What is Social Media?

Almost everyone today has at least heard the term “social media.” Quite a number of people utilize social media services in their own lives and businesses. Very few can actually tell you what social media really is.

Let’s keep it simple by first looking at the concept of media in general. Media sources are used for communication. Traditional media, as the public is used to viewing it, comes in the form of radio, newspaper, and television. Each of these sources can be used to bring you information.

In terms of the Internet, on the other hand, the media doesn’t just bring you information. You’re given information and you’re asked, even encouraged, to react to it. Social media outlets force interaction, and they come in a wide variety of platforms. They’re typically categorized as social news, social networking, social bookmarking, and social video or photo sharing. Even wiki sites, like Wikipedia and Wikia, are considered social media platforms.

So what are some commonly used social media platforms? Digg, for example, is a great example of a social news site. Users “digg” news articles they find valuable, increasing their rankings within the Digg network and driving more traffic to those articles or websites.

Twitter and Facebook, on the other hand, are examples of social networking sites. Twitter limits users to writing short messages of only 140 characters, but allows users to create comprehensive profiles and customized pages. Facebook is a more complex social networking site on which users can interact with friends and family, businesses, and other groups they’re fans of.

Even YouTube and Flickr, where users are encouraged to upload and share videos and photographs, are forms of social media.

And what do all of these sites have in common? They all encourage interaction. You’re either interacting with the site owners, or your interacting with fellow site users. In the end, any website that encourages social interaction is a form of social media. The trick now is to determine which social media sites are worth becoming a part of.

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