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A social networking site is an online platform that allows users to create a public profile and interact with other users. Social networking sites usually allow a new user to provide a list of people with whom they share a connection, and then allow the people on the list to confirm or deny the connection. After connections are established, the new user can search the networks of connections to make more connections.
A social networking site is also known as a social networking website or social website.
Social networking sites have different rules for establishing connections, but they often allow users to view the connections of a confirmed connection. They may even suggest further connections based on a person’s established network.
Some social networking websites, like LinkedIn, are used for establishing professional connections, while sites like Facebook straddle the line between private and professional. There are also many networks that are built for a specific user base, such as cultural or political groups within a given area, or even traders in financial markets.
Social networking websites are easy to confuse with social media sites. A social networking site is any site that has a public or semi-public profile page, including dating sites, fan sites and so on. A social media site has profiles and connections, combined with the tools to easily share online content of all types.
It's also helpful to think about examples of social media and social networking in order to tell the two apart.
Arguably over the first decade of the 21st century, Facebook, as a platform, became the most widely used social media site, and the most widely used social networking site as well.
The difference between the two things is that social media is mainly used for communications, while social networking is used to build that network of people. Some people also consider "social media" to be a noun, just like digital media or print media, and "social networking" to be a verb.
So the social networking part of Facebook would be its groups, where people add each other in a grouped network deliberately. The social media component would be someone's page or wall where the communications are evidently public and accessible to all users without a specific network in mind.
So again, a social networking site has the prime objective of allowing an inherently limited group of individuals to connect in a special way—not just a platform for someone to build a profile and advertise something to the world. In light of this, LinkedIn works much more as a hybrid than just a social networking site, although it is still widely considered the primary social networking site for professionals.
On LinkedIn, networking connections work much as described above: the individual can request that another user be added to his or her network, and then that other person can verify or deny the connection.
The networking also happens when someone sends or receives a LinkedIn mail message, or adds an individual to their list of network contacts or endorsers. The social media component on LinkedIn is all of the public information on the individual's profile, like the resume, education history and employment history. That information is freely available to any user, no matter who he or she is, so creating it doesn't really consist of social networking behavior.
Theoretically, new social networking sites could focus much more on gated access to content, and less on free social media distribution of data. However, the broader social media and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn work well on the dual model, where they do both of those things simultaneously.