Social media

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social media ( English for social media ) are digital media and methods (see social software ) that enable users to network on the Internet , i.e. to exchange ideas with one another and to view media content individually or in a defined community or openly in society create and share. The term "social media" also serves to describe new expectations of communication and is always used in the plural to distinguish it from the term medium for a printed work or a radio channelused. This is to signal that there is more to it than just individual media or channels.

Social interactions and collaborative writing (sometimes based on the English term also called “collaboration”) in social media are becoming increasingly important and are changing media monologues ( one to many ).

They can also support the rapid dissemination of knowledge, opinions and other information. In contrast to traditional mass media, there is less or no social gradient between sender and recipient ( sender-receiver model ). Text, images, audio or video are used as communication media. The concept of Web 2.0 also emphasizes the joint creation, editing and distribution of content, supported by interactive applications, through to viewing, reading and understanding .

Development and market

Interest in social media has been evident since the mid-1990s.

Numerous companies are making increasing use of the economic potential of this form of media. Socio-informatics is currently also establishing itself as a scientific discipline that deals in particular with issues relating to social media.


Under social media all media (platforms) are understood to support their users via digital channels in the mutual communication and interactive exchange of information.

Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet applications that build on the technological and ideological foundations of Web 2.0 and enable the creation and exchange of user-generated content ".

Kietzmann's Social Media Honeycomb describes the extent to which these Internet applications differ in the extent to which they focus on some of seven social media building blocks (identity, conversations, exchange, presence, relationships, reputation and groups).


Social media can be divided into two categories:

  • in social media with the predominant goal of communication
  • in social media, which are also used for communication, but whose focus is also on the content that users generate, edit and exchange with each other (see also user-generated content )

Social media can take many different forms and can be summarized in the following categories, among others: social networks (in the narrower sense), blogs , professional networks ( business networks ), collective projects ( collaborative projects ), company-internal social networks ( enterprise social networks ), forums , Microblogs , photo sharing , product / service reviews , social bookmarks , social games , video portals and virtual worlds .

Using theories from media research ( media richness theory , social presence theory) and social research ( impression management , self-disclosure theory), Kaplan and Haenlein developed a classification in 2010 that divides social media into six different groups: Collective projects ( e.g. Wikipedia ), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter ), content communities (e.g. YouTube ), social networks (e.g. Facebook ), MMORPGs and social virtual worlds ( Virtual Game Worlds and Virtual Social Worlds ) (e.g. Second Life or World of Warcraft ).

Social media vs. classic mass media

Social media are to be distinguished from traditional mass media such as B. newspapers , radio , television and film .

Social media are based exclusively on digital-based communication channels and applications. Furthermore, they have relatively low entry barriers, such as B. low costs, uncomplicated production processes and easy accessibility of the tools for the publication and distribution of any kind of content, which can be used by both companies and private individuals. On the other hand, traditional mass media require extensive resources and production processes in order to realize publications.

While mass media such as television are increasingly relying on the linear communication of a broadcast , the communication of social media is not only subject to a high real-time factor but also to the long tail principle to generate attention and reach. Furthermore, communication in social media cannot be understood one-dimensionally from the company to the customer. The user is as much a broadcaster as the recipient of an advertising message. Some traits that help differentiate this include:

  • Reach : Both social media and mass media allow everyone to have a global presence.
  • Multimediality : Social media allow any combination of text, sound and (moving) images.
  • Accessibility : The production of mass media is usually the responsibility of private or public companies. Social media tools are affordable for everyone.
  • Ease of use (English usability ): The production of mass media requires specialist knowledge and extensive training. This level of knowledge is significantly lower in the context of social media .
  • Period of time to publication: There is a certain period of time (days, weeks, months) between an event and its publication via mass media, especially periodic media . Social media make it possible to publish immediately and without delay.
  • Topicality : A post in a mass medium (e.g. newspaper article) can no longer be changed after it has been created and published. Social media make it possible to make changes to publications with almost no delay.
  • Pull medium : New content or changes are actively requested or not accepted by the consumer. There is no fixed broadcast program or sheet content. Content can be requested selectively with web feeds or timelines .

However, social media have a disinforming effect, at least in the political field: In two studies from the USA with a total of over 2,000 participants, the influence of social media on general knowledge on political topics was examined as part of two US presidential elections. The results showed that the frequency of Facebook usage was moderately negatively linked to general political knowledge. This was also the case when considering demographic, political-ideological variables and original political knowledge at an earlier point in time. Corresponding to the latter, a causal relationship is obvious: the higher the Facebook consumption, the more general political knowledge decreases as a result.


There is a multitude of social media technologies in the areas of communication , collaboration, knowledge management , multimedia and entertainment .

Nowadays, weblogs, forums, social networks, wikis and podcasts are the most common social media technologies:

  • individualized websites (also called profiles ) and blogs with which users can discuss and exchange their experiences, opinions and knowledge on specific topics.
  • Mobile apps : interactive game apps on TV, for example Quizapp from the ARD TV show Quizduell .
  • Social networks : technically speaking, a number of nodes (individual users or groups), connected with a certain number of edges between these nodes. The edges describe the interactions or the relationship between the nodes. It is subject to the small world phenomenon and the use of the effect created by so-called weak ties . It is assumed that there are strongly networked nodes (strong ties) and weakly networked nodes (weak ties) within existing groups. The theoretical benefit of weak ties is that connections to casual acquaintances can often lead to large leaps in information. The reason for this is that with a weakly networked node within a group, the probability is higher that this node operates in other circles and thus has access to different information than with closely friendly nodes. Due to the networking of members, social networks are able to stabilize previously volatile social relationships (acquaintances, class communities, etc.) with the institutionalization of digital connections and exchange relationships.
  • Wikis : Hypertext systems for websites , the content of which can be read by users and also changed online or in the network. One of the advantages of wikis is that the content is continuously reviewed, updated, and improved by the community. Another advantage is that users can link to previously unavailable knowledge, which means that wikis have an organic character, which enables an evolutionary development of the information they contain, depending on the user's needs. Another interesting aspect is that by linking existing knowledge to other areas, new knowledge can arise. Companies use wikis for knowledge management, project documentation and communication. These wikis are also called enterprise wikis .
  • Podcasts : produced media files that are offered over the Internet or the company's own intranet. These can consist of video or audio data, which can be accessed regardless of the time.

Furthermore, the following manifestations can be counted among social media technologies:

  • Media sharing : Users can publish multimedia contenton media sharing sites , e.g. B. Videos, pictures, podcasts or other media forms.
  • Social bookmarks : The focus here is on capturing and categorizing Internet links. Found and interesting links can be managed and shared.
  • Social News : Users can recommend interesting web contenton social news websites. This web content can be, for example, individual articles, videos or images.

Importance for civil society

Social media show an elective affinity to basic principles of civil society such as self-organization and personal responsibility, participation and free association. There is therefore potential for innovation and synergies for civic engagement in the resources of social media .

The communication possibilities via social media open up new ways of self-organization, the activation of resources in networks (knowledge, skills, financial means), citizen participation and influence for individual engagement . With the help of social media applications, the public can be built up, informed, networked and activated for one's own goals in a targeted manner - for online activities and for forms of engagement and protest in the “real” world.

In the meantime, several portals for online petitions have developed. Committed make the social web advantage, use it as an infrastructure to mobilize supporters, gather knowledge, campaigns to start or to collect donations. They expand and strengthen their network through online volunteers .

Agenda setting with the help of social media

In order to attract attention in the mass media , more effort and financial resources are usually required. On the web, on the other hand, the ability to resonate with a topic is sometimes sufficient, reinforcement through “ word-of-mouthpropaganda that generates not only attention but also activity. News goes viral. The phenomenon of the mobilization of a mass of people with the help of social media is known as “building up the networks”. The consequence of this can be a shift in power: from the “provider” - politics and business, but also the organized civil society - to the “demander”, the committed citizen who uses social media to put topics on the socio-political agenda and thus actively interfering in ongoing processes. Examples of initiatives that use social media to mobilize committed people and influence the political agenda are Avaaz and Campact .

Self-help via social media

Social media also offer new opportunities for civic engagement in the form of self-help . Almost half of the self-help associations considered by NAKOS that have their own website on the web offer those affected on their website opportunities to come into contact with one another, exchange ideas, give advice and give consolation. For this purpose, forums, chats and mailing lists are most often offered, which are mostly accessible to all Internet users, sometimes only to members of the self-help group. Wikis are used to collect knowledge - a relevant part of self-help work. In addition to blogs , Twitter and networking platforms such as Facebook used. The exchange on the web is generally regarded as a low-threshold supplement to the communal “face-to-face self-help”, since those affected can meet here regardless of place and time and - if desired - anonymously.

Social media for civil society organizations

With the help of the extended communicative possibilities in the social web , civil society organizations can generate transparency and increase their credibility through increased responsiveness . They can draw attention to their work and projects via social media and also set up opportunities for dialogue and participation, with the help of which relationships with the various stakeholder groups can be established and maintained. In this way, access to the knowledge, experiences and opinions of the stakeholders can be created much easier than before. Classic forms of networking and dialogue can thus be supplemented and intensified and new forms of participation can be created. If an organization needs support in the form of competence or financial resources, this can be communicated directly to the network. In this way, committed people who already interact with representatives of the organization on the web can be organically involved in current developments and processes. With the help of strong networks, civil society organizations can strengthen the principle of co-production: the knowledge of specialists is brought together with the “wisdom of the many”. Practical forms can be, for example, temporary consultation processes on specially set up online platforms or open discussion forums. Stakeholders can fill wikis with topic-specific information and data can be compiled for mapping .

Such forms of communication are also relevant for the internal processes of organizations. Internet-based applications can offer employees the possibility of a less hierarchical and therefore topic-oriented exchange and enable more effective knowledge management . The potential of social media can also be used in communication and negotiation processes, both between employees and members of an organization and between an organization and its stakeholders.

Challenges for Civil Society Organizations

The open, participatory character that characterizes communication in the social web confronts civil society organizations with demands for transparency, responsiveness and openness to participation. Facing these challenges primarily means shedding the fear of losing communicative control, opening up to online dialogue and participatory - instead of primarily hierarchically structured - processes. For the use of the potential of social media , not only media competence , the use of software and the appropriate preparation of content are decisive, but also and above all the organizational culture and the self-image of an organization as part of civil society. It follows that the use of social media does not only mean an expansion of public relations work , but above all requires an expansion of awareness: Decision-makers in clubs, associations and other organizations must also understand the potential of social media for civil society and pave the way for opportunities to participate via Integrate social media into work processes. Using the new communication instruments means for civil society organizations not only to develop their technical and media skills, but also to adapt the internal structures and processes to the new possibilities.

Sociopolitical challenges

The structural changes in communication that go hand in hand with the Internet and social media also result in new processes of social negotiation. The more public opinion formation is influenced by communication via the social web , the more important it is that all members of society have access to this communication space and have the appropriate media and communication skills. The tendency to marginalize social groups who do not have the appropriate education and media skills to take part in socio-political debates on the social web must therefore be problematic in the long term. Social media can open up new dimensions of civic engagement, but they can also produce new conditions of exclusion or cement existing ones. Although the internet has made it possible to obtain information “free of domination”, the problems of the “analog” world are also reflected in this communication space: with unhindered access to information, the problem of its verification and the associated unequal educational requirements are by no means solved. If you want to participate in processes on the social web , you not only have to be able to use social media applications and find the right places on the web for them, but also to allow your own opinion to flow into a discussion as an understandable comment can. Therefore, imparting media and participation skills in educational initiatives is very important for people in all phases of life. For people with physical or mental disabilities or learning and reading difficulties, offers must be created that meet their expressive possibilities and needs. On the one hand this is a technical challenge, on the other hand it concerns the alternative preparation of content, e.g. B. in easily understandable texts, graphics, videos and audio formats.

Problems and criticism

A relatively new phenomenon is hate speech - also known as hate speech . In December 2015, a federal-state project group on combating hate postings was established in Germany . In 2017, the Federal Criminal Police Office registered 2,270 reports of criminally relevant hate comments.

Comparative studies

According to the results of the ARD / ZDF online study 2010, 9% of men, but only 5% of women, consider “the opportunity to actively write articles and post them on the Internet” as “very interesting”. It is true that more women are active on private network platforms; however, they are more reluctant to make public contributions.

When using social network sites, the user is continuously exposed to comparative information. Most of the time, these are the basis for upward comparisons : People tend to post photos that make them attractive. For example, it has been shown that the Fitspiration movement mainly posts images of thin and muscular bodies.

Several studies have shown negative effects through social comparison: Girls who use Facebook are more concerned with controlling their physical appearance and tend to strive for and idealize slimness. Furthermore, high usage of the Instagram social network correlates with a negative body image (r = −0.12). Here, however, the question must be asked to what extent the use of Instagram is actually to be regarded as the cause of the poorer body image, since the corresponding study was cross-sectional.

It remains to be clarified whether assimilation effects, which can weaken the negative consequences of upward social comparisons, also occur to the same extent on social network sites.

Overall, it is obvious that above all negative effects such as envy or reduced well-being can be observed through constant social comparisons on social networks, but potential moderator variables and possible positive influences such as inspiration or incentive should also be considered.

Entrepreneurial fields of application

When it comes to corporate use of social media, a distinction must be made between external and internal use of social media. External use includes all cases in which the company accesses existing social platforms that are independent of the company. Internal use includes the use of social media technology with the aim of supporting the company's own communication structures.

External use

With external corporate use of social media, for example, the company is represented by an independent company profile in Web 2.0. What is communicated also reflects on the company. Companies therefore often give themselves social media guidelines that regulate how individual employees may, can or even should act if they can be identified as employees during their activities on the Internet. Such guidelines apply to everyone in the company, regardless of whether their job is to communicate for the company or not, and must be made known accordingly. However, social media guidelines can only fulfill their purpose if the employees understand the relationships in Web 2.0. It can be traced back to innocence and inadequate media literacy when trade secrets emerge on the Internet or an employee openly blaspheme about his company.

In the area of ​​media monitoring for marketing and PR, social media monitoring is also developing as an additional business area for companies. It must be checked whether there is added value for the customer (price advantages, product evaluation). The benefits of social media for the company can be to strengthen brand awareness and customer loyalty and to benefit from recommendations or other forms of support from satisfied customers.

In the simplest case, the reach is measured based on the number of followers of a company profile . The numbers vary depending on whether a company is more active in the consumer sector or in the business-to-business sector.


Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a form of online marketing that aims to achieve branding and marketing communication goals through participation in various social media offerings. It is also a component of a company's integrated marketing communication. Integrated marketing communication is a principle according to which a company comes into contact with the target group within its target market. It coordinates the elements of the promotional mix - advertising , direct sales , direct marketing , public relations and sales promotion - with the aim of communicating in a customer-oriented manner.

In traditional marketing communication, content, frequency, timing and communication medium are determined in coordination with external agents, such as agencies, market research institutes and / or PR firms. The growth of social media has a major impact on the way companies communicate with their (potential) customers. Since the emergence of Web 2.0 , the Internet has offered various tools for establishing and expanding social and economic contacts. It also offers numerous opportunities to share information and work collaboratively.

Social media marketing usually focuses on three efforts

  • Generate attention for the brand or the product
  • Generate online conversations about corporate content
  • Encourage users to share company content with their network

The public relations by social media is social media relations called and must be distinguished from advertising activities. Social media can be counted as part of the marketing mix because it is used in the production process ( crowdsourcing ), functions as a market research tool ( social media monitoring ), is present in sales ( social commerce ) and is also part of brand communication ( recommendation marketing ).


Social media monitoring refers to the systematic, continuous and topic-specific search, collection, processing, analysis, interpretation and archiving of content from social media (e.g. discussion forums , blogs , microblogging and social communities such as Facebook , Google+ or Twitter ) on management-relevant topics. It aims to give an organization a continuous overview of market trends in its own and in adjacent markets - both in relation to its own company and to market participants in horizontal and vertical competition.

In contrast to the one-time or regular social media analysis, social media monitoring is carried out continuously. In order to be able to recognize moods in groups, a sentiment analysis (sentiment analysis) is carried out, which evaluates the individual opinions of a defined group. This type of analysis is usually done manually, as automatic sentiment analyzes are still imprecise. Alerts are used to recognize crisis or problem situations in good time . In defined situations (negative or positive sentiment), these inform the creator.

Social media monitoring is primarily used by companies, but also by associations and political parties, in order to receive direct opinions, criticism and suggestions on products or services. In order to operate social media monitoring , free tools as well as professional and therefore paid services are available on the Internet. Companies that provide this service often offer additional marketing measures that are derived from the observations and are intended to help create a more positive image within the Web 2.0 world. Influencing the reputation or reputation of an organization in e-business in this way is known as online reputation management .

Customer service

Some companies offer customer service via social media, e.g. B. via Facebook or Twitter. In contrast to traditional help with product and service problems, no external communication medium (hotline, e-mail, letter) is required for customer service via social media . The customer can contact support from his familiar social media environment by simply marking the company.

If a customer's problem is complex, the case is generally referred to standard customer service and the following communication takes place via email, telephone or mail.


In sales, social media can be used to establish contacts with business partners and to sell products directly to customers via the medium. Salespeople can search for potential customers directly through the networks and then contact them to start sales talks.

Human Resources

In a study published in 2009, 45% of the employers surveyed stated that they use social networks to reach potential candidates for vacancies . This is an increase of 22% compared to the previous year. Within human resource management, social media offer great potential for recruiting staff. Since members share private information with others in social networks (e.g. degrees they have obtained), employers have the opportunity to obtain further information on the applicants before an interview and to assess whether they meet the requirements. Employers can also stay in touch with former employees via social networks.

However, the use of social media in HR management is not limited to recruiting. There is a multitude of possible uses, e.g. in personnel development or personnel appraisal.

Virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft ) or virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life ) are used in personnel development. At Virtual Game Worlds , employees use online games to expand their social skills through the interaction of avatars with characters who do not exist in their own lives. In comparison, the employees in Virtual Social Worlds lead a life comparable to their own life and are not tied to specific environments. The results of the game and the behavior of the employees in the virtual worlds can be evaluated by HR management and used in feedback discussions as part of the staff assessment.

Furthermore, the use of podcasts in personnel development is conceivable, especially for onboarding processes for new employees in the company or wikis that contribute to the exchange of knowledge.

Internal use

The main focus of internal use is in the area of communication and knowledge management . Large companies with globally distributed employees and project teams in particular can benefit from social media technologies.

According to a study carried out among employees of a company that uses social media, 62.5% of respondents found social media useful for their work. More than half of the respondents said that social media would help them do their jobs faster and increase their individual work productivity. One of the main advantages of incorporating social media into the corporate structure is the improved potential for communication, collaboration and knowledge management within the organization. This additional potential grows with the size of the company and is spread across geographically distributed locations of multinational companies.

For example, thanks to the IBM network service "Blue Pages", a kind of social network, IBM employees should save around 72 minutes per month and employee compared to traditional "telephone book solutions".

Problems of business use

One of the problems with corporate social media use is employee motivation. A study has shown that the acceptance of social media correlates negatively with the age of the user. According to this, users under the age of 35 showed a significantly higher acceptance of social media in professional life than their older colleagues in 2009. There are several motivational theories available to explain this, e.g. B. the

Valence Instrumentality Expectation Theory

The motivation of a person to perform an action is based on the valence instrumentality expectation theory on three components:

  • Instrumentality : Relationship between the outcome of the action and the resulting action consequences. z. B: "Will the social medium really help me to maintain contact with my employees?"
  • Valence : How desirable is an advantage that I get from the social medium for myself (very important vs. less important)?
  • Expectancy : How likely is it that the social medium will enable me to make better contacts?


Users between 19 and 32 years of age who use many different (7–11) social media platforms have a significantly higher probability of suffering from depression or anxiety disorders than users of fewer platforms (0–2) .

In a meta-analytical study, the relationship between social media use and individual well-being, academic performance and the personality dimension narcissism was examined. Overall, the results of the studies included gave a rather complex, heterogeneous picture of the relationships. Small to medium-sized correlations between the intensity of social media use and loneliness, self-esteem, life satisfaction, narcissism and self-reported depression could be demonstrated. Stronger connections were found between the intensity of social media use and a slimmer body ideal as well as a higher social capital. On the other hand, no connections could be found between the intensity of social media use and school performance or school grades.

User personality

In two cross-sectional studies and one longitudinal study, the hypothesis was tested as to whether the intensity of the use of social media had an impact on the self-concept clarity of test subjects. Self-concept clarity is the extent to which a person is aware of their abilities, preferences and typical behaviors. A person with a high degree of self-concept clarity knows who they are, what they can do and how they appear to the outside world. The results of the analyzes showed a negative correlation between the intensity of Facebook usage and the clarity of the self-concept. The results of the cross-lagged panel analysis showed that the intensity of Facebook usage predicted a decline in self-concept clarity over time, while a reverse direction of action could not be determined.

Based on heterogeneous research results regarding the relationship between social media use and shyness of test subjects, a meta-analysis was calculated, in which 50 study results with a total of 6989 test subjects were included. The authors assumed that the divergence of the previous results was due to the effect of the social media usage pattern as a moderator variable. This hypothesis could be supported by the results of the meta-analysis. The shyness of test subjects correlated significantly with active social media behavior (posting pictures, etc.) and the number of social media contacts. In contrast, this correlation could not be proven for normal or passive social media usage behavior. Using a meta-analytical mediation model, it was possible to show that the number of social media contacts can partially explain a previously identified negative relationship between shyness and well-being.

Training and teaching

Social media is taught today at universities and technical colleges, and training is also possible in voluntary work in companies or agencies. At many universities, social media is a teaching component of communication and media science bachelor's programs . The Technical University of Central Hesse in Giessen offers the first undergraduate bachelor's degree in "Social Media Systems" in Germany .

In Austria, the University for Continuing Education Krems offers the part-time course in digital communication in a blended learning format, in which blocked attendance phases alternate with units of self-study. Furthermore, this four-semester course can be completed as a Master of Science, if less time is invested, a certified program (2 semesters) or an individual module can also be completed.

Due to the growing relevance of activities that can be subsumed under the term social media , the professionalization of the field of activity is also advancing. As a result, the demands on future specialists are also increasing.

Qualification opportunities are currently often offered in the form of compact seminars, full- time courses (e.g. at the Journalist Academy ), part-time courses (e.g. via the German Press Academy ), in part-time courses (e.g. at the Leipzig School of Media ) or also as a distance learning course at various certified distance universities and schools.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

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