A Definition of Social Media: Essential Overview

Social media has a tremendous impact on culture, business, and the world at large. It has changed our daily habits, routine, and communication. Social media is by no means less revolutionary than the invention of mobile phone devices in the 80’s. So, what is the definition of social media? What does it refer to? How is it changing the way millennials connect? And what kind of an impact will it have on society? All these questions and more in the upcoming paragraphs.

Definition of Social Media

Definition of Social Media

The term “social media” refers to websites dedicated to community-based input, interaction, user-generated content, and collaboration. In simpler words, a social media platform is any website where users can create a circle of connections, create their personal content, and contribute to that platform. These platforms differ in themes, nature, and features, yet they all unite in performing the same function. Social media is like a social café, especially for millennials. That’s where they meet new people, gather up, share laughs, thoughts, opinions, and serious issues as well.

What Makes Social Media an Influential Tool?

Before social media, only a few selected individuals were given the chance to share their stories. A few candidates who had a voice represented the opinions of many, who were voiceless and had no means of expressing themselves. It was easy to discard an opinion or a story claiming it is insignificant. Even worse, it was easier to censor the truth. Social media gave power to each voice, since the people themselves are the content creators of these platforms. For the first time ever, published content was not a one-way conversation. The audience became involved in the creation and also gave immediate and direct feedback. That has given content a new dimension that did not exist before social media.

See Also: Why Use Social Media?

Definition of Social Media: Benefits

 

Social Media Benefits

Connecting the World

  • News

Social media platforms are the substitute for newspapers and magazines. Users find out all the latest news through social media. Local and global news alike, they are all available on different platforms. Mega trends and events, such as the World Cup or the Royal Wedding, receive an enormous coverage on social media. In addition, many users use social media to know what’s out and about in their local community as well. Whether it’s a concert, a business seminar, or an educational course, there is something for everyone.

  • New Exposures

Personally, we consider this to be the most influential benefit. Social media exposes its users to cultures, values, and concepts they would’ve never been exposed to if it was not for social media. That bridges the cultural gap between different nations. The world needs that. It helps humans understand what the people on the other side look like. New exposures acquaint us with different points of view, new ideas, and opens a channel to research those opinions and discuss them with others. It is a healthy phenomenon for the whole world to discuss ideas and bring them to test together.

  • Long Distance Connections

Social media allowed many people to reunite with their school friends, old colleagues, and others they had not been in contact with for a long time. Moreover, families and friends who are separated by distance for any reason, such as studying abroad, can easily connect and communicate with each other through these channels. In addition, social media has paved the way for finding people with similar interests all over the world. Sometimes it’s not easy finding fellow stamp collectors, Swahili language learners, or chess players. Once again social media helps people find their doppelgangers from all around the world!

  • Educational Purposes

Social media has become the easiest way for high school and college students to connect. Official educational organizations now communicate with their students through social media. They can easily share updates, announcements, files, and material with entire departments with a click. In addition, students form groups and get to know each other better on social media. 

A Voice for the Voiceless

Other than connecting people, social media has opened up a gate for many individuals who were voiceless to speak up their minds. Individuals suffering from social anxiety, depression, Asperger syndrome, used social media to mingle with their community. Furthermore, minorities have also found a chance to discuss their issues and receive global attention. That has had a positive impact on many issues. Many of these groups have managed to raise awareness and fund charities for their cause through social media.

Businesses and Start-ups: Low budget marketing

Social media marketing is a huge benefit that we will dedicate a separate paragraph for. However, it is worthy to mention here that social media has opened a door for small and local businesses to promote themselves to a large base of audience. Before social media, marketing was exclusive to giant companies and small businesses had no way except word of mouth to promote themselves. Now even home-based businesses buy and sell products on social media. This is particularly popular on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Definition of Social Media: Criticism

 

Social Media Criticism

Privacy Issues

Surely, nothing is all bright and perfect. Social media does have its darker side. The most brutal attack on social media is its privacy issues. Any information or data stored on the web is prone to being stolen by hackers. The nature of social media involves sharing personal information, lots of that; photos, email, location, phone number, etc. Users have been worried about the entities they are sharing their data with and what they do with it. Of course, the organizations behind the platforms try their best to ensure their users’ privacy. However, mistakes do happen. The most popular privacy violation is that known as Facebook-Cambridge Analytica breach. All platforms are developing more security for their users to avoid similar breaches.

Addiction

Social studies suggest that people are spending more time on social media than they should. This has caused experts to worry about users, mostly teenagers, becoming addicted to these platforms. In particular, teenagers fall victim to having self-esteem problems when comparing their lives to other users on social media. Overusing social platforms disturbs people’s lives and wastes their time that they can spend doing more useful activities. Moreover, when users get so extensively involved, they eventually shut off from their society and lose communication with their real surroundings.

Cyber-bullying

The nature of social media also facilitates cyber-bullying and harassment. Some take advantage of not having to face the victim and use that to impose threats and insults to victims. Others may create fake accounts to hide their identity and do anything illegal or threaten targets as well. Social platforms also put policies to minimize that as much as possible, yet it still concerns many users.

Definition of Social Media: Platforms

 

Social Media Platforms

There are too many social platforms today. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter remain the most well-known. There are also Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram. We have covered these major social networks in previous articles. So, in this article we shall give a brief on LinkedIn and Wikipedia only.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a platform for the business community. It connects the global network of business professionals from all industries. The business community has been establishing more connections and interrelations since the 80’s. Today, thanks to LinkedIn, business organizations and employees can easily communicate. Whether it’s a business-to-business, business-to-employee, or employee-to-employee, everyone can benefit from the platform. Companies post jobs and receive applications, and establish a friendly identity to attract the best candidates. On the other hand, employees pass on their knowledge, experience, and tips. Moreover, employees also use LinkedIn to expand their circle of connections which has a positive impact on their career choices.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a major platform that many people overlook when considering social media. It is a gigantic free encyclopedia written collaboratively by people who use the platform. Users make contributions by adding creating articles about tons of subjects. They add information and references, do editing and make modifications, and translate pages from one language to another. Wikipedia is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet. It currently covers 291 active languages.

Definition of Social Media Marketing

 

Social Media Marketing

Brand Awareness

Being the place for news, updates, and gossip, social media is also the place where a business should be. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of any advertising or marketing plan? Isn’t it to get recognition and educate the consumers about a business? Indeed. The emergence of social media pushed “brand awareness” to a new epoch. A strong online social presence gives your brand the exact amount of recognition it needs through consistency, identity and voice, and distribution.

Customer Service

Users, especially millennials, would rather contact companies through social media than through the phone. It is less of a hassle and more convenient on the run. Meanwhile, companies want to reduce the amount of wait time in call centers or during face-to-face operations. When it comes to customer service, social media is a win-win situation.

Advertising

With billions of users all over the world, social platforms do not fall short on audience. Advertising is the way these platforms make profit: by placing sponsored ads to users. The revolutionary feature about social media marketing is the ability to select the target audience. Ads are no longer random, they are tailor-made for their specific audience.

Feedback

For the first time ever, the business-to-consumer marketing became a two-way conversation. Both sides of the conversation share their input to give a business a reputation. Users can add a review of a business on social media, share their good/bad experience, or even generate their own brand-related content. This gives companies an immediate feedback on how their business is doing.

See Also: Benefits of Social Media Marketing

Definition of Social Media: Achievements

 

Social Media Achievements

Crisis Response

Crisis Response is one of the most influential additions to social media, and Facebook takes credit for it. What is crisis response? It is a feature where users can find out information about recent crisis taking place in any corner of the world. A crisis could be a flood, a hurricane, a mass shooting, or any dangerous situation affecting many. Using Safety Check, users in the affected areas can mark themselves safe to let their loved ones know they are away from trouble. Through crisis response one can give or find help in the affected area. Fund raising for the crisis can also be done through crisis response feature.

The Me Too Movement

The Me Too movement is an international movement against sexual harassment and assault. It started as a hashtag that came to life on social media in November 2017 and went globally viral. Using this hashtag, millions of women all around the world shared their stories about sexual harassment they’ve faced. Several high-profile celebrities have took part in the movement and shared their own experience as well. This has given many women a voice to expose their assaulters. The movement is now a well-recognized one and has raised controversy in many countries.

 

Definition of Social Media: Terms to Know

 

Social Media Terms

Newsfeed

Newsfeed is the homepage for any user once he/she logs in to his/her account. This is where users can see all the latest updates from their friends and list of followers. When a user or a business shares a post, it shows on their friends and followers’ newsfeed. Some platforms call it the “timeline,” they both refer to the same thing.

Hashtag

A hashtag is a way of gathering up collections of information on social media. For example, when there is a trending topic such as the royal wedding, people start using the two words “royal wedding” in their posts. So, in order to group all these posts together and make them easier to find, we came up with hashtags. To use a hashtag, you add the pound sign “#” before a word or more, without adding spaces: #Royalwedding.

Like/Favorite/Comment/Share

These are all reactions through which users respond to content. Reactions are the way to a quick response to any content being shared on social platforms. Since the main function of social websites is creating user-generated content, reactions are a main part of any platform.

Mention

A mention is the way for a user to engage another user in a specific post or event. When you “mention” a user, a notification is sent to the person mentioned. The same thing happens when you reply to a friend’s post. You mention his/her name by writing their name preceded by the symbol “@.”

 

Definition of Social Media: Future of Social Media

 

Future of Social Media

So, what is the future of social media? Will it be outdated soon? What about the current major social platforms, will they continue to dominate the Internet? Only time will tell that for sure. However, experts are expecting that social media will continue to grow, side by side with all online activities, especially e-commerce. Definitely, social media marketing will be a basic marketing channel for every business. Businesses will also use social media to handle more client inquiries and switch all their customer service work to online platforms. Furthermore, experts are suggesting that social media profiles will do a resume’s job in official contexts. For instance, employers may ask for an applicant’s social media profile to get to check his/her background. Lately, the US announced that its embassies can ask visa applicants for social media history. This might be extended to all other countries in the future.

Definition of Social Media: Final Thoughts

The definition of social media is simply any website where users are the capstone. This includes any platform where users can communicate, create content, exchange it, or respond to it. They can expand their circle of connections, speak their mind, or get the latest world news. The benefits of social media are countless. However, experts warn that that too much social media has a negative impact, so keep the balance. For businesses, social media marketing is an essential gate to a larger audience. Finally, the future of marketing is digital: applications and social media platforms will be the new home for customer service and advertising.

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