What Is Social Media?

Social media is a two-way form of communication that allows users to interact with the information being transmitted. Social media encompasses a wide variety of online content, from social networking sites like Facebook to interactive encyclopedias like Wikipedia.

Conventional media, such as television or newspapers, essentially transmits information in one direction. Users can consume the information the media offers, but they have little or no ability to share their own views on the subject. Social media, however, gives users the ability to interact with the content that is being distributed. This communication may be as simple as allowing users to comment on articles or news stories. It can also be more complex, such as on Wikipedia, where users can dictate and revise the content contained in encyclopedia articles. Other social media sites may offer recommendations to users based on the interests of other users. Last.fm, for example, allows users to share their music tastes and then receive music recommendations based on the listening habits of similar users.

Other examples of social media include social news sites such as Reddit, Propeller and Digg. These sites allow users to interact with one another by sharing content and voting on its quality, which determines the articles that rise to the top of the site. Social video sites like YouTube allow users to share video content and interact through video comments.