Quick guide to different types of social media

Happy birthday Facebook!

This week saw the 10th anniversary of Facebook, and in this time social media has exploded with hundreds of different social media websites and Apps for work and leisure.

Physiotalk discussions just over a month ago focused on making social media work for you (see post-chat info here) and a few people suggested it would be useful for us to do a blog post on the different types of social media and social networking sites. So, this post is an introduction to different sites, without going into too much detail of pros and cons and how they work.  All the sites mentioned are hyperlinked so you can click on any blue text find out more about them, and over the next few months we will start to blog in more detail about some of the sites mentioned.

SM in pictures

There are lots of definitions of social media, so here’s one as a starting point for this post:

“Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks” (see here).

Social media enables individuals or groups to create, edit, share and comment on a wide range of information and resources – including news, photos, documents and videos – often referred to as ‘content’. Before social media started this could only be done through established organisations, magazines and newspapers.

Types of social media


It can be useful to think about the different types, or categories, of social media. These categories tend to be defined slightly differently depending on who or what you read, and they also overlap so the boundaries are very blurred.  Some definitions can be full of IT jargon – so here are some fairly simple categories.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, so comments and suggestions are of course welcome:

  1. Social networks – these are sites that help you to ‘connect’ and network with friends, family and/or professional peers and colleagues, for example Facebook and LinkedIn.
  2. Social messaging – instant mobile messaging, including group chats – WhatsApp, WeChat and Snapchat
  3. Blogging – basically a website or webpage (like this one) where people write regular entries or ‘posts’, often in a diary-like format. Physiotherapy examples include A Physio StudentPhysiotherapy Graduate, Emma Stokes and RunningPhysio.
  4. Microblogging – very short blog posts, Twitter is the most common of these. Social networking sites Facebook and LinkedIn also have a microblogging features, ‘status update’ in Facebook and ‘share update’ in LinkedIn. There are also websites and Apps that help you post content to social media sites, such as Hootsuite, as well as TweetDeck which can make it easier to keep track of all the tweets, or ‘activity’, on Twitter.
  5. Media sharing – these are sites and/or Apps that enable you to upload and/or share media such as photos, podcasts and videos, e.g. Flickr and Instagram and Snapchat for photos; virtual pinboards of things you like, such as Pinterest and PolyvoreYouTube for videos, and SlideShare or Prezi for presentations.
  6. Forums – site where you can get involved in discussions on topics as part of a public or closed communities, normally organised around specific topics known as ‘threads’, and often moderated in line with a sites rules around behaviour and content, e.g. iCSP,  NHS networks and the slightly more controversial ask.fm.
  7. Wikis – websites where people collaborate and contribute information e.g. Wikipedia and Physiopedia

My Top ten social media sites


So, here’s my top ten social media sites, mostly available through smart phone or tablet.  Some of these can be used professionally, some more personally for home and leisure, and some for both – depending on your own preference. I struggled to fit this into 10, as there are other sites I use fairly regularly, and inevitably this list is partly a reflection of my roles at work and at home. I have also tried to use this list to demonstrate a range of different types of social media, and have focused on how (most of) these are of relevance to the physiotherapy community.

1.  Twitter

We have blogged a lot about Twitter so far so I won’t repeat what we’ve said, except to say I use Twitter for work purposes as I love how it helps me to keep me up to date easily and for free.

2.   Facebook

Ten years old this week and the biggest social network with 1.23 billion monthly users and 24 million people in Britain logging in each day (see here). There are hundreds of professional networks and organisations on Facebook posting information and updates so I keep home and work separate on Facebook by having two accounts.

3.  LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional social networking site, and some industries use it extensively for recruitment and head-hunting.  Its basic package is free, and then there are different paid-for packages.

The key aspects of LinkedIn for me are:

  • Online CVs
  • Connecting with and networking with other professionals
  • Following companies for news and updates, for example The Kings Fund
  • Creating and/or joining groups for discussions, sharing resources and experiences

If you are starting to use LinkedIn then some tips include:

  • Keep to the facts & truth – this might seem obvious but in the last year I have seen a couple of examples of people claiming to be in a job they weren’t actually doing!
  • Keep it up to date
  • Follow some relevant organisations and join some groups
  • Think about your approach to who you invite to connect with, or accept invitations from

4.  WordPress

WordPress is a website that lets you create a blog and website for free, or use additional paid-for options. Free sites end with .wordpress.com or you can ‘map’ WordPress to your own domain name (like physiotalk.co.uk). Having played around with a few website-building sites this is my favourite and this is what we use for physiotalk, there are also lots of great physiotherapy and healthcare bloggers using WordPress – and we’ll be adding these to the list under useful information.

5.  YouTube

I think most people are familiar with You Tube, but it’s not just about music videos and stuff to entertain small children!  There are a wide range of professional videos on YouTube, this video on human factors in healthcare from @MartinBromiley is particularly moving and a good example of the impact of healthcare videos can have on YouTube. See also Gusset Grippers and Kurt Yaeger in the video for Waiting all night by Rudimental.

6.  NHS networks

NHS networks is a site that enables healthcare discussions in the UK through forums and the sharing of information and resources. For example, the community of practice for adult rehabilitation services.

7.  Mumsnet

Love it, loathe it (or never heard of it) Mumsnet is an example of the power of virtual networks to form communities, provide support and share information, including information on family health.  If you haven’t seen it already here’s a recent Mumsnet Q&A with a women’s health physiotherapist as an example of how physiotherapists can engage with the general public through social media.

8.  The Guardian

The Guardian might not strike you initially as an example of social media – but both the website and App versions allow readers to comment, and sometimes the comments can be as interesting and entertaining as the original article. I’ve used the Guardian as an example here, but most newspapers offer this now, and this blended approach to written media has become more and more popular in the last couple of years.

9.  iCSP

Closed, moderated, members-only forums such as iCSP (Interactive Chartered Society of Physiotherapy) provide physiotherapists, students and associates with the opportunity to discuss topics/threads in a closed forum, still with expectations around behaviour and confidentiality but without being fully in the public domain.

10.  TripAdvisor

Ok, this has very little to do with work but it can be very useful to read reviews of hotels and restaurants before booking a meal or going on holiday!

Remember, no matter which type of social media you use you should make sure you are familiar with how the site works and how your personal information and anything you post or share is made available, and uphold professional standards. For more information see social  media guidance from your professional body, such as guidance from @thecsp.

So, which are your favourite social media sites and why?  Let us know via the blog or Twitter! @Naomiphysio

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