social media

What Is Social Media? – The Beginner’s Guide

Social media is one of the most popular uses of the Internet as it connects billions of people worldwide. We use and hear this phrase so much these days. Therefore, it seems that other online activities like news, search, knowledge-seeking, etc. seem to fade in comparison.

Masses are obsessed with social media! 

This post deals with the task of explaining what this phrase SOCIAL MEDIA means exactly. The reason for doing so is that different persons have different perceptions about it which can be misleading and wrong.

So, keep reading to get a basic understanding of social media, its different terms, and other interesting information. You will get to know the importance of social media.

As usual, the following TOC gives an overview of what’s covered. Therefore, you can click a link and skip to a desirable topic if needed.

Let’s explore what social media means and discuss other aspects of it in detail.

Social Media - What It Is?    

For you to have a clear understanding of the phrase social media, I break it into two parts: Social & Media.

The Social word means to meet and befriend people. In the online world, it is accomplished by interacting with a person by exchanging information with him or her. Put it another way: networking with people through the Internet.

The second word Media refers to the communication channels used. Here it means those websites on the Internet that can be used to socialize. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Now combine the explanation of both words to get the best definition of social media:

Social Media are the websites and apps that help people to get acquainted, interact and exchange information with each other efficiently and in real-time.

Click to Tweet

This information can include photos, activity updates, opinions, events, news, quotes, blog posts, etc. Thus, getting to know people and expanding your circle is one of the main social media advantages.


Social media sites are also called social networks.

social media 2

Here’s another way to define social media:

Social media is all about building and growing communitiesSyed Balkhi

I hope that now you better understand what these couple of words i.e. Social Media mean.

Next up is the explanation of a difference:

How Social Media & Social Networking Differ?

I am very much confident that you use Social Networking & Social Media in the same sense. Why?

Because most of the people do. And I also did until now!

Both of these terms or phrases relate to each other but don’t mean the same thing, though.

Let me explain...

Social Networking

Social networking has become a widespread way to use the Internet. It refers to the use of social media sites and apps to connect or network with the people you know or new ones so that common interests can be shared.

You can communicate with friends, relatives, colleagues, past known people, clients. Even strangers can become part of your network if they are like-minded.

social networking

Social Media

As already explained above, social media are the websites that are used for doing social networking. There are different types of social media as explained in the coming section. Examples of social media include Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Bottom Line: Social Networking (taken as a verb) is to get connected with people and Social Media are the websites that provide that connection. Social media site or Social Network terms mean the same thing & can be used interchangeably.

Here is a video explaining what is social media. I hope it will be helpful: 


Most Popular Social Media Sites

Listed below are the 5 most popular social networks on the planet. There are others as well, but in my opinion, these are the ones that have stood the test of time & people follow them the most – worldwide.

1. Facebook

  • CEO: Mark Zuckerberg
  • Founded: 2004
  • Headquarters: Menlo Park, California

Facebook the most popular social network in the world – has something for everyone, be it individual users or companies wanting to promote their offerings.

Users take advantage of Facebook by sharing videos, images, status updates, information, etc.

The biggest social media site – Facebook – benefits diverse industries including finance, e-commerce, retail, fashion, entertainment, gaming, automotive business, technology, etc.

2. Instagram      

  • CEO: Kevin Systrom
  • Launched: 2010
  • Headquarters: Menlo Park, California

Instagram is meant to capture photos and videos so it is best used on a smartphone instead of a web browser like Chrome, Firefox, etc. 

This social network is most popular for sharing eye-catching photos & videos on the move. Hence, visuals define this app-based social network as people show their creativity.

Instagram is adored by people!

It is mostly used by young people as around 65% of the users are of ages 18 to 34 years.  

Individuals can display their pictures while product-based businesses, influencers, coaches, etc. are using it for great benefit as an advertisement platform.

Facebook owns Instagram & bought it for a whopping $1 billion in 2012.

3. Twitter

  • CEO: Jack Dorsey
  • Founded: 2006
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Short & concise 280 character limited tweets give uniqueness to this micro-blogging site.

Twitter is the social media site that I like the most. It is because most of the tweets are concise & provide value!

Go & check it yourself.

Get the latest news, updates or post your own to benefit from the dynamic nature of this social network. Therefore, businesses related to sports, entertainment, politics, marketing can get a lot of responses from the Twitter community.

Recommended reading: Twitter tutorial for beginners

4. LinkedIn

  • CEO: Ryan Roslansky
  • Founded: 2003
  • Headquarters: Mountain View, California

A social network designed for professionals; LinkedIn is the main source for people to connect in the corporate world & grow their businesses or careers.

It remains unique among many sites used for social networking.

This social media site is a huge community of professionals with many of them in higher positions & are decision makers.

LinkedIn may not be very visually appealing like Twitter, Instagram, etc. but if you need to connect with strong professionals who can make a difference for your business, LinkedIn is the place to be.

5. Pinterest 

  • CEO: Ben Silbermann
  • Launched: 2010
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California
pinterest pins

Pinterest Pins

Pinterest is a social network that differs from others in this list because it displays information (ideas) through images in the form of pins. Pin is an image saved by a Pinterest user. These pins can be categorized on boards called pinboards. Pinboards display the images in a very enticing and beautiful way.

Pinterest can be thought of as a web-based pinboard or bulletin board.

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This site’s popularity has shown that how much important visual content is now on the Internet.

Most popular content on this site includes fashion, food, decor, weddings, workout, and DIY (do it yourself) pins.

Female users – around 80% – dominate the user base of this popular social media site.

Final Words:

Social media platforms mentioned above are different from one another in one or more ways. These aren’t the same and can have different results for users and businesses looking to leverage their potential.

Instagram can be more fruitful for some brands but not for others. Similarly, Facebook can provide a lot of interactions for one but can be disappointing for another in terms of engagements.

So if you are thinking about which one to utilize for your own good, try to have a presence on all of the major ones and then choose the one(s) that provides better results.

Keep reading to know the similarities:

Common Features Of Social Networks

There are many types of social media sites in the world and each one of them has its unique identity. They differ from one another in terms of services and fan following.

Yet, there are some features common in almost all of these social networks. These are listed below and will help you identify if a particular site can fall in the domain of social networks or not.

Free Web Space

All of these social media sites provide space for users to create and share their content free of cost.

Free Personal User Account

In addition to providing free web space, these sites provide user accounts without any cost. These account IDs can be used to connect, socialize & share content with other people.

twitter account

Profile Page

Each of these social networks requires its users to build a profile page. These pages contain information about the user like profile photo, bio, website, recent feed, etc.

Profile page represents an individual and is used to build networks that connect him/her with like-minded people with similar interests across the globe.

twitter profile

Content Upload

Followers are allowed to upload text messages, photographs, audio, and video files by composing posts. These posts appear real-time in reverse chronological order with the latest post appearing on top, and can be viewed/shared by anyone instantly.

facebook content upload


Users of social media sites build their social networks by following friends, relatives, colleagues, and even new people sharing similar interests.

In the same way, an individual can be followed by other people. So, the list of followed and followers begin to develop with time.

facebook follow


Groups – Facebook groups are an example – can be used to build a community of people around a certain topic where they can share files, ideas and help each other to resolve issues.

facebook groups

The next one is my favorite!


Hashtags are such an important and useful feature used by almost every social media site. It allows categorizing content for a topic or keyword by just putting the # symbol in front of a word. Therefore, people around the world searching for these hash-tagged topics can find these posts and tweets.

It results in a lot of exposure for an individual!

twitter hashtags


When any person follows others on a social network, it means they want to remain updated about what they post. This information appears in real-time on their news feed.

twitter newsfeed

Build Conversations

Members of these sites can comment on other's posts. As a result, this builds up conversations and increases engagements.

facebook comments

Live Chat 

Most of these social media sites have chat clients or messaging options in their Apps to enable members to communicate with each other in real-time.

Direct Messaging

Also called DM, this feature allows two persons to hold one to one chat in private. Thus, messages exchanged can be viewed only by participants.

twitter direct messaging


Several of these sites alert members when they are tagged in a message or picture through email or app notification.

Business Page 

Some of these social networks allow brands & businesses to create unique pages for themselves to promote their offerings through posts and photographs.

Like & Comment

Almost every one of these social sites has a Like button that allows a member to show his/her appreciation for a post.

Similarly, you can see comment sections almost everywhere where people can share their thoughts about a post and initiate conversations.

facebook like

Interested in numbers?

How Many People Follow These Social Networks?

Following table presents the number of monthly active users following these extremely famous sites:

Social Network

No Of Followers


2.8 billion - Source: Wikipedia  


1 billion – Source: Wikipedia


740 million – Source: Wikipedia


459 million – Source: Hootsuite 


353 million – Source: Backlinko 

Billions of users for Facebook and Instagram. That’s crazy!


Social media sites continue to evolve and new sites keep on appearing as well. In this introductory post about social media, I tried to explain it and give details about the biggest social networks in use today.

I hope this post helped you to get an idea about the uses and types of these sites.

In the end as usual I would love to hear your feedback about this post as well as your suggestions on any other information which might be useful to add. So, please take time and give your inputs in the comments section below.

If you find the information in this post useful, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues on Facebook & Twitter.

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