Social Networks/User Generated Reference Sites

Learning Objectives

  • to understand what social networks, social bookmarking and user generated reference sites.

Learning Outcomes

Must – understand what a social network, social bookmarking site and user generated reference site is used for.

Should – discuss the features of each of the type of site.

Could – explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type of social networking and social bookmarking site.

Social Networks

A Social Network is an online community where people are linked together using their personal information.

Functions of Social Networks

Social Networks allow users to have an online presence.  They allow users to find others through personal information.  Social Networks allow people to stay in touch with each other, this could be locally or from far afield.  Social Networks allow others to share media such as photographs and videos with each other.

Target Audiences

Social Networks are targeted at particular audiences.  Linkedin is aimed at business people and people who work in an industry.  Facebook is aimed at users above 13 years old, but primarily aimed at young people.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking.


  • easy to set up a profile, even for a novice user.  Most social networking sites have step-by-step guides and wizards.
  • easy to keep in contact with people through posts and chat functions.
  • free to join and use.
  • easy to share media with others.
  • can join groups dependent on different interests e.g., sports clubs, films etc.
  • an efficient way of communicating with people quickly.


  • a loss of privacy from posts and profile.
  • at risk of fake profiles or profile being stolen or cloned.
  • easy to give away key personal information such as address, date of birth etc, which could be used for fraud and identity theft.
  • content posts may cause problems for users as these can quickly be shared and liked.
  • risk of online bullying.

For the exam, you will need to be able to discuss advantages and disadvantages of using social networks.

User Generated Reference Sites

User Generated Reference Sites allow users to contribute and share information.  Wikis are examples of User Generated Reference Sites.

User Generated Reference Sites allow users to generate content collaboratively on a website.  Different websites have different functions:

  • Wikis are websites which allow users to add and edit content on a collaborative basis.  Wikipedia is a website run using Wiki Software.  It is an online encyclopaedia.
  • Internet Forums or Message Boards allow users to hold discussions about a topic or content.  They allow people to post and reply to messages.  An example of a Message Board could be a fan site for a football club.
  • Newsgroups are like message boards, they are communities that allow people to discuss news items.
  • Review sites allow people to read and post reviews about products and services.  TripAdvisor is an example of a review site for travel destinations, hotels and restaurants

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wikis

  • Wiki sites can easily be changed by anyone.  This means that a page can be kept up to date when information changes
  • Wiki sites are usually free so it is a good source to access information.
  • Wiki sites allow collaboration with different users from around the world.


  • an Internet Connection is required to work with a Wiki.  This is problematic for areas of the world that do not have them.
  • Wikis are usually not checked or verified so the information may be inaccurate or dated.
  • Wikis can be updated by anyone so the information on it can be fake or biased.

Social Bookmarking Sites

Social Bookmarking Sites are similar to Wikis, but rather than adding content to a Wiki, Social Bookmarking relies on users adding bookmarks (web links) and sharing these with others.

Pinterest is a Social Bookmarking site which allows users to create pinboards of images and photos and share images they like with users online.

Delicious allows users to create “stacks” of content (videos, images, blogs, tweets) on a particular theme.

Features on Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking is popular as users can store URLs online.  Users can tag words to categorise the URLs.  The tags can then be used to search bookmarks by topic/category.  Users can share their bookmarks with others online.  Users can like or dislike the content.


Exam Question I

Explain how a small business could use a Social Network site and Social Bookmarking site to promote its goods and services.  (6 marks)

Exam Questions II

Information is readily available online at the click of a link.  Explain the possible consequences of solely using Wiki sites to write news articles. (4 marks)