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Social media 100: The basics

Popular social media apps.

Popular social media apps.

Social Media

It is hard to believe that ten years ago the terms “status update,” “tweet” and “hashtag” were just becoming a part of our daily vocabulary. The idea of sharing the innermost details of our lives with strangers was more reminiscent of a Hollywood movie than our regular routine.  Despite that hesitation, today our lives revolve around social media. We use it to communicate with family members and friends, share images of our travels, and catch up on politics and current events.

For companies and organizations, social media has changed the way we conduct business. The number of likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter indicate virtual success and can increase profitability and sales. New technology and apps are being developed daily making the digital landscape ever-changing.

If you’ve never jumped into the deep end of the social media pool, or you’re not sure what some of the newer platforms are about, we’ve provided brief synopses of some of the most popular platforms. In a later post, we’ll cover how the audiences on these platforms have evolved, and who you can reach on them today. 

1. Facebook

Established: 2004

Chairman & CEO: Mark Zuckerberg

Originally an online directory for Harvard College students, Facebook has quickly grown into a multi-billion-dollar company. The social networking service opened to the public in 2006 allowing anyone over the age of 13 to become a user. 

Facebook allows businesses, brands, and organizations to create a dedicated Page. The Page creator becomes the administrator and can add content, images, and other information. Additionally, the administrator can invite additional users to manage the Page. Engagement is measured by likes, comments, shares, and clicks.


+ share company and contact information

+ upload photos, images and videos

+ create photo galleries

+ provide updates

+ link to articles and websites

+ direct message all users

+ connect with other businesses

+ manage likes and engagement


2. Twitter

Established: 2006

CEO: Jack Dorsey

Twitter was created as a SMS-style communication tool for groups to share messages. With this format, users were provided with 140 characters to create short updates called “tweets.” Twitter relies on usernames to define each account using the commercial at symbol. Hashtags were established to identify specific topics, and users can add hashtags (#) before a phrase or word.

Businesses, brands and organizations can create usernames on Twitter using an email address. Anyone with the username and password can access the account and post information simultaneously. Twitter provides analytics for all users with tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions, favorites and retweets.


+ provide updates

+ upload photos, images and videos

+ connect with other users

+ link to articles and websites

+ direct message with followers


3. Instagram

Established: 2010

Developer: Facebook (acquired in 2012)

Instagram was designed as a mobile photo-sharing platform that mimicked Polaroid camera pictures. The program allows users to edit their images and add filters to modify the image colors. Users are given unlimited characters to describe the image and often include hashtags to help users navigate pictures.

Usernames can be created by any business, brand, or organization. To post, users are required to include an image (from real-time photography or a gallery image). Each image can be tagged to other users and stored in the “photos of you” section. Engagement can be calculated by comments and likes.


+ provide updates

+ upload photos, images and videos

+ connect with other users

+ store images from other users

+ send messages


 4. LinkedIn

Established: 2003

Chairman: Reid Hoffman

Unlike the other platforms, LinkedIn was established as a professional network to connect users with recruiters and fellow professionals. A LinkedIn user can create a profile and make “connections” with fellow users or non-users in their network (education, employment, organization, or shared connection).

For business, Linkedin provides a platform to share company updates, provide industry trends and news, connect with future employees, and recruit new talent. The professional style relies on businesses to build pages to share information and facilitate conversations. Engagement can be measured by likes, comments, and shares.


+ share company and contact information

+ upload original article content

+ link to articles and websites

+ message with business colleagues and recruits

+ stay connected with employees


5. tumblr

Established: 2007

Founder: David Karp

Considered a microblogging platform, tumblr provides users with an outlet share short-form multimedia content. Users can post text, photos, quotes, links, music and videos. Tumblr is a creative platform that is often used for artistic expression and provides users to share openly without being filtered.

Tumblr is an outlet for businesses to showcase their creative side. Start-up companies or trend-forward businesses may choose to establish a tumblr account as an alternative to a website. Brands tend to create fun GIFs (an animated or static image) to share information in a light-hearted manner. Engagement can be measured by followers, likes and shares.


+ share company updates

+ upload photos, links, music and videos

+ highlight “fun” aspects of business

+ website alternative


6. Snapchat

Established: 2011

CEO: Evan Spiegel

Popular among Millennials, Snapchat combines elements of other social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, tumblr) to provide its users with a less polished tool to share information. in contrast to other apps, Snapchat’s content, “snaps,” can be shared with friends on a user’s “story” or shared privately with friends in a message form. Each snap can be a still image or a short video (1 to 10 seconds) and may include filters, geofilters, text, emojis, and music. Unless saved prior to posting or screen shot, all content disappears after being viewed.

Relatively new for businesses, Snapchat can provide a behind-the-scenes, unfiltered look inside your company. The challenging aspect of the app is attaining friends to share content with through stories and messages. Snapchat allows three options to connect: sharing a Snapcode, using the “add nearby” feature, or linking directly from other social media channels.


+ feature unfiltered content

+ share photos and images

+ provide timely updates

+ control audience reach