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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jana Gross

5 different forms of social media

Learning and understanding what different forms of social media exist.

Digitalization has fundamentally changed how we communicate, retrieve information, how we make business, and how we make purchase decisions. The first phase of the Internet was Web 1.0. Web 1.0 allowed us to retrieve information of websites that are linked together. The Internet become much more interactive with the Web 2.0. We now have the opportunity to generate content and share it, and so social media was born.

Social media is the response of communication to digital transformation.

Social media are computer-mediated applications or sites that facilitate the creation and sharing of content. As the name already states, a social medium is a computer-mediated medium that allows its users to interact with each other — nothing else than a medium that enables us being social. Social media takes many forms and in the following, I introduce five different forms of social media:

1) Community-oriented social media

Community-oriented social media applications and sites allow people to connect and interact with each other, thereby building same-minded groups and communities. Users set up their individual profiles on which they create and share content. Users can also consume other users’ content, engage with content, and follow other individuals. Social media types include social networks, photo sharing, video sharing, and music sharing. Examples are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok.

2) Environment-oriented social media

Environment-oriented social media applications and sites allow people to live and experience a computer-simulated world. These simulated worlds are not necessarily related to the physical world. Users create their own personal avatar in these worlds. Social media types include virtual worlds and social games. Examples are Word of Warcraft or Second Life.

3) Topic-oriented social media

Topic-oriented social media applications and sites allow people to read and learn about their topics of interest. Additionally, they share and discuss their experiences, thoughts, and opinions on those topics with others. Users can get informational material about a topic, discuss a topic, or collect the latest news about a topic. Social media types include blogs, microblogs, or forums. Examples are Twitter, Medium, or specific blog websites, such as Ballet Lovers.

4) Project-oriented social media

Project-oriented social media applications and sites allow to connect people with a common-interest to advance an interest-related project. They plan, build, develop, improve, analyze, and test projects through their experiences and knowledge. These projects are publicly available and can be modified by anyone. Social media types include collaborative projects or product and service reviews. Examples are Wikipedia or TripAdvisor.

5) Business-oriented social media

Business-oriented social media applications and sites allow people to connect, exchange and work in a business-related context. Social media types include business or enterprise social networks, or bookmarking applications and sites. Business networks allow users to establish and maintain professional contacts. Enterprise social networks that are used by companies for their employees or of specific groups. Bookmarking applications and sites allow users to plan, organize, and save concepts, ideas, and bookmarks. Examples are LinkedIn or Xing.

To conclude, social media has fundamentally changed how we communicate. Different forms of social media exist. These forms of social media are non-exclusive. They evolve with the new social media applications and sites appearing and disappearing in the Internet world.

This article evolved and is inspired by the following sources: Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68.

McCay-Peet, L., & Quan-Haase, A. (2017). What is social media and what questions can social media research help us answer. The SAGE Handbook of Social Media Research Methods, 13–26.

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