Facebook Office Sign

Social Media is quickly changing how we communicate with the world around us. Relationships (and consequently breakups) are now announced on Facebook, Twitter allows us to read and report breaking news events, and sites like LinkedIn can let you know how you’re connected to the hiring manager at a job before you even apply.

There’s no denying that social media websites have changed how we interact with others. While you might have previously called a group of friends to let them know about a life-changing event, now we’re more likely to simply post a status update on Facebook than place several phone calls. Direct Messages on Twitter have replaced short emails or texts, and Foursquare can let me know where my friends are on a Friday night (and who they’re hanging out with) without having to ask.

Social Media Sites

Social media sites and services are the primary way people use social media. Most sites can be accessed on the web, but also on mobile devices and are heavily integrated into other services as well. Some of the biggest players in the space are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Facebook When it comes to social media, Facebook is still king. There are currently more than 800 million active users on Facebook, and more than 50% of those active users log on to the site each day. The average Facebook users has 130 friends, and an average of 250 million photos are uploaded to the social network on a single day. Currently Facebook is available in 70 different languages, and 80% of its users are located in countries outside of the United States.

While Facebook has a traditional website, it also has a number of mobile applications that can be accessed by Facebook users on the go (and are used by a whopping 350 million users). Facebook is also heavily integrated into 7 million apps and websites, with your Facebook profile being how you’re identified in a number of games, as well as how you might comment on websites including this one).

The site has become so important in the eyes of users that it was the focus of a 2010 movie: The Social Network, which won 3 Oscars in 2011.

Google+ In 2011, Google decided to get into the social networking game launching Google+. The Facebook-esque service integrates heavily with Google’s other services, and allows you to organize friends into “Circles.” The circles you include people in determine what things you post that person is able to see. The service also offers a feature called “hangouts,” allowing you to video chat with a group of friends, or listen to a presentation by a particular individual. Google+ hasn’t quite taken the internet by storm (and Google hasn’t released any stats about the usage of the social network). While many people have signed up to use the service, few have chosen to use it over Facebook.

Twitter Twitter has accumulated almost 500 million users since its launch in 2006. The service currently adds a whopping a 11 new users a second, and has become a vital tool for not only communicating with others, but also organizing protests and other political actions. Twitter played a large part in the Egyptian revolution last year, and has also been heavily used by Occupy protesters around the country. The service has been used to host political debates, and almost every major news service now has its own Twitter account as well people can follow to stay up-to-date on news. The President of U.S and First Lady even have their own Twitter accounts, and regularly post messages using the service.

LinkedIn has become almost essential in finding new jobs. The service is used heavily by not only job seekers, but also employers and business owners looking to network with other like-minded people. According to a late 2011 study, top-level executives primarily use the service for industry networking, while middle-management use the service primarily to keep in touch with others, and entry-level employees use the service for job searches.

Location-based networking

Location-based networking is a another arm of social media that has started to make a huge impact on how we communicate with others. Services such as Foursquare, Google Latitude, Facebook Places, and Apple’s Find My Friends can help you keep up with where your friends are at a given time. Battles for things such as the mayorship or dukedom of your favorite coffee shop can also create rivalries with strangers, that can in turn manifest into friendships (or real-life rivalries).

In 2011 we saw location-based technology really take off. Groupon launched Groupon Now, a service that let’s you find deals based on your location, and services such as Gigwalk and TaskRabbit emerged, allowing you to pick up odd jobs based on your current location. Apps such as Color let you share photos of what you’re doing with strangers located around you, and Foodspotting can let you check out what your dinner might look like at a restaurant before you order. Several location-based dating apps also surfaced in 2012, allowing you to find love at the table next to you.

2012 Predictions

2012 is likely to bring with it even more location-based services. No matter where you are, you will be able to see what your friends (and strangers) think about the places around you, check out what’s good on the menu, share with your inner-circle where you are, and possibly find a new friend to dine with while you’re there .

Facebook and Twitter integration will continue to be added to new sites and services, making it so your identity on the web is tied back to your presence on those sites. The close tie-in to verified social sites will also help cut down on the number of anonymous “troll” content you might find on popular websites and forums.