Do you Really Know What Social Media is?


Hello Bloggers!

As a business student and someone who is heavily engaged with social media I have enjoyed reading a relatable article that some of you may be interested to know about. This well written article is “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media” written by Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein. Although I would recommend reading the full article as I will be providing resource, yet I will be providing a summary of what I thought to be the key points.

Full article available at:


The author starts this article by discussing the Social Media usage revolution from the perspective of companies. Thus, historically companies were able to control the kind of information available online about them. However, nowadays they have little or no control over the information that can be posted and shared. To better understand the rapid evolution of Social Media and its effects on business the author provides a definition of it. According to the author, social media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content. One issue in identifying Social Media is the misunderstanding of what could be included under this term, and how does it differ from the Web 2.0 and User Generated Content concepts. For further clarification, the authors label Web 2.0 as a new way in which software developers and end-users started to utilize the World Wide Web. That means the content and applications are not restricted to the use of individuals, but instead all users. While, UGC is the sum of all ways in which people make use of Social Media. There are three characteristics of UGC: (access to public, creative effort and not limited by professional practices). To classify platforms of social media one can use two categories being: media research (social presence, media richness) and social processes (self-presentation, self-disclosure).  Where, Social presence is about how much contact users can achieve. Media richness theory is about effectiveness. Self-presentation is about the image a user desire to represent. Self- disclosure is about the personal information such as feelings and thoughts. Then the author provides the reader six challenges/benefits to companies using social media.  For example, Collaborative projects allows end-users to easily create content. However, firms must be aware of what king of information is available (bad/damaging) since collaborative projects are becoming the main source of information for many consumers. Although blogs can be an effective tool to update employees, customers, and shareholders on new changes. Yet, there is a risk of using Blog to spread damaging information by dissatisfied customers or staff. On the other hand, content communities has a benefit of sharing of media content between users as it includes a wide range of different media types( text, photos, video and PowerPoints). But then, content communities could be risky if used for the sharing of what is supposed to copyright-protected materials. As for social networking sites, companies can use them to aid in the process of creating brand communities, for marketing research or even used as distribution channels. Lastly, the author concludes with some advice for companies to set guidelines that can be applied to any form of Social Media, whether they are part of them or not. Tips for using Social Media such as: choosing the suitable platform carefully, deciding whether it better to make or buy your application, ensuring activity alignment between all used platforms, integrating Social Media and traditional media, and  providing access for everyone. While tips for being social on those platforms included being active, interesting, humble, honest and unprofessional. In their conclusion, the authors predicted that the Mobile Social Media being the future key for Internet democratization and connecting the developed and emerging countries.


So, what did this article bring new to the table of discussion and creative insights? I mean, we all know what social media is and how it is used by almost every single company out there! In fact, isn’t social media what connects us to those firms and tells us about their products/services? Isn’t through your Instagram you figured out about this new makeup palette or latest watch?

But, with full honesty, did we all know what social media really is? Well, talking about myself… the first thing that pops to my mind when someone says social Media is a little voice in my head saying “oh! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram”. Yeah, no it is way deeper than this definition. Did you even know that social media platforms fall under different categories?

I loved how this article narrowed down the definition of Social Media but yet made it clear and logical. This is done by stating: “In our view–—and as used herein–—Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content”. I find it very interesting how the authors combined the Web 2.0 and UGC together in defining Social Media. Also, the fact that Social Media concept is not really new anymore as it probably started about 20 years earlier. It is been around for a long time but with a different name and form! Yup we are not the generation of Social Media !!!

But here is what shocked me the most, Social Media has different Categories! and NO it is not only based on either being a platform where you can write something or inserting photos. It has more than this to it:


The authors provide us with a systematic method to form a classification structure. This structure we relies on the two key elements of Social Media a set of theories in the field of media research (social presence, media richness) and social processes (self-presentation, self-disclosure). So, putting this into simpler words the categories depends on the way the platform is used. If it used for media research than it is about how strongly the firm is being present on platform and how effective its used to enhance communication and avoid uncertainty. While, if it is used for the purpose of social process. Then it is about being an open stage where people can reflect either their ideas or personal feelings.

Lastly, one of the key points that I could relate to as future business professional who must be using Social Media, is the positive and negatives of it. the authors made it clear that depending on how a firm chooses to use Social Media and manage it will draw a bath of either success or failure. Companies should be aware of the type of information that is being published to the public. whether a firm decided to be engaged and a part of Social Media or not it will be effected by the feedback that is provided by customers or staff.

There are tons of great points made by the authors. personally, i have gained a new perspective on Social Media usage. How about you?


Haenlein, M., & Kaplan, A.M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons (53) 59-68.

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