AFG Venture Group Dispatches

Corporate advisory and consultancy in Australia, South East Asia and India.

Social Media and Social Networks: A Guide For The Uninitiated

by Mitchell Brown, Corporate Advisor & Analyst, AFG Venture Group

Social Media and Social Networks are widely used terms, encompassing a range of technologies and platforms. This article will provide a brief summary of three of the most popular platforms at the moment and attempt to explain the basic terminology, functions and the benefits of: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Facebook

Facebook is a website that at its most simple, connects you to people you know (and increasingly, businesses). By sending and accepting “friend requests” you can build up a network of “friends”. Users contribute content (photos, text, video, and now their location) that the Facebook website then uses to generate a news feed for you.

Your friends can “tag” you in photos and other content which then creates a link between your profile and that piece of content. This is most commonly used in photos, but more recently you can be tagged in “status updates” and videos.

Facebook has recently started to allow its users to share their physical location via mobile devices that have a GPS included.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be described as the business version of Facebook. Many people will use both systems, and keep their personal contacts on Facebook and their business relationships on LinkedIn.

Whilst LinkedIn does not have the number of users that Facebook has, it is quickly becoming a widely used networking tool for business people. The platform allows users to “connect” with other users – based on the notion that they have some form of business relationship.

Like Facebook, the system cleverly (and often very accurately) attempts to determine who else you might know based on those that you are already connected to. It also gives you an indication of the size of your network – i.e. the number of people you can reach via “a friend of a friend” – which can quickly reach over a million people.

Users can also join groups that bring together people with interests in similar topics and “follow” companies that they have an interest in.

In comparison with Facebook, the LinkedIn system doesn’t put as much emphasis on the creation of content.

Twitter

Of the three systems profiles, Twitter is the most difficult to describe succinctly and can be quite perplexing.

The content that makes up Twitter is generated by users submitting short messages (limited to 140 characters – the same length as a SMS) or “tweets” to the system. On any given day there can be upward of 50 million individual messages sent worldwide.

Twitter users “follow” other users to generate a personal feed of “tweets” that appear in their news feed.

Many news organisations are now using Twitter as a way of disseminating information in real time and also engaging with the general public. In Australia, the popular panel show Q&A has been at the forefront of this type of engagement with viewers via their #qanda “hashtag” (outlined below). As the show is broadcast live the producers have started to select messages and superimpose them at the bottom of the screen, providing a new level of interaction to television.

“Hashtags” are a way of grouping tweets based on topic. Users often append a hashtag, (so named due to the “#” symbol that proceeds the tag) to their tweet to enable people interested in that topic to easily find their message. As mentioned above, the ABC has used #qanda very successfully, and tags have popped up for everything from #theashes to #wikileaks.

Twitter is different to both Facebook and LinkedIn in that it is often primarily accessed not by its website, but by devices such as mobile phones.

Many people use the system passively – not contributing information to the system, but using it as a news feed.

The three above platforms were developed with separate markets and uses in mind, but increasingly the lines between them are being blurred as each takes on the successful elements of other social networks.

About the Author

Mitchell Brown works as an analyst and advisor for AFG Venture Group which operates in the corporate advisory sector. He is an Agricultural Economist by training and is presently completing a Masters in Applied Finance.