Every time I open my inbox, there’s at least one “alert” or press release announcing the launch of yet another social media site. Sometimes keeping track of everything – never mind understanding exactly which does what and how – can be daunting. So I wanted to do a rundown of social media as I see it. This is, of course, “as I see it,” so there is plenty of room for debate here.
In my article, “A Brief Introduction to the ‘Social’ in Social Media,” I outlined the different types of social media. Some forms of social media, such as blogging and social networking, are more popular and better understood than others. In this article I will give an overview of each social media category. For the purpose of this article, tools that leverage the Internet to facilitate interactive communication qualify as social media.
Social media generally falls into one of the following categories:
- Social Networks
- Media Sharing (video and photo sharing)
- Web forums/communities
- Instant Messaging
- RSS web feeds/Aggregators
- Social Bookmarking
A blog is essentially an online collection of “posts” that are created over a period of time. Anyone – an individual, company, organization, community, etc. – can start a blog. Generally, they are written and managed by individuals. This site, for instance, is a blog, and every article that I write is a “post.” A “post” can simply be thought of as a text entry. Technically, the term “blog” is short for “weblog.”
There are 5 different types of blogs. To learn more about them see my article, “Blogs, Blogs, and More Blogs: A Brief Overview of the 5 Types of Blogs.”
Social networks can be thought of as sites that enable like-minded individuals to connect and form groups or communities. They have become a very popular platform for sharing interests and information and establishing social connections.
Some social networks, such as Twitter, are broad. Others, such as 43 Things where members are connected by goals, choose to focus on a niche. The best-known social networking site is Facebook.
These are sites that let you share media such as videos and photos. YouTube and Flickrare good examples. You can share your media with the public (anyone that wants to view it), a specific group (family or friends), or an individual. Similar to social networking sites, many of these sites allow for social interactions via comments or the ability to share or recommend to others for viewing.
Wikis are online platforms that facilitate collaborative content creation. They allow multiple users to contribute to the development of content. The topics covered by a wiki can be as broad or narrow as the site allows.
Wikis generally have various levels of access, which means that not everyone has editing rights and in some cases contributions by community members can be edited or outright rejected.
Wikipedia , which covers a vast array of topics, is the broadest and largest of the wikis currently available.
Web forums are better known as message boards. They are online sites that facilitate discussions in the form of “messages” or “posts.” Generally, web forums focus on a particular topic or activity and most have sub-forums that focus on a more narrow aspect of the respective topic. Whatever the case, the users in the forum are bound by a common interest that arguably make the discussion more valuable and engaging. Two of my favorite web forums are Quora and Flyertalk.
Instant messaging, often referred to as “IM” for short, is the instantaneous transmission of text-based messages on the Internet. Users are known by their “screennames” and communicate via “chat.”
Instant messaging is mostly used on computers; however, it is becoming increasingly common to also use the service on mobile devices. One of the first and best-known instant messaging service is AOL’s Instant Messenger (often referred to at AIM). An increasingly popular IM and video messenger tool is Skype (better known for video chat).
RSS Web Feeds/Aggregators
Web feeds amass information from multiple online sources and make it available via a website or particular software. Web feeds allow various types of content to be easily distributed in a standardized format. This allows readers to subscribe to receive updated content from certain websites and publications. The ability to automatically aggregate information in a single location makes is easier for readers to consume information from multiple source in a timely fashion.
The most popular web-based and software-based feeds are Google Reader andFeedDemon.
Users interested in saving, sharing, indexing or organizing online bookmarks will likely turn to social bookmarking. Social bookmarking enables users the flexibility to organize, classify and share their Internet bookmarks as they deem appropriate. Social bookmarking is commonly referred to as “tagging”.
Unlike forwarding a popular email or picture, which shares the actual content, when something is “tagged” a link that references that content is shared. Delicious, StumbleUpon and, arguably, Pinterest are social bookmarking sites.
Everything on this list can serve as a useful tool in one form or another. If anything listed here piqued your interest, I would recommend giving it a try. You may find that you enjoy some forms of social media more than others, and that’s okay. The only thing about social media that is different from traditional forms of communication is that it takes place online. At the end of the day, the primary goal should be to communicate in a way that you feel is the most efficient, effective, and comfortable.
If you’re not sure where to start I recommend that you read my article, “The Most Common Uses of Social Media.” You might be surprised to find how other people are using social media in their lives.