The term social media refers to a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through virtual networks and communities. Social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content, such as personal information, documents, videos, and photos. Users engage with social media via a computer, tablet, or smartphone via web-based software or applications. While social media is ubiquitous in America and Europe, Asian countries like Indonesia lead the list of social media usage.1 More than 4.5 billion people use social media, as of October 2021.2
- Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities.
- There are more than 4.5 billion social media users around the world.
- The largest social media networks include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.
- Social media typically features user-generated content and personalized profiles.
- By 2023, the number of social media users in the United States is forecast to increase to approximately 257 million.
Understanding Social Media
Social media originated as a way to interact with friends and family but was later adopted by businesses that wanted to take advantage of a popular new communication method to reach out to customers. The power of social media is the ability to connect and share information with anyone on Earth, or with many people simultaneously.
There are more than 3.8 billion social media users around the world. Social media is an ever-changing and ever-evolving field, with new apps such as TikTok and Clubhouse coming out seemingly every year, joining the ranks of established social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. By 2023, the number of social media users in the United States is forecast to increase to approximately 257 million.3
According to the Pew Research Center, social media users tend to be younger. Nearly 90% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 used at least one form of social media. Further, these users tend to be better educated and relatively wealthy, earning over $75,000 per year.4
Types of Social Media
Social media may take the form of a variety of tech-enabled activities. These activities include photo sharing, blogging, social gaming, social networks, video sharing, business networks, virtual worlds, reviews, and much more. Even governments and politicians utilize social media to engage with constituents and voters.
For individuals, social media is used to keep in touch with friends and extended family. Some people will use various social media applications to network career opportunities, find people across the globe with like-minded interests, and share their thoughts, feelings, insights, and emotions. Those who engage in these activities are part of a virtual social network.
For businesses, social media is an indispensable tool. Companies use the platform to find and engage with customers, drive sales through advertising and promotion, gauge consumer trends, and offer customer service or support.
Benefits of Social Media
Social media has changed the way we all interact with each other online. It gives us the ability to discover what’s happening in the world in real-time, to connect with each other and stay in touch with long-distance friends, and in order to have access to endless amounts of information at our fingertips. In many senses, social media has helped many individuals find common ground with others online, making the world seem more approachable.
According to a survey by Pew Research Center, the use of social media is correlated with having more friends and more diverse personal networks, especially within emerging economies.6 For many teenagers, friendships can start virtually, with 57% of teens meeting a friend online.7
Examples of Social Media
While social media has its positive side, many point to the platform and call out negative features, likening its overuse to an addiction. Some contest it contributes to inattentiveness, stress, and jealousy. The National Center for Biotechnology Information links heavy social media use to depression.9 Social media may also be a conduit for misleading information and falsehoods.
The 2016 American presidential election has well-documented accounts of the impact of the ability to spread false information through the platform.10 Such a phenomenon leverages the power of social media, allowing anyone to reach an audience of millions with content that lacks oversight or fact-checking.
The figures for the most popular social media websites as of January 2021 are as follows:
- Facebook (2.74 billion users)
- YouTube (2.29 billion users)
- WhatsApp (2 billion users)
- Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion users)
- Instagram (1.22 billion users)
- Whatsapp (1.21 billion users)
- TikTok (689 million users)
- QQ (617 million users)
- Douyin (600 million users)
- Sino Weibo (511 million users)11
What Are the Top 10 Social Media Apps?
The top 10 social media apps are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp, TikTok, QQ, Douyin, and Sino Weibo.
What Is the Use of Social Media?
Social media allows individuals to keep in touch with friends and extended family. Some people will use various social media applications to network and find career opportunities, connect with people across the globe with like-minded interests, and share their own thoughts, feelings, and insights online.
What Are the 6 Types of Social Media?
The six types of social media, though this can be broken down in many ways, include social networking, bookmarking, social news, media sharing, microblogging, and online forum sites.
What Is the Most Popular Social Media?
The most popular social media site is Facebook.
What Is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is the use of social networks in order to market a company’s products, such as through Facebook or Instagram ads, using influencers, or otherwise building a presence online to engage with customers.
The Bottom Line
Social media has taken the world by storm, capturing more than 3.8 billion users worldwide and counting. Whether or not each platform resonates with you personally, there are endless ways for businesses to market to their consumers and target them to ultimately make a purchase. Allowing us to stay connected with friends, find information easily, and add our own personalities to the online world, social networks are here to stay.