Social media is now one of the most popular activities on the Internet; offering numerous benefits to users of all ages and backgrounds.
This guide aims to define exactly what social media is, what the benefits of using it are and how you can get started with it, covering the following:
There is a FAQ section at the end to answer any immediate questions which you have.
One of the things that some people find off-putting about the internet is that there are so many different buzzwords and terms that often go unexplained. The term ‘social media’ can be one of these but in fact its meaning is fairly straightforward.
Social media is a website or application which allows individuals to share, create and view personal content and network or connect with other individuals. The main purpose of social media is to allow users to communicate with other people using written text, images, videos and any other type of digital content.
Social media is popular because it offers many benefits to users. Some of these benefits are universal to all platforms while others relate specifically to a particular service or website. The main benefits to users include:
As with any online activity, security is always a concern. The main social media websites are mainly run by international corporations and it is in their interest to make sure user data is kept safe. This means a great deal of time, money and effort is spent on keeping security measures up to date but there are things you can do to ensure you stay safe at all times.
As perhaps the biggest social media site around, Facebook offers a whole range of customisable security settings which users should be aware of. First, settings are split into these categories:
Next, it is important that you understand how to adapt these settings to your advantage.
Common tips you should make note of include:
Although social media takes place in the ‘virtual world’, real life laws and conventions still apply. It can be easy to write (or ‘say’) something online that you might not do in a face to face situation or to forget that offence might be taken from what you say. This means that sometimes you might need to think twice about posting a comment that you could later regret and there have even been cases of people being prosecuted for bad social media activity.
Some good etiquette rules to follow include:
Although social media takes place in the 'virtual world', real life laws and conventions still apply. It can be easy to write (or 'say') something online that you might not do in a face to face situation or to forget that offence might be taken from what you say. This means that sometimes you might need to think twice about posting a comment that you could later regret and there have even been cases of people being prosecuted for bad social media activity.
Anyone of any age and at any location in the world can use social media to make the most of opportunities to share things online. Some people simply want an online chat, whilst others want to display their photos or connect with people that have similar interests.
The face of online social media is changing all the time as it is such a popular way to engage with others. Ten years ago Myspace and Friendsreunited were the big name networks but today they have both fallen out of favour in preference of the following sites:
With an easy to use interface and a number of ways to keep in touch, from posting threads to instant messaging, Facebook offers the chance to share thoughts, pictures and video clips and it is totally free to use.
‘Tweeting’ is the name given to posting a message on Twitter, although it’s 140 character limit means that a concise discipline or ‘text’ style spellings are often needed. It is a good way to keep up to date with breaking news as well as reading your favourite celebrity’s thoughts on almost anything.
Instragram is a great network for people with a slightly more visual approach as it is based around posting and linking to photos and other images. This social networking service is also a news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users can then vote submissions “up” or “down” to organise the posts so the hottest stories rise to the top. Comments can also be posted on every story.
Pinterest allows users to collect “boards” of images to provide inspiration for various activities. Images are uploaded and stored together by shared themes or ideas which the user defines.
The ultimate video-sharing site, YouTube allows users to upload videos for public view. These can take the form of home movies, short clips, live performances, music videos or even instructional videos that help users learn how to complete specific tasks.
After signing into your account, you can complete the following processes:
To find and connect with friends on Facebook is relatively easy to do.
Click on the “Find Friends” button on the top of your screen. Type in the name and press enter. Select your friend from the search results then simply click on the “Add Friend” button on their page.
You can also fill out a longer form which asks for details such as the school the individual attended as well as their location.
You can also invite friends to join Facebook and connect with you by entering their email address in the box at the bottom of the screen and clicking ‘invite friend’.
Once you have set up your account and logged in you can post your thoughts, comments or views in short messages which are called Tweets. Press the pen and box symbol on the top right hand side of the screen. Each Tweet can only use up to 140 characters.
By pressing “#Discover” or using the Search tab you can search for people, organisations or friends and then simply click on “Follow”.
You will then be able to read their Tweets and they will also be able to send and receive direct messages to/from them.
Once you have signed up for an Instagram account and chosen a username that you like, you can:
Once you have signed up for an account with Pinterest you can start uploading, saving and collecting images.
After signing up for an account with YouTube you can upload, share and edit your videos as well as browsing other users’ videos.
Skype allows users to communicate with one and other for free over the Internet. As well as free video calls, you can also enjoy free voice calls to international numbers through the service.
Similar functions to Skype can be achieved on Apple products through an application known as Facetime. This is installed on iPhone, Mac and other Apple products and allows you to video call other users from these devices.
Although the sites already mentioned are some of the biggest and most popular social media networks, there are plenty of others snapping at their heels and each has something unique to offer.
Some of the other social media accounts you may come across or want to use include:
Although Instagram is probably the most well known photo sharing social network, Flickr has been around longer and many people still prefer it. Unlike Instagram, Flickr stores photos at their original resolution size so when you share photos with your friends or family they have the option to download the original, high-quality photo.
Flickr is great for users who are concerned about safe searching because it allows for a variety of filters to ensure that the content is safe and appropriate for any age group. You need a Yahoo! Mail account to register with Flickr.
Tumblr is essentially a blogging platform with social networking built in. Users can set up an account to post a wide range of multimedia and other content in the form a blog, which is basically a kind of online diary.
The interface ‘dashboard’ makes it easy to upload content and share it, and the social aspect comes about by people making connections after finding photos, music and videos or writing about what they enjoy.
Yes, the vast majority of social media is free to use, including all the big players such as Facebook and Twitter. However, it is important to note that accessing social media sites on your PC or mobile device will use internet services, Wi-Fi or data allowances. If you exceed the limits for this which are placed on the service you subscribe to (so your mobile network package or home broadband package) then you may incur an additional charge.
You can access social media on any internet-enabled device such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Most services provide their own ‘apps’ to make mobile use extremely simple and straightforward.
You can keep in touch with people you already know, make new connections and friendships, and share different types of media such as photos, videos or music.
Each network or website is different but all have search functions and ways to find people with similar interests, live in the local area etc. Look for a search bar or option which is usually marked by a magnifying glass symbol to begin.
Again each site is different but all of them make uploading a simple process, often as easy as dragging and dropping a file onto the browser and clicking on ‘upload’. The help pages of the social media site you are using can provide more detailed instructions.
Privacy is a big concern for many online activities but especially ones where you share any personal details. Every reputable social media website will take safety and security extremely seriously and will provide a range of ways for users to choose how much information they want others to see, such as age, real name, email address and so on. You can change this by clicking the ‘settings’ option on your account once you have signed in.
If having difficulty with this, you can find more information on this on the ‘help’ pages of the social media site you are using.
Although some social media sites such as Twitter are well known for robust exchanges and sometimes heated discussions, all online behaviour is governed by the same laws governing libel, offensive and threatening behaviour as any other part of daily life.
Essentially you should behave as you would if you were speaking to someone face to face and remember that social media comments can be traced back to you.
Making sure you familiarise yourself with each site’s own practices and advice is essential.
Otherwise the usual online rules apply - don’t give away personal information to someone you don’t know and protect your login and password details so only you can access your accounts.
Online scammers can be very clever and this is why they can be dangerous. If a financial offer seems too good to be true then it always will be, and if someone you don’t know asks too many questions it should always raise alarm bells.
Common sense is always the best protection against scams no matter where you might encounter them in real life or online but there are plenty of guides available about how to stay safe online. The government’s Get Safe Online website (https://www.getsafeonline.org/) is a particularly good place to look for more information and covers everything from protecting yourself to keep your devices secure.
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