Social media is the name given to the interaction between people on virtual networks and communities. Social media depends on extremely interactive platforms where people can gather to share, create or exchange information such as their photos, thoughts, biographical data or professional backgrounds.
Social media started as a personal tool where people could interact with their friends and family, but has been recently adopted by businesses as a way of getting in touch with their customers and clients. It has allowed businesses and professionals in the service industry to reach out to a larger volume of people at lower costs. Businesses use social media as one way of informing customers about sales, coupons and company updates.
There are many different kinds of social media channels, and they offer different features like:
- social bookmarking
- social networking
- social curation
Some mainstream social media channels are:
One of the most popular free social network websites, Facebook allows its users to manage photos, profiles, video, use its messaging app, stay in touch with friends, and even setup business pages to interact with customers.
A popular microblogging service, Twitter allows users to broadcast 140-character posts known as tweets. Users can follow, and be followed, by other users, and interact with them via direct messages, and replies. There is a web based application as well as dozens of apps for all sorts of mobile platforms.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia which has been created by its users. Users can create articles, as well as edit old articles.
Specifically designed for professionals, LinkedIn allows users to connect with other users in similar fields. It is a great social network for businesses, and people looking for jobs or hoping to network within their field of work.
Pinterest is an example of a social curation website as people can share images they have found online. Users can create boards, and each image shared links back to the original website.
There are many criticisms of social media, but the biggest one is that sometimes information shared is not trustworthy. Due to the large numbers of people that can be reached via social media, and the low cost, it is very easy to spread false information quickly.