Social Networking vs Social Media: Major Differences Unveiled

November 05, 2023
6 min read
By Gianluca Turcatel
Social Media
Social Networking vs Social Media Major Differences Unveiled

In today's digital age, concepts like social media and social networking often get muddled, despite their distinct features. Social media, heralding a revolution in communication, comprises various platforms like Facebook or Instagram, where sharing, rating, commenting, and creating content are commonplace. On the other hand, social networking, evolving from rudimentary forums to sophisticated apps, focuses on fostering relationships and creating communities, enabling users to voice opinions and share experiences in both personal and professional spheres. So while social media leans towards content consumption, social networking is centered around user interactions. By delving into these definitions, features, and distinctions, this blog seeks to dispel common misconceptions, and shed light on the subtle yet salient differences between social networking and social media.

What is Social Media?

what is social media

Social media refers to various internet-based platforms utilized for sharing and consuming information. Initially, these platforms primarily featured user-generated content, where users could post text-based messages, photos, or videos. However, the rise of social media has significantly transformed modern communication. With easy access to the internet, individuals all over the world connect through these platforms, making geographical distance irrelevant. The advent and popularity of smartphones only fueled this trend, leading to the ubiquity of social media in our daily lives.

Differentiating the various types of social media platforms is key to understanding this digital phenomenon. For instance, platforms such as YouTube facilitate the sharing of videos, Instagram concentrates on photo sharing, whilst Twitter is primarily a platform for short, micro-blog posts. Each medium allows for unique ways of expression and introspection. They also each create space for public discourse and enable the exchange of diverse viewpoints on a spectrum of topics. Experts believe that the influence of social media platforms on everyday communication will continue to grow, revolutionizing the way we connect and share information.

Key Features and Functions of Social Media

At the heart of social media are features that promote interaction and engagement. Sharing is the fundamental function, and it involves dispersing content from one user to others, and can range from text posts, photos, and videos to links, songs, and more. This gestures towards the role of individuals as content creators as well as consumers. For instance, Instagram-users may share personal photographs, while users on LinkedIn might distribute articles related to their field of work.

Rating, another key feature of many social mediums, incentivizes quality content creation and helps users navigate the vast digital landscape. For example, on websites like Yelp, patrons rate businesses which allows other individuals to make informed decisions based on previous experiences. These ratings then become a cornerstone for businesses to develop their reputation and customer base. Meanwhile, YouTube uses a thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating system to convey the popularity of a video, with high-rated ones often being promoted more by the platform's algorithms.

Commenting and liking functionalities enable communication and allow users to express attitudes about the shared content. Drawing again from the Yelp example, reviewing or commenting on services offers more in-depth insights than a simple rating. Notably, the 'like' feature, made famous by Facebook, has grown into a major feedback tool for creators and brands alike, reinforcing a positive feedback loop, and highlighting the public's favorite pieces of content. Thus, these functionalities make social media an interactive ecosystem that constantly evolves based on user interactions.

Understanding the Concept of Social Networking

Social networking, in essence, can be understood as the act of interacting and engaging with others in a digital space. In its nascent stages, examples like online forums or chat rooms serve as the inception of this phenomenon. These platforms provided opportunities for users to communicate and exchange ideas on similar topics of interest, laying down the foundations for contemporary social networking.

As technology advanced, social networking moved leaps and bounds beyond just online forums. Sophisticated networking applications have emerged, enabling a more nuanced and interactive way of connecting with others. Platforms like LinkedIn for professional interactions or Facebook for personal connections vividly illustrate this evolution. Social networking seems to seamlessly infuse itself into the infrastructure of modern digital communication, revolutionizing the way we interact and stay connected.

Social networking facilitates not just personal but also professional interactions. It brings to life the concept of global villages by making distance irrelevant and maintaining connections effortless. Here, communities are not bound by geographical location but by mutual interests and shared values. Reddit, for instance, is an epitome of such communities, where users across the globe come together, fostering global connections and conducive discussions on a myriad of topics.

Becoming more than just a medium to voice opinions, social networking has turned into a platform where experiences are shared and perspectives widened. Be it through posting a status update on Facebook or sharing a picture on Instagram, one's personal and professional life can profoundly influence and be influenced by social networking. The way these interactions shape our worldview and how we perceive others' lives are cornerstone traits of social networking’s vast potential.

Main Characteristics of Social Networking

The concept of community is fundamental to social networking. Unlike traditional forms of media, social networking platforms provide a virtual space where users can engage and build communities based on shared interests, activities, or opinions. This communal interaction is a defining aspect of social networking platforms. One might visualize this as a 21st-century digital evolution of classic neighborhood get-togethers or hobby clubs. Instead of gathering in person, individuals now congregate through shared online spaces—like Facebook groups or subreddits—to discuss their common interests.

Apart from fostering communities, social networking platforms also empower users by giving them a voice. They serve as public squares, providing a space for dialogues and discussions on a variety of topics. For instance, Twitter has become famous for enabling its users to share their views on topics as diverse as politics, pop culture, or personal experiences in concise, quick updates. This democratizing effect invites participation and interaction among users, distinguishing social networking from traditional one-directional media.

Connecting this engagement with reality, we find that social networking impacts both our personal and professional lives. It allows people to stay in touch with family and friends located far away, exchanging updates and sharing life's moments as if they were there in person. For professionals, LinkedIn serves as an example of how networking has transcended boundaries and traditional business norms, enabling business professionals to connect, recruit, and share industry insights.

To consider the professional impact further, let's take the case of LinkedIn again. Today, this platform isn't just a place for job-seekers and recruiters; it's becoming a knowledge-sharing hub where professionals read and write articles, joining groups relevant to their industry. This illustrates how social networking makes space for professional growth and fosters a spirit of collaboration and knowledge exchange.

To summarize, the essence of social networking revolves around community-building, giving users a platform to voice their opinions, and contributing to personal and professional growth. It's a form of two-way communication, where information and opinions flow freely between users, marking a clear departure from the one-way flow of traditional media. In essence, every user is a creator in the world of social networking, marking a significant shift in the realm of communication and information exchange.

Social Networking vs Social Media: User Focus

social networking vs social media user focus

Social media platforms chiefly focus on content consumption. This makes them an ideal space for audiences to be passive consumers of information, with actions such as scrolling, liking, and sharing content being prominent. The purpose of these platforms hinges on delivering an array of content to users, from news articles to personal updates and beyond.

However, the perspective shifts when we approach social networking sites. These platforms prioritize user interaction and the building of relationships. Everyone here becomes a content creator to some extent, as they interact with others, build community connections, and share their triumphs, challenges, or everyday moments.

Unlike the ephemeral content on social media, which tends to fade away in the user's feed, the interactions on social networking sites are usually more long-term and substantial. They have a lasting impact on personal and professional lives as users seek to build an identity and a network within this digital space.

In this light, it isn't hard to see how social media and social networking, despite their apparent similarities, serve different user needs and objectives. Determining which is more effective or beneficial depends entirely on the user's aims and personal preferences.

In conclusion, while both platforms facilitate sharing and communication, the distinction lies in the user focus—content consumption in social media versus relationship-building in social networking. Understanding this divergence is key to leveraging these platforms optimally in our digital age.

Published on November 05, 2023 by Gianluca Turcatel

Gianluca Turcatel

COO & Co-Founder