The aim of this piece is to outline some of key terms you may encounter when using the internet to interact with social media. Most social media sites will require you to sign up for an account via an email address and add some basic information about yourself such as a username, photo and some brief personal details. These details will then form the basis of a profile that is normally visible to other members of the same social network.
Social networks come in all shapes and sizes from those with a broad reach such as Facebook to those for niche social interests, old collages, schools, places or work and most places in-between. If you have a hobby or interest there is bound to be an online community that will be fully of people with the same interests.
Avatars are the image attached to your account. This can be a simple photo, a cartoon image or can often be selected from a range within the website and customised to reflect your own personality.
A blog is a website that allows the author or authors to add content in the form of “posts”. A blog is a self-publishing format. Blog posts can contain mixed media in terms of photos, video, music and other images. There are a number of free blogging services including Blogger and WordPress that allow you to create blog style websites for free.
The term Blogsphere is used to describe the network of blogs across the internet. It also covers the the feedback loop that is a major part of blogging. Bloggers interact with each other’s blogs sharing links, content and comments. Once you publish your first blog you are part of the growing blogsphere. In January 2010 there was roughly 133 Million blogs indexed in Google.
Online bookmarking or social bookmarking sites allow you to save webpages, photos, videos or other content via a browser or toolbar. All these bookmarks are stored within your account and are therefore accessible via any device that has an internet connection. The more advanced sites allow you to tag your bookmarks for quick reference. Social bookmarking sites include Delicious and Mister Wong.
Most blogs allow readers to post comments on blog posts. These comments then form an on-going conversion between the author of the post and those who have placed comments. One of the advantages of blogging is that it connects the author and reader in a quick and timely fashion.
The term crowdsourcing refers to using a large number of people to help make creative decision or to provide information on products or services. It is the process of using web 2.0 technologies to allow people to interact with data or ideas. It is using the web to harness the wisdom of crowds.
Instant Messaging (IM) is a term used to describe a piece of software of a browser based application that allows users within the same network to chat with each other. The tools are usual text based and allow you to hold conversions with other members who’s contact details you know and how are online at the same time as you. Skype, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger are all examples of IM services.
Social media is the overall term for a collection of different tools, browsers, software, websites and wiki’s that allow for enhanced social interaction online. Websites that contain an element of user interaction in the form or a forum, a social network, a blog or a wiki can all be viewed as social media sites.
Social networking websites are those that provide tools for their users to create networks with like-minded users and share content and information. These sharing tools can include the ability to share links, photos, podcast, video and other forms of media. Facebook is the world’s largest social networking website. Social Networking sites exist for most types of interests from the Business World to online gaming.
The term Wiki refers to website or set of webpages that are focussed on providing information on a set or set of topic and that can be edited by the websites users. The best known example of a Wiki is Wikipedia. Wiki are a really useful way for different authors to draw their knowledge and experience together. The collaborative nature of Wiki’s means that you gain the wisdom of the different contributors and they often provide rounded and in depth information on the topic.
The terms highlighted are only just touching the service of the language used to describe social media. Each of the terms I have highlighted will have a set of technical and slang attached to them. Social media is a constant state of flux and this also results in new phrase developing all the time. To stay on top of the language of social media you need to be actively engaged and taking part.