A Brief Introduction to the “Social” in Social Media
Social media seems to be all the rage these days. Every newscaster, celebrity, and business is on Twitter, and every teenager appears to have his or her entire life chronicled on Facebook. Everybody who is somebody (and even those who are nobody) seems to be interested in sharing opinions with the world. And whether or not you may care, someone, somewhere in the world is interested in hearing that opinion.
Media has always been a very popular and useful tool for distributing information. Prior to the 21st century the reach of media was generally limited by geographical boundaries. Then came the Internet. It is estimated that more than 70% of the U.S. and European population uses the Internet. Every global business and news organization has an Internet presence and strategy. So it would only make sense that media as the world knew it would evolve. That evolution has largely taken place in the form of social media.
The “social” in social media refers to the interactive communication that takes place over the Internet. At the click of a button, a message can be sent to the mobile devices of millions of people, and a dialogue can take place between anyone, anywhere in the world, within a matter of seconds. Social media is a highly accessible tool; by leveraging web-based technologies, it enables individuals, groups, communities, and organizations to share and exchange ideas and information without geographical limitations.
Social media can generally be categorized as one of the following:
- Social Networking
- Media Sharing (Photo and Video Sharing Sites)
- Web forums/communities
- Instant Messaging
- RSS web feeds/Aggregators
- Social Bookmarking
Not all forms of social media will fall into one of these categories; some examples are hybrids that embody the characteristics of one or more categories. Whatever the case, the takeaway should be that social media is a very important method of communication and online socialization in the 21st century.
Although Internet usage in developed countries is relatively high, the underdeveloped countries are only just beginning to use the Internet. The Internet World Stats organization estimates that only 30% of the entire world’s population uses the Internet. This only means one thing for social media usage: it’s going up.
If you want to gain more insight into the various types of social media or learn how other people are using social media you can read my articles, “The 8 Types of Social Media” and “The Most Common Uses of Social Media.”