Distinction according to revenue model

Social media can follow commercial or non-commercial models.

Non-commercial models are adopted when users of the social media in question consider them to be collective works belonging to a community. The maintenance of these kinds of sites is mainly financed by donations or even public funds.

Commercial models are mainly supported by the placement of targeted advertising space designed to attract users’ attention and based on the vast amount of personal data made available and then sold.

The value of the services provided by social media largely depends on the number of the site’s users. The more users a site has, the more chance it has of finding other users to share their areas of interest or content that they find interesting – and the more interested advertisers become in advertising on that site. This means social media sites tend to prefer strategies that aim to grow the number of users and acquire new media types to gain economies of scale. This runs the risk of not generating revenue in the short term but can result in the site gaining a dominant position (Federal Council, Cadre juridique pour les médias sociaux [Legal Basis for Social Media], Report of the Federal Council in Fulfilment of the Amherd Postulate 11.3912 of 29 September 2011, p. 9).