Recently, a family friend said to me in frustration, “I wanted a picture of my granddaughter and they said it was Tweeted and Instagramed. What does any of that even mean?”
For those of us who frequently use social media, we throw around newly-created verbiage like Tweeted, Facebooked and YouTubed like everyone should understand. This is a little list for those of you, like the very sweet nun who called me last year for social media advice, don’t “even know what a FaceTwit is.”
This is not an in-depth explanation of how to use these services, just some handy definitions. What makes social media different from traditional media like newspapers, television, radio and film, is that instead of a professional making content like a video or a story and showing it to the audience, the audience is participating by making the content.
Facebook – With over a billion users, you may have heard of this one. Facebook is a site that allow you to share what they call status updates – such as “Having spaghetti for dinner” or “Off to visit Grandma.” The service is also popular for sharing personal digital photos, links to stories on websites and images with inspirational and political quotes. You can also send private messages, similar to e-mail or text messages, within Facebook. The people you choose to interact with on Facebook are called “Friends.” Users add people they like as friends and “unfriend” those they no longer wish to communicate with. You may also choose to like “pages” for celebrities, products, stores etc… You’ll hear people saying they “Facebooked” a photo, meaning they posted a picture to the site or they “Facebooked” a person, meaning they contacted that person via Facebook. Facebook may be accessed with your computer, tablet or phone.
Twitter – This service allows people to share their thoughts – usually in short sentences. You may also share photographs and links to web sites. You follow Twitter users to see their updates. The service is popular with news junkies who follow news outlets for a continuous updates. Many celebrities have large followings on Twitter. Actor William Shatner has nearly a million and a half followers, while Ashton Kutcher has over 14,000,000.
You might hear someone say that they “Tweeted” a message. If some shares your Twitter message with others, they have re-Tweeted. It can be exciting for a Twitter user to re-Tweeted by a celebrity. You will often see the hashtag symbol # at the bottom of a television screen during a program or movie (example: #americanidol). The hashtag invites Twitter users to share their thoughts on the program, using that particular hashtag so it’s easy for others to find those thoughts and share their own. Programs will often announce that actors from a show will Tweeting at a certain time and responding to questions and comments from fans. Twitter can be used from a computer, tablet or smartphone; though it is more often accessed from a smartphone.
Instagram – This photo sharing and editing service owes its existence to smartphones and their handy cameras. When you take a picture with your smartphone, Instagram allows you to edit the photos right on your phone, adding “artistic” filters. One of the most popular changes is to make digital photos look like old Polaroid Instamatic prints. The service lets you share the shots with friends of your choosing. Those photos can also be shared to Facebook and Twitter. You can access your Instagram account with a computer, but the service is most frequently used on smartphones and tablets that feature cameras.
YouTube is a site where people share videos, most of them made by non-professionals. Users shoot videos on cameras or their smartphones and upload them to the site where others can watch them. Before YouTube, it was pretty difficult for someone to just make a video and have the opportunity for millions of people to view their work. With YouTube, almost anyone can shoot a video and have the whole world as a potential audience. Some users’ videos become so popular that advertisers pay to be featured on their work. Violinist Lindsey Stirling has nearly 2,000,000 subscribers and almost 300,000,000 video views.
YouTube is very popular with musicians, so much so that Billboard is now including YouTube views into the calculations it uses to determine the most popular songs on the music charts. The site can also be a treasure trove of older TV programs, commercials, music etc… It is a unique environment when you can see cell phone videos of cats right alongside elaborately-produced HD masterpieces. YouTube can be accessed from computers, tablets and smartphones.
A major factor is the popularity of all these services is that you can use them for free.
Hope this brief guide helps out.