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Social media are interactive technologies that facilitate the creation, sharing and aggregation of content, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks. Social media refers to new forms of media that involve interactive participation. While challenges to the definition of social media arise due to the variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available, there are some common features:
- Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
- User-generated content—such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions—is the lifeblood of social media.
- Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.
- Social media helps the development of online social networks by connecting a user's profile with those of other individuals or groups.
This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (September 2023)
The term social in regard to media suggests that platforms are user-centric and enable communal activity. As such, social media can be viewed as online facilitators or enhancers of human networks—webs of individuals who enhance social connectivity.
Users usually access social media services through web-based apps on desktops or download services that offer social media functionality to their mobile devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets). As users engage with these electronic services, they create highly interactive platforms in which individuals, communities, and organizations can share, co-create, discuss, participate, and modify user-generated or self-curated content posted online. Additionally, social media are used to document memories, learn about and explore things, advertise oneself, and form friendships along with the growth of ideas from the creation of blogs, podcasts, videos, and gaming sites. This changing relationship between humans and technology is the focus of the emerging field of technological self-studies. Some of the most popular social media websites, with more than 100 million registered users, include Twitter, Facebook (and its associated Messenger), WeChat, ShareChat, Instagram (and its associated app Threads), QZone, Weibo, VK, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, and LinkedIn. Depending on interpretation, other popular platforms that are sometimes referred to as social media services include YouTube, Letterboxd, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, TikTok, Microsoft Teams, and more. Wikis are examples of collaborative content creation.
Social media outlets differ from traditional media (e.g. print magazines and newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting) in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, usability, relevancy, and permanence. Additionally, social media outlets operate in a dialogic transmission system (i.e., many sources to many receivers) while traditional media outlets operate under a monologic transmission model (i.e., one source to many receivers). For instance, a newspaper is delivered to many subscribers, and a radio station broadcasts the same programs to an entire city.
Since the dramatic expansion of the Internet, digital media or digital rhetoric can be used to represent or identify a culture. Studying the rhetoric that exists in the digital environment has become a crucial new process for many scholars.
Observers have noted a wide range of positive and negative impacts when it comes to the use of social media. Social media can help to improve an individual's sense of connectedness with real or online communities and can be an effective communication (or marketing) tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, political parties, and governments. Observers have also seen that there has been a rise in social movements using social media as a tool for communicating and organizing in times of political unrest.
Social media can also be used to read or share news, whether it is true or false.
The PLATO system was launched in 1960 after being developed at the University of Illinois and subsequently commercially marketed by Control Data Corporation. It offered early forms of social media features with 1973-era innovations such as Notes, PLATO's message-forum application; TERM-talk, its instant-messaging feature; Talkomatic, perhaps the first online chat room; News Report, a crowdsourced online newspaper, and blog and Access Lists, enabling the owner of a note file or other application to limit access to a certain set of users, for example, only friends, classmates, or co-workers.
ARPANET, which first came online in 1967, had by the late 1970s developed a rich cultural exchange of non-government/business ideas and communication, as evidenced by the network etiquette (or "netiquette") described in a 1982 handbook on computing at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. ARPANET evolved into the Internet following the publication of the first Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) specification, RFC 675 (Specification of Internet Transmission Control Program), written by Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal, and Carl Sunshine in 1974. This became the foundation of Usenet, conceived by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis in 1979 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, and established in 1980.
A precursor of the electronic bulletin board system (BBS), known as Community Memory, appeared by 1973. True electronic BBSs arrived with the Computer Bulletin Board System in Chicago, which first came online on February 16, 1978. Before long, most major cities had more than one BBS running on TRS-80, Apple II, Atari, IBM PC, Commodore 64, Sinclair, and similar personal computers. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, and subsequent models of both Mac computers and PCs were used throughout the 1980s. Multiple modems, followed by specialized telecommunication hardware, allowed many users to be online simultaneously. CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL were three of the largest BBS companies and were the first to migrate to the Internet in the 1990s. Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, BBSes numbered in the tens of thousands in North America alone. Message forums (a specific structure of social media) arose with the BBS phenomenon throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. When the World Wide Web (WWW, or "the web") was added to the Internet in the mid-1990s, message forums migrated to the web, becoming Internet forums, primarily due to cheaper per-person access as well as the ability to handle far more people simultaneously than telco modem banks.
Digital imaging and semiconductor image sensor technology facilitated the development and rise of social media. Advances in metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) semiconductor device fabrication, reaching smaller micron and then sub-micron levels during the 1980s–1990s, led to the development of the NMOS (n-type MOS) active-pixel sensor (APS) at Olympus in 1985, and then the complementary MOS (CMOS) active-pixel sensor (CMOS sensor) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1993. CMOS sensors enabled the mass proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones, which bolstered the rise of social media.
Development of social-media platforms
In 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee integrated hypertext software with the Internet, he created the World Wide Web, marking the beginning of the modern era of networked communication. This breakthrough facilitated the formation of online communities and enabled support for offline groups through the use of weblogs, list servers, and email services. The evolution of online services progressed from serving as channels for networked communication to becoming interactive platforms for networked social interaction with the advent of Web 2.0.
Social media started in the mid-1990s with the invention of platforms like GeoCities, Classmates.com, and SixDegrees.com. While instant messaging and chat clients existed at the time, SixDegrees was unique as it was the first online service designed for real people to connect using their actual names. It boasted features like profiles, friends lists, and school affiliations, making it "the very first social networking site" according to CBS News. The platform's name was inspired by the "six degrees of separation" concept, which suggests that every person on the planet is just six connections away from everyone else.
Research from 2015 shows that the world spent 22% of their online time on social networks, thus suggesting the popularity of social media platforms, likely fueled by the widespread adoption of smartphones. There are as many as 4.76 billion social media users in the world which, as of January 2023[update], equates to 59.4% of the total global population.
Definition and features
The idea that social media are defined simply by their ability to bring people together has been seen as too broad, as this would suggest that fundamentally different technologies like the telegraph and telephone are also social media. The terminology is unclear, with some early researchers referring to social media as social networks or social networking services in the mid-2000s. A more recent paper from 2015 reviewed the prominent literature in the area and identified four common features unique to then-current social media services:
- Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.
- User-generated content
- User-created self profiles
- Social network formed by connections between profiles, such as followers or groups
In 2019, Merriam-Webster defined social media 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)."
While the variety of evolving stand-alone and built-in social media services makes it challenging to define them, marketing and social media experts broadly agree that social media includes the following 13 types:
- Blogs (ex. HuffPost, Boing Boing)
- Business networks (ex. LinkedIn, XING)
- Collaborative projects (ex. Mozilla)
- Enterprise social networks (ex. Yammer, Socialcast)
- Forums (ex. Gaia Online, IGN)
- Microblogs (ex. Twitter, Tumblr)
- Photo sharing (ex. Flickr, Photobucket)
- Products/services review (ex. Amazon, Upwork)
- Social bookmarking (ex. Delicious, Pinterest)
- Social gaming (ex. Mafia Wars, World of Warcraft)
- Social network sites (ex. Facebook, Google+)
- Video sharing (ex. YouTube, Vimeo)
- Virtual worlds (ex. Second Life, Twinity)
Mobile social media
Mobile social media refers to the use of social media on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Mobile social media are useful applications of mobile marketing because the creation, exchange, and circulation of user-generated content can assist companies with marketing research, communication, and relationship development. Mobile social media differ from others because they incorporate the current location of the user (location-sensitivity) or the time delay between sending and receiving messages.
Social media promotes users to share content with others and display content in order to enhance a particular brand or product. Social media allows people to be creative and share interesting ideas with their followers or fans. Certain social media applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are places where users share specific political or sports content. Many reporters and journalists produce updates and information on sports and political news. It can truly give users pertinent and necessary information to stay up to date on relevant news stories and topics. However, there is a downside to it. Users are advised to exercise due diligence when they are using social media platforms.
According to Andreas Kaplan, mobile social media applications can be differentiated among four types:
- Space-timers (location and time-sensitive): Exchange of messages with relevance mostly for one specific location at one specific point in time (e.g. Facebook Places, WhatsApp, Telegram, Foursquare)
- Space-locators (only location sensitive): Exchange of messages with relevance for one specific location, which is tagged to a certain place and read later by others (e.g. Yelp, Qype, Tumblr, Fishbrain)
- Quick-timers (only time sensitive): Transfer of traditional social media mobile apps to increase immediacy (e.g. posting on Twitter or status updates on Facebook)
- Slow-timers (neither location nor time sensitive): Transfer of traditional social media applications to mobile devices (e.g. watching a YouTube video)
Elements and function
Social media sites are powerful tools for sharing content across networks. Certain content has the potential to spread virally, an analogy for the way viral infections spread from individual to individual. When content or websites go viral, users are more likely to share them with their social network, which leads to even more sharing.
Viral marketing campaigns are particularly attractive to businesses because they can achieve widespread advertising coverage at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing campaigns. Nonprofit organizations and activists may also use social media to post content with the aim of it going viral.
Many social media sites provide specific functionality to help users re-share content, such as Twitter's "retweet" button or Facebook's "share" option. This feature is especially popular on Twitter, allowing users to keep up with important events and stay connected with their peers. When certain posts become popular, they start to get retweeted over and over again, becoming viral. Hashtags can also be used in tweets to take count of how many people have used that hashtag.
However, not all content has the potential to go viral, and it is difficult to predict what content will take off. Despite this, viral marketing campaigns can still be a cost-effective and powerful tool for promoting a message or product.
Bots are automated programs that operate on the internet, which have become increasingly popular due to their ability to automate many communication tasks. This has led to the creation of a new industry of bot providers.
'Cyborgs'—either bot-assisted humans or human-assisted bots—are used for a number of different purposes both legitimate and illegitimate, from spreading fake news to creating marketing buzz. A common legitimate use includes using automated programs to post on social media at a specific time. In these cases, often, the human writes the post content and the bot schedules the time of posting. In other cases, the cyborgs are more nefarious, e.g., contributing to the spread of fake news and misinformation. Often these accounts blend human and bot activity in a strategic way, so that when an automated account is publicly identified, the human half of the cyborg is able to take over and could protest that the account has been used manually all along. In many cases, these accounts that are being used in a more illegitimate fashion try to pose as real people; in particular, the number of their friends or followers resemble that of a real person. Cyborgs are also related to sock puppet accounts, where one human pretends to be someone else, but can also include one human operating multiple cyborg accounts.
New social media technology
There has been rapid growth in the number of United States patent applications that cover new technologies that are related to social media, and the number of them that are published has been growing rapidly over the past five years. As of 2020[update], there are over 5000 published patent applications in the United States. As many as 7000 applications may be currently on file including those that have not been published yet; however, only slightly over 100 of these applications have issued as patents, largely due to the multi-year backlog in examination of business method patents, i.e., patents that outline and claim new methods of doing business.
As an instance of technological convergence, various social media platforms of different kinds adapted functionality beyond their original scope, increasingly overlapping with each other over time, albeit usually not implemented as completely as on dedicated platforms.
Examples are the social hub site Facebook launching an integrated video platform in May 2007, and Instagram, whose original scope was low-resolution photo sharing, introducing the ability to share quarter-minute 640×640 pixel videos in 2013 (later extended to a minute with increased resolution), acting like a minimal video platform without video seek bar. Instagram later implemented stories (short videos self-destructing after 24 hours), a concept popularized by Snapchat, as well as IGTV, for seekable videos of up to ten minutes or one hour depending on account status. Stories have been later adapted by the dedicated video platform YouTube in 2018, although access is restricted to the mobile apps, excluding mobile and desktop websites.
Twitter, whose original scope was text-based microblogging, later adapted photo sharing functionality (deprecating third-party services such as TwitPic), later video sharing with 140-second time limit and view counter but no manual quality selection or subtitles like on dedicated video platforms, and originally only available to mobile app users but later implemented in their website front ends. Then a media studio feature for business users, which resembles YouTube's Creator Studio.
The discussion platform Reddit added an integrated image hoster in June 2016 after Reddit users commonly relied on the external standalone image sharing platform Imgur, and an internal video hosting service around a year later. In July 2020, the ability to share multiple images in a single post (image galleries), a feature known from Imgur, was implemented. Imgur itself implemented sharing videos of up to 30 seconds in May 2018, later extended to one minute.
Starting in 2018, the dedicated video platform YouTube rolled out a Community feature accessible through a channel tab (which usurps the previous Discussion channel tab), where text-only posts, as well as polls can be shared. To be enabled, channels have to pass a subscriber count threshold which has been lowered over time.
Statistics on usage and membership
According to Statista, it is estimated that, in 2022, there are around 3.96 billion people who are using social media around the globe. This number is up from 3.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to increase to 4.41 billion in 2025.
Most popular social networking services
|Number of users (millions)
|Country of origin
Usage: Before the COVID-19 pandemic
A study from 2009 suggests that there may be individual differences that help explain who uses social media and who does not: extraversion and openness have a positive relationship with social media, while emotional stability has a negative sloping relationship with social media. A separate study from 2015 found that people with a higher social comparison orientation appear to use social media more heavily than people with low social comparison orientation.
Data from Common Sense Media has suggested that children under the age of 13 in the United States use social networking services despite the fact that many social media sites have policies that state one must be at least 13 years old or older to join. In 2017, Common Sense Media conducted a nationally representative survey of parents of children from birth to age 8 and found that 4% of children at this age used social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, or (now-defunct) Musical.ly "often" or "sometimes". A different nationally representative survey by Common Sense in 2019 surveyed young Americans ages 8–16 and found that about 31% of children ages 8–12 ever use social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. In that same survey, when American teens ages 16–18 were asked when they started using social media, 28% said they started to use it before they were 13 years old. However, the median age of starting to use social media was 14 years old.
Usage: During the COVID-19 pandemic
Amount of usage by minors
Social media plays a role in communication during COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationally representative survey by Cartoon Network and the Cyberbullying Research Center surveyed Americans tweens (ages 9–12) found that the most popular overall application in the past year was YouTube (67%). (In general, as age increased, the tweens were more likely to have used major social media apps and games.) Similarly, a nationally representative survey by Common Sense Media conducted in 2020 of Americans ages 13–18 found that YouTube was also the most popular social media service (used by 86% of 13- to 18-year-old Americans in the past year). As children grow older, they utilize certain social media services on a frequent basis and often use the application YouTube to consume content. The use of social media certainly increases as people grow older and it has become a customary thing to have an Instagram and Twitter account.
|Facebook Messenger Kids
|None of the above
Reasons for use by adults
While adults were already using social media before the COVID-19 pandemic, more started using it to stay socially connected and to get updates on the pandemic.
"Social media have become popularly use to seek for medical information and have fascinated the general public to collect information regarding corona virus pandemics in various perspectives. During these days, people are forced to stay at home and the social media have connected and supported awareness and pandemic updates."
This also made healthcare workers and systems more aware of social media as a place people were getting health information about the pandemic:
Though this also led to the spread of disinformation, indeed, on December 11, 2020, the CDC put out a "Call to Action: Managing the Infodemic". Some healthcare organizations even used hashtags as interventions and published articles on their Twitter data:
"Promotion of the joint usage of #PedsICU and #COVID19 throughout the international pediatric critical care community in tweets relevant to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and pediatric critical care."
However others in the medical community were concerned about social media addiction, due to it as an increasingly important context and therefore "source of social validation and reinforcement" and are unsure if increased social media use is a coping mechanism or harmful.
Timeline of social media (1973–2023)
|Dave Wooly, Douglas Brown
|AOL Instant Messenger
|Barry Appelman, Eric Bosco, Jerry Harris
|Jerry Yang, David Filo
|Niklas Zennström, Janus Friis
|Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim
|Nirav Tolia, Sarah Leary, Prakash Janakiraman, David Wiesen
|Brian Acton, Jan Koum
|Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, Colin Kroll
|Larry Page, Sergey Brin
|Alex Zhu, Luyu Yang
|Jason Citron, Stan Vishnevskiy
|Paul Davison, Rohan Seth
|Alexis Barreyat, Kévin Perreau
Use by organizations
- inform their opinions to public
- interact with citizens
- foster citizen participation
- further open government
- analyze/monitor public opinion and activities
- educate the public about risks and public health.
Law enforcement and investigations
Social media has been used extensively in civil and criminal investigations. It has also been used to assist in searches for missing persons. Police departments often make use of official social media accounts to engage with the public, publicize police activity, and burnish law enforcement's image; conversely, video footage of citizen-documented police brutality and other misconduct has sometimes been posted to social media.
In the United States, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identifies and track individuals via social media, and also has apprehended some people via social media based sting operations. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (also known as CPB) and the United States Department of Homeland Security use social media data as influencing factors during the visa process, and continue to monitor individuals after they have entered the country. CPB officers have also been documented performing searches of electronics and social media behavior at the border, searching both citizens and non-citizens without first obtaining a warrant.
Government reputation management
As social media gained momentum among the younger generations, governments began using it to improve their image, especially among the youth. In January 2021, Egyptian authorities were found to be using Instagram influencers as part of its media ambassadors program. The program was designed to revamp Egypt's image and to counter the bad press Egypt had received because of the country's human rights record. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated in similar programs. Similarly, Dubai has also extensively relied on social media and influencers to promote tourism. However, the restrictive laws of Dubai have always kept these influencers within the limits to not offend the authorities, or to criticize the city, politics or religion. The content of these foreign influencers is controlled to make sure that nothing portrays Dubai in a negative light.
Businesses can use social media tools for marketing research, communication, sales promotions/discounts, informal employee-learning/organizational development, relationship development/loyalty programs, and e-Commerce. Companies are increasingly using social-media monitoring tools to monitor, track, and analyze online conversations on the Web about their brand or products or about related topics of interest. This can prove useful in public relations management and advertising-campaign tracking, allowing analysts to measure return on investment for their social media ad spending, competitor-auditing, and for public engagement. Tools range from free, basic applications to subscription-based, more in-depth tools. Often social media can become a good source of information and explanation of industry trends for a business to embrace change. Within the financial industry, companies can utilize the power of social media as a tool for analyzing the sentiment of financial markets. These range from the marketing of financial products, gaining insights into market sentiment, future market predictions, and as a tool to identify insider trading.
To properly take advantage of these benefits, businesses need to have a set of guidelines that they can use on different social media platforms. Social media can enhance a brand through a process called "building social authority". However, this process can be difficult, because one of the foundational concepts in social media is that one cannot completely control one's message through social media but rather one can simply begin to participate in the "conversation" expecting that one can achieve a significant influence in that conversation. Because of the wide use of social media by consumers and their own employees, companies use social media on a customer-organizational level; and an intra-organizational level. Social media, by connecting individuals to new ties via the social network can increase entrepreneurship and innovation, especially for those individuals who lack conventional information channels due to their lower socioeconomic background.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service and also to establish a connection with its customers. Social media marketing has increased due to the growing active user rates on social media sites. Though these numbers are not exponential. For example, as of 2018[update] Facebook had 2.2 billion users, Twitter had 330 million active users and Instagram had 800 million users. Then in 2021 Facebook had 2.89 billion users and Twitter had 206 million users. Similar to traditional advertising, all of social media marketing can be divided into three types: (1) paid media, (2) earned media, and (3) owned media. Paid social media is when a firm directly buys advertising on a social media platform. Earned social media is when the firms does something that impresses its consumers or other stakeholders and they spontaneously post their own content about it on social media. Owned social media is when the firm itself owns the social media channel and creates content for its followers.
One of the main uses of social media marketing is to create brand awareness of a company or organization, creating a customer engagement by directly interacting with customers (e.g., customers can provide feedback on the firm's products) and providing support for customer service. However, since social media allows consumers to spread opinions and share experiences in a peer-to-peer fashion, this has shifted some of the power from the organization to consumers, since these messages can be transparent and honest and the company can not control the content of the messages posted by consumers.
Social media personalities, often referred to as "influencers", are internet celebrities who have been employed or sponsored by marketers to promote products online. Research shows that digital endorsements seem to be successfully attracting social media users, especially younger consumers who have grown up in the digital age. In 2013, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) began to advise celebrities and sports stars to make it clear if they had been paid to tweet about a product or service by using the hashtag #spon or #ad in tweets containing endorsements, and the US Federal Trade Commission has issued similar guidelines. The practice of harnessing social media personalities to market or promote a product or service to their following is commonly referred to as influencer marketing.
Social media can also be used to directly advertise. Placing an advertisement on Facebook's Newsfeed, for example, can provide exposure of the brand to a large number of people. Social media platforms also enable targeting specific audiences with advertising. Users of social media are then able to like, share, and comment on the advertisement; this turns the passive advertising consumers into active advertising producers since they can pass the advertisement's message on to their friends. Companies using social media marketing have to keep up with the different social media platforms and stay on top of ongoing trends. Since the different platforms and trends attract different audiences, firms must be strategic about their use of social media to attract the right audience. Moreover, the tone of the content can affect the efficacy of social media marketing. Companies such as fast food franchise Wendy's have used humor (such as shitposting) to advertise their products by poking fun at competitors such as McDonald's and Burger King. This particular example spawned a lot of fanart of the Wendy's mascot which circulated widely online, (particularly on sites like DeviantArt) increasing the effect of the marketing campaign. Other companies such as Juul have used hashtags (such as #ejuice and #eliquid) to promote themselves and their products.
Marketing efforts can also take advantage of the peer effects in social media. Consumers tend to treat content on social media differently from traditional advertising (such as print ads), but these messages may be part of an interactive marketing strategy involving modeling, reinforcement, and social interaction mechanisms. A 2012 study focused on this communication described how communication between peers through social media can affect purchase intentions: a direct impact through conformity, and an indirect impact by stressing product engagement. This study indicated that social media communication between peers about a product had a positive relationship with product engagement.
Social media have a range of uses in political processes and activities. Social media have been championed[by whom?] as allowing anyone with access to an Internet connection to become a content creator and as empowering users.[better source needed] The role of social media in democratizing media participation, which proponents herald as ushering in a new era of participatory democracy, with all users able to contribute news and comments, may fall short of the ideals, given that many often follow like-minded individuals, as noted by Philip Pond and Jeff Lewis. Online-media audience-members are largely passive consumers, while content creation is dominated by a small number of users who post comments and write new content.: 78 Online engagement does not always translate into real-world action, and Howard, Busch and Sheets have argued that there is a digital divide in North America because of the continent's history, culture, and geography.
Younger generations are becoming[when?] more involved in politics due to the increase of political news posted on social media. Political campaigns are targeting millennials online via social-media posts in hope that they will increase their political engagement. Social media was influential in the widespread attention given[by whom?] to the revolutionary outbreaks in the Middle East and North Africa during 2011. During the Tunisian revolution in 2011, people used Facebook to organize meetings and protests. However, debate persists about the extent to which social media facilitated this kind of political change.
Social-media footprints of candidates for political office have grown during the last decade[timeframe?]—the 2016 United States presidential election provided good examples. Dounoucos et al. noted that Twitter use by candidates was unprecedented during that election cycle. Most candidates in the United States have a Twitter account. The public has also increased their reliance on social-media sites for political information. In the European Union, social media have amplified political messages.
Militant groups have begun[when?] to see social media as a major organizing and recruiting tool. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh) has used social media to promote its cause. In 2014, #AllEyesonISIS went viral on Arabic Twitter. ISIS produces an online magazine named the Islamic State Report to recruit more fighters. State-sponsored cyber-groups have weaponized social-media platforms to attack governments in the United States, the European Union, and the Middle East. Although phishing attacks via email are the most commonly used tactic to breach government networks, phishing attacks on social media rose 500% in 2016.
Increasing political influence on social media saw[when?] several campaigns running from one political side against another. Often,[quantify] foreign-originated social-media campaigns have sought to influence political opinion in another country. For example, in October 2020, a Twitter campaign in Saudi Arabia caused #HillaryEmails to trend by supporters of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also involved Riyadh's social-marketing firm, SMAAT, which had a history of running such campaigns on Twitter. Politicians themselves use social media to their advantage—and to spread their campaign messages and to influence voters.
Due to the growing abuse of human rights in Bahrain, activists have used social media to report acts of violence and injustice. They publicized the brutality of government authorities and police, who were detaining, torturing and threatening many individuals. On the other hand, Bahrain's government was using social media to track and target rights activists and individuals who were critical of the authorities; the government has stripped citizenship from over 1,000 activists as punishment.
Some employers examine job applicants' social media profiles as part of the hiring assessment. This issue raises many ethical questions that some consider an employer's right and others consider discrimination. Many Western-European countries have already implemented laws that restrict the regulation of social media in the workplace. States including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin have passed legislation that protects potential employees and current employees from employers that demand that they provide their usernames and passwords for any social media accounts. Use of social media by young people has caused significant problems for some applicants who are active on social media when they try to enter the job market. A survey of 17,000 young people in six countries in 2013 found that one in ten people aged 16 to 34 have been rejected for a job because of online comments they made on social media websites.
For potential employees, Social media services such as LinkedIn have shown to affect deception in resumes. While these services do not affect how often deception happens, they affect the types of deception that occur. LinkedIn resumes are less deceptive about prior work experience but more deceptive about interests and hobbies.
The use of social media in science communications offers extensive opportunities for exchanging scientific information, ideas, opinions and publications. Scientists use social media to share their scientific knowledge and new findings on platforms such as ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Academia.edu. Among these the most common type of social media that scientists use is Twitter and blogs. It has been found that Twitter increased the scientific impact in the community. The use of social media has improved and elevated the interaction between scientists, reporters, and the general public.  Over 495,000 opinions were shared on Twitter related to science in one year (between September 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011), which was an increase compared with past years. Science related blogs motivate public interest in learning, following, and discussing science. Blogs use textual depth and graphical videos that provide the reader with a dynamic way to interact with scientific information. Both Twitter and blogs can be written quickly and allow the reader to interact in real time with the authors. However, the popularity of social media platforms changes quickly and scientists need to keep pace with changes in social media. In terms of organized uses of scientific social media, one study in the context of climate change has shown that climate scientist and scientific institutions played a minimal role in online debate, while nongovernmental organizations played a larger role.
Signals from social media are used to assess academic publications, as well as for different scientific approaches, such as gaining better understanding of the public sentiment concerning relevant topics, identifying influencer accounts shaping the public opinion in specific domains, or crowdsourcing for new ideas or solutions. Another study found that most of the health science students acquiring academic materials from others through social media.
It is not only an issue in the workplace but an issue in post-secondary school admissions as well. There have been situations where students have been forced to give up their social media passwords to school administrators. There are inadequate laws to protect a student's social media privacy, and organizations such as the ACLU are pushing for more privacy protection, as it is an invasion. They urge students who are pressured to give up their account information to tell the administrators to contact a parent or lawyer before they take the matter any further. Although they are students, they still have the right to keep their password-protected information private.
According to a 2007 journal, before social media admissions officials in the United States used SAT and other standardized test scores, extra-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, and high school report cards to determine whether to accept or deny an applicant. In the 2010s, while colleges and universities still used these traditional methods to evaluate applicants, these institutions were increasingly accessing applicants' social media profiles to learn about their character and activities. According to Kaplan, Inc, a corporation that provides higher education preparation, in 2012 27% of admissions officers used Google to learn more about an applicant, with 26% checking Facebook. Students whose social media pages include offensive jokes or photos, racist or homophobic comments, photos depicting the applicant engaging in illegal drug use or drunkenness, and so on, may be screened out from admission processes.
"One survey in July 2017, by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, found that 11 percent of respondents said they had refused to admit an applicant based on social media content. This includes 8 percent of public institutions, where the First Amendment applies. The survey found that 30 percent of institutions acknowledged reviewing the personal social media accounts of applicants at least some of the time."
Social media comments and images are being used in a range of court cases including employment law, child custody/child support and insurance disability claims. After an Apple employee criticized his employer on Facebook, he was fired. When the former employee sued Apple for unfair dismissal, the court, after seeing the man's Facebook posts, found in favor of Apple, as the man's social media comments breached Apple's policies. After a heterosexual couple broke up, the man posted "violent rap lyrics from a song that talked about fantasies of killing the rapper's ex-wife" and made threats against him. The court found him guilty and he was sentenced to jail. In a disability claims case, a woman who fell at work claimed that she was permanently injured; the employer used the social media posts of her travels and activities to counter her claims.
Courts do not always admit social media evidence, in part, because screenshots can be faked or tampered with. Judges are taking emojis into account to assess statements made on social media; in one Michigan case where a person alleged that another person had defamed them in an online comment, the judge disagreed, noting that there was an emoji after the comment which indicated that it was a joke. In a 2014 case in Ontario against a police officer regarding alleged assault of a protester during the G20 summit, the court rejected the Crown's application to use a digital photo of the protest that was anonymously posted online, because there was no metadata proving when the photo was taken and it could have been digitally altered.