What is social media?
I was recently surprised when a client say to me “I have no idea what you mean when you say social media.” Could it be there are people using the internet that have not heard about Facebook or Twitter, not posted cool photos to their Instagram account, uploaded a video of their cat in the bathtub or shared recipes on their Pinterest boards?
Those of us who spend a lot of time online can easily forget that the internet is new, that many of the things currently happening on the net are new, and that the whole thing changes at a very rapid pace. So for those friends and family members who might have been out of town when social media burst onto the scene, here’s a brief recap.
The term ‘social media’ refers to websites and applications that allow people to create and share content. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, among others.
Pre-internet, people relied on newspapers, magazine subscriptions, television/radio, and conversations at the barbershop, PTA meeting or local library to learn about the world. Then the internet happened.
In the internet’s ‘early’ days – which were really just a decade or so ago – people spent most of their time ‘browsing’ online, which meant they were using their web browsers such as Internet Explorer or Firefox or Safari to scroll through search engines and lists of links to find items of interest to them.
However, as the web became more and more crowded with websites, users grew frustrated by the endless hours they wasted viewing websites with little or no valuable content. To resolve this the ‘portal’ website was born, one that promised to ‘curate’ the internet for you – collecting and policing links relating to subjects that interested you. Online discusson groups and forums also grew in popularity, places where people could ‘share’ their findings and experiences.
From the beginning the internet’s greatest charm has been the way it facilitates sharing. People of all ages, and from around the world, are able to interact with each other through discussions, online forums, and online games, sharing their knowledge and expertise on any subject. Indeed popular theory now is that the whole body of human knowledge is doubling every two years – and this is a direct result of the internet.
Facebook came along to make sharing as easy and simple as possible. Facebook is the ultimate curator of everything online. With a Facebook account, you need to log into only one place and the world will come to you. Friends and family are able to ‘share’ their experiences, photos, and lives, as well as interesting news articles, stories, places and information. Their ‘sharing’ scrolls down your screen on your Facebook ‘wall’ – and it’s up to you whether or not you want to click through and read more.
And Facebook is more than friends and family. Users are also able to ‘subscribe’ to Facebook Pages (by Liking them) that feature topics of a particular interest. Users are also able to join Facebook ‘groups’ to participate in discussion and debate along certain topics.
For example, you might be interested in the game of Bridge. So you would log into your Facebook account and search the keyword ‘bridge’ or ‘contract bridge’ – a list of all the facebook pages and groups that curate bridge articles, stories and links will be displayed and you can ‘like’ or ‘join’ . You can also visit your bridge friends personal pages and see what bridge sites they like and join in. After that, every time you log into your Facebook account, news and story posts from these pages and groups will show up, or be easy to find, on your Facebook account.
The simplicity of a single login is what makes Facebook so popular. Want to catch up on your grandchild’s latest missing tooth or new pet? While you’re logged into Facebook choose your child’s name from your friends list. You’ll be transported to their Facebook page and able to see all of their family posts. Want to read an article about Psychologic Coups by Ely Culbertson or similar bridge articles? While you’re logged into Facebook click on one of your favourite bridge pages – Great Bridge Links is a good start. Here you will find links to all sorts of good articles!
Facebook is referred to as ‘social media’ because it is the social network of Facebook members that spreads information around the world. And that network is made up of over 1.2 billion people.
Aside from Faceook, there are a few other types of social media that have become popular. One is Twitter. Like Facebook, on Twitter you ‘subscribe’ or ‘follow’ other twitter people so when they post something, it scrolls down your Twitter page. The unique thing about twitter is all posts are limited to 120 words. Of course, many actually link to articles and stories that you may or may not want to click through. Twitter is quite popular with people who use their phones to access the internet. It’s short and sweet and serves you all the day’s important events in a very quick read.
Instagram is primarily a photo-sharing social media space. Pinterest sets up bulletin boards that you ‘pin’ items to by sharing them and people can visit your boards. YouTube allows people to upload and share their own videos, but also offers video documentaries, lessons, Ted Talks and more. And there are many other, smaller systems of social media, each offering its own unique approach to social networking. Plus the different kinds of Social Media often share with each other. All of this is gathered together to form one monstrous global net. And that net is watched over, indexed, and evaluated by Google.
Why is social media important to my client?
Today’s truth is – if you have a webpage, and you want people to visit it, the best way to ‘invite’ them over is to post something on social media and link it to your website. If you don’t use social media, the only way most people will find you is if someone else posts your link on social media. Of course, some will find you through Google, but with the billions of websites on the internet these days, it’s not likely Google will send people your way unless they’ve heard about you from someone and know to search for you.