Facebook is easily the largest and most popular of the social media tools listed and is widely used by both businesses and consumers. It’s the most versatile of the social media tools and can be linked to websites and most other social media tools. Users can incorporate messages (like Twitter); photos (like Instagram); circles or affiliations and professional information (like LinkedIn); videos (like YouTube); and the sharing of ideas, interests and likes (like Pinterest). That’s what sets Facebook apart from the other social media tools — its ability to encompass everything other social media tools offer in one site. In addition, users can form groups, use marketing analytics, send private messages, chat, play games, share, “like” and comment on other users’ profiles. However, Facebook can be dangerous to professionals and corporations, as the content is not only widely visible but often misinterpreted. For example, a user who works in a professional environment might find herself in a sticky situation if a friend posted something questionable on her Facebook wall and her boss read it. Teachers have lost their jobs because of Facebook photos in which they were holding beer. While Facebook can be fun and is an effective social media marketing tool, it has the potential to be very damanging to an individual’s or a company’s reputation. Facebook is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), computer, tablet, e-reader, game console and SmarTV.
Twitter shares some of the similarities of Facebook but is much less detailed. Users can “friend” each other by “following” one another. They can post status updates in 140 characters or less and share links and photos (or Twitpics). Like Facebook, Twitter is often and easily linked to other websites and social media tools. Unlike Facebook, Twitter profiles are much more limited and its interface is significantly less cluttered. Notably, it seems that there are far fewer Twitter “scandals,” i.e. teachers losing their jobs over a risque Twitter photo. Although there are certainly a number of celebrities and companies that use Twitter, it seems that the average Twitter user is much more social media-savvy than the average Facebook user. In addition, Twitter’s primary users are statisically older (ages 35 to 54), as opposed to Facebook (ages 21 to 24). However, in business, both are primarily used by marketing departments. In my opinion, Twitter is less user friendly than Facebook. Those new to tweeting (like myself) may be easily confused by the use of ampersands and hashtags. Lastly, although more sophisticated than Facebook, Twitter is not quite as “grown up” as LinkedIn, and I feel it falls between the two. Twitter is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), tablet, computer, game console and SmarTV.
LinkedIn is commonly referred to as “Facebook for grown-ups,” due to its professional, more sophisticated content. Users can upload their resumes and a professional headshot (or other tasteful profile photo). Users can list their professional networks, associations, affiliations, education, etc. and connect with other users in their career field. For example, most of my LinkedIn connections attended Simmons College and/or work in the autmotive industry or newspaper business. Fewer companies are on LinkedIn than Facebook and Twitter, though this is beginning to change as LinkedIn’s user base expands. Users typically do not share content that is outside the workplace realm, such as videos, photos, links, etc., although LinkedIn can be connected to websites and other social media tools. Its primary users, like Twitter, are middle-aged adults, ages 25-54. LinkedIn is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), computer, tablet, game console and SmarTV.
Instagram is one of the newest social media tools I’ve examined. It’s unique in its capacity to take, edit, share, like and comment on photos. Users cannot post without uploading a photo. Although there are other smart phone apps that allow users to edit photos, Instagram is the most popular and the only one (that I know of) that allows users to then share their photos on the Instagram network. Instagram’s users are older teens and young adults, ages 18 to 25, and most commonly iPhone owners, as the app was just recently expanded to the Android platform. Instagram is often integrated with Facebook and can be linked to Twitter and allows users to geotag photos; however, these are the only two social networks currently available to link Instagram (at least on the Android platform). Although not necessarily mature or professional in nature, photo content seems to be tame. Unlike other social media tools, Instagram is only available as a smart phone app.
YouTube is the most widely used video social networking tool. It can be linked to most social media tools and its content can be shared on websites and social networks alike. Users can upload videos (or broadcast themselves), as well as comment on and like videos as well. Content, however, is across the map. From promotional and marketing videos, tutorials, music videos and adult-only content, YouTube has it all – probably as a result of the broad age range of its primary users: 18 to 34. However, content is monitored, especially for copyright infringement, as users are able to upload protected TV shows and movies. YouTube is available via smart phone (app and mobile site, although not all videos are available via mobile), tablet, computer, game console (and many gaming consoles have their own YouTube app) and SmarTV (Samsung has its own YouTube SmarTV app).
Also one of the newest social media tools, Pinterest seems to have taken on a massive following within the past year. The majority of users are women, ages 25 to 44, and content is on the wholesome side. Users can “pin” or share things they like – recipes; outfits; products; DIY ideas; craft patterns; art; design; architecture; photos; organization, household management, professional, beauty and parenting tips and tricks; and more. Users can also share videos, although this feature is less popular than pinning and repinning content. Pinterest is linkable to other sites and social media tools and is commonly linked to Facebook. Some companies have delved into Pinterest as a marketing tool, like Honda, although it has not quite taken off yet. Pinterest is available via smart phone, computer and tablet, although there are no Pinterest apps available yet.
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