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Social tags are keywords generated by internet users on a platform that are used to describe and categorise an object, concept or idea.
On some platforms, other users can also vote on tags that have already been added providing an additional social aspect to social tags. One potential benefit of social tags is that they often provide a quick view into how users perceive something in social media, and can help a consumer quickly locate relevant information about the object. This is one way to conduct social media monitoring.
Amazon.com allows users to tag most of the products available on its website. A user might describe a book they just read with the tags of "thriller," "mystery" and "quick read."
Social tagging became popular in the realm of social bookmarking, where users share bookmarks to websites that they have discovered on a public platform, such as Digg, Del.icio.us and Reddit. In this context, users can add tags to describe the content of a webpage.
The overall organisational structure that arises from the use of social tags is sometimes referred to as a folksonomy (as opposed to a taxonomy, which is a rigid, top-down organisational structure). A folksonomy is a fluid classification system that is created by the work of many users (folks) as opposed to the rigid system created by experts.
Social tags are sometimes grouped together into tag clouds, which are visual representations of the popularity of different social tags associated with the object. The more popular a tag, the larger the font size used to depict it. The tags are often rotated and arranged in such a way as to resemble a cloud in the sky, hence the name.
Many popular websites provide tag clouds to describe objects. Last.fm – the digital music community site - displays tag clouds to describe musical artists. For example, British artist Adele is tagged as soul and singer-songwriter.