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What is the Difference between Social Media and Social Network?

Being a frequent user of World Wide Web I occasionally observe there is some kind of misunderstanding and confusion about the use and meaning of popular terms like Internet, Social Networks, Social Networking, Social Media, how they are related and what is the difference between some of them. The main topic of this post is to clarify the differences between the terms online social networks and social media.

Sometimes these two terms are used as synonyms, but this is not always correct, because there are few important differences that have to be defined.



What is Networking?

Networking Definition and Networking Examples.

What is Social Network?

Social Network Definitions and Social Network Examples.

What is Social Media?

Social Media Definitions and Social Media Examples.

What is the Difference between Social Network and Social Media?



What is Networking?

The process or processes of exchange of information or services among groups, individuals or institutions are called online Networking.


Online Networking Example.

Internet is a public global network consisting of other networks and these networks are interconnected.




What is Social Network?


Social Network Definitions

Now it is the time to mention that Social Network can be of either On-line or Off-line type.

The denotation for social network is:

Network of personal correlations or community-based interactions.


The second meaning of online Social network is:

A dedicated web app or site, which validates end users to exchange ideas and information with each other on Internet by means of sharing mixed types of information and data. The data includes images, videos, blogs, files, comments, etcetera. The participation in online Social Networks and access to them is possible by using computers or mobile technologies such as phones or tablets.


As these definitions the term Social networking can be used for describing two, to some extent different things : Social Network as a Social Structure (Social relations) or Online Social Network as a Web Site or Web Application (Web App).


Social Network Examples

See below visualization of the two meanings of Social networking.



Example for Social Network as a Social Structure

This image represents an offline Social Network as social relation between an individual and different circles or different groups of people, which are part of life of the same individual.





Example for Social Network as a Networking Site or Web Application (Web App).

This image represents Social Network as Website or Computer application, which allows communication between different people by using a mobile device or computer.




What is a Social Media?


Social Media Definitions

The literal Meaning of Social Media will be presented right now.

Let’s not forget Media is plural for Medium.

Taking into account Media is plural for Medium, a Social Media is the combination between web sites and web or computer software which allows individuals to exchange ideas and a variety of information, not limited to opinions and observations, notes, news, digital videos and photos and many others. End users can participate in this collaboration and use Social Media services if they use a mobile device, such as phone or tablet, or computer. Social Media makes possible people to share information on Internet by using their mobile devices or computers, to interact with others and to participate in Online Social Networking.


But does it mean if no Social Media there will be no Social Networking?

Definitely not.

When there was no Internet, Social networking was still existing, but in different forms. If there is no Social Media, then there will be no Online Social Networks, because the medium for their existence will not be available, however there still be offline Social Networking. See image Social Network as a Social Structure above.


Social Media Examples

The below illustration elucidate what is a Social Media and how it is related to Social Networks, Web 2.0 standard and Internet (the World Wide Web). As explained above a Social Media is the synthesis between websites, networks and computer software, which lets users to create digital information (express themselves in different forms) and share this data on Internet by using computer-mediated technologies.





What is the Difference between Social Network and a Social Media?

The evolution of online Social networks by connecting an individual or user with other individuals or social groups is possible due to the existence of Social media. Web 2.0 internet-based interactive applications represent the Social Media and they include user-generated content such as videos, comments, images, blogs, tagging, podcasts, microblogs and other digital data.

Online Social networking is example for Web 2.0 (Web 2.0 standard refers to websites that emphasize user-generated content, interoperability and the ease of use). Social media is the medium for generation and further development of online Social Networks. 



Today is very difficult to imagine the life without Social networking, a Social Media or Internet. This is normal, considering the constant evolution of communication technologies and standards in communications.

Social networking would be possible even if Social Media was not available, but it would exist in other forms. The online Social Networking however, will not be possible without the existence of Social media.





Cambridge English Dictionary




Images Credits:


Thomas Saacke



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