Social media is something we are all familiar with - to some extent - and the buzz continues to grow as we embrace more ways to communicate, to network, and to sell.
Not a day goes by where I don't see an article or blog post from someone telling me why they're stepping away from social media, or how dangerous it can be to compare our own, mundane realities with the glossy instagram version we see of someone's life.
More and more often, as the big three play with the way we engage with the content we share and view, there are mutterings and complaints, questions about whether we have become the commodity, and yet still we engage, we reach out to and for more, and we explore the world around us through a hand-held screen. It's how we catch up with old friends, build new relationships, sell what we sell and buy what we buy.
So - whether you're an early adopter, or late to the playing field, how do you decide which social network is right for you, and how do you use it to build your brand?
The Big Three,
There are three networks that most of us are familiar with - and most people flit between these big names and have at least a basic understanding of how to use them;
Let's explore each in a little more detail, and see whether you're in the right place.
If you think of each network as a digital version of a real-life environment, Facebook is like a birthday party and school reunion merged. You collect your old school friends and family members around you, and show them photo albums of your holidays and kids.
Additionally, Facebook offers you pages - a place you can showcase your business or products, and collect followers who want to hear more about what you're selling. This can be a great way to promote your brand, and if you put in the time and respond to all your comments and questions, you'll build relationships.
The trouble with Facebook in recent times is that the organic growth and promotion that used to see your posts and comments shared in the timeline of everyone you were connected to has gone - Facebook have focused their attentions more on monetising their platform, and it's the sponsored posts and paid adverts that people are seeing - so promoting your brand means spending on niche adverts.
These are very effective, and can put your name in front of a very specific and targeted audience - the algorithims that Facebook have perfected are fantastic - as long as you're willing to pay.
This makes it hard for the little guy, for smaller businesses and sole traders, and it means that we aren't seeing posts or content in real time any more - and Facebook is choosing which of our friends and contacts matter the most, and hiding content from many others - which their users are very vocally unhappy about.
Twitter - once referred to as a 'micro blogging' website, Twitter is a vibrant, busy place to be. Back to the 'digital version of a real-life environment' analogy - Twitter is like the coffee break at a conference. Everyone is relaxed and chatty, not just talking about work but about their day, their interests, their passions - and making new friends. It's the water cooler of social networks.
You can see conversations about politics, the weather, what's on TV and cute animals all in one moment - and it used to be that those conversations were happening in real time, which was the best thing about Twitter; you could pop in and out and join in conversations with the people you follow right there and then, comment on things, share your frustrations and successes, and get instant gratification.
Then the gods of Twitter made some changes, added some 'here's what you missed' replays of old content, and messed with the timelines that kept things so simple - and all of a sudden you're once again boxed out of seeing the as-it-happens content from the people you've chosen, wading through sponsored posts and ads, and seeing the same five people on repeat because Twitter has deemed them important in some way.
Once again, something which could lead to organic growth and network building has started to penalise those who aren't spending to promote their content - and users are fed up with being told what they can and can't see and engage with.
"Like Twitter, but for photos" is how I used to describe Instagram - and initially I wasn't sure I got it - but a single image can tell a wealth of stories, and the enormous popularity of Instagram goes to show that we all adore a little voyeurism - and Instagram gives us glossy, filtered peeks into other people's lives - and we love it!
But - as with the others - the powers that be have made some decisions, and the wonderful, in-the-moment glimpses into the lives of anyone we followed have changed - no longer do we have the chronological sharing of images in real time, and instead we are shown content from those deemed 'influencers' and popular posts, and thousands of people are finding their content sidelined and ignored, no longer seen by their followers - unless - and it's the same story, again and again - we're willing to pay to promote.
Timelines once filled with glimpses into my friends' lives are now heavy with sponsored content and adverts, and posts from the same handful of people, sometimes days out of date.
And people aren't happy.
Whichever of these 'big three' you're using, the same problems keep resurfacing - and we are more and more aware that, to the business owners, we are nothing but revenue streams, scrolling mindlessly through the products they are pedaling.
Surely this goes against the whole ethos of 'social'?
In steps Vero.
Vero - which means 'truth' - is selling itself as a genuine, honest experience - a place where users can see, in real time, and in chronological order, the content shared by those people we choose to follow. No adverts, no sponsored content, no tricks.
Instead of making users the commodity, Vero offers us changes to pay for the things we want - to buy through the app when someone shares something we want to buy, selected from the content we want to see and engage with.
Here we see a return to organic growth, natural and honest engagement, and genuine relationship building.
It's very like Twitter or Instagram - you can share images, links, videos, music, books - all the things that we like, and which matter to us - and comment on and like content shared by others. Hashtags lead us to people who share our interests, the design is slick and stylish, and it feels new and exciting.
The huge leap in awareness of Vero means an equally huge influx of new users - and the designers are rushing around behind the scenes to pull it all together after this saw lots of glitches and loading issues - so today, the app is more than a little clunky - but they promise this will be short lived, and are working hard to get on top of the problems.
I, for one, am very much hoping that they do - because there's a place for an honest, reliable network, designed for users to share and engage.
I'm on there, patiently waiting for them to pull it together; the first million sign ups get free-for-life membership - and beyond that there will be some yet-to-be-detailed small fee for users to access all the perks - but I am more than happy to pay for access to a network that works for its users.