What started out as a bit of fun among a few university undergraduates has evolved into one of the most important methods of communication and networking online. Social media is now a part of almost everybody’s lives. Even those who do not have an account probably feature in photographs with family and friends posted on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.
All social media platforms are largely driven by the desires of their users. Many people use social media to share ideas and seek inspiration while others use it just to share photos with friends and family. Sites such as Facebook and Google have successfully gauged what their main users want to do on these platforms and cater for them.
The main appeal of social media was that it allowed people to catch up with old friends and keep in touch with family. Over the past few years, however, social media has developed into two broad areas: personal and business. Dedicated sites such as LinkedIn have been designed to provide a way for business people to network. New professional relationships are now being forged on the Internet with the help of these excellent tools.
Social media is not used in the same way in all countries and there are some interesting trends in social media from around the world. Facebook is the most popular platform globally, with users distributed evenly across the world. Facebook users include approximately 223 million Europeans, 219 million Americans and 202 million Asians. Globally, there are now over one billion Facebook users. Facebook is also growing rapidly in Africa where most users are “mobile-only” and access Facebook via mobile devices rather than desktop PCs.
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Other platforms, too, have established some very loyal users. LinkedIn, although mostly a business networking platform, is very popular in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Russia has its own social networks, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki and, although they are looking to expand into Europe, they are still very much Russian sites. Twitter is dominant in the US and the UK; the platform seemingly preferred by English speakers. Badoo is very popular in Austria, Belgium, France, and Italy, although barely known in the UK or US. Badoo is also popular in Brazil; it is thought that many people use it to flirt with new friends. Sometimes, though, a niche audience cannot sustain a platform. Orkut, which was built by a small team of Google employees, was extremely popular in Brazil and India. However, Google decided to abandon the project after it established Google Plus.
Social media extends beyond sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Professionals often wish to have more control over the content that they share so, rather than restricting themselves to the 140 characters on Twitter or third party social media sites, many are now moving back to writing on their own blogs. Blogging platforms provide a way to build a much more personal website where you can go into greater detail on topics you write about and post photos and videos in a more creative way. There are several social blogging platforms today, WordPress, BlogSpot and Tumblr being the most popular. The big draw is that they are free to use and all are built with modern social media functions included.
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Social media has taken over the world and it is hard to foresee what technology is coming next. There do appear to be two opposing trends, though. There is the move to mobile devices with many people only accessing social media on their smartphones, with at the same time a resurgence of more traditional websites and blogs that are designed with many social features built in. Whatever the future holds, social media is definitely here to stay.
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