Social Networking

Social Networking Definition

Investopdia / Julie Bang

What Is Social Networking?

The term social networking refers to the use of internet-based social media sites to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues, customers, or clients. Social networking can have a social purpose, a business purpose, or both, through sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Social networking is also a significant base for marketers seeking to engage customers. Facebook remains the largest and most popular social network, with 2.91 billion people using the platform on a monthly basis, as of Dec. 31, 2021. Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Pinterest are the next most popular, according to Statista.

Key Takeaways

  • Social networking is the use of internet-based social media platforms to stay connected with friends, family, or peers.
  • The most popular social networking sites in the U.S. include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Marketers use social networking for increasing brand recognition and encouraging brand loyalty.
  • Social media can help connect people and businesses and can help promote brand awareness.
  • There are disadvantages related to social media, including the spread of misinformation and the high cost of using and maintaining social network profiles.

How Social Networking Works

Social networking involves the development and maintenance of personal and business relationships using technology. This is done through the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These sites allow people and corporations to connect with one another so they can develop relationships and so they can share information, ideas, and messages.

Family members who are far apart may remain connected through personal social networking sites like Facebook. They can share photos and updates on things that are going on in their lives. People can also connect with others (notably, strangers) who share the same interests. Individuals can find each other through groups, lists, and the use of hashtags.

Social networking is commonly used by marketers to increase brand recognition and encourage brand loyalty. Since it makes a company more accessible to new customers and more recognizable for existing ones, social media marketing helps promote a brand’s voice and content.

For example, a frequent Twitter user may learn about a company for the first time through a news feed and decide to buy a product or service. The more exposed people are to a company’s brand, the greater the company's chances of finding and retaining new customers.

Marketers use social networking to improve conversion rates. Building a following provides access to and interaction with new, recent, and old customers. Sharing blog posts, images, videos, or comments on social media allows followers to react, visit the company’s website, and become customers.

Special Considerations

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing strategies. That's because every business is unique and has a different target demographic, history, and competitive marketplace. Because social networking companies want businesses to pay for their advertising, companies often restrict the number of reach businesses may receive through unpaid posts. For example, if a company has 500 followers, followers may not all receive the same post.

The constantly evolving nature of social networking makes it challenging to keep up with changes, and also influences a company’s marketing success rate.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking

Social networking has the ability to affect both individuals and corporations—both positively and negatively. That's why it's important to weigh out both the advantages and disadvantages of using these social media sites.


As mentioned above, social networking allows individuals to keep in contact with family and friends they would otherwise not be able to connect with because of distance or because they simply lost touch. People can also connect with other individuals who share the same interests and develop new relationships.

It also allows companies to connect with new and existing clients. They can also use social media to create, promote, and increase brand awareness. They also rely on reviews and comments made by their clientele. The more customers post about a company, the more valuable the brand authority becomes. This leads to more sales and a higher ranking in search engines. Social networking can, therefore, help establish a brand as legitimate, credible, and trustworthy.

A company may use social networking to demonstrate its customer service level and enrich its relationships with consumers. For example, if a customer complains about a product or service on Twitter, the company may address the issue immediately, apologize, and take action to make it right.


Social networking can have a big impact on the spread of misinformation and it can spread like wildfire. This became increasingly prevalent after 2012. Information starts as rumors, which spread faster than facts. One study found that misinformation is 70% more likely to be shared than factual information on Twitter.

Networking on social media can have just as much of a detrimental impact on companies. Criticism of a brand can spread very quickly on social media. This can create a virtual headache for a company's public relations (PR) department.

Although social networking itself is free, building and maintaining a company profile takes hours each week. Costs for those hours add up quickly. Businesses need many followers before a social media marketing campaign starts generating a positive return on investment (ROI). For example, submitting a post to 15 followers does not have the same effect as submitting the post to 15,000 followers.

  • Allows people to connect with others, including friends and family

  • Companies can reach new and existing clients as well as build and improve their brand name

  • Corporations can demonstrate their customer service

  • Helps spread misinformation

  • Complaints about companies can spread and create public relations issues

  • Costs to advertise and develop corporate profiles can be high

Examples of Social Networking

Almost every product or service you use is backed by a company with a social media presence. It's virtually impossible to think of any major corporation that doesn't operate, market, and advertise on social networks. Tapping into social media is not only a good business practice, but it's also necessary if you're going to succeed in the corporate world. Here are two examples of companies that are doing it right.

Taco Bell

Popular fast-food chain Taco Bell has more than 1.4 million followers on Instagram and nearly 2 million followers on Twitter. The company knows how to engage people on social media, posting content about its menu offerings, employees, and restaurants. Taco Bell also posts light-hearted tweets and Instagram posts that garner thousands of replies, retweets, and likes.

Taco Bell lobbied for a taco emoji by creating a petition on in 2014. The company spread the word on social media. The petition garnered 33,000 signatures from Taco Bell enthusiasts. Apple released the taco emoji in October 2015 when it released iOS 9.1.

Kylie Jenner

You don't have to be a corporation to know how to use social media. This is, after all, the age of the influencer. Kylie Jenner has more than 314 million followers on Instagram, 36.4 million followers on Snapchat, and 39.6 million followers on Twitter.

The young influencer and reality television star uses her social media platforms to boost her image and brand name. She is also an entrepreneur who uses social networking to promote her business, Kylie Cosmetics. The beauty brand earned her a spot on Forbes' list of self-made women, young billionaires, and the Celebrity 100 of 2020. Want proof of her reach? The company's lip kits sold out within 10 minutes of the star tweeting the link to her followers in February 2016.

What Is the Purpose of Social Networking?

Social networking connects individuals with other people and businesses by allowing them to share information, ideas, and messages. Companies also use social networks to create and increase brand recognition, promote products and services, and answer customer queries and concerns.

What Are the Main Types of Social Networks?

The main types of social media include big names like Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. These are the most popular social networking sites in the United States.

Others include Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. LinkedIn is another popular site, which helps connect professionals with coworkers, business contacts, and employers.

Why Are Social Networks Important?

Social networks are important because they allow people to develop relationships with others with whom they might not otherwise be able to connect. It also helps boost business productivity when used for public relations, marketing, and advertising purposes.

What Are the Top 10 Social Networking Sites?

According to Statista, the top 10 social networking sites are Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Messenger by Google, and Tumblr.

Article Sources
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