The next step is to not only understand, as a definition of what social media is, but also to understand “how” something is. You can define a topic, but to understand something you must also experience it.
So the question is: Who is using these services and how are they used (consumption or dissemination)?
The assumption is that everyone and anyone could use the services that social media provides. However there are some limits. First being able to afford the infrastructure of a device that can receive the internet and then a connection to the internet that lends itself to a positive user experience (Slow speeds can result in a negative experience even if the content is good). Then each type of social media lends itself to a different find of person.
I liken it to different flavors of soda. All soda delivers a similar experience, but we, as individuals, find a particular one we like the most. It is this way with social media, but a little more diverse. Different types of social media are specialized to different needs. If we take the soda example a little farther, soda is accompanied by flavored water, sports drinks, and others.
Here is a short snippet about the different types in graphic form. The chart is also below.
You can see in the chart that each has a primary purpose, but each then has features of others. If you look closely you even find WordPress in the blogging group. It is almost self-referential that using this site is in its own way studying the act of social media, at least through blogging.
In the link above and also here again, there are some characteristics of social media listed that help to understand the purpose of social media and its strengths.
So that is a little more on what and who social media is. After using social media for a while, I find that each of the site has a bit of its own personality. Some are a little more laid back giving the user more control, other not. Some push advertising and other bells and whistles that the user may or may not what. Then in the sites themselves that the individual creates and maintains you can see a glimpse of who and what that person can be.
This is incredibly important to understand while engaging social media. What we see online is either only a small portion of a person, or is a facade that the person maintains. Others even could, but hopefully not, be flat out lies or miss-directions. But that is also a draw of such sites. You can be who you want to be. You can be the way you want to be presented. And by cultivating an online presence you can control your image. This is very important on sites that fall into the networking category, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, where potential employers can look for future candidates.
These platforms are also used by companies to interact with others. For example many departments and universities use social media to connect with potential students and faculty, as well as show what the university is currently working on, or is proud to share. Often this is not a play-by-play of “university statuses”, but is more controlled in the portrayal of information and content. This is the same as when a person is controlling a reputation, but for the university it is also a brand. Here is more information on the concept of branding.
Image-sharing sites, I feel, are more for personal consumption, but can lead to projects or commission. Two examples or Imgur and Pintrest. Personally, I enjoy Imgur more but see the benefits of both. These sites let you see interesting things that others share, and comment on their worth. Often the interaction is positive, but sometimes not. These communities live and die by the reputation each has and the inherent strength of the community. It is odd, but image-sharing companies have to not only allow for the infinite possibilities that can be uploaded, but then know when content does need to be removed. Generally… you know it when you see it.
Bad historical jokes aside, these sites help people to not only connect, but disconnect. You can use social media platforms to not only connect with others but also to sit and see, or “lurk/ be a lurker”. These sites can be a mental escape for stress, or to just have a good time. Once again I do not feel I can give a full explanation, just see and experience it for yourself.
Who knows, you might like what you find.
Next week: reviewing a social media site. Who will it be?