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Social Media vs. Social Networking: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 10, 2023
Social media refers to digital platforms for sharing content broadly; social networking involves building and maintaining online relationships or connections.

Key Differences

Social media is an all-encompassing term that refers to online platforms or tools where users create, share, and interact with content, such as photos, videos, and text. Contrastingly, social networking is a facet of social media dedicated specifically to building and sustaining relationships and connections among users.
Platforms of social media, like Instagram or YouTube, primarily focus on content creation, distribution, and engagement, serving as mediums for expressing ideas, sharing information, or entertainment. Social networking, although it exists on social media platforms, zeroes in on the user interaction, connection-building, and maintenance of relationships, often through shared interests or activities.
One of the main utilities of social media is that it provides a stage for users to disseminate content to wide, sometimes global, audiences, irrespective of the relational connection between the sharer and receiver. On the opposite, social networking necessitates a form of connection or relationship between users, either through 'following', 'friending', or joining mutual groups or forums.
Social media platforms like Twitter allow users to project their thoughts, information, and ideas to a broad audience, focusing more on the content rather than the interactions among users. Alternatively, social networking sites, like LinkedIn, prioritize professional connections, networking, and interactive communication, laying a foundation for relationship development and maintenance.
While the primary focus of social media might revolve around the sharing of information and ideas, potentially fostering passive consumption of content, social networking inherently involves a degree of interaction and engagement with other users, often initiating active participation in discussions, group activities, or content sharing among connected individuals.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Content creation, sharing, and engagement
Building and maintaining connections and relationships

User Interaction

Broad and can be with anyone who views the content
Typically involves interaction among connected or related users

Connection Requirement

Not necessarily required for interaction
Usually requires some form of mutual connection or group membership

Usage Purpose

For distributing information, ideas, or entertaining content broadly
For creating, maintaining, and enhancing relationships within a network

Interaction Type

Can involve one-to-many interactions
Primarily involves interactions within an established network of connections

Social Media and Social Networking Definitions

Social Media

Social media entails online platforms that facilitate the creation and sharing of content among users.
She used social media to update her friends about her recent travels.

Social Networking

Social networking focuses on facilitating interactions, discussions, and relationship-building among connected users on digital platforms.
Their grassroots movement grew rapidly thanks to effective social networking strategies.

Social Media

Social media encompasses various digital platforms, each with unique focuses, such as photo sharing, video streaming, or microblogging.
Different demographics prefer various social media outlets for their unique communication styles and content.

Social Networking

Social networking revolves around connecting and interacting with a network of individuals or organizations online.
He spent the evening social networking to establish potential career contacts.

Social Media

Social media provides a virtual space for users to interact with content through likes, shares, and comments.
Their product gained popularity through strategic social media marketing.

Social Networking

Social networking involves online platforms or spaces where users build connections and interact within a specific network.
Business professionals often use social networking to connect with industry peers and share insights.

Social Media

Social media allows users to communicate and disseminate content across global digital networks.
Social media platforms were ablaze with discussions about the international event.

Social Networking

Social networking enables users to engage with others in online communities, groups, or platforms based on shared interests or affiliations.
Social networking platforms became crucial for maintaining connections during the global pandemic.

Social Media

Social media serves as a digital arena for individuals to distribute and consume information, ideas, and entertainment.
He learned about the recent news events through social media posts.

Social Networking

Social networking emphasizes creating and maintaining relationships and communities on digital platforms.
Through social networking, she found a supportive community that shares her interests.


Can social networking occur outside of social media?

While social networking commonly occurs on social media, it can also happen on dedicated networking platforms or forums.

How does social media impact information dissemination?

Social media enables rapid and wide-scale information dissemination due to its expansive and globally accessible platforms.

What is the primary purpose of social media?

Social media primarily serves to create, share, and engage with content across digital platforms.

Can social media exist without social networking?

Yes, social media can exist without social networking as it pertains to the broader sharing and creation of content.

Is maintaining online etiquette important in social networking?

Yes, maintaining online etiquette is essential in social networking to ensure respectful and constructive interactions.

Is social networking crucial for business professionals?

While not crucial, social networking is often beneficial for business professionals seeking connections, opportunities, and industry insights.

What are the risks associated with social media?

Risks of social media can include misinformation, privacy breaches, and potential negative social interactions.

Can social media influence public opinion?

Yes, social media can significantly influence public opinion through information dissemination and viral trends.

Can social media provide educational content?

Yes, social media can offer educational content through informational posts, videos, and dedicated educational channels.

Can social networking facilitate community building?

Absolutely, social networking is pivotal in forming and nurturing online communities around shared interests or goals.

Are all social media platforms suitable for social networking?

Not all, as different social media platforms offer varying features and environments, some being more conducive to social networking than others.

How important is privacy in social networking?

Privacy is vital in social networking to protect user data, communications, and personal information.

How can I maximize my social networking efforts?

Maximize social networking by engaging authentically, joining relevant groups, and actively participating in discussions.

Are social media and social networking affected by cultural differences?

Indeed, cultural differences can impact content preferences, communication styles, and networking approaches on these platforms.

What role does social networking play in social movements?

Social networking can amplify social movements by facilitating communication, organization, and information sharing among activists.

How has social media transformed marketing strategies?

Social media has added digital, interactive, and personalized elements to marketing strategies, enhancing reach and engagement.

Do social media platforms use algorithms?

Yes, social media platforms utilize algorithms to curate content, target advertising, and enhance user experience.

How does social networking differentiate from social media?

Social networking specifically focuses on building, maintaining, and interacting within an online network of connections.

How do businesses use social media for marketing?

Businesses use social media for marketing by creating content, engaging with audiences, and advertising products or services.

Can social networking assist professional development?

Yes, social networking can assist professional development by enabling connections, discussions, and resource sharing among professionals.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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