The definition of what social networks are is using web-based social media platforms that keep users connected with friends, family, work colleagues and customers. People can use social networks for a social reason, a business purpose, or both. Social media elements include photos and videos generated by users of the platform shared across multiple networks with their circle of friends and family.
Social networks can be helpful for long-distance relationships where friends and family can only achieve connection online. Furthermore, strangers can connect and build relationships from different locations based on common interests.
The benefits for brands
Businesses use social network platforms to engage with current and potential customers. Depending on the business strategy, companies use social network platforms to generate leads, create awareness, invite users to an event and convert ads into sales. While using networks for personal use is free, companies must pay for their content visibility on the desired forum. The more a business pays, the more views, shares, comments and likes a business will get.
The first social media website
Bolt.com was created by Jane Mount and Dan Pelson in 1996 and ran until 2007. It was shut down in 2007 due to copyright violations and went bankrupt. It was reopened in January 2008 under new ownership but closed for good in October the same year.
The first so-called authentic social media site was sixdegrees.com, created by Andrew Weinreich in 1997. At its peak, the social network had 3.5 million users. However, due to internet limitations, the idea ahead of its time didn’t realise its full potential. In 1999, YouthStream Media Networks purchased it for $125m but closed down two years later.
Types of social media networks and their use
1. Social networks
These types of platforms allow for the association of personal relationships between friends and family. Brands use these platforms to create awareness and build relationships with current and potential customers. The best example of this type of social network is Facebook.
LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing social networks creating opportunities for employers and potential employees to meet. Furthermore there is great business-to-business opportunities for brand building and lead generation. Users engage more for business than personal reasons.
2. Media sharing networks
Users on these platforms search for, engage with and share user and brand-generated content like pictures, videos and animated GIFS. Although social networks allow for these activities, it’s the main feature on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and more recently, Tik-Tok.
3. Discussion forums
These media channels like Reddit, Quora and Digg are used for finding, sharing and discussing different kinds of information, opinions, and news. These forums are where professionals conduct various types of discussions around various topics. These social networks are helpful for businesses as an essential tool for excellent market research.
4. Bookmarking and content curation networks
Social media networks like Pinterest and Flipboard assist users in discovering, sharing, discussing and saving a variety of the latest trending content by desired category.
Running an ad campaign on Pinterest requires the advertisers’ website to have bookmark functionality. Flipboard allows users to create a magazine that can be filled with engaging content and showcased to their audience.
5. Consumer review networks
When customers use customer review social networks, like Trip Advisor, they are looking to research a product in which they are interested. These networks have used the most potent form of marketing, word-of-mouth, and bolstered its effectiveness. Users get informed by other customer star ratings depicting their poor or excellent experience with goods and services.
The reviews on these social media networks are called ‘social proof’ and hold brands accountable for maintaining high product quality standards.
6. Blogging and publishing networks
Content marketing has become more popular over the years and is vital to an overall online communications strategy. Blogging offers customers valuable information they are looking for on search engines like Google.
If a brand can serve a potential customer valuable content, it will win their trust. Although not all visitors will make a purchase, they will return for more information, share it with their peers and grow a website’s authority over time. The more traffic a website generates, the higher the sales or leads conversions will be.
The most popular publishing social networks are WordPress and Blogger.
Which social network to use
When deciding which social network to use, first determine if it is for personal use, building a personal brand, or making a business brand known. After that, decide which of the above would best serve you in meeting your goals.