What Is Social Media?-Everything You Need To Know
Social media is a collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing, and collaboration.
People use social media to stay in touch and interact with friends, family, and various communities. Businesses use social applications to market and promote their products and track customer concerns.
Business-to-consumer websites include social components, such as comment fields for users. Various tools help businesses track, measure and analyze the attention the company gets from social media, including brand perception and customer insight.
Social media has enormous traction globally. Mobile applications make these platforms easily accessible. Some popular examples of general social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
How is social media different from other media?
Traditional media has always been a one-way monologic channel of broadcasting publication. The only interaction was by submitting comments and opinions by postal mail – and that was limited and controlled by the publisher.
Social media was the first time that publishing became two-way and dialogic. The traditional “one source to many users” became “many sources to many users.” As a result, the relationship between publisher and consumer switched, and the consumer became dominant with control of the relationship.
The emphasis on publishing brands became about transparency, authenticity, and accountability and no longer simply broadcasting their messaging.
Social media also allowed for a significant reach and audience size that, at one time, even the most popular publications could not achieve through physical distribution.
How Did Social Media Evolve?
Social media originated as a way to interact with friends and family but soon expanded rapidly to serve many purposes. In 2004, MySpace was the first network to reach one million monthly active users.
As social media exploded in the years that followed with the entry of Facebook and Twitter, businesses gravitated toward these platforms as they could reach an audience instantly on a global scale.
On average, global users spent 2.24 hours each day on social networks in 2020, the highest across almost any media type.
Going further, according to Global Web Index, 46% of internet users worldwide get news through social media platforms. That compares to 40% of users who view news on websites. Gen Z and millennials were most likely to view news on social media sites versus other generations.
Social media plays a key role in businesses’ marketing strategies given the sheer amount of time individuals spend each day on social platforms and apps. At the same time, social media is an ever-changing field. New apps such as TikTok, Signal, and Clubhouse have joined the ranks of established social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
What are the benefits of social media?
Social media provides several benefits, including the following:
- User visibility. Social platforms let people easily communicate and exchange ideas or content.
- Business and product marketing. These platforms enable businesses to quickly publicize their products and services to a broad audience. Businesses can also use social media to maintain a following and test new markets. In some cases, the content created on social media is the product.
- Audience building. Social media helps entrepreneurs and artists build an audience for their work. In some cases, social media has eliminated the need for a distributor, because anyone can upload their content and transact business online. For example, an amateur musician can post a song on Facebook, and get instant visibility among their network of friends, who in turn share it on their networks.
Why Is Social Media Important?
Social media has been a powerful disruptor and has considerable influence in society, with over half of the global population active (see below).
The size of the potential audience and influence cannot be ignored.
Social media channels allow individuals access to a huge audience with almost no barriers to entry to build their personal brands as influencers.
Brands can also reach their audiences and target a niche selection of individuals to build communities and then project laser-targeted messaging, all at minimal costs.
However, with that level of influence also comes responsibility. Just under half of U.S. adults get their news from social media, with Facebook being the most used site. Meanwhile, 94% of journalists use social media for their jobs, with Twitter using the most.
Social media companies hold considerable power to influence the population. As history has shown us, news feeds can be manipulated by bad actors to proliferate misinformation.
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