The presence of social media in the twenty-first century is unavoidable, and even if you tune out the chirping and chatter of social network status updates, at some point throughout the day you no doubt turn to an online resource to communicate or obtain information.
In a 2012 Social Media Report from a leading global information and measurement company, Nielsen suggests that today’s tech-savvy generation is spending more time visiting online social media outlets than any other type of website. But what is social media? The term stems from a trend that has been so rapidly incorporated into our everyday lives, that few pause to observe its meaning or appreciate its value.
According to Merriam-Webster, social media is defined as any form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and content such as pictures or recordings. In other words, it’s the sharing of stuff via an online network. The availability of social media relies on mobile and web-based technologies that can be used to develop interactive platforms where online users and communities share, discuss and modify user-generated content. It’s a media phenomenon that has significantly altered the availability of information and forever changed the way organizations, communities and individuals communicate.
Social network pioneers like SixDegrees, Friendster and MySpace popularized the idea of communal online environments where connecting with friends and sharing content was easy and fun. But the world of online social networking today is much grander than the creators of these sites could have ever imagined, and from their revolutionary ideas spawned a whole new world of communication.
Social media is much more than status updates and tweets, spanning every niche and encompassing a variety of content which is created and shared via hundreds of different websites by millions of users. In addition to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, social media is generated via blogs and sites such as WordPress, YouTube videos, music sharing sites like ReverbNation, and online pinup boards like Pinterest. In addition, social media has become an essential marketing tool for corporations and small businesses around the world.