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Social media is a catchphrase describing media that is generated by users and shared freely. A social media business is any company that designs tools for social media, creating ways for people to share information quickly and easily, and discuss it in an open way. Most social media tools that are created by these businesses try to incorporate all forms of media, including text, photos, and video. Usually this is done through easy-to-use websites on the Internet, and applications on mobile devices. These businesses don’t typically create content for their sites or applications, but rather build a framework for what is called user-generated content.
While many social media business ideas incorporate all forms of media in some way, most of them focus on one particular aspect. For example, one website might make it possible for users to easily and quickly publish and share videos while another connects users in a network of friends by using user-generated photo galleries. Often sites allow users to rate and comment on content as well as categorize items in flexible ways, such as with tags, which allow users to assign single-word descriptions to an item.
The social media business philosophy is to take the power of media and put it in the hands of individuals. Formerly, it may have been very difficult for an individual to get information into the hands of a large population without a huge budget and media connections. Through social media, an individual can get information to millions of people with very little or no expense, and with little technical knowledge.
There is some controversy in the social media business world surrounding privacy. The opportunity to openly share information and connect with people has the drawback of minimizing privacy and allowing personal information to be shared, sometimes without the knowledge of the user. Users often have a love-hate relationship with the social media sites they use, out of fear of giving up their privacy.
Social media business often offer tools for free, but the businesses do need to make a profit. They usually do so by placing very benign advertising alongside the user-generated content. These ads may not look like commercials because they often draw from information that the user has posted. By tracking the interests and conversation of each individual, the site can post ads that are more relevant to the user. Not only does the user find them less intrusive, the social media business is more likely to make money from the ad. In this way, a social media business not only offers people important media tools, but also is in the business of advertising.