Social media is a collection of online communications channels focused on creating a social space online for people to use. Whether they want to get involved with online discussions or share holiday selfies, there's a social media app or website for everyone.
The variety of social media websites and apps out there means that it has become hugely popular in today's culture. What started with online forums and blogs, has evolved into a continuous stream of video and photo sharing, with the average person now spending 2 hours a day on the social media – it is clearly a trend that is only going to continue growing.
Popular Social Media Apps
There are a number of social media sites and apps out there targeting users in various demographics. Here's a whistle-stop tour of the top five most popular social media apps in use right now:
Facebook is a free social networking website and app that allows registered users to create profiles where they post about what they've been up to with photos and videos, as well as written posts. You can also send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. As far as social media goes, Facebook is one of the most varied platforms because of the variety of ways you can share information and communicate with others.
Twitter is much less focused on personal profiles, and instead serves as a microblogging service where members can broadcast short posts called tweets. Rather than having friends on Twitter (like Facebook), you follow other people to see what they post, and vice versa. Lots of people use Twitter to see what their favourite celebrities' tweet about rather than close family and friends.
Instagram is a photo and video sharing app owned by Facebook that has grown in popularity over the past few years due to the obsession people have with mobile photography. Nowadays, smartphones have impressive cameras built in, making it easier for people to instantly share moments online. As well as following family and friends, Instagram is the place to be when keeping up with the exciting lives of the A-listers, similarly to Twitter.
YouTube is the home of video sharing, and the platform responsible for creating social media phenomenona like Zoella and PewDiePie, with millions of subscribers between them. People can upload and watch videos on the site, and the professionalism of these videos can range massively, from amateur home videos to high-quality edits and production. The topics covered can range from beauty regimes to pranks and challenges, and with 300 hours' worth of video being uploaded every minute, whatever you're interested in – YouTube will have videos on it.
Snapchat is an app on smartphones that means people can send images and videos with a short lifespan. This just means you can send a photo to a friend, and after a few seconds it's gone forever. As the other sites exist in website format with much more permanent posts, Snapchat is an instant form of social media for people to use.
Social Media and Business
Social media sites vary by how people can use them, who uses them, and what can be shared. Social media brings people closer together – it's a small world on social media. It has the ability to build communities and increase communication through the connections that people make. As well as this sociable aspect to social media, the platforms are used in business too.
Customer relations: Just like you can use social media to keep in touch with your loved ones, businesses can use it to build a strong relationship with their customers, as well as a healthy workforce through employee/employer relations.
Marketing: As traditional forms of marketing and promotion have become less effective, businesses can use social media in order to increase their exposure to potential customers, and therefore increase their audience. For example, brands use influential people such as reality stars and celebrities to endorse their products with sponsored social media posts. Consumers may be influenced by what their favourite celebrities use, so brands use this technique for promotion.
Perhaps one of the most current examples of this is the brand deals that ITV's Love Island contestants get after their time in the sun. Whether you're a lover or a hater of the summer-time obsession, the money that the stars make afterwards is no laughing matter. If they're popular, they can be paid around £10,000 per post! One photo is all it takes for a lot of money to be made.
Networking: As well as businesses using the traditional forms of social media to increase their exposure and maintain good customer relations, there are social media platforms out there specifically for business use. LinkedIn is the most established example of this. Set up in 2003, the site is used for professional networking where employers can post job roles and job seekers can post their CVs – a social network for the professional side of life!
Social media has changed the ways we are connecting, communicating, and collaborating, and this is influential over our social and professional lives. The skill is knowing which platforms are best for you, depending on what you want to use it for, and what you want to get out it.