What are Social Networks?


Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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