Social Media – The basics, what is it all about?

This post is designed to support a session on social media I am delivering to the Eastman community in Grantham, NH.

Social Media is a HUGE topic, so I will need to immediately narrow down the scope of the session. For this session, I will focus on the social side of social media. The business side, and how to monetize your social media posts is WAY beyond the scope of this session, although I will show you how that fits into the overall landscape.

So first, let’s talk about the overall landscape of Social Media. What is it? How is it different from traditional media?

Traditional Mass Media provides a one to many communication with little or no option for feedback or comment. One source disseminates the information, many people consume the information. Think: newspapers, television, radio, etc.

What is Social media?

Merriam-Webster’s defines it as: “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)”

Wikipedia says: “Social media are interactive technologies that allow the creation or sharing/exchange of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.”

Why would you use Social Media?

  • It’s a great way to connect with your family
  • You might like to find and reconnect with some old friends
  • Perhaps keep informed about some of your favorite sports teams, players, celebrities, companies, and more.
  • Socialize with people with similar interests
  • Do you like games? There are some games you might enjoy.
  • Some people use Social Media to vet people for jobs, etc.

Some key things to know about social media are:

Anyone can create content

Anyone can consume content

Most content allows anyone to comment

Top 10 Social Media Sites

Social Media are online platforms hosted online in websites. There are now dozens, if not hundreds, of social media sites. The most popular sites (By active users) are:

  1. Facebook: A social networking website where users can post comments, share photographs, share videos, post links to content on the web, chat live, live stream videos and more. 2.7 Billion active users; 2020 revenue: $86 Billion; (Privacy) (Associated Messaging App: Facebook Messenger)
  2. YouTube: An Online Video Platform. 2 Billion active users; 2020 revenue: 19.8 Billion (Owned by Google); (Privacy)
  3. What’s App: A Messaging App. 2 Billion active users; 2020 revenue: 5 Billion (Really an IM App) (Privacy)
  4. Instagram: A photo sharing site. 1.16 Billion active users; 2020 revenue: 6.8 Billion(Owner by Facebook) (Privacy)
  5. TikTok: A short (15-second) video sharing app. 689 Million active users; 202 revenue: 35 billion (Privacy)
  6. Snapchat: A multi-media messaging app. 443 Million active users; 2020 revenue: 911 million (Privacy)
  7. Reddit: A social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. 430 Million active users; 2020 revenue: 212.5 Million (Privacy) (Good Example) (About Reddit)
  8. Pinterest: A visual discovery engine for finding ideas like recipes, home and style inspiration, and more. 416 Million active users; 2020 revenue: 1.69 Billion (Privacy) (About Pinterest)
  9. Twitter An online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called “tweets”. 353 Million active users; 2020 revenue: 3.72 Billion (Privacy)
  10. Linked-In A social network for professionals to connect, share, and learn. 310 Million active users; 2020 revenue: 8.05 Billion (Owned by Microsoft) (Privacy)

*Source of popularity and revenue data from The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms 2021 (


Some terminology

What is a “Newsfeed”?

This is not really “News” but items that appear on the home page of your social media site.

Facebook uses an algorithm that decides what you will see. News Feed includes status updates, photos, videos, links, app activity and likes from people, Pages and groups that you follow on Facebook. Check this out to see how Facebook decides what shows on your Newsfeed.

What is a “Friend”?

Facebook has co-opted this word. A “Friend” is another Facebook member:

  • With whom you have chosen to share your posts and whose posts may show on your Facebook “Newsfeed”.
  • Who can see the post and other items on YOUR News feed and you can see theirs
  • Who can see other items, like photos and videos on YOUR page and they can see yours.

Many times, a real life friend, may become a Facebook “Friend”. Depending on what you choose to share on your page, you may make and accept friend requests to/from people who you would consider acquaintances. It is entirely up to you. You can remove someone you have indicated as a “friend” (“Unfriend”) at any time. They will not be notified of that action.

What does it mean to “Follow”

In most social media platforms, “To Follow” means have someone’s posts and messages show up in your social media feed. This makes it simple for you to follow what they are doing without having to go to their page in the social media application

What does it mean to “Like” something

Most people are familiar with this term. It just means that you have seen a social media post, and that you want to weigh in as having liked it. You usually will do this instead of posting a reply to their post

What does it mean to “Share” something in social media

Different social media have different words for this

  • Facebook calls it Share
  • Twitter calls it Re-Tweet

It means that you want others associated with you to see this post. You determine who you will share with. Usually your friends and people who follow you will see something you “Share” or “Re-tweet”

What is a “Hashtag”

Preceded by an octothorpe (a.k.a pound sign #) and followed by any number of letters and numbers, a “Hashtag” is placed in social media content as a keyword to be used in Searching. For example” Searching on a social media site for the Hashtag: #Entertainment would find any posts, within that site, that contained #Entertainment. You do not need permission to include a Hashtag in your social media posts. If you want to assist people in finding your posts about specific content, the Hashtag should be somewhat unique so that content unrelated to your posts would not be found.

Going Viral

Means to create content that gets share with a group each of whom shares it with a group, etc.


  • One person creates a post that One hundred people see. (Result: 100 views – 1 person x 100 = 100 views).
  • Now, each one of those 100 shares it with their 100 friends, (Result: 10,100 views – 100 views from before Plus 100 x 100 = 10,000).
  • One more iteration: Each of those 10000 share it with 100 people each. (Result 1,010,100 – 100 views plus 10000 views plus 10000 x 100 = 1,000,000)

That’s just 3 iterations. Cost per view: ZERO!

What is a “meme”

From Merriam-Webster: “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media”

A couple of examples:

Grumpy Cat

From <>


As of August 23, 2020, Grumpy Cat had 8.3 million total likes on Facebook,[10] 2.6 million followers on Instagram[11] 1.5 million followers on Twitter[12] and 283,000 subscribers on YouTube.[13]

Bernie Sanders

What is a “Mention”

Included in the content of a posting, and preceded by the “@” symbol and followed by someone’s user name within a social media site, directs the post to the person mention.


Privacy concerns

You can’t control access to ALL of your data

Every Social Media site has its own settings. To controlling access to your information, and control who sees what you post, You should look for them and visit them immediately after joining and before posting to the site.

The money

The cost of participating in a Social Media site

You need to be on their site to use their services although you don’t always need an account or to log in. To get the most complete experience on any of these sites, you will need to have an account and log in. Most accounts are “Free”

Is a “Free” account really free?

That depends on how you define “Free”. If by “free” you mean you get to use the account without giving the company money, then yes, most of these accounts are free. Although some have “premium” features you may want to pay for.

To “Pay” for your account however, when you sign up, you will need to provide them with information such as:

Name: Sally Smith
Birthday: 6/1/1981
Gender: Female
Location: Grantham, NH

That brings us to the topic of: How do these sites make money?

The short answer, and by far the biggest revenue source: Advertising. You do know that there are ads all over your account (Let’s just use Facebook as an example). These ads exist on the other social media platforms as well)

Now that they have your basic information, someone who wants to have their ad appear to the demographic of women between the ages of 35-50 in the Grantham area, can pay a fee to make that happen. The fees are not outrageous, for example in this demographic, you might expect to reach 200 – 500 people daily for $3.00/day.

Businesses and others who want to advertise, can easily do so. Here is an example of the Facebook User interface:

Now imagine that they save information every time you connect (where are you connecting from? What device are you using? What Browser are you using?) click on anything (a music event. You click on an ad from one of their advertisers for a Washer/Dryer from Home Depot.) or post anything, in their site.

You post a photo from your trip to Myrtle Beach and the location where the photo was taken is stored. All of this is tracked and can be used to provide targeted advertising and customize your user experience while using their platform. It is no wonder that traditional media is having such a problem in attracting advertisers!

In addition, when you visit and want to sign in to someone else’s site, you may be asked if you want to Sign in with a social media account:

This provides a direct connection for this site, back to Facebook. How much information Facebook shares about you, with this site, depends on Facebook’s arrangement with this other site, but at a minimum it will be some basic demographic information that will help that site customize your user experience and improve their ad targeting.

I don’t cover this because I think this is wrong. I will leave that judgement up to you. I cover it so that you will be aware, and can make intelligent decisions about. what you want to share, and how much you want to share with others through the social media sites you choose to use.

Social Media, and technology in general, has far outpaced our ability to legislate. It is definitely a “Buyer beware” scenario. Just because everyone does it, does not mean it is right for you. Conversely, there are many benefits to social media provided that you use it responsibly.


Do’s and don’ts of Social Media

In the scheme of things, the internet and social media are in their infancy. It is a global phenomenon. It is much like the wild west out there.

Do: Do assume anything you post will be there forever, even after you pass away. Facebook is currently serving up to me, posts/photos I made 7 years ago! Remember, some people use social media to check out people’s past behavior!

Do: Even though you can control your privacy as discussed above, Do assume that anyone can see anything you post. There are BILLIONS of people who use social media. Not all of these people are in the United States. Not all of them share your values. Not all of them follow all the rules. Something as simple as a screenshot can be used to repost something that was otherwise considered private.

Do: Do consider the impact of your posts on others. If you are posting photos that include images of someone else, consider how they might react if they saw the photo. What you might consider funny may be embarrassing to someone else who was not expecting to be caught in a photo in that situation, at that time, or at that place!

Don’t: Please don’t treat social media as the truth or news. Social media is Social media. If you are conversing with someone you know, respect and trust, you may be able to add some weight to their opinion. Otherwise, social media is no more reliable than a conversation you might have with strangers in a bar.

Social media provides an opportunity for anyone to have a voice, regardless of the validity of their comments. Remember, in the beginning of this session what I said: “ANYONE CAN CREATE CONTENT”. I mean anyone. Access to social media requires NO credentials, no intelligence, no fact checking requirements. We have all seen the damage uninformed posts can do when they are treated as facts or news. Please, as my father would say, “Consider the source” when evaluating what you see and read on social media!

Don’t: Don’t overshare. It might be best to wait until after your extended vacation to post the places you have been

Don’t: On social media, don’t ever share the following:

  • Passwords
  • Credit Card information
  • Social Security number
    • Other confidential information

Don’t: On social media, as with email, don’t post when you are angry! Always possess good behavior. You don’t want to regret it after you press “Post!”

Don’t: Spend time reading content you are not interest in! (Easier said than done!) It can be a real time suck!! You are not obligated to read everyone’s posts!

Don’t: Since you now are aware of the precautions to take, Don’t be afraid to post the moments of your life responsibly.

Do: Keep things upbeat and positive

Do: Feel free to remove content and “friends” you no longer enjoy.

Do: Not everything from everyone’s posts, end up on your page. Visit your friends home page to see everything that is going on.

Do: If you choose to participate, you should participate fully and complete your profile

Do: Enjoy!


Here is the PowerPoint deck from the 5/26 session delivered as part of the Eastman “The Center Presents” series. Intro to Social Media.pdf

Here is a PowerPoint deck that will assist you in sizing you images properly for some of the most popular social media: Social Media Image Manager


During the session, a question was asked “What is the difference between “What’s App” and the Instant Messaging provided natively on your phone? As I was not a “What’s App” user, I indicated that I would attempt to ascertain the answer to that question and post the answer here on this blog. I am currently investigating and will update this post as I determine a suitable answer.


About Bob Oxford

I have been providing solutions to technology users (Primarily Windows but some Apple) through teaching, development, and consulting since 1990! My focus has been on Microsoft Office including Microsoft Access, VBA for Microsoft Office, and now Microsoft 365 including SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and more. If you want to learn how, implement these tools, or develop custom applications to be more productive, I can help.
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