Try as you might, you simply can’t escape it: social media is everywhere.
And because that old adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them” still rings true, we thought we’d put together a social networking crash course. So if you don’t know a tweet from a Like, our handy reference guide to social networking should help a little. We’ll cover all of the major social networks that are most popular today, including both personal and professional sites. So let’s get started.
Perhaps the most well-known of all of the social networks, Facebook has become the centre of many people’s digital lives. Facebook includes the ability to add friends to your personal network, view any pictures or updates they may have written, as well as comment on or ‘Like’ these updates. Facebook also has a robust messenger service which operates similarly to SMS text messaging. It’s also used by companies to establish Pages, which are their online presence where users can make comments and interact with the company.
Twitter stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Facebook as a real giant of social media. Ironically, though, it encourages sharing less. Users have only 140 characters to express their particular thoughts in a ‘tweet’, but they can use #hashtags to their tweets, which act almost like topic descriptors to add context to the tweet. Twitter is now used by many businesses to interact with customers, despite the 140 character limitation.
Instagram is a relatively recent addition to the roster of social networks, and is purely focused on images. Users can take pictures with their phones and upload them to Instagram, at which point they will appear in the ‘feed’ of the users they are friends with. Again, their friends can like or comment any pictures. Hashtags are a big part of this site too, operating in the same way as Twitter.
Tumblr is mainly used as a blogging platform – like an online diary – which people can use to express themselves in long form. Tumblr blogs are highly customisable, so there are many different blogs out there offering different things. Some will focus on images (perhaps an artist’s blog) while others will focus on words; still more will use a blend of the two.
Pinterest is the youngest of all of the social networks, and is best described as a virtual pinboard. Users are able to ‘pin’ an image or a website address to one of their boards, and their friends (or followers) will see that they’ve been added. Users can browse other people’s boards to see what they’ve been posting. Pinterest is used heavily by those looking at products online who may want to collect themes – for example, many brides have Pinterest boards dedicated to their wedding.
LinkedIn is a professional social network designed to enable networking within a work- or career-oriented environment. It has many of the same features as Facebook, but is designed expressly for users to show off their career accolades and connect to other professionals, recruiters and so on. LinkedIn is now responsible for a large proportion of new job recruitment in the western world.
We hope we’ve given you some insight into the world of social media. It’s an ever-moving and growing entity, so who knows? There may be an all-new social network around the corner, but don’t worry – we’ll keep you in the know.
Written by Simon Morris
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