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Social media includes web and mobile-based technology that encourages users to interact with each other be creating and exchanging user-generated content.  Beyond that functionality and size can differ greatly.  Some of the more popular platforms have become a combination of several of these categories, however the main social media categories are:

Social Networks:  One of the most popular social media categories, a social network is an online service, platform or site that allows users to have their own profile and develop relationships with other users.  Interaction on these sites forms online communities and people frequently share information through posts, links, photos, video and other multimedia. Popular examples include Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Blogs: Short for web log, a blog is a website (or part of a website, for example on a larger company site) where articles are written and posted for people to read.  Many blogs are written by individuals who wish to share their thoughts on a specific topic or their life in general, while others are written as multi-author collaborative efforts. Often, people can leave comments at the bottom of a blog post in order to encourage further conversation. Blogs have become very influential in modern culture and millions of people read them everyday to get information and news. Popular blogging platforms include WordPress and Blogger.

Microblogs: A shorter version of a blog, micro-blogs allow authors to share quick bites of information rather than long articles. These include sites like Twitter, which limits posts to 140 characters, to Posterous and Tumblr. Microblogs do not have to be text-based, for example Pinterest which mainly focuses on people sharing images or videos; and they often allow users to follow others whose posts show up on a newsfeed within the platform.

Online rating sites: Anyone who has ever planned a trip or wanted to find out about local restaurants will probably have turned to an online rating site like TripAdvisor, Zagat or Google Places. Online rating sites allow people to leave reviews about a specific location, hotel, restaurant, etc so others can get an idea of the level of service to expect. This feature is also popular within e-commerce sites, including Amazon and eBay because so many people look to others’ comments about a product before making a purchase.

Social bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites allow users to save and share their favourite websites from one location. Users can also rate these sites, tag them within categories and leave comments.  Through this process, sites are recommend to others, therefore increasing visibility of the websites and helping people find content they would be interested in. Popular bookmarking sites include StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, and Digg.

Podcasts: Podcasts are most commonly a type of audio or video file that are syndicated online for people to download or stream through a computer or mobile device. Podcasts got their name from combining “broadcast” and “pod”—a reference to their popularity with iPod users.

Forums/ Message boards: One of the oldest types of social media, forums and message boards allow users to have a conversation about a specific topic. While these sites are not usually the most advanced in functionality and design, they are still popular with people who want to ask a question or get involved with a specific conversation online. Many forums and message boards will centre around a general topic, question or industry.

Social knowledge/Wikis: These sites rely on user-generated content to create a central hub of knowledge for others to refer to.  Some of these sites are large and can be accessed by the public, for example Wikipedia, Answers.com, and Quora, while others can be restricted to a group of people who belong to the same organisation.

Geo-location: This type of social media relies on establishing a user’s location and is usually associated with mobile devices. Geo-location platforms allow users to check-in at certain locations, find friends nearby, and get vouchers for local businesses.  FourSquare is an example of a popular geo-location platform, while other social networks like Facebook and Google+ integrate this functionality within their larger sites.

Multimedia: Users of these sites rely primarily on sharing multimedia like videos, photos, infographics, and PDFs rather than text.  People can usually leave comments and share the content with others. Popular examples include YouTube, Instagram, Last.fm, and SlideShare.
Over the coming months we’ll write a blog post for how businesses can use each of these social media categories in their online marketing strategies so keep checking our blog for those tips.
Can you think of any social media categories we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments below.

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