What is Social Media – Social Media Definition

Another basic question that we never took the time to explain in more details is: “What is social media?”

Let’s start with how we understand the social media definition:

“The term social media describes websites and apps that allow users to create, share and connect content.”

The central feature of social media is interactivity. Social interaction between users as well as collaborative writing characterizes the online dialogue, the so-called many-to-many communication. Users create content (user-generated content) through which a permanent, unlimited exchange with others takes place.

Basically, social media has become a term that describes a large number of digital media, applications and technologies of Web 2.0. These have in common that users can interact via a specific platform on the Internet, both via messages and comments, as well as actively participate in the design of media content.

With this user-generated content, social media clearly separates itself from the traditional mass media (print, film, radio and television), as social media monologues create socio-media dialogues. The user, so far mostly only consumer, is freed by the wide possibilities and low entry barriers of social media itself to the producers and thus formally from his media immaturity. He can actively participate in the design and distribution of news and content. In this context, one often speaks of the democratization of knowledge and the media.

Social media enables not only companies but also individuals, to attract the attention of millions of viewers or readers with a good idea or a sharp opinion. The common means of communication are text, image, audio and video, which are often linked to each other via links across platforms.

The term social media is said to have fallen for the first time allegedly in a contribution of the US company Guidewire Group at the BlogOn Conference in July 2004.

Social media can be understood as a generic term for this type of social media, but also as a term for a media genre: this means that social media is associated as a category more than the sum of the media channels, e.g. an expectation of the form of communication. In this case, social media as a singular would have to be separated from the concept of social media.

Among the most important networks are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • VKontakte (Russia)
  • Renren (China)
  • Wechat (China)
  • Blogs (one of the oldest forms of social media)
social media network
People connecting on social media at fast pace

Social Media Characteristics

Social media is also accompanied by a change in the use of the Internet: from pure consumption (Web 1.0) to participation (Web 2.0).

Social in this context means networking with others as well as interaction through sharing and receiving information. Media is simply the communication tool, here: the Internet. So social media is a web-based communication tool that enables users to interact and share and consume information.

User accounts in social networks are essential for the interaction. Likewise, users create profiles on most social media platforms that others can view. These profiles contain information about the respective user, such as:

  • Profile picture
  • biography
  • Website link
  • Feed
  • activities
  • Etc.

Contacts are mandatory on social media channels. They call themselves friends, followers, subscribers, etc. Many platforms offer groups, such as Facebook, for example. In the groups, users can organize themselves for different interests. Some of the most popular groups on Facebook include sales groups.

Also, hashtags (#) are an invention of social media, more specifically of Twitter.


Please let us know in the comments below if we managed to fully answer your question about what is social media and if you are happy with our definition?

Alex D,

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