Social Networking Service (SNS): Characteristics and Risks

What Is a Social Networking Service (SNS)?

A social networking service (SNS) is an online vehicle for creating relationships with other people who share an interest, background, or real relationship. Social networking service users create a profile with personal information and photos and form connections with other profiles. Users grow relationships with these connections through sharing, emailing, instant messaging, and commenting.

Key Takeaways

  • A social networking service is an online vehicle for creating relationships with other people.
  • Social networking services allow users to connect and interact with others by sharing content.
  • Social networking services business models are based on online advertising.
  • Users should be aware of some of the risks involved with SNS—notably how these services share their personal information.
  • Some of the most common social networking services include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Understanding Social Networking Services (SNSs)

As noted above, a social networking service is an online platform. It allows individuals to create profiles, share content, and interact with others. Social networking services may also be referred to as social networking. Some of the most commonly used SNS include Facebook and Twitter.

Social networking services work by allowing people to develop connections with others. Individuals can find and connect with people they already know, such as family and friends, or they can interact with strangers who may share similar interests with them.

The SNS business model is based on online advertising either through targeted ads that utilize an individual's personal information, search habits, location, or other kinds of data. Alternatively, it may sell users' personal information to third parties. Ubiquitous mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, have helped the growth of social SNS adoption and use.

Social networking services have become a common way for businesses to reach consumers. By advertising and promoting their products and services through SNSs, companies can engage with their customers and attract new ones.

Social Networking Service (SNS) Characteristics

While social networking services may take many forms, they share several characteristics, such as all utilizing the internet. Other similar characteristics include:

  • User-generated content, such as photos, videos, and posts that inform other users about the activities and interests of the poster.
  • The ability to connect individuals from all over the world, though some platforms recommend that individuals know one another in real life before connecting online.
  • They are free. Their business model is based on the breadth of their membership, therefore charging for use would be counterproductive. The possibility does remain that if a network grew large and useful enough, charging a fee may be possible.
  • They connect people with common histories, such as school attendance, work colleagues, or people who share a common interest.
  • They may help forge and develop relationships between people who share a profession or business network.
  • They may be used to help individuals find information, products, services, or resources that are relevant to them.

Social Networking Service (SNS) Risks

Some users worry about the security of SNS profiles, as seen in the March 2018 revelations about Cambridge Analytica. The political information firm illegally harvested information from roughly 50 million profiles of users in the United States to target highly politicized content.

In addition to potential leaks of personal information, including tax and personal identification information, SNS users who are not careful about their privacy settings find that strangers can track their movements or see questionable photos.

This is especially a concern for job seekers whose potential employers might search for their profiles as part of the hiring process. Social networking service overuse may lead to depression and anxiety. Such services may also facilitate bullying and other risks to child safety.

Social networking and social media are often used synonymously but there is a slight distinction. Both allow users to create profiles and share content. But social networking goes beyond that by allowing users to interact with one another.

Examples of Social Networking Services (SNSs) was the first SNS. It was started in 1997 and was soon followed by Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook. Today, there is a wide range of SNS and nearly 82% of Americans have SNS profiles. SNS range from sites where users have general interests to those where users have very specific interests.

Successful specialized SNS include YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, and TikTok. SNS profiles are very popular across the globe. Facebook alone boasts over 2.96 billion users worldwide.

What Is the Most Popular Social Networking Service?

Facebook is the most popular and most commonly used social networking service, according to Statista. This is based on the total number of active monthly users. Facebook is followed by YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and WeChat.

Is Social Networking the Same as Social Media?

The terms social networking and social media are often used interchangeably but there is a very slight difference between the two. Social media allows users to upload and share content with others while social networking provides users with a platform to connect and interact with others. These sites may also allow them to upload and share content as well, which is why many social networking services are also considered social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

What Is an Example of a Social Networking Service?

Facebook is one example of social networking. The platform, which is owned by Meta, allows users to sign up and create a profile. They can connect with friends and others by sharing content, which includes photos, posts, and videos, among other things.

The Bottom Line

Social networking services allow individuals and companies to make connections and interact with others. Users can share content, such as photos, videos, and blogs. As such, these sites can provide individuals with a way to stay connected with friends and families. But these services can also help businesses stay ahead of the competition by marketing their products and services and staying connected with their consumers.

Article Sources
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  1. The New York Times. "Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens."

  2. Psychiatry Online. "Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk."

  3. Maryville University. "The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?"

  4. Statista. "Percentage of U.S. population who currently use any social media from 2008 to 2021."

  5. Meta. "Meta Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2022 Results."

  6. Statista. "Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2023, ranked by number of monthly active users."

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