Social media is the collective name for web based and mobile technologies that create participatory and collaborative online content.

social media

Type of social media Description Examples
Internet forums These were the first type of social media to appear on the web. Boards hold discussions in the form of user posts. IMDB Boards
Blogs Chronological posts by individual users hosted on a platform. Companies and organisations now also produce their own blogs. Platform: Wordpress
Individual blog: Playstation
Microblogging A broadcast medium in the blogging format, though limited to a small number of characters. Platform: Twitter
Twitter user: Barack Obama
Wikis Collaborative webpage editing and creation via a web browser. Wikipedia
Media sharing Social media platforms based around sharing, rating and commenting on media such as video and images. YouTube
Social networking Platforms for users to communicate posts, photos , links, videos and events with chosen contacts, or “friends”. Facebook

Social Media as an information source

When a news story breaks, many ordinary people first hear about it via social media rather than via news agencies. Increasingly, journalists are using platforms such as Twitter as a source of news and quotes from individuals. But which social media sources are appropriate for academic use?

The acceptability of social media sources may change depending on your area of study. Creative Industries subjects tend to rely on a wider range of sources, across the spectrum of publishing, as compared to subjects in Science or Health who rely mostly on scientific publishing in journals and books. Always check with your tutor or lecturer to see if a social media source is acceptable.

Lets return to the examples given above.

  • IMDB Boards: IMDB is the biggest community of film lovers on the internet, and thus, might be useful to a student interested in audience reaction to a film. IMDB boards would not be a suitable source of film criticism by film reviewers and academics.
  • Playstation blog: Official company blogs contain news of releases, research, development and events. As it is authored by the company, would not contain any criticism or analysis of the company.

  • Twitter: Good for breaking news, which might be used to locate more in-depth sources. Quoting of tweets in an academic context may be suitable depending on the assignment.

  • Wikipedia: A great starting place for reading about assignment topics as it's information is generally strong on currency. Articles needing editing or containing controversial information are normally flagged. Though you might use Wikipedia during your research, most disciplines do not consider Wikipedia articles an acceptable reference in your paper. Check the references at the end of Wikipedia articles for more scholarly resources.

  • Youtube: A great resource of news, popular, historical and educational film clips. Most useful for presentations or students in film and television, animation and journalism.

  • Facebook: Like Twitter, many companies and quotable individuals use facebook. Facebook has remained however primarily a space for private social interaction, unlike Twitter which is freely viewable online. Quoting of status updates in an academic context is likely to be deemed unsuitable.

When thinking about social media as an information resource, as with all resources, remember to consider 3.3 Evaluate your resources or if unsure, check with teaching staff.

Image:Gautheron/ Wikimedia Commons.