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What is Social Media?

social media concepts The evolution of the Internet into a more cooperative format, often referred to as Web 2.0, is due in large part to the development of something known as "social media."  Social media, by definition, is media content that facilitates conversation and participation, rather than traditional media content which only delivers material to the end-user.  In simple terms, any website that allows the user to interact with the site and other users can be defined as social media.

The scope of social media sounds broad, but can be broken down into several main categories including social networking, blogging, social bookmarking, media sharing, and user-generated content.  Social networking sites are online communities of people who share common interests or connections offline.  Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace are examples of social networks that allow the user to share photos, video, and other information among a network of friends or colleagues.  Blogging sites like Blogger and WordPress allow users to upload content in a journal-style format, as well as connect with, and follow, related users.  The microblogging site Twitter works similarly, but users publish brief text messages rather than longer posts.  Social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Digg, and Diigo allow users to share favorite sites or interesting news stories, as well as vote and comment on worthwhile content.  Media sharing sites such as Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube provide a place for users to upload photos or video.  User-generated content sites like HubPages and Quora enable users to create pages about particular topics and to participate in larger, content-driven communities.

Social media, by its very nature, is collaborative and makes it easy for users to share photos, videos, and opinions at a rapid pace.  However, before sharing content on social media websites, be sure to check terms of use issues that relate to relevant intellectual property rights!  Online social media has become so pervasive that even major news sites now allow readers to rate and share content, and in some cases, upload their own video to the sites.  Social media is wide-ranging and has forever changed many aspects of the online experience, including the way we connect with others, shop for products and services, and discover and share new information.

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