What is this term “Social Media” that everyone is talking about?

From Facebook to Instagram, YouTube to Twitter, millions of pictures, data and information are shared around the world amongst people in a matter of seconds every day. But what exactly is social media? How many people around the world use it? What makes it so popular? And where did it all begin? To answer these questions lets start of by looking at the definition of social media from Dictionary.com.

Social media is defined as “Websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts”.  This means that social media are tools that are used by people to instantly connect, share, transport, market and communicate ideas daily, through apps, blogs and websites.  The most popular social media websites are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter and they are not only used by individuals but by businesses as well.  

According to current statistics from Statista.com (as seen below), social media usage has been continuously increasing every year in the number of worldwide users since 2010. This year alone (2017) there is an estimated 2.51 billion users and this number of users is believed to increase by almost 44 million more by the year 2020.

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These numbers are very high and shows why social media is such a widely used term by people and businesses every day.  But what makes it so popular?

According to Arthur L. Jue in his book “Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organisational Performance”, people are naturally programmed with the “need to be around others”, to connect and share experience, so that they can have a sense of belonging or identity.  To get this sense of belonging people don’t necessarily have to communicate face-to-face or be in the same room as other people.  People can communicate to other people online and still feel that they are part of a community without physically speaking to people face-to-face.  I find this very interesting as this might be one of the biggest reasons that social media became so popular in such a short period of time.  People want to connect and collaborate, get more knowledge, and now they can gain it online through social media.

Origin of Social Media

The concept of Web 2.0, social networking or the more well-know term Social Media, was first introduced to the world in 1997 with a website called Six Degrees.  Users of Six Degrees were able to upload a profile and connect with other users from around the world, similar to what we have with Facebook today.  The website was built around the idea that “every person in the world could be connected to each other by just six degrees of separation” (Plymale, 2012).  In 2000 the website shut down due to people being uncomfortable with the idea of sharing public information online.  This site was seen to be ahead of its time.

After Six Degrees shut down, blogging became very popular as websites such as MySpace LinkedIn and Flickr emerged.  People started to get used to the idea of connecting, sharing information and communicating online with people from all around the world.  By 2005 YouTube, Facebook and Bebo was introduced which transformed social media completely. YouTube allowed people to instantly share and watch videos from around the world and Facebook and Bebo allowed people to upload profiles and connect with friends and family. In 2006 Twitter was launched and people instantly loved the site.  By having a Twitter account people could not only tweet/post about their daily lives to friends and family, but also connect and follow their favourite celebrities.  Today most of these social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have billions of monthly users while other sites such as MySpace and Bebo have slowly vanished from the radar due to new technology and new ways of connecting.


Business and social media

A “socio-technical” theory/approach was introduced in the 1960’s by E. Trist and F. Emery that focused on the importance of interaction between people in a “social system” such as a business and a “technical system” for workforce optimization.  Trist and Emery believed that businesses should focus on the relationship between employees and technology for shared work and information.  Some examples of modern socio-technical systems or tools include video conferences, employee knowledge systems and even social networking sites.

Because social media is so widely used by individuals, it is widely used by businesses too. People share information online such as their age, location, gender, likes, and even their favourite brands and businesses use this data and information to gain insights and understanding about their customers.

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Businesses can use social media every day for decision-making and to gain knowledge about buying trends, so that they can introduce the right products in the right locations to the right people.  Other ways of businesses using social media includes brand awareness, competitor information, global marketing of products, professional contacts and sales.

In return, social media also uses businesses for branding, revenue and growth as some businesses are primarily based around the usage of marketing on social media.  Facebook is very popular amongst businesses for advertising with the option to “boost a page”,”boost a like” or to create an advert (Facebook, 2017).  More than $1 billion USD of revenue is made by Facebook through advertising per quarter and this amount is set to increase as new advertising options become available.



3 thoughts on “What is this term “Social Media” that everyone is talking about?

Add yours

  1. Very good article coming from an I.T perspective this covers everything from the starting of Social Media to how social media is currently being used with great use of genuine Facts and quotes.

    thoroughly great read cant wait to read the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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