posted: 2014-08-20 by Steven Grinberg

Social media consists of a web-based service called a social networking site (SNSs), which display information created by individuals and organizations for the purpose of sharing and building awareness. Like all other web services, they have a front and back end. The front end being the website or app you use to interact with the service and the back end where the server logic and databases exist. You have likely heard of some of the large SNSs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Youtube. The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3 does a really good job showing how saturated the industry already is. Missing from this image are the blogging sites, which also fall under the social media umbrella, raising the number of entities well into the millions... And growing!

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3

Some other major SNSs include Yelp, which offers a business review platform; Instagram and Pinterest, which focus on social sharing of photos and videos; and Reddit, which is a social bookmarking site. It seems we are finding creative new ways to "socialize" just about any aspect of business, the web, and life in general.

The industry can be segmented into an array of categories based on usage (pictures, videos, commenting, location- sharing), high-level functionality (adapting, learning, or listening), or business applications (marketing, sales, customer support). We'll take a closer look at the high-level functionality offered by social media as it is the broadest segment view. Broken into the 7 categories in this image from the journal, Business Horizons, these building blocks are neither mutually exclusive, nor do they all have to be present in social media activity. They are constructs that allow us to make sense of how different levels of social media can be configured. These show us the benefits and can also be considered the value chain, with each block connected to some, all, or none of the others. Twitter, for example, has a high offering in sharing while LinkedIn's main focus has been identity and reputation.

Social Media Functional Segments

An interesting thought experiment might be to see how certain combinations of these categories can be applied to various industries that dont have a social media solution catering to them. For example, what type of social networking site can be applied to the auto industry that has a primary focus on presence and relationships? A different question to ask might be what category is missing from this chart or from social media in general?

You are probably becoming aware of the complexity involved in this industry. Now is a good time to see where it all came from with a look at its history in the next section.