Social Media is an umbrella term used to describe virtual interactive platforms. The term was coined in the 1990s when ordinary members of the public were given access to the creation of web content.

Social Media Evolution

Geocities and other build-your-own-website services became hugely popular, enabling people to publish static web pages and bulletin boards. Eventually, tools were released that provided internet users with the opportunity to upload forums and chat channels. Not long afterwards, blogs appeared alongside the first social networking websites, such as Bebo and MySpace. Then Facebook and Twitter arrived on the scene.

What is the Purpose of Social Media?

Social media was not designed with any specific purpose in mind; in fact, it arguably came about by chance rather than design. The developers who engineered the web in the 1990s may have facilitated virtual communications, but their intention was never to create social media as it is known today. Web users paved the way for the development of social media by demanding more from basic web technologies. In effect, social media created itself.

How Does Social Media Work?

Twitter is the perfect example of social media in action. Serving no other function than to support virtual communications between web users, Twitter is essentially a modern-day bulletin board. The distinguishing feature of Twitter is that it forces users to limit the size or scope of each virtual interaction while encouraging users to become part of a much greater network. In 140-character Tweets, Twitterers are able to communicate with a global audience. Twitter has become a useful platform for disseminating news, but it is also used by B2C and B2B companies to increase brand awareness and lead generation. Some firms even use the network to carry out customer support.

Other types of social media work in similar ways, providing businesses with the opportunity to engage with a global audience in one way or another. Interaction can occur in the form of text, images or videos. Certain games can even be considered part of the social media phenomenon.

In the early days of Facebook and Twitter, social network users were somewhat unsettled by the presence of companies on a platform that was seemingly created for people. But opinions change. Most people now accept the useful role that companies play in the social sphere, providing consumers with a human point of contact and broadcasting important information to those who may be interested. On Twitter and Facebook, companies aim to reinforce a positive brand image, with sales and support services addressing the customer directly and openly.