The Purpose of Social Media

People are using social media for a variety of purposes. The four main uses of social media form the acronym SLIM: sharing, learning, interacting, and marketing.


With social media, you can share information and ideas in a variety of ways. Different outlets allow you to publish your own ideas in writing, with pictures, or through videos and voice recordings; and you can also hyperlink your audience to interesting articles, pictures, and videos. The information you share can be either private or public. For example, you can email a private message to one person and broadcast a video to a global audience via YouTube. Always consider your communication situation (see page 68) before sharing information.


Social media can also serve as personal learning tools (see page 283). You can get updates about your friends and family, or learn about what’s happening in your community and around the world. The immediacy of the information flow allows you to get the gist of the latest news almost as it happens. Today, breaking news is often broadcast via social media before traditional media like TV and newspapers are able to cover it in detail. Social media can also reveal public sentiment about the big issues of the day or, on a less urgent level, opinions about a new restaurant or movie.


Maybe the most powerful element of social media is their interactive nature. Social media break the traditional barriers of time and distance between people. With video chat technologies like Skype, you can talk to people face-to-face anywhere in the world. On Facebook and mobile devices, you can chat digitally and text with your friends and family. Twitter even allows you to interact with media members, public officials, professional athletes, and celebrities.


More and more, social media are being used for marketing purposes. Businesses use social media to promote themselves and their products. Nonprofit organizations raise funds and promote charity events. Individuals market themselves to prospective employers. And you can use social media to promote ideas and events that are important to you.

Your Turn Think about all the ways you use social media. Which categories above include your social-media habits? Have you used social media in any ways not covered above? Explain.