What is Social Media and Who uses it?

About Social Media

Social media and its usage have skyrocketed within the last decade or so with the most common users of social media being younger people aged 16 to 24, with more than 90% using the internet for socializing. This can impact them in different ways, regardless of age. This section provides an overview of social media and the history behind it.

What is Social Media defined as?

There have been numerous definitions of social media from various authors and personalities. One definition of social media that has been put forward is “websites which allow profile creation and visibility of relationships between users” (Boyd & Ellison, 2008), while it has also been defined as “web-based applications which provide functionality for sharing, relationships, group, conversation and profiles” (Kietzmann et al., 2011). Although they may be worded differently, the definitions of social media have common denominators such as socialising and relationships, while businesses and organisations also use social media to promote, advertise and inform users about their work.

A brief history of Social Media

It is widely considered that Six Degrees was the first social media site to be launched and paved the way for more popular sites to be created later, such as Facebook and Twitter. It was introduced in May 1997 by Andrew Weinrich, and consisted of popular features including profiles, friends list and school affiliations. Even though the site had millions of users, there was a lack of internet connectivity which led to limited networks (Terrell, 2015). A timeline of social media platforms is shown below:

Timeline of Social Media Platforms

Social Media Platforms

The use of social media is substantial throughout the world and this has increased year on year. Amongst the most popular social networks are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (Chaffey, 2019). Facebook has the most daily active users compared to other social media platforms and is also the most popular social network based on share of minutes (comScore, 2018). Facebook is used far more than its rival social media platforms, while Instagram and Snapchat are next in terms of social media minutes. The graph below shows the % spread of usage amongst the major Social Media Platforms for the UK and USA.

Who uses Social Media?

It is very rare nowadays to find someone who does not use Social Media. In January 2019 the active social media users was around 3.484 billion, while there were 3.256 billion mobile social media users too (We Are Social, 2019). More than half of the total population of the world use the internet while just less than half are active social media users. This demonstrates the impact of social media and the vast number of users it has generated since its inception.

Internet and social media around the world, 2019 (Hootsuite)