Skip main navigation

50 of the biggest social media questions answered

Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about social media. We take a look at 50 social media FAQs, covering everything from online wellbeing to account management.

Fl  Blog Banner Social Media

Social media has come a long way over the last twenty years. From humble beginnings, it’s now something that plays a significant role in most of our lives. Given how prevalent it is, we’ve decided to look at some social media FAQs and their answers. 

Social media platforms are run by huge corporations that influence global trends and politics. With this power, questions are raised about our wellbeing, privacy, and how we’re marketed towards. We address these issues, as well as what the future of social media may hold.

General social media FAQs

Let’s start our list of social media FAQs with some of the general questions that people often ask. If you’re new to the world of social media, these can help you figure out exactly what it is, how individuals and companies use it, and how you can get involved:

What is social media?

Social media is quite a broad term, covering quite a few different topics. However, a simple explanation is that social media platforms are web-based tools that allow users to connect, interact, and create, share and consume content. Through apps on smartphones, laptops, tablets, and PCs, social media enables us to build online relationships and exchange media.

How long has social media been around?

There are various theories on this. In terms of pre-internet days, there is an argument that social media has been around for around 40 years. Yet if we’re taking it purely as a medium that exists online, then this number is more like 24 years. After all, the internet itself is only just about 30 years old.

What was the first social media platform?

Again, this isn’t an easy one to answer. Some suggest that the Usenet, a precursor to internet forums, kicked off social media in 1979. Others argue that the first true social media site as we understand it today was Six Degrees. This 1997 website allowed users to create a profile, make friends, and share messages. For current platforms, LinkedIn and Facebook, two of the oldest sites still around, launched in 2002 and 2004, respectively. 

Online Degree

MSc Digital Marketing with Data Analytics

  • 1-2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

How many people use social media? 

This is one of the most popular social media FAQs, and for good reason. According to figures from Statista, nearly 50% of the world’s population uses social media. Data from 2020 shows that 3.81 billion people use some form of social network. When you consider that there are just over 4.5 billion internet users, this is a staggeringly large proportion. 

What are the top 10 social media apps? 

As we explored in our post on the top 10 social media apps, this is a hard question to answer. There are so many metrics we could use, particularly given the ways different countries approach social media. However, based on the number of users worldwide, Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp make up the top three sites. 

What is social media used for?

Social media has gone beyond just connecting with friends. It’s now an industry in itself, used for all kinds of purposes. Social platforms are a key part of digital marketing, as they can be used to communicate brand news and messaging. People use social media for various other aspects of business, and even fields like healthcare are making use of social media.  

If you’re keen to learn more about marketing via social media, check out our Social media marketing strategy course.

Which companies own social media platforms? 

Although there are many different platforms available, many of the most popular ones are owned by the same few companies. For example, Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp (as well as Oculus VR and several other businesses). Google owns YouTube and previously had its own social network, Google+. Tencent, a Chinese company, owns QQ, Qzone, and WeChat, some of the biggest platforms in Asia. 

Should I join social media? 

Sadly, we can’t answer this for everyone. However, there are some questions to ask yourself before you decide. What is it you’re hoping to get from social media? What information do you want to share? Which site, if any, is right for you? 

Social media can help you connect with others, learn about new topics, find help on certain issues, and raise awareness for worthy causes. Yet it can take up your time, risk your privacy, and have consequences for your wellbeing. You need to find balance between all of these factors if you’re considering setting up an account. 

What info do I need to join social media? 

The exact requirements differ between the various platforms out there. However, for most, you can get started with a valid email address and some of your personal information. Most sites ask for your name and date of birth. Usually, you’ll also need to verify your email and create a password.

Online wellbeing FAQs

When it comes to social media FAQs, there are often many questions asked about how it can affect people’s wellbeing. As social networks continue to play a more significant role in our lives, we must address some of the impacts of this: 

Does social media negatively impact wellbeing? 

There are few social media FAQs as important as this one, and it’s a question that’s often hotly debated in popular media. Past studies have shown that certain platforms can have adverse effects on our wellbeing. This includes our mental health as well as our sleep. This only highlights the importance of our overall digital wellbeing

If you’re interested in learning more about the topic, our Digital wellbeing course is a great place to start.

How does social media affect mental health? 

Again, there have been numerous studies about social media’s effects on mental health. Although there are negative impacts, such as the increased risk of anxiety, depression, negative body image, and cyberbullying, there are also some positives (as we’ll see). However, either way, it’s important for online users to understand and take care of their mental health

How are young people affected by social media? 

Given that around 70% of children in the UK aged 12 to 15 have a social media account, it’s not surprising that this group comes under particular scrutiny. Again, the data doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture. Feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and poor body image are all reported among young social media users. Clearly, we need to help young people and their mental health

What is cyberbullying? 

Cyberbullying is a term used to describe any form of bullying behaviour that takes place online. It could be via social media or messaging apps, gaming sites, or other mediums on which people communicate online. It’s a genuine problem that affects people of all ages, particularly as internet access gives 24/7 connectivity. 

What are the positives of using social media? 

So far, we’ve outlined a fairly bleak picture of social media use, but it’s far from all bad. It gives us a chance to connect and communicate with people from all over the world, allowing us to share knowledge and feel less lonely. It’s also a medium where we can learn, ask for help, and raise awareness of important causes. Using social media is also a digital skill that can help in many areas of life.  

What is fake news? 

One of the problems often associated with social media is that of fake news. It’s a term that’s become popular in recent years, with several high-profile scandals surrounding it. Essentially, fake news stories are those articles that are either deliberately fabricated to get people to believe something, or partially untrue to attract more views. Sensationalist headlines, clickbait titles, and false statements are all hallmarks of fake news. 

How long is too long on social media? 

According to 2019 data, the average usage for social media among internet users is around 144 minutes per day. But how much is too much? It’s hard to say precisely, as there are few comprehensive studies. However, some research suggests that limiting ourselves to just 30 minutes per day could lead to improvements in wellbeing. 

How can I improve my mental wellbeing? 

If social media is getting you down, there are plenty of ways you can boost your mental and physical wellbeing. Identifying negative thought patterns, practising mindfulness, and paying attention to your diet and nutrition can all help you feel better about things.

Social media marketing FAQs

Businesses of all kinds are developing their online presence. One of the key ways of doing this is by expanding their reach on social media. It’s a tool with countless possibilities, and companies try many different tactics to sell their products and services. Here are some social media FAQs about marketing:

What is a social media manager?

Among those thinking about a career in digital marketing, this is often among the most popular social media FAQs. Social media managers work to represent their companies across social media channels. They control the official accounts for the businesses they work for, run social media marketing campaigns, and interact with customers online. 

How do companies use social media? 

There are all kinds of ways that companies can take advantage of their social presence. It’s a platform where they can promote themselves and their products and services. Similarly, they can engage with customers and provide customer service, answer questions, and build relationships. As such, digital marketing is becoming essential to all kinds of businesses. 

What are social media analytics? 

One of the main areas that companies can use social media is by looking at analytics to understand how their customers behave online. They then use this data to inform decisions and marketing activities, analysing how effective their efforts are. 

How do you run a successful social media campaign? 

If you’re wondering exactly how businesses use these platforms, our course on social media marketing campaigns gives you an insight on how to run one. It covers everything you need to know, from the planning stages, to the launch, and finally how to analyse its effectiveness. 

Why do brands use social media? 

Given how many people around the world use social media, it’s little surprise that companies are jumping on the bandwagon. What’s more, organisations such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide specific tools to help businesses market towards their customers. They’re the ideal platforms for expanding brand recognition and reaching new customers. 

How can I get a job working in social media? 

Many digital marketing roles require some knowledge of social media. As such, you’ll want to start exploring how the various platforms are used, both in a practical sense and for marketing purposes. Hands-on experience is always desirable, as is knowledge of current digital workplace trends

Which platforms are best for social media marketing? 

The answer to this really depends on the brand and purpose. Obviously, the more users a platform has, the more potential there is to connect with new people. That’s why platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger are useful. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is the ideal place to be, while lifestyle brands can use Instagram to great effect.  

Can I avoid social media marketing? 

Given that a significant amount of social media companies’ revenue comes from advertising, it can be hard to avoid it. They collect data on you and then use it to try and sell you things. However, it’s possible to minimise these targeted ads you see from all companies. There are no quick fixes sadly, but you can read more about how to minimise targeted ads on Privacy International. 

How can I tell if something on social media is an ad? 

Companies usually have to pay to advertise on social media channels, and they’re pretty good at making their ads look like regular posts. However, there are guidelines in place meaning that such ads have to be clearly labelled as such. So, you see things like ‘sponsored content’ on a post in your timeline. Similarly, ‘influencers’ will often post videos/posts about products they’re paid to advertise, and they have to declare if this is the case.

Online privacy FAQs

So much of our lives are now internet-based. Whether it’s our education, shopping, entertainment, communication or socialisation, all can feature some kind of online element. As such, concerns have been raised about our privacy, data, and security. Here are some relevant social media FAQs on the subject:

Are social media platforms safe to use? 

This is another essential topic on our list of social media FAQs. The simple answer is, social media sites are safe to use if you use them safely. Most sites have security and privacy settings that allow you to control what others see about you. However, remember that most of your activity online leaves a digital footprint. You can learn some of the basics of cyber security to help keep you safe online.  

How do social media companies use my data? 

Most online businesses collect some data about you. Identifiable information such as your name, date of birth, location, and device ID is used with things like how you respond to content and what you purchase. This information is collected, bought, sold and traded across the internet and between companies. It’s then used to target you with adverts, segment you into user groups, send you offers, and alter their own practices. Data analytics is big business, and we’re all creating vast amounts of information each day. 

What are the laws about social media privacy?

There are several laws in the UK that relate to privacy, data, and social media. In the UK, the right to privacy is protected under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. There are also laws meaning your privacy is protected from the state and other individuals. However, there are exceptions to this rule when it comes to certain policing operations.  

How can I be safer online?

This is an important question that goes beyond just social media FAQs. There are many steps you can take to stay safe when using social media and the internet. You should learn about privacy settings on your social accounts, as well as limit the personal information you share online. Additionally, you can make sure your internet connection is secure, and that your PC has the necessary anti-virus software. 

What happens if my data is compromised? 

Social media sites are prime targets for hacks and data breaches. If your account is compromised, you’ll need to take action, including assessing what information they may have accessed and what other accounts use the same email and password. You should ramp up your account security, including using multifactor authentication. Additionally, you might want to learn more about the cyber security landscape

For a more in depth view on cyber security, check out our Cyber security foundations: why cyber security is important course.

Can I hide my personal data online? 

In the UK, you have the ‘right to be forgotten’ when it comes to your online data. This means that you can ask Google to delist specific search results related to your name if they’re potentially harmful. You can also delete your online social accounts. One other place to take action to hide your data is to check data collection sites and old websites you used to use to request that they remove your info and old posts. 

Which social media platform is the safest? 

It’s a little difficult to determine what ‘safe’ looks like when it comes to social media. However, you want to look like options of peer-to-peer encryption for messages, multifactor authentication for logins, and the amount of data they require. Services such as Telegram are considered fairly safe based on these factors. Check out our courses on network security if you want to learn how your data is kept safe online. 

Where can I learn more about cyber security? 

You can find our range of online cyber security courses to learn more about this interesting and essential topic. We have courses that cover a wide range of topics, such as ethical hacking, encryption, and ethics in computing.

Social media account management FAQs

Once you have a social media account, it’s important to know how to manage it. Whether it’s deleting content or control what information you share, there are plenty of social media FAQs related to this area:

Who owns my social media account? 

When it comes to the content on your social media account, you own it. Most services have privacy policies and terms of service that outline things like your photos, videos, audio, and more remain your property. So, if you’re looking to create great online content and you use it for your personal account, you can rest assured that you own it. 

Can I delete my social media account? 

Most social media platforms allow you to deactivate or delete your account. You’ll usually have to log in to the service and jump through several hoops to do so. When it comes to deleting your online presence, you’ll find some are easier to remove than others. The website Background Checks gives a good indication of how difficult certain services are. 

What happens when I delete my social media account? 

Again, this depends a little on the social media service and the options you choose. Facebook and Twitter, for example, give you the chance to deactivate or delete your account entirely. With deactivation, you can reactivate it at a later date. Certain information will still appear on the sites, such as messages you sent. With deletion, it can take up to 30 days before all of your information is removed. 

Who can see what I post? 

With the emphasis on privacy we have nowadays, most social media platforms allow users to have some control over what they share. However, as a general rule, you should assume that if you reply or comment to a post, anyone who has access to that post can see it, even if you’re not directly connected. When you’re creating a professional online presence, it’s vital you bear this in mind. 

Can I control what information I share?

With the focus on digital media analytics that many companies have, we’re all encouraged to share as much of our data as possible. However, you can still change your privacy settings on all social media sites, giving you some control over what you share. Of course, you can also limit the things you post, and think carefully about the type of content you upload to the internet. 

Do I need a social media account? 

Social media seems pretty unavoidable these days. Not only does everyone seem to be on one platform or another, but many services encourage you to login using your social media account. Then consider how important sites like LinkedIn are for professional networking, and they seem essential. However, you can certainly get by without social media, and many people report that they feel happier and more connected without it. 

Can I see what information companies have on me? 

Yes, in the UK, there are laws in place meaning that you can request companies send you a copy of the information they hold about you. You have to request the data in writing, and companies must provide it within one month. The recent GDPR laws have made this process far easier. 

How can I spot a fake social media account? 

Fake accounts on social media can be used to spread misinformation as well as to try and compromise other peoples’ accounts. So, if you’ve received a connection request from someone you don’t know, you make a few checks to see if it’s real. Check through their timeline and their connection lists. Do you know people in common? Are they repeatedly posting the same information/links? These are two red flags for fraudulent accounts.

Social media FAQs about the future

Social media certainly seems like it’s here to stay. As we become ever more connected with concepts like the Internet of Things, what can we expect to see next? We look at some social media FAQs about what the future might hold. 

What’s the fastest-growing social media platform?

At the time of writing, TikTok, the video-sharing platform, is the fastest-growing social media platform. The app launched in September 2016 and reached half a billion users by mid-2018. The app has now reached over 1 billion users in 2021.

What are some new social media sites?

Companies are always looking to be the next big name in social media, meaning there are plenty of new sites out there. Along with apps like TikTok, sites like Caffeine, a rival to Twitch, show a lot of potential. Steemit is another relatively new platform, offering users the chance to create content in exchange for cryptocurrency

How will social media change? 

All of the major platforms have changed and updated the way they work over the years. Although it’s hard to predict precisely what will happen, various sites have used data to make predictions. Most seem to agree that video content will continue to rise in popularity, as will niche social platforms. We’ll probably see more integration with technology, as well as more personalised content. 

What technology will use social media? 

It’s likely that we’ll see more links between social media and virtual, augmented and mixed reality. This technology is still in its infancy, yet we’ve already seen Facebook buy Oculus VR, a company that makes virtual reality headsets. They’re using this technology to further integrate social media accounts. 

How will data and privacy change? 

As we continue to produce and analyse ever more data, the risks to our privacy and information also grow. With the threat of AI-enhanced cyber-attacks and surveillance, hopefully, privacy laws will change to protect individuals and their right to control their own information. 

How has COVID-19 affected social media?

Although it’s hard to know the exact impacts COVID-19 has had on social media, a few trends are already apparent. The World Health Organisation announced an ‘infodemic’ running parallel to the pandemic. They’re referring to the uncertainty and anxiety that comes from the spread of misinformation, often spread on social media. 

Will social media sites close? 

Based on the trends we’ve seen over the year, it’s safe to assume that some social media sites will close in future. You only have to look at platforms such as Google+, Facebook’s Lasso, Vine, and other platforms that have all ceased to exist. Even Myspace, once the pioneer of social media, is nearly dead. 

How will social media impact the future? 

Of all the social media FAQs we’ve answered, this one is perhaps the hardest. No one can truly know how social media will continue to shape our society. Hopefully, it can help with things like sustainability and education. Similarly, if we are to expect more integration in our lives, hopefully, we have the data and privacy laws to keep us safe and in charge of our information.

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now