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  • iRH Designs

Understanding SOCIAL MEDIA

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Using Social Media is like being a superhero. The use of social media, you have the power to bypass hierarchies, discover and connect to meaningful two-way conversations, and build value and brand without getting permission to do either. - Chris Brogan

While most people know of or think they know of “social media”, many don’t fully understand its power and significance in today’s marketing environment. By definition, social media refers to websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real-time, via apps on their smartphone or tablet, despite it originating on computers. The ability to share photos, opinions, events, etc in real-time has transformed the way we live and, also, the way we do business. Businesses who use social media as part of their marketing strategy usually see measurable results. 

A big mistake many businesses do is use social media to talk about what is important to them rather than talking about what is important to the customer. While a shout out to a special deal or sale is a great way to get attention, it shouldn’t be a business’ only reason for getting involved in the social media landscape. The aim should rather be to provide content that is relevant to your customer/target audience and engage with them to the point that they want to share your post with others. The point of marketing is to provide solutions, therefore as part of your marketing strategy, and the use of social media, businesses need to engage with their customers, involve them in a dialogue, and ask them for their opinions, leading to shared posts, which leads to engaged and more followers. 

As graphic designers, we are an integral cog in the wheel of visual communication, and as images are the most commonly-shared content on social media, this is our wheel house. As a two-word term, the definition is further defined by “Social”; referring to the interaction with other people by sharing information with them and receiving information from them, and “Media”; referring to the instrument of communication. Although the difference is subtle, moreover, the term “Social Networking” (often interchangeable with the term “Social Media”) is really a subcategory of social media, who your audience is and the relationships you have with them. 

Simply put, Social Media is the future, in which it is likely to get more personalized and less noisy, over-sharing becoming less of a problem and filtering out irrelevant information will become a stronger trend. This will lead toward ephemeral sharing for quicker, more intimate sharing without the stress of having to blast something out to hundreds or thousands of followers.

Social media has therefore created crowd cultures of two varieties; subcultures, which incubate new ideologies and practices, and art worlds, which break new ground in entertainment. Social media binds these communities that once were geographically isolated, together, greatly increasing the pace and intensity of collaboration. Social media has also expanded and democratized these subcultures, whereby with just a few clicks, the centre of an audience is in reach allowing participants seamless interaction, pushing forward new ideas, products, practices, and aesthetics bypassing traditional and mass-culture restrictions that once controlled marketing advertising mediums, which have now become one and the same.

Social media has grown tremendously in the last few years, since its infancy in 2006 with a current growth rate unexpectedly very high. With the way technology is growing, it is obvious that more and more people are going to grasp its benefits. Like all things, its benefits can also be outweighed by its negatives or disadvantages, including a rise in cyberbullying, hacking, addiction, fraud and scams, security, reputation, marital status issues and health. However; it educates, connects, helps and promotes businesses and people, sometimes with a noble cause, building communities and create awareness. 

Engage, Enlighten, Encourage... Social Media is a community effort, everyone is an asset. - Susan Cooper


Social media marketing, allows companies with a way to reach new customers, engage with existing customers and promote its desired culture, mission or tone, many which offer purpose-built data analytics tools that allow marketers to track how successful their efforts are. Moreover, a social media marketing strategy, when employed, allows a business to custom develop messages and content that users will share with their family, friends and co-workers etc. This increases the message’s reach to networks and users carrying an implicit endorsement when sent by someone who the recipient knows and trusts. “Sticky” content gets a user’s attention and increases the possibility that he or she will conduct the desired action and also inviting “earned media” by allowing customers to create and share their own content, such as product reviews or comments. 

Social media isn’t static; it’s one of the most rapidly changing fields of technology ever. New tools, new techniques and new developments, constantly evolving, changes how we view social media and where it fits in to business. Doing one thing one way, no longer cuts it, as social media requires us to be flexible, and prepared for changes, quickly adapting and capitalizing its new trends. Social media can expand site activity, build changes, raise brand mindfulness, brand personality and constructive brand affiliation and enhance correspondence and communication with key groups of onlookers. 

We don't have a choice on whether we DO Social Media, the question is how well we DO it. The power of social media is that it forces necessary change. - Erik Qualman


Profile Pages

Since social media is a modern-day form of communication, a profile page is often necessary to help represent an individual and give them an online presence. Often including information about the user (business or individual), with a profile photo (or logo), bio, website link, feed of recent posts, recommendations, recent activity and more.

Friends, followers, groups

A social media account connects with other users, via social media networking tools. Like the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, the same principle applies. The more friends, followers or groups, the more exposure your posts get. 


A hashtag (#) is a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark, used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it. Whenever a user adds a hashtag to their post, it's able to be indexed by the social network and becomes searchable/discoverable by other users. Very useful and almost vital in a digital world where thousands of images are published every minute making it hard to stand out amongst the crowd. As such, social media posts can get lost and can generally go unseen, unless they are one of your followers. By adding a hashtag (#), followed by a name, keyword, phrase etc, the social media platform is able to index your post so that it can be discoverable to everyone, even if they’re not your followers or fans, similar to SEO, making your post accessible to all other users interested in similar topics who search for your hashtag. Twitter’s optimal amount is two hashtags per tweet, Instagram up to 30, and Pinterest up to 20. Facebook, LinkedIn and Google + allow hashtags to be added, but generally don’t have much effect. 


In the online world and social media, a handle is basically another word for “username”. A solid handle needs to correlate with the way you want to represent yourself or business, and generally, the social media platform you choose or create a profile for, will automatically create a handle for you, some which allow you to alter so you can make it unique.


When users connect with other users on social media, they're basically saying, "I want to learn more about…"; information shared and updated for them and their reasons in real-time via news feeds.


Social media sites give users the flexibility to configure their user settings, customize their profiles to look a specific way, organize their friends or followers, manage the information they see and even give feedback on what they do or don't want to see. Basically, the consumer is in control, which can be both beneficial and negative.


Social media apps and sites notify users about specific information playing in the social media game, while again, the user can have total control over such notifications.


A social media post can be anything digital, uploaded to the app or site, from a simple text-based message, a photo, a YouTube video, a link to an article etc

Like Buttons and Comment Sections

Relating to the “social” aspect of the term, the most common interaction on social media platforms via buttons that represent a 'like' or ‘follow’ plus comment sections where a user can share their thoughts, relying on the collective effort of the community to review, rate and vote on information provided.

Social Media... the key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.- David Alston

The popular platforms used in Social Media Marketing are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, and for all businesses it is important to know which platform you should invest time and effort into. 


Facebook has more than 2 billion monthly users, and hosts over a quarter of the world’s population, providing advertisers and markets with an unparalleled opportunity to reach virtually anyone and everyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a place where people go to unwind and talk with companions, so its tone is light and amicable. It allows people to set up a page of any type and group pages of like-minded people in a particular industry, culture or society and exchange relevant information. Liking, Commenting, Sharing are its 3 ways of interaction. Content posted can be organic or paid with great targeting options and displayed in multiple ways (carousal ads, sponsored post, FB live etc), while its integrated analytics provide detail analysis of post reaches, engagement, impressions, clicks and conversions. 


YouTube is the best platform for videos, both uploading/sharing and watching. Aside from this it has can be an amazing web-based social networking promoting device. Numerous organizations attempt to make video content such as making helpful, educational “how-to” recordings, with additional advantages of positioning them on query items or searches of Google. 


Instagram now boasts more than 700 million monthly active users and commands one of the highest audience engagement rates in social media, 58% higher than Facebook and 2000% higher than Twitter. Its premise is simple, fun & creative, a place to capture, edit & share photos, videos & messages with friends & family, but also effective for businesses. 


Twitter has revolutionized breaking news and provides unparalleled access for its users to connect with both niche and mainstream influencers. Despite a 140-character (also referred to as micro-blogging) limit on its posts, it hosts 328 million monthly active users, and remains one of the most popular social media platforms. Twitter is referred to as the online networking instrument in promoting and communicating updates over the web, while also the opportunity to stir up authority via related tweets about specials, rebates, and news. Like all other Social Media platforms, its purpose is to be social, therefore retweets when a client has something pleasant to say in regard to you, your company or brand, helps boost your Twitter presence, while also ensure individuals’ inquiries are answered when conceivable. Utilizing Twitter as an online networking and promoting device relies on exchange and correspondence, so cooperating however much as possible is expected.


Pinterest is unique. It’s visual, like Instagram, but unlike Instagram, it is highly targeted toward women with an 81% female user base. With over 100 million monthly users, it’s an incredibly active platform, and being picture focused it is perfect for retail. It enables private ventures to grandstand their own particular item offerings while building up their own particular image’s identity. 


LinkedIn is a unique social platform, revolving primarily around the B2B market. With over 380 million monthly active users, LinkedIn is one of the more expert online networking platforms. LinkedIn Groups are an awesome scene for going into expert exchange with individuals in comparable businesses and a place to impart substance to similarly invested people; a true networking ability.


Google+, although losing to Facebook in terms of popularity, is a place to discover amazing things and connect with passionate people, promoting the same fun, casual atmosphere as its rival. Google+ users can upload and share photos, videos, links, and create and join circles, which allow users to segment followers into smaller groups, enabling exclusive sharing. Furthermore, Google+ Communities allow users to listen to their fan’s feedback and input, a great target marketing strategy. 


Social tools are not just about giving people a voice, but giving them a way to collaborate, contribute and connect. - John Stepper