their photos and find other photos. Since (mainly) blogs don’t have a lot of space, photography and art sharing sites are very popular places for bloggers to upload their pictures on. They won’t be bothered with the limited space problem and won’t risk the chance of having the original photo removed so that only a dead link will remain.
Video sharing basically have the same principal as P&As only do they specialize in videos except for pictures. Especially Youtube is a very important component of the video sharing aspect. Video sharing is used by both private-individuals and businesses. Private-individuals use video sharing mainly as entertainment, but also as outlet or gateway to show their own talents.
Businesses use video sharing for promotion by uploading videos about their brand (mostly funny commercials or trailers).
Remarkable is that most live casting users are also pretty popular on video sharing sites such as Youtube. Many famous Youtubers (like Davedays, Shanedawson, Zushoo, Creepjeepers) are featured on Stickam and BlogTV (two of the biggest live casting sites). Apart from their scripted shows they sometimes like to just randomly entertain fans on liveshows.
Live casting is also often used as live streaming device for important shows. If people can’t attend certain events for any reason, they will be able to follow it live at home.
Music and audio sharing is an aspect of collaboration that specializes in sounds. On these sites, users are able to customize their own playlists and check out other playlists. It is a popular concept for radio broadcasts because their audience are most likely music fans and appeal to this market.
Presentation sharing is mainly used by companies. Sharing presentations is a great way to take information up in an interactive way. Especially for teachers, presentation sharing can come in handy. It’s a great way to reach the modern generation of students and still educational.
Despite the fact that most people write reviews and opinions on blogs, there are still a couple of sites fully dedicated to the reviews and opinions category. The R&O category has but three aspects; product reviews, business reviews and community question & answer.
Let’s start with the beginning; product reviews are sites where the community can give their opinion on certain products. It’s a really nice way for people to know what product to buy and what not. Business reviews are practically the same as product reviews, only they don’t contain the opinion about products, but about companies. Is the service any good? Are they reliable? Etc.
The problem with business and product reviews however, is that questions HAVE to be business/product related meaning that if you have any other questions, you have nowhere to turn. That’s where the community question and answer comes in. Community Q&A sites are sites where people can ask whatever they want and the community will answer. Yahoo!Answers is a well-known Q&A site.
As I’ve already said, entertainment is very popular with today’s generation. The entertainment category consists of; media and entertainment platforms, virtual worlds and game sharing.
Media and entertainment platforms is probably the least popular form of social media from all kinds of social media we have, because they play mostly ‘behind the scenes’. They are used by older companies who aren’t yet integrated in the modern society and allow them to digitalize their products/marketing strategies.
Virtual Worlds on the other hand are pretty popular and used by a large amount of youngster. Virtual Worlds are basically online games like World of Warcraft, the Sims Online and Second Life. Players are able to create an imaginative character and play in a fictional world, where they can meet other people.
But hold on a minute, you might think. If online games are part of the virtual worlds, then why is there another subcategory named shared games?
That is, because shared games support browser-based games instead of downloadable programs. Shared games are usually simple flash-games, made by the community, and all playable on one big site. Virtual games, on the other hand, are usually huge, downloadable, professional games and its creators will dedicate themselves towards one game.
At last, we have arrived at the last category; brand monitoring. Brand monitoring knows only one form, which is social media measurement. Social media measurement is an indicator that provides information about the internet traffic. Companies use it in order to get a good insight in their costumers; where are they from, how old are they and what are their interests?
It’s a great way to get to know the customer I think.
So, that was chapter 1.1; the definition of social media and honestly, I wonder whether you still know what content managing systems are without looking it back up. It’s a whole lot of information, I admit, but necessary information all the same. All I have done now is given you a good idea of what social media is and what we count under social media.
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