Social Media

What is Social Media?

According to Kaplan and Haenlein, the term "Web 2.0" was first used in 2004 to describe a new way that software developers and end users began to use the World Wide Web: a platform where applications and content are continuously modified by all users in a participatory and collaborative manner, rather than being created and published by individuals (2010). User Generated Content (UGC) is defined as the culmination of all social media users' activities. This word, which gained widespread usage in 2005, is typically used to refer to the several types of media material created by end users and made available to the public (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Furthermore, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2007), to be classified as UGC, content must meet three fundamental requirements: first, it has to be published on a social networking site or website that is accessible to the general public; second, it must exhibit a certain level of creativity; and third, it must have been produced outside of the confines of professional routines and practices.

The Evolution of Social Media: Tracing the Roots from Open Diary to Virtual Worlds

Usenet, a worldwide system for the Internet users to post public messages, was developed in 1979 by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis from Duke University. However, what we now understand as Social Media is more similar to “Open Diary” which was a social networking site for the online diary writers founded by Bruce and Susan Abelson in 1994. This was also the time when the term “weblog” emerged, and a year later it was commonly used as just “blog”, since an anonymous user started using the word into the phrase “we blog”. The growth of speed of the Internet allowed the new possibilities and popularity of the concept, leading to the new social networking sites such as MySpace in 2003 and Facebook in the following year. This is when the term “Social Media” was invented. More recently, “virtual worlds: the computer based simulated environments inhabited by three dimensional avatars” are added to this category (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

Decoding Social Media: A Systematic Approach to Classification

In order to embrace whatever Social Media is out there and would be forthcoming, it is crucial to classify them in a systematic way. There are two key elements to Social Media: first, media-related component, and second, social-related component (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Regarding the first one, Short Williams and Christie (1976) stated in their social presence theory that media differ in the degree of “social presence” they allow to emerge between two communication partners which is affected by intimacy (interpersonal vs. mediated) and immediacy (asynchronous vs. synchronous). Furthermore, according to the media richness theory by Daft and Lengel in 1986, the purpose of communication is to resolve ambiguity and reduce uncertainty. Media vary in terms of how rich they are, or how much information they permit to be transmitted in a given amount of time. With respect to the second element, using the idea of self-presentation, Goffman (1959) explains why people want to control the perceptions that other people have of them in all social interactions. Additionally, Schau and Gilly point out that the main reason for people to create their own webpage is the desire to show themselves online (2003) and this deliberate or inadvertent disclosure of private information that is in line with the image that one wishes to project through self-disclosure is known as the self-presentation (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). To sum up, the classification of Social Media is based on firstly, the richness of the medium and the degree of social presence it allows, and secondly, the degree of self-disclosure it requires and the type of self-presentation it allows (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).


Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). ‘Organizational information requirements, media richness, and structural design.’ Management Science, 32(5), 554—571.

Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). ‘Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media.’ Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

OECD. (2007). Participative web and user-created content: Web 2.0, wikis, and social networking. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Schau, H. J., & Gilly, M. C. (2003). ‘We are what we post? Self presentation in personal web space.’ Journal of Consumer Research, 30(3), 385—404.

Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.