Social media and interactivity are related to each other. Social media is social because of the enhanced level of interactivity in it. Social media is often considered a platform that facilitates information sharing and participation (Steenkamp & Clarke, H. 2014). Kietzmann et al. (2011) defined that social media is like mobile and web-based technologies it is designed to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss and modify User-Generated Content (UGC).
Similarly, interactivity is also defined by several scholars, but there is a lack of operational definition. Interactivity, as a conceptual framework, includes synchronicity, rapidity, participation, speed, variety of choices, hypersexuality, connectedness, experience, and responsiveness (Rafaeli & Ariel, 2007).
The strength of social media platforms depends on the level of interactivity between the source and receiver. While going through media content in newspapers or watching a news item on television, you must have felt the urge to raise some questions and seek answers or add some new perspective to the news item. To do so, we have fewer options. In the case of newspapers, we can at the most write a Tetter to the editor’ and in the case of a TV bulletin, we can make a call to the channel. However, in both cases, it is not necessary that your’ letter to the editor’ would get a place or your phone call would get proper attention.
All this has changed with the emergence of social media. One of the vital features of social media is immediacy. Here you can immediately interact with the sender and also start a discussion with other fellow users. This facility has given greater control over the information to the users. Now, users can not only seek some clarification but can also initiate a discussion on the topic for a greater understanding of the subject.
Interactivity and Interaction
Social Media Platforms
- Interactivity facilities are in-built features of social media that enable and promote interaction between user to user and user to the manufacturer of news. Interaction is not necessarily dependent on the interactive facilities provided by social media. The interaction may take place with the help of an interactive facility or without it.
- According to the interactivity model, there are three possible types of processes in it. First, is the one-directional or declarative message in which any participant can become a sender or receiver in turn, but this will be one-directional also. The message board is one of the examples, where participants put their messages, but the level of interactivity is significantly less because participants do not feel its requirement. Second, two-way directional messages in which the receiver also becomes the sender but messages are related to requested information not beyond that. Computer games are an excellent example of two-way directional communication where the computer responds to the given command by the user. The third is a two-way flow of messages between sender and receiver. In this type of communication, the sender and receiver keep responding to each other and the focus is on the continuation of interaction.
- Rafaeli and Ariel (2007) suggested additional elements to this model by including more players in a set environment. Including more players in communication means that message is not directed to individuals. However, in general, it is shared, and any player can join the conversation at any point in time. In this type of communication, some players may actively participate in the conversation while some players may simply witness the conversation. Social media platforms have provided the opportunity for this type of communication.
- Interactivity is defined by various scholars from different perspectives. Ha, and James (1998) defined interactivity as a part of the communication process rather than being specific to a medium. As a process, two-way communication becomes characteristic of interactivity.
- Schumann, Artis, and Rivera (2001) gave a psychological perspective to interactivity. According to them, interactivity is a choice of the consumer, not the platform. The platform simply facilitates interaction. McMillan (2000) gave technological dimension to interactivity and listed 13 interactive features on online platforms, which include email links, chat options, comment options, search options, etc.
- After going through all these definitions of interactivity, we can conclude that interactivity is a two-way flow of information sharing between user and producer in which receiver and sender interact with each other and new information emerging from the interaction is incorporated for greater visibility or acceptance among users. This process of interaction goes on.
Social media platforms can be broadly divided into four types:
- Social networking sites-Facebook, Linkedln, Google+.
- Microblogging sites-Twitter, Tumblr
- Photo Sharing sites-Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest
- Video sharing sites-YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, Vimeo
For the purpose of news sharing, social networking sites Facebook, microblogging site Twitter, and video-sharing site YouTube are popular ones. Most prominently Facebook and Twitter are important for sharing purposes as YouTube video links are shared on these platforms for greater visibility. News organizations are also using these two platforms, prominently for news sharing purposes.
Facebook vs Twitter
- The characteristics of Facebook and Twitter are different. Twitter is more personalized where users go and share their thoughts in limited words. Recently, Twitter has increased the word limits, but basically, people still use it for a sharp and precise comment on issues. Twitter has created a niche among influential people of societies. They use their Twitter account to give their comment on specific issues.
- Twitter has made it possible for important personalities to give their comment without waiting for news organizations to contact them for their opinions. In that way, Twitter has an elite orientation. Urban young adults and politically engaged people are in the majority to use this platform for sharing news and opinion (Bastos, 2014).
- News organizations also exploit the nature of Twitter accordingly, and they share their story link to the platform.
For this purpose, news organizations create their respective pages on Twitter and add as much news as they can. After sharing some new content, all the followers of the pages receive notifications for the same. In this manner, they are using this platform to reach out to a broader audience.
- On the other hand, Facebook is different, and its focus is on the general population. Facebook users tend to share a variety of things on the platform. It ranges from pictures to videos and their ideas on specific issues. They also share website links on their wall. On Facebook also news organizations have created their pages, and with the brief description, they post content with links for further reading.
- The content shared on Facebook is entertaining in nature. The reason behind this is the presence of personal networks. This seems to be restraining for discussion on news items. Facebook users prefer to interact with friends more than discuss news items (Costera Meijer & Kormelink, 2015).
- Users may use Facebook or Twitter for sharing or commenting purposes that depend on users’ preferences what they find fit. How users comment or share content on these two platforms are referred to as participatory practices. Indeed, this feature of social media has increased the interaction among users and between news creators and readers.