This updated third edition presents a wide-scale, interdisciplinary guide to social media. Examining platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube, the book analyzes social media's use in journalism, broadcasting, public relations, advertising and marketing.
Lipschultz focuses on key concepts, best practices, data analyses, law and ethics – all promoting the critical thinking that is needed to use new, evolving and maturing networking tools effectively within social and mobile media spaces. Featuring historical markers and contemporary case studies, essays from some of the industry's leading social media innovators and a comprehensive glossary, this practical, multipurpose textbook gives readers the resources they will need to both evaluate and utilize current and future forms of social media communication.
Among other changes, updates to the third edition include a deep dive into new approaches to analytics, as well as greater discussion of law and ethics in light of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, the roll-out of GDPR and new case law relating to social media. Social Media Communication is the perfect social media primer for students and professionals, and, with a dedicated teaching guide, ideal for instructors, too.
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In early 2019, an Internet phenomenon called “The Momo Challenge” began to spread, and data suggest that it spiked in early March before disappearing that summer. NBC called it “a global social media hoax about a paranormal threat to kids” that “morphed into a U.S. viral phenomenon” (Collins & Wodinsky, 2019, para. 1). As social media posts from celebrity Kim Kardashian, local police departments, school principals and others infected Momo with source and message credibility that the YouTube video could lead to suicide attempts, there was acceptance of the threat before it subsided. While the idea that a suicide “dare” edited into an otherwise normal video would be against site rules, the meme appeared to be a hoax launched earlier in Argentina and Mexico (paras. 3–6):
(Lorenz, 2019, para. 6)
Binder (2019) discovered that the origin of Momo was a July 2018 YouTube upload by the AL3XEITOR account to his audience at the time of nearly 1 million subscribers, and this generated more than 5 million initial views (paras. 1–2). Fear is a powerful communication tool that can drive attention toward false or truthful social media communication. Frequently, for example, reports of school or other shootings, true or false, have led to panic in a community. Social media and traditional news media, such as local and national television news, may drive a fear of crime that can rise to the level of panic. In a sense, social media serve to amplify audiences consuming traditional news stories, and these have not changed very much over the years.
On a cool mid-April day in 2013, tragedy struck at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two bombs were detonated, injuring dozens of runners and spectators. As journalists scrambled to learn what happened and event organizers worked with emergency responders, Twitter immediately lit up with a burst of information, images and video. Some of the initial reports by eyewitnesses and media were accurate, but there was also a stream of false information spreading across users’ social networks. At Golin, their real-time public relations newsroom The Bridge immediately alerted marketing client Cisco, which pulled content to avoid appearing disconnected from unfolding events (PR News, 2013). The chaotic scene generated massive amounts of information, including numerous factual errors.
Meanwhile, the Twitter social network site (SNS) hashtag (#) #BostonMarathon had been used for live-tweeting photographs and positive news about the annual event, but now it was the online space to track responses to the attack. Unfortunately, even mainstream news media, such as CNN and ESPN, reported inaccurate information in the early hours and days of the coverage, as in this tweet: “@SportsCenter: An arrest has been made in the Boston Marathon bombings, CNN reports” (April 17, 2013). The incorrect tweet was retweeted 13,930 times and made a favorite 2,476 times. A 2015 documentary, The Thread, later revealed the role that the social media site Reddit and its “Redditors” played curating content during the manhunt, and the “fake news” problem foreshadowed a rise in false information during the 2016 election – from a bizarre “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton to claims of paid protesters of President-elect Donald Trump (Maheshwari, 2016; Silverman, 2016). Massanari (2015) through Reddit’s upvoting and downvoting aggregated stories is about culture, community and play: “Voting is intended to show others what material deserves more (or less) attention from the community” (p. 3, 47). In the case of the Boston bombing investigation, Reddit was seen as having “potential for enabling collective action, whether for good or for ill” (p. 6). The use of social networking for “collective intelligence” (p. 47), though, may devolve into “mob justice” or a vehicle for “underlying distrust of law enforcement” (p. 49).
As the Boston Marathon bombing investigation continued, social media also shared a graphic YouTube video of the explosions and aftermath. Six months later, the bombing event continued to attract social media attention – from the Boston Red Sox World Series parade stop at the marathon finish line, to the photograph posted online of an inappropriate Halloween costume. A 22-year-old from Michigan dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, and she sparked a large negative reaction from her Instagram photo that was also shared on Twitter.
The online publication BuzzFeed reported on the story of Alicia Ann Lynch, who received thousands of negative tweets and even death threats. One called Lynch “an absolutely disgusting human being.” Clearly, Lynch’s dress was insensitive, but Twitter users went so far as to identify her by sharing a photo of her Michigan driver’s license. After deleting social media accounts, Lynch briefly returned on Twitter before having her account suspended. Lynch claimed that this online apology reported by media came from someone else: “@SomeSKANKinMI: Plz stop with the death threats towards my parents. They did nothing wrong. I was the one in the wrong and I am paying for being insensitive” (November 1, 2013). Lynch apologized with a simple “I’m sorry” on Twitter, but the attacks continued. Eventually, some on Twitter accepted the apology and called the continuing online “rage” an example of cyber-bullying and online mob behavior (Zarrell, 2013).
A practitioner of journalism, public relations (PR), advertising or marketing needs to understand how to effectively operate within social media. There is no single way because social media communication can be political and cultural (Chaffee & Metzger, 2001). For example, Shezanne Cassim, 29, spent nearly one year in a Dubai prison for posting a parody YouTube video before the Minnesotan was released in late 2013 (Gumuchian & Sidner, 2013). What might have been considered harmless in the US – poking fun at suburban teens liking hip-hop music culture – was found to be criminal in the United Arab Emirates. However, by developing strategies through planning and creating tactics, it is possible to avoid social media pitfalls and serve many goals within media and other organizations.
For many performers in social media communication, it has been an amazing decade. Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, for example, launched a YouTube channel, dropped out of school the next year and became the first individual to reach 100 million subscribers (Webb, 2019). His video game and cultural content was second only to a record label in India: “PewDiePie spent months recruiting new fans to try to beat T-Series to 90 million subscribers, but was ultimately overtaken by T-Series’ array of musical talent and YouTube’s rapidly expanding user base in India” (para. 5). PewDiePie’s rise to fame, however, also has been marked by controversies. Kjellberg’s early videos included rape jokes, but he responded to media coverage of criticism and stopped. In 2017, he offered to pay for someone to post “DEATH TO ALL JEWS,” but again apologized by explaining that he wanted to show how far people would go to make money online. Nevertheless, some brands distanced themselves from his ongoing anti-Semitic and racist jokes. In 2019, dozens were killed in the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shootings in which the shooter said “subscribe to PewDiePie” during a livestream of the horrific events. Kjellberg tweeted that he felt “absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.” Some critics have argued that PewDiePie’s use of racist humor may incite some young people inclined toward extremism, radicalization and violence. As PewDiePie aged with YouTube, he remained one of their key celebrities that attracted audiences larger than late-night television (Roose, 2019). However, at age 30 the vlogger abruptly announced plans to take a break from his 102 million subscribers and 24 billion video views: “I’m tired. I’m feeling very tired. I don’t know if you can tell. Just so you know, early next year I’ll be a way for a little while. I’ll explain that later but I wanted to give a heads up” (Sky News, 2019, paras. 2, 5). From the beginning of YouTube, the lack of media gatekeeping and filtering exposed audiences to raw content. This became a serious misinformation problem during the 2020 Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in late October 2012, it marked what the technology site Mashable later called a “Social Storm.” The storm, tracked on Twitter with the hashtag #Sandy, was perhaps the first large-scale natural disaster in which officials coordinated to “disseminate emergency information to residents and provide emergency services in response to residents’ posts” (Berkman, 2013, para. 6). On the one hand, citizens were urged to stay indoors and remain safe. On the other hand, the city monitored social media for reports from those venturing outside. One official said, “At no point, did we actively ask the public to collect media.”
(Berkman, 2013, para. 7)
Natural disasters tend to draw traditional media attention that feeds social media communication. The path of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 also highlighted the news value of conflict. President Trump tweeted that Alabama was in the path of the storm, but meteorologists disputed the claim. A #Sharpiegate social storm followed over a doctored map that penned in the state when The Washington Post reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff had been pressured to not challenge the president’s false information, even as the storm spun up the Atlantic coast. The rapid growth of social media use has also disrupted the careful curation of all forms of breaking news.
In a less dramatic but very early example of social media engagement, Air Berlin found out the hard way that engaging customers on Twitter might produce unintended results. When the airline lost a business traveler’s luggage, the exchange between a social media content manager and customer turned into a very public branding #fail.
@_5foot1: Arrived in Dusseldorf without my bag. @airberlin are useless. No apology, no idea. What happened to German efficiency?
@airberlin – @_5foot1: We’re sorry for the inconvenience caused. Did you contact the Lost & Found at Düsseldorf airport?
@_5foot1 – @airberlin: of course. Bag left in LDN. No assurance it will be on the next flight. I’m here for business meetings with no clothes.
@airberlin – @_5foot1: We understand how annoying this is and apologise! Unfortunately we can’t help you right now, the Lost & Found will contact you
The next day:
@_5foot1 – @airberlin...
Table of contents
Citation styles for Social Media Communication
APA 6 Citation
Lipschultz, J. H. (2020). Social Media Communication (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2194093/social-media-communication-concepts-practices-data-law-and-ethics-pdf (Original work published 2020)
Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris. (2020) 2020. Social Media Communication. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2194093/social-media-communication-concepts-practices-data-law-and-ethics-pdf.
Lipschultz, J. H. (2020) Social Media Communication. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2194093/social-media-communication-concepts-practices-data-law-and-ethics-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris. Social Media Communication. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.