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Introducing social media

Introduction to academic social networks
A serious of cartoon headshots are interconnected with lines to represent the complicated connections that can form with social networks.
© University of Hull

Social social media services allow you to network with people who share interests, professions, hobbies, backgrounds or real-life connections. These services are based online and often have mobile apps to allow users to access the service on the go. There are hundreds of social networks. These range from very small and specific services that serve a small community to global networks with millions of users. While such services are often associated with just social networking, there are also professional and research uses for such technology.

This week will focus on the different public and professional social networks you can use for scholarly communication. Each is introduced with a short 60-second video, giving you a quick overview of how they can be used. We can’t introduce you to all these sites – so think of this week as an overview of the most dominant and popular networks. We’ll finish the week looking at the next steps for you to explore further and find new potential tools yourself.

While social media are broadly designed to bring people together, there are three overarching characteristics. Social media are focused on user-generated content, they support individuals to create a personal profile and finally, they help users connect with others. There are hundreds of established social media, but these can generally be organised into one of the following 15 categories:

Type of network Example
Blogs WordPress, Blogger,
Business networks LinkedIn, XING,
Collaborative projects Wikipedia, Mozilla,
Direct Messaging WhatsApp, WeChat,
Enterprise social networks Yammer, Facebook for business,
Forums IGN Boards, Reddit,
Microblogs Twitter, Tumblr,
Photo sharing Flickr, Google Photos,
Product reviews Amazon, Trustpilot,
Professional networks Academia, ResearchGate,
Social bookmarking Delicious, Pinterest,
Social gaming World of Warcraft, Fortnight,
Social networks Facebook, Sina Webo,
Video sharing YouTube, TikTok,
Virtual worlds Second Life, IMVU,

Based on Aichner and Jacob (2015)

This table is a great overview of the different kinds of networks that exist. As you can imagine, these different tools have very varied functionality and audiences. The most significant challenge you will find in the use of social media is determining the right tool to use for the specific communication task you are trying to achieve. For example, a professional network is great for communicating with other researchers and professionals. If you want to engage with the public, however, you are better off using social networks, virtual worlds and other similar tools. In the next two activities, we’ll look at these different kinds of networks in more detail, focusing on established social media and professional networks.

© University of Hull
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