While the definition that social media is a system of communication that brings people together, may not hold a lot of weight as to the true nature of social media, it is imperative to understand that social media encompasses four unique commonalities that can be used to establish the true meaning and nature of social media. These include the following:
Social media are web 2.0 and internet-based application
Social media comprises of applications that use the internet to operate. Some and most of these applications are social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter that operate only on web-based systems with internet connection. This means that one has to have access to internet to be able to use social media. The availability of internet all over the world has made it possible for social media to thrive and grow amidst competition from traditional media.
Social media thrives on user-generated content. User-generated content refers to the content that is generated by social media users. Social media has millions and billions of users who generate content form which responses, reposts, and information sharing are made possible. In social media parlance, even institutions, government bodies, business corporations and personal accounts are considered social media users and it is from these accounts that content is derived to ensure social media remains an active platform for everyone or every institution or business.
Social media unlike other media allows people, business organizations and institutions to create user profiles from which user content is generated. These profiles are personalized or are specific to individuals, organizations or institutions with controlled access and usage as well. Management of these accounts is left to the social website management. However, users have the capacity to design their profiles to suit their preferences in terms of security, access and affiliations.
Social media allows users to connect with other users by being friends or joining groups from which ideas are shared and networks created. Individuals are able to interact with other individuals either via comments or through personalized messaging systems. Additionally, it allows for people to share views on posts made on social media platforms and this interactivity is important in enhancing communication.
Despite the different social media platforms in existence, the purpose of these platforms is to enable communication between individuals. The interfaces of these platforms may differ as well as user requirements but the purpose does not change. Some of the networking sites are specialized such as Instagram that uses pictures as a baseline for interaction. LinkedIn by the same token is a preferred social site for professionals etc. Additionally not all social media platforms allows for business marketing and advertisement. WhatsApp for example does not carry out adverts and marketing for businesses. It is purely for private conversations between individuals.