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*||Description||Time and staff effort||Cost|
|RSS feeds||Real Simple Syndication: a file that contains frequently updated information such as news headlines or blog posts; can be subscribed to using field readers or aggregators||Low||Low|
|Image, podcast and video sharing||Sharing of pictures, video or web-based audio or video content on user-generated sites that allow storage, retrieval and commenting on the uploaded content||low||Low|
|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)