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  4. Evolution of social media

Evolution of social media

The online information environment has evolved from a world in which users searched and consulted information (Web 1.0) to a world where they are now able to generate and spread information themselves (Web 2.0). As a consequence, traditional sources of information lose control over the content and distribution of the message resulting in a more complex communication process. A unique feature is that a message on social media is spread by users themselves while direct contact with the source is minimal (Helm, 2008).

The term social media covers a wide array of different communication outlets including social networking, video- and picture-sharing, blogs, and microblogs (Tinker & Fouse, 2009). The channels differ in terms of their purpose, i.e. some channels are used for dissemination purposes only (e.g. RSS feeds) while other channels allow engagement( i.e. the source can engage/communicate directly with the audience).   As a consequence,  the resources (i.e. time, staff effort and cost) required on each channel differ. Further details are provided in Table 1. 

Table 1: Description and indication of resources required on selected social media channels

Tool*DescriptionTime and staff effortCost
RSS feedsReal Simple Syndication: a file that contains frequently updated information such as news headlines or blog posts; can be subscribed to using field readers or aggregatorsLowLow
Image, podcast and video sharingSharing of pictures, video or web-based audio or video content on user-generated sites that allow storage, retrieval and commenting on the uploaded contentlowLow
 Microblogs Form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually up to 140 characters) and to publish this information so that a network of followers can view and comment on the information Medium Low
 Blogs Information (text and/or visual) posted on a regularly updated website and displayed in reverse chronological order Medium Medium
 Social networks Online communities that allow users to connect, interact and exchange information with those who share interests and/or activities High Low

 * Tools are ranked from primarily dissemination (RSS feeds) to increasing levels of engagement (social networks)