What is social media?
Social media encompasses all the platforms and apps that allow people, creators, and businesses to communicate with one another, create online communities, exchange ideas, and share content.
From Instagram and TikTok to YouTube and WhatsApp, the social media platforms that users have at their disposal are endless. While social media is mainly used by individual people, brands and creators can also use social media marketing to connect with their audience, build their brand, and sell their products or services.
Social media has completely revolutionized the way modern-day society communicates and shares ideas, information, and content. What really separates social media from other types of media is that it’s a two-way style of communication rather than a one-way communication style built to deliver information with no way to reply back, such as newspapers, radio, and television.
How does social media work?
Every social media platform works differently and has its own unique set of features, however there are a few commonalities. Here are some of the most common features social media platforms share:
- Profile: Most social media platforms will have users create their own personal profile or a business profile, which is where they can upload a profile photo, add information in a bio, and create their unique account name.
- Sharing content: Each social media user has the ability to share content from their personal profile, but the type of content varies from platform to platform; for example, on Twitter and Facebook you can share text, photos, short videos, and more, while on TikTok you can only share pictures and videos.
- Direct messaging: A private form of communication between users on social media platforms; while some social media platforms have direct messaging as the main feature, like WhatsApp or WeChat, others have it as an additional feature, for example, Instagram Direct Messages or Facebook’s Messenger.
- Algorithm: All social media platforms use an algorithm to determine which content to display to users, and in what order; most algorithms are designed to deliver the content a user is most likely to engage with, based on previous content they’ve interacted with.
- Feed and timelines: Most social media platforms aggregate all published posts from accounts you follow, suggested posts based on what you like, and relevant ads in a single feed or timeline.
What are some examples of social media platforms?
The major social media platforms (at the moment) are Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Snapchat, with Facebook being the largest social media platform at nearly 3 billion people using it monthly.
To make things easier, we researched the top social media platforms in 2023. Some will be familiar to you, while others might sound new. We recommend reading through that list to see what social media apps might work best for you and your brand. And remember, you don’t have to be on every social media platform to have a successful brand.
What are the benefits of social media for personal use?
For many, social media is woven into the fabrics of every day life. With 59% of the world’s population using social media, it makes it an incredibly powerful tool for spreading ideas and communicating with one another; and it offers many benefits for social media users. Some of the benefits of social media use for personal purposes are:
- Build relationships: Social media was born as a way for people to connect with one another, thus making it a great tool to foster new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
- Developing a personal voice: Your social media accounts can be an extension of your identity, which means social media can be used as a tool to express yourself, share your interests, and show your talents.
- Encourages discovery and education: Social media platforms offer enormous educational resources (like how-to YouTube videos and informative Tweet Threads), learning communities, and expert social media profiles.
What are the benefits of social media use for businesses and creators?
With 77 percent of people using social media to learn more about a product or brand, it’s crucial for businesses and creators to have an active social media presence where they publish content regularly and consistently. Some of the benefits of social media use for business and creators are:
- Budget-friendly marketing strategy: Compared to other types of marketing strategies, social media marketing is one of the best and most affordable ways to get your products and services in front of a large audience
- Increased brand exposure: With almost 5 billion social media users around the globe, these platforms can give businesses the opportunity to reach new audiences and increase their brand exposure.
- Content, updates, and event sharing: Social media is a natural and easy way for businesses to keep their audience in the loop on what’s happening in their business, whether that be to promote their latest article, an upcoming event, or any other important updates (i.e. new closing hours, shipping delays, new teammates, etc.)
- Targeted marketing: Through social media advertising, such as Instagram Ads or Facebook Ads, you can run highly-targeted social media ads, which will help businesses to increase online sales and generate awareness.
- Customer engagement: The majority of people ages 18-54 see social media as an effective channel for customer service; and with many businesses not being super responsive on social media, this is an easy way to stand out from the crowd, impress your fans, and build a relationship.
There are also a range of social media management tools that help businesses and creators to make social media work for them. For example, Buffer is a social media management tool that can help you achieve success with your social media marketing. Whether you want to build a brand or grow your business, we want to help you succeed. Sign up for our free plan or get started with a free trial.
How many people use social media?
As of January 2023, there are 4.76 billion active social media users around the globe, which means about 59% of the total global population uses social media. This number increased by 3% compared to the previous year.
Here are the top 6 social networking platforms of 2023, ranked by Monthly Active Users (MAUs):
- Facebook: 2.96 billion MAUs
- YouTube: 2.2 billion MAUs
- WhatsApp: 2 billion MAUs
- Instagram: 2 billion MAUs
- WeChat: 1.26 billion MAUs
- TikTok: 1 billion MAUs
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