LeoGlossary: Social Media

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What Is Social Media?

This can also be known as Social Networking.

Social media is one of those terms that gets tossed around so often that we think we know what it means yet it gets difficult when we try to define. Most think of it in terms of the websites or platforms they use.

It we look at the most popular applications, we are led to believe that social media are sites that allow people to interact with each other.

This changes if we look at Digg, Wikipedia, and blogging. Is Medium and Substack social media or not?

Social + Media

If we break the term into it basic forms.

Social: refers to interacting or engaging with other people by sharing and receiving information.

Media: an instrument of communication such as the Internet or broadcasters. It is the mechanism which the information is transferred. Traditional media are television and newspapers.

With the digital realm websites and applications became the mechanism that allow users to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real time.

Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by sharing and consuming information. They end up forming virtual communities.


Social media are build upon digital networks.

The corporations behind these applications runs extensive networks. These are server based systems with data stored on equipment owned by the company.

Users access the information on the network through the log in tied to their account. The responsibility of the account management system falls to the company.

Each company runs it own network. Interoperability is enjoyed at the general level of the Internet. Applications are not able to interact with each other. Each requires its own log in and account. The data on one network is not available on the others.

This is the idea of a siloed Internet. Each company controls all aspects tied to its ecosystem without any overlap. Users approach each as the individual entity it is.

Network Effect

One of the key characteristics in social media is the concept of the network effect. This was originally applied to communication systems.

It was first proposed by Robert Metcalfe who looked at fax systems. His work is now known as Metcalfe's Law. He was one of the originators in Ethernet.

This can be summed up as such:

cost of the network was directly proportional to the number of cards installed, but the value of the network was proportional to the square of the number of users.

Social media networks can go exponential. As the userbase grows, it keeps feeding into itself, creating a circular feedback loop.

This is why companies in this arena have some of the highest market capitalization on Wall Street. These firms are large profits due to the ability to sell targeted advertising. By applying algorithms to their massive databases, they can generate user profiles.

Since revenues are generated based upon the activities of the users, it is said that "the users are the products". This is one accusation against what is now referred to as "web 2.0".

The network effect helped these platforms only to get stronger. One of the key concepts is that these applications is where people find friends and family.

Social media also created the situation where "winner takes most". Each segment of social media saw a major player with everyone else falling far behind.

Common Features

There are a few features that exist across all social media platforms.

  • User Accounts - the ability to access the network and engage with others. This includes the log in information

  • Profile Page - this is an individual's home base. It is where others can find information about the user including the activity. This is a location where people build their brand.

  • Friends/Followers - social media requires social activity. The ability to follow others activity and interact is commonplace.

  • Groups - locations set up around specific topics or subjects of interest that allow people to come together.

  • Newsfeeds - a way for people to get updated and real time information

  • Notifications - the receiving of alerts when something of interest occurs.

  • Voting - people have the ability to like and vote for content they prefer. This is a form of social curation that allows the community to determine what is considers relevant.

13 Types of Social Media

While it is evolving, social media and marketing experts have isolated 13 types of social media.

  • Blogs (ex. Huffington Post, Boing Boing)

  • Business networks (ex. LinkedIn, XING)

  • Collaborative projects (ex. Wikipedia, Bitcoin)

  • Enterprise social networks (ex. Yammer, Socialcast)

  • Forums (ex. Gaia Online, IGN Boards)

  • Microblogs (ex. Twitter, Tumblr)

  • Photo sharing (ex. Flickr, Photobucket)

  • Products/services review (ex. Amazon, Elance)

  • Social bookmarking (ex. Delicious, Pinterest)

  • Social gaming (ex. Mafia Wars, World of Warcraft)

  • Social network sites (ex. Facebook, Google+)

  • Video sharing (ex. YouTube, Vimeo)

  • Virtual worlds (ex. Second Life, Twinity)

Common Social Media Applications

Some of most popular social media applications:

When it comes to current events and news, many turn to social media for their information. The rise in popularity was due to the two-way communication the Internet provides.

Web 3.0

Web 3.0 has the opportunity to change the social media realm. At present, user accounts are under the full control of the platforms they are utilizing. One of the promises of the next evolution if full account ownership. This means that not only can an account not be closed, but the selling of data is eliminated.

Due to the potential, a plethora of Web 3.0 social media applications are showing up. In many ways, this initial generation is meant to mirror the existing platforms, just on a decentralized blockchain. An example of this is 3Speak which is a video uploading platform similar to YouTube.

There is an additional promise to Web 3.0: tokenization. This is where cryptocurrency is added to the picture. One ecosystem is Hive which utilizes what it calls the Proof-of-Brain (PoB) to distribute its coins and tokens while rewarding content creators.

Another promise is the data placed on chain is immutable. This is offering some the belief that we could be in control of our digital lives at some point. Many are concerned about who will own our digital identities as the Internet becomes a larger part of society.

Content Creators

The capturing of value on the Web 2.0 platforms is an area of concern. In addition to the misuse of data, the profits distribution is also starting to be questioned.

YouTube has long shared advertising revenue with the top content creators on the platform. The challenge is that most are excluded since it is only a small circle who are able to achieve the level required.

Elon Musk has started to implement a similar process with Twitter (now branded as X). This model is similar to that used by YouTube, with minimums that exclude the majority of the userbase.

These platforms operate exclusively in fiat currency. That means the money brought in from advertising revenue is distributed in the same currency.

Web 3.0 changes things in two crucial ways.

  • Users can get rewarded based upon a monetized upvote that is given to them. This means a single vote, if backed with enough staked coins or tokens, can offer a payout.

  • The other is payment is in cryptocurrency. On many system, this is providing an asset that can increase in value based upon the moves in the market. No longer are we dealing with USD, EUR, or any other currency of this nature.

The hope of many is that the wealth generated by the Internet is better distributed.

Merging of Social Media and Finance

Elon Musk is pushing social media into another area with his X application (Twitter rebranded).

Being one of the early founders in PayPal, Musk has a history with finance. As CEO, he mapped out the idea to make that entity the largest financial institution in the world. It was a premise that was rejected by the board of directors, eventually leading to his removal.

The purchase of Twitter appears to have been with the intention of reviving this idea. He is planning on using that platform to offer financial services to users. One of the early financial features is going to be payments.

Web 3.0 is built upon blockchain. This is known as distributed ledger technology (DLT) which is a decentralized ledger. Transactions are recorded by the block producers, creating a ledger similar to a bank.

This is the monetary component of the system. When social media applications are built, this is where Web 3.0 turns into a financial system. Many believe the decentralized finance (DeFi) features will be incorporated into these platforms.

Here is where developers are building the next generate DApps.