Head to Head to Head! Social Networks vs. Networking Sites vs. Social Media


While reading the first chapter of our textbook one of the focuses was the difference between social media, social networking and networking sites. According to Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals social networks is an, “umbrella phrase” that all forms of social media connections and platforms fall under (p. 6). Many people often confuse all these terms because they have similar meanings but they are, in some ways, very different. Social media is, “…a marathon and not a sprint,” (5 Differences Between…, Hartshorn). It requires more time to build up a base of followers or fans if you are not already established or popular. It is also more difficult to control conversation through social media where as with social networking the individual chooses whom he or she is in contact with. Your network grows through conversation with others and it becomes more personal because of this (5 Differences Between…, Hartshorn). Mark Stelzner of Examiner.com has said that, “ Social Media are tools for sharing and discussing information.  Social Networking is the use of communities of interest to connect to others.  You can use Social Media to facilitate Social Networking.  Or, your can network by leveraging Social Media, (Stelzner, Social Media vs. Social Networking…). All of these things, social media, social networking, and networking, can be used together to create the most cohesive and efficient campaign. Some public relations and advertising campaigns may utilize all three while others will use whichever one best works for that particular product, company, or brand.

 The textbook’s example of the best networking site is LinkedIn and for obvious reasons. LinkedIn is a site that was created for professionals that allows users to network and connect on a worldwide scale. It is often used to, “…look for jobs and read work-related content…” (Linkedin, Mashable). LinkedIn can also be used to apply for jobs within the site as they have a feature called “Apply with LinkedIn” that allows this. LinkedIn lets users create professional connections with others in their work environment and around the world. The individual chooses who they come in contact with.

Youtube is good example of social media because it is all about creating and sharing information for a wide audience. You cannot necessarily controls who sees your content or control the traffic to your content unless you pay to have your video advertised or utilized other forms of social media or social networking to bring traffic to your video. And even then there is no guarantee that other users will come watch your content. It becomes about drawing in an audience. It is not necessarily personal or individualized but rather for a broad audience. It’s less of you showing your content to a user and more of users finding the content themselves and starting their own conversations or brushing right past it.

Now what about sites like Facebook and Twitter? Are they social media or social networking? Lon S. Cohen, a social media writer who has written articles for sites like Mashable as well as his personal blog, believes that they straddling the line between social media and social networking. Facebook’s original intention was to be a networking site for college students and has since become a platform to host pictures, videos, links, lists of interests, and micro-blogging. Cohen says that, “For the most part, Facebook is a Networking site but because it devotes so much of its layout to a space where I can pack in my own stuff it is perfect for Media too. The density of information I can project is almost limitless (Is There a Difference Between…). Cohen’s view of Twitter is very much the same; it is a simple site that can be used for whatever the user wants. The platform for microblogging and following your friends turned into a site for photos, short videos, and blurbs of thought. Connections can still be worthwhile despite how much the site has expanded. The user controls who and what her or she sees on his or her dashboard. Cohen says that, “The minimalist functionality of Twitter is probably its most powerful feature enabling it to be many things to many people. The debates rage on whether Twitter should be for brands, for celebrities, or just for conversations with real people. The real secret is, it’s for anything you want,” (Is There a Difference Between…).  Twitter is a site that allows users to create what content they put out as well as what content they see. Meaningful connections and conversations can still be had. It honestly all depends on the user and how the site features are utilized.

What do you think the differences between social media, social networking, and networking sites are?

Do you believe that Twitter and Facebook are both social media and social networking? Are they one or the other? If so which one and why?





CIPR. (2012). Share this: the social media handbook for PR professionals. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Cohen, L. S. (n.d.). Is There A Difference Between Social Media And Social Networking?. lonscohen. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from lonscohen.com/blog/2009/04/difference-between-social-media-and-social-networking/

Hartshorn, S. (n.d.). 5 Differences Between Social Media and Social Networking | Social Media Today.  News & Analysis on Social Media Marketing, Strategy & Social Business | Social Media Today. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://socialmediatoday.com/index.php?q=SMC/194754

Mashable. (n.d.). Linkedin. Mashable. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://mashable.com/category/linkedin/

Stelzner, M. (n.d.). Social Media vs. Social Networking: What’s the difference? – National networking | Examiner.com. Welcome to Examiner.com | Examiner.com. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.examiner.com/article/social-media-vs-social-networking-what-s-the-difference