Social Media - Which site is right for you?
The world of social media is vast and treacherous. But once you have a pair of good boots on, and a trusty map in hand, you’re sure to traverse to where you want to be. But… Where exactly is that?
Ah, social networking. The thing that’s changed the internet from a simple file-sharing service, to a tool for communication, socialization and entertainment. It started with Forums and IRC channels in the late nineties/early noughties, and has evolved much further. There are lots of big names in the social media industry, all offering very different – and sometimes, very similar – services. But what do each offer? What are they for exactly? Well, while I can’t tell you about every social site out there, I can tell you about the bigger, more influential names – and that’s just what I’ll do. Let me introduce you to the Big 6!
Facebook is the supreme queen of the social media scene. With around 1,300,000,0000 monthly active users, roughly 54,200,000 Facebook ‘pages’ (more on those in a minute), and with a revenue in 2013 of $6,150,000,000 (Statisticbrain), it’s easy to see why.
First and foremost, Facebook operates around the mechanic of the friends list. Users must send friend requests to others before they are able to connect, and they can only do that when the other person has accepted said request. Users can then share Status Updates, which appear on the News Feed, a continuously updated feed of posts on the homepage of the site.
Posts can be commented on using text and also images, but if the user doesn’t want to leave a textual comment, they can show their appreciation for the post by clicking the Like button, although this can easily be done in conjunction with a comment. Facebook also allows the upload of photos and videos, which are contained within the poster’s profile. People can then be Tagged in said images if they are featured in them, or if the poster simply thinks they might be interested.
Facebook can also be used to broadcast media to a more public audience, with the creation of a Page, which acts like a profile for a brand, character, or product. When users Like a Page, they not only subscribe to its posts, but the fact that they liked it also shows on their profile information. However, a Page requires administrators – regular users who stay behind the curtain and control the Page’s every move. This makes the Page function ideal for marketing, as it is public and anonymous.
Facebook also has a mobile website, as well as its own applications on not only iOS and Android, but also many of the smaller phone OSes.
Twitter is smaller than Facebook, with a much more humble 645,750,000 active daily users, which is rather in keeping with Twitter’s condensed nature.
Twitter is not as private as Facebook. While the user can choose to only allow people to follow them by request, the average user can be followed by anyone with an account. Once you’ve followed a user, you’ll see their Tweets in your feed, much like with Statuses on Facebook.
A Tweet is a simple, short message, and that’s not just common courtesy. Twitter has a 140 character limit on posts, which is part of the charm of the service. The ability to convey a message in 140 characters or less makes communication through the service quick and snappy – there’s no TL;DRing to worry about. Also, if you wish to Tweet to a specific user, you can Mention them, by typing their username with an @ symbol at the beginning, to which they’ll be notified.
To spread your message further, you can use Hashtags, which are typed as such; #hashtag. When a Tweet is Hashtagged, it will appear on the feed of all the other posts which used this Hashtag. So, if you’ve made a post you want Lego fans to see, adding #lego to it will help it spread much further. Twitter also provides the ability to share photos, and when a link is added to a Tweet, it is automatically shortened.
YouTube is much more media oriented than Facebook and Twitter – and also much older. With more than 1 billion users visiting the site each month (YouTube), the Google owned service is the most popular entertainment service on the net.
YouTube’s main function is the sharing of videos. Users run a Channel, an online space where their footage is stored and organised. Again, like Twitter, YouTube is very public, with registered users being able to Follow – or rather, Subscribe – to Channels, which allows them to see when those Channels post new videos. Users can also rate videos with a either a Like or a Dislike, which adds to the figures on small graph within the video information. Users can also add videos to their Favourites list, so they can find them again later, and can also make their own Playlists for other people’s videos, as well as their own.
Users can find new content by entering terms into the search bar at the top of the video. To ensure their videos are found, video makers should write relevant titles and descriptions to the content of their video, as well as by adding hidden keywords.
reddit (purposefully written without a capital ‘r’) calls itself the ‘front page of the internet’, and while this is debateable, what isn’t debateable is the vast size of the site. Although much more humble with only around 3,000,000 users (reddit), the impact of the site is vast. If you use Reddit often, you will notice that content you see elsewhere will likely have been on Reddit days – if not weeks – beforehand.
The redditor, as the user is called, has a lot of power in their hands as to whether or not a post sees the light of day. Each and every post or comment has two buttons attached to it – the Upvote and Downvote buttons. You Upvote a post, it gets ranked higher, and is more likely to be visible. You Downvote a post, it sinks to the bottom. Simple. But, the general etiquette of the system is to only Downvote posts that are irrelevant, off-topic, or old. Simply Downvoting because a post didn’t meet your tastes is largely viewed as unfair.
redditors can join and create niche communities known as subreddits. If one would like to see posts about fishing, should go to /r/fishing. If such a place doesn’t exist, then they know what the must do. The redditor can Subscribe to Subreddits that catch their fancy, and have the posts appear on the Front Page of the site. redditors can also submit links or text posts to subreddits, which can recieve comments and Upvotes from the subreddit’s community and beyond.
One service which has exploded in popularity in recent years is Tumblr. The microblogging service now hosts over 197,000,00 blogs (Tumblr), and it’s not hard to see why.
Tumblr offers its users the ability to have a constant stream of content at their fingertips. The user can Follow as many blogs as they like, and have their content constantly appear on the homepage – or dashboard. This constant stream of content is not just for show however – the user has two actions that they can take on the posts they see. The can Like the post, like on Facebook, and they can also Reblog the post, which makes it appear on their blog.
As well as Reblogging, the user can post many different kinds of media. Text, Photos, Quotes, Links, Converstion Logs, Audio and even Video. Posts can be tagged with keywords, and a lot like on Twitter, users can go and view all the posts with certain tags in one continuous feed. Some tags, specifically those for pop-culture franchises, even develop communities, due to certain people frequently appearing and speaking within tag pages.
Social Media isn’t just fun and games however. LinkedIn, with 300 million users (LinkedIn Blog), offers the ability for businesspeople to connect with other businesspeople in an environment that would be familiar to the Facebook user.
Adding Connections through LinkedIn is not as easy as sending a friend request on Facebook or Twitter, as you can’t just ask anyone on the site to add you. The need to be either a 1st or 2nd connection. But what does this mean? Well, a 1st connection is somebody who works within your company, or somebody you know through E-Mail or another social network. And a 2nd connection is somebody who is not somebody you know, but somebody you know, knows. And a 3rd connection is somebody neither you nor your connections know, and you can only send them requests with a LinkedIn Pro account, which requires an annual or monthly charge.
The user is encouraged to first list all their business credentials and achievements on their profile. This can either simply be for bragging rights, or to make finding a job through the service easier. Once this is done, LinkedIn allows you to send messages to other users you’re connected to, or with a Pro Account, InMail to users you are not connected to, with a charge per InMail sent. Users can also post statuses, links and photos, much like on Facebook, although these don’t appear on your profile. LinkedIn also has a group function, much like on Facebook, which allows you to communicate with other business people within a specific area of interest, whether it be a business skill, or a hobby.
About the Author
My experiences with social media started when I was very young, with the forums on the LEGO Club website, and also the website for the online game ROBLOX. Since back then however, I've shuffled onto Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn... And various others. It's always fun to talk to new people through the internet - in fact, I'd happily say that I've made most of my friends online! And while it can be all fun and games, it's also easy to see how it can advantage your business brand. Give it a shot!
Oh, and links to my social profiles are available through my HubPages profile. Don't be afraid to say hello! Also, the illustration at the start of the article was done by me using Photoshop CS6.