Connecting with existing networks, making and developing friendships/contacts
Young people tend to use social networking services to communicate and socialise with their contacts and consolidate their existing friendship networks. However, in the same way that some children and young people collect trading cards or kinds of toy, some young people use social networks to collect contacts to display their popularity.
Represent themselves online and create and develop an online presence
Social networking services provide purpose-built spaces for members to create and present an online representation of themselves, either within friendship or wider networks
Viewing content and/or finding information
As well as keeping up to date with what other people are doing, you can use social networking services to generate recommendations based on likes and activities. Social networking services are awash with content – pictures, music, video, as well as event, organisation and topic information.
Creating and customising profiles
There are many different kinds of profiles, although they typically consist of a web page supported by a range of tools. Profile pages are not just lists of information – they allow members to develop and present an image of themselves to the world, and to establish and project their online identities. Displays of preferences (favourite music, books and films, for example) allow members to share information about themselves.
Most social networking sites also allow members to customise the look and feel of their pages to a greater or lesser extent, through page templates or content, including video, widgets, music and images.
Authoring and uploading your own content
Content might be in the form of messages or blog posts – it might also be photos, video or music.
Adding and sharing third-party content
Third-party content might be in the form of links or embedded content hosted somewhere else – for example, a video hosted at YouTube or another video-hosting service, but playable on a member’s profile page.
Content may be added in widget form – widgets can be simple badges (pictures with links back to other sites) or dynamic content, for example, a slide show or the last songs catalogued by a last.fm account. This type of dynamic content makes it easy to move information, content and links from one social networking service to another.
Quizzes and polls are also very popular. Some services allow you to create quizzes or compare yourself with other people on your contacts list who have also answered questions or added a particular application.
Posting messages – public and private
Many services support public and private messaging through message boards or in-service email. MySpace and Facebook offer members an instant messaging system.
Collaborating with other people
By using service tools to create groups, users can, for example, collectively create profiles, hold discussions, and store, share and comment on objects. In-service messaging can be a rich source of informal collaboration.