Karen Rollins

A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Smartphone with icons of social media on screen on wooden table. Smartphone life style smartphone. Starting social media app. Office shot

It seems every day a new social media app is launched.

If you’re struggling to understand Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter or questioning whether it is worth opening an account on any or all these platforms – this beginner’s guide to social media is for you.


Twitter is an online social networking and news website where people post messages called Tweets.

Tweets are 280 characters are or less and are only sent to people who ‘follow’ you.

Some people say the best thing about Twitter is that you can follow whichever news source or individual you are interested in, and only receive posts from them in your daily feed rather than unsolicited information.

The criticism is that people end up in ‘echo chambers’ only following news outlets and people who already have the same views as them, rather than using it as a tool to develop new interests and hear from new perspectives.

According to the latest figures there are approximately 330 million active users on Twitter every month.


Instagram, also known as ‘the Gram’ or ‘Insta’, is a photo and video sharing website.

The app, which launched in 2010, has a similar look and feel to Facebook and Twitter with people choosing who to ‘follow’ and a news feed that is constantly being updated.

Users can interact with people they follow by liking their posts and commenting and there is also the option of private messaging.

If you want to control who can see your posts then you can set your account to private and any potential followers must send a request, which you need to approve, before they can see your photos.

People on Instagram say one of the best features is being able to improve and enhance your photos using various filters.

Group of multicultural friends using smartphone outdoors - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected men and women - Shallow depth of field on vintage filter tone


Snapchat is extremely popular with people aged 21 and under. It is primarily a video sharing app and can only be used on mobile phones.

Users create short video messages, up to 10 seconds long, which they send directly to a friend or group and after the message has been seen by the recipients it is automatically deleted after a few seconds.

Young people who use Snapchat like the fact that the content is not kept online and immediately disappears, but experts warns that you should still never send sensitive or controversial content via the app because there are ways for other people to capture and share it.

The Stories option in Snapchat is one of the most popular features. This is a type of news feed for users where they can post a series of photos and videos that are viewed by friends as a clip rather than as a private or group message.


Pinterest is an online pin board where people collect photos around a range of topics that interest them such as animals, fashion or recipes.

Users can create as many boards as they like and ‘pin’ media that they’d like to keep and refer to again.

There isn’t as much social interaction with Pinterest as on other social media platforms such as Facebook, but other users can comment, like pins, send pins to followers and re-pin stuff.

If you find that you’re re-pinning a lot from a user or board, you can follow them, so that what they display will show up on your personal homepage board feed.

Of course, there are lots more apps and websites out there and the best aspect of social media is not being afraid to explore.

Sources: Lifewire / BBC Webwise

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