Social networks: What are they, history, types, examples, advantages and disadvantages?

If you want to know everything about social networks, which I am sure you are asking yourself. Well, let me tell you that you are in the right place. We will give you the best information about social networks, types, history, advantages and disadvantages, among other interesting things.

What are social networks and what are they for?

They are online platforms that connect people and allow them to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. They are designed to enhance conversation and interpersonal interaction, and often allow users to exchange content such as images, videos and links to other websites.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest are some examples of the most popular social networking sites. Users can create profiles, follow other users and share content with their followers or the general public on these sites. Social networks can be used for both personal and social communication.

In order to expand on the concept of what social networks are for, we will show you the following more detailed information. So, the social network is also used for:

Keeping in touch with friends and family

People can use social networks to communicate with loved ones who live far away or whom they do not see very often.

Spreading news and information

People can share articles, films and other content with their friends and followers on social networks, which can be a huge source of news and information.

Making new contacts

People can use social networks to meet new people and expand their social circle.

Making professional contacts

Many people use social networks to connect with other professionals in their industry, expand their professional network and find new job prospects.

Promotion and marketing

Businesses can use social media to market their products or services, interact with customers and develop their brand.

Community building

Social networks can be used to create communities based on common interests or causes, allowing people to connect with others who share similar interests or goals.

History and evolution of social networks

The first identifiable forms of social networking appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the modern concept of social networking as we know it today really took off in the mid-2000s with the launch of sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

The main objective of the first prominent social networking sites was professional networking. Six Degrees, for example, started in 1997 and allowed users to post a profile and connect with friends. However, it was not well received and the company went bankrupt in 2000.

Social networking services such as MySpace and Facebook began to gain traction in the mid-2000s, especially among young people. Users could create a personal profile, connect with friends and exchange content such as pictures and news about their lives on these sites.

As social networking has progressed, new platforms with unique features and functions have emerged. Twitter, for example, started in 2006 and allows users to send short messages (called «tweets») to a wide audience. Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing network that debuted in 2010, while TikTok is a short video platform that debuted in 2016.

Social networks have become an essential component of modern life, influencing the way people communicate and connect with each other. It has also transformed the way businesses market themselves and engage with their customers, as well as having a significant impact on politics and current affairs.

Types of social networks

There are many types of social networks, but they focus on two main types which are: Horizontal or generic social networks and vertical social networks. In this post we share with you some of the types of social networks. Watch out.

Professional networks

These are social networks that allow professionals to connect with each other, share information and resources, and develop their careers. Some examples are LinkedIn and Xing. This type of social network is vertical, as they deal with specific interests.

Niche networks

Focus on specific interests or hobbies. Examples are Goodreads (for book lovers) and Ravelry (for knitters and crocheters). They also belong to the social networking verticals.

Microblogging networks

These allow users to share short updates, similar to a blog. Examples are Twitter and Tumblr. This is a type of horizontal or generic social network, as they do not have a specific theme.

Discussion forums

Gives users the opportunity to discuss specific topics or issues with other users. Examples are Reddit and Quora. This is also a type of vertical social network.

Virtual reality networks

Gives users the power to interact in a virtual world or environment. Examples are Second Life and VR Chat.

Advantages of social networks

The advantages can be many, but here are some of the most interesting ones for both individuals and companies.

Keeping in touch with friends and family

Social networking allows you to quickly connect with distant friends and family. This can help you keep in touch with people and maintain relationships that would otherwise be difficult to sustain.

Establish new contacts

Social networking can also help you make new contacts and discover others who share your interests and hobbies. This is especially useful if you have recently moved to another location or want to expand your social network.

Business networks

They have the potential to be an excellent way to meet professionals in your trade or sector. This can help you expand your professional network and possibly open up new career prospects or partnerships.

Keeping up to date

Many social networks allow you to follow media, celebrities and other prominent personalities. This can help you keep up to date with current events and trends.

Ease of use

The services on a social network are often easy to use and can be accessed from a variety of devices, allowing you to stay connected wherever you are.

Marketing and advertising

Businesses can use them to reach and communicate with potential customers. Through targeted advertising and social media marketing, companies can target specific groups and raise awareness of their brand.

Disadvantages

Cyberbullying

Can be used to bully or harass others, which can lead to psychological damage and even suicide in severe cases.

Addiction

Some people may become addicted, resulting in deterioration of their social and personal relationships.

Privacy concerns

Social networks often force users to share personal information, which can be accessed by third parties, leading to a lack of privacy.

Disinformation

They are tools that can be used to spread misinformation and fake news, leading to the spread of false information.

Increased risk of identity theft

Sharing personal information online can increase the risk of identity theft.

Decreased productivity

Spending too much time on social networks can lead to decreased productivity at work or school.

Time-consuming

Use can be time consuming, leading to a lack of time for other activities.

Negative impact on mental health

Excessive use can have negative effects on mental health, such as depression and anxiety.

Main features

As already mentioned from the beginning of this text, in the context and as we will mention at the end of this text.

These are platforms which not only allow people to communicate and share moments, but also allow companies to share their products and services. Here are some of their main characteristics.

Connectivity: Social networks allow users to connect and create virtual communities based on common interests, experiences and relationships.

User-generated material: User-generated content, which can include text, photos, videos and other types of media, is often central to social networks.

Interactivity: Social network users can interact with each other through «likes», comments and other types of interaction.

Personalisation: Social network users can establish profiles that reflect their personal interests, preferences and identities.

Virality: By sharing and re-sharing, social networks can encourage the rapid dissemination of material.

Advertising: Many social networks make money by displaying personalised advertisements to their subscribers.

Difference between social networking and social media

The terms social network and social media are not the same and cannot be used as synonyms. Social media is the use of technologies to allow dialogue between people to become interactive.

While the social network is a social structure which is formed by people who share the same interests. In short, social media are those places where information can be transmitted to other people.

Examples of social networks, you already know what they are, for example the famous social network Facebook. On the other hand, social media is a set of online platforms and tools that are used to share content and communicate with a large audience.

It is worth mentioning that social media includes social networks, but also other platforms such as blogs, forums, wikis and others. Twitter, for example, is a social network, but it is also considered part of social media.

In short, a social network is a structure formed on the Internet by people or organisations that are connected by common interests or values. Whereas social media is a set of online platforms and tools that allow people to share information and communicate with a large audience.