What Are Social Media Sites?

“Social media sites” are user-generated content websites where readers interact with the site with their computers or mobile communications devices to post word content, audio, pictures or video content. “Social media” websites attempt to foster virtual communications and interactions between site users, and there are a number of electronic formats used to foster online discussions. Social media sites might be blog, forums, message boards, social networking sites, wikis, photo sharing site, video sharing sites, music file sharing sites, or even online gaming sites.

“Social media” are interactive in nature, where traditional media like television, film and newspapers generally are not interactive. Traditional media (formally called “industrial media”) use broadcasting tools or printing presses to disseminate information, and these methods typically require the kind of resources that only private corporations with some government support (like government spectrum licenses or broadcast frequencies) to produce content. On the other hand, many social media websites can be started (and often maintained) by one individual. This does not preclude certain social media sites becoming major economic forces or owned by corporations.

What Are Some Examples of Social Media Websites?

Below is a list of some of the most famous and successful social media sites online. You’ll notice the scope and variety of these social websites and see why the “social media” has made such of an impact on the way the world media is presented in the information age, and why so many traditional or industrial media organizations have had trouble with circulation or viewership in recent years. Many savvy traditional media sites have built their own name brand online and some of the bigger corporations have bought successful social media websites, but most of the trendy new social media sites that get famous online tend to be started by innovative internet entrepreneurs who have an idea that gains popularity.

  • Wikipedia.org
  • YouTube
  • MySpace
  • Twitter
  • World of Warcraft
  • Digg
  • Flickr
  • Blogger
  • Facebook
  • Orkut
  • deviantART
  • Second Life
  • Skype


As you can see, social media sites comprise some of the most popular websites on the internet. In one way or another, these sites encourage customers and users to interact with their website, and the interactive social media site tends to encourage user loyalty. For example, a “wiki” like Wikipedia, which allows anyone to edit pages, encourages people to take ownership of the site, because they produce the content. In the case of Wikipedia, articles in their online encyclopedia are edited by anyone who takes the time to register, and who is willing to follow the rules of the site.

Youtube has another model. Youtube allows users to post their own videos on their website, allowing anyone else in the world to see these videos. People can see everything from clips of old television programs or movie trailers to peoples’ personal home videos. A person can watch their favorite band’s latest music video or a shred (dub-over) of the very same video. And if the people watching believe it’s worth their time to improve or spoof any of the aforementioned video items, they go on Youtube and add their own social media content. Some videos go “viral” and gives the person who posted them a certain amount of notoriety, if not fame.

Is Social Media The Future of Information?

The newspaper industry is having serious problems, because it’s more expensive for a newspaper to produce and distribute content than it is for a websites to post content – much less a website where costumers produce their own content. Print media is held to different standards (journalist standards) than blog and news websites, and it’s expensive to hire investigative journalists to dig into a story. Many newspaper will have to learn to adapt to the new information environment or go out of business.

Meanwhile, television broadcasting has been greatly influenced by the social media sites. Cable news networks and sports news networks not only need to fill up 24 hour news cycles these days, but they often have to decide whether to run a story from a less-than-trustworthy social news site. Many believe that print and news journalism has suffered in the age of e-journalism, as their is more information to cover and often fewer resources to cover that information. Meanwhile, politicians and celebrities who see the heat from the often tabloid journalistic standards feel the need to “win” shortened new cycles, and traditional journalists see themselves covering the stories made or broken by bloggers and online newsites who can print pretty much anything they want.

Movies, on the other hand, are least affected, because the amount of money it requires to make feature length movies and distribute them is simply beyond the resources of social media members. Still, television producers and film distributors have had to concern themselves with the loss of viewers to the internet, where people may be as content to find entertainment online as they are to find their news online.

We’ll eventually reach an equilibrium where social media sites and industrial media entities will find their own niche, though I’m not sure what these niches will look like. I imagine many of the ideas for file sharing have been filled up, since just about any kind of information (words, photos, audio, video) are now being shared online. Until a new technology comes along that revolutionizes how we access information, there will probably always be a room for social media sites and traditional media producers. Whatever the case, social media websites appear to be here to stay.