Shark Week: Know your Social Media Sharks

There are thousands different species of animals in the sea. From plankton to the blue whale, the ocean is full …

Published by 

Alexis Pratsides


Case study featured image for

There are thousands different species of animals in the sea. From plankton to the blue whale, the ocean is full of creatures that we do not understand and have not yet discovered.

Just as the sea presents one of the great mysteries of the natural world, the internet still holds enigmatic and unexplored potential for both our business and private lives.

Sharks are the top predators in the ocean; they have maintained their place at the top of the food chains for millions of years and are not ready to be replaced. Like sharks, there are powerful websites that have become the most dominant websites in cyberspace. Social media  websites have become the top predators in the digital sphere, reaching users across the world.


Sharks vary in their body styles and potential prey. Similarly, social media websites differ in their capabilities and target audiences.

According to International Shark Attack File, Tiger, Bull, Great White sharks account for 99% of all attacks on humans. These three species are the top three most powerful and forbidding sharks on earth. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the three top social media websites that swim in the digital sea.



When you think shark, you think Great White; when you think social media, you think Facebook. Both of these giants have cemented their place at the top of their food chains.

Physically, Great Whites are magnificent creatures, capable of exceeding 6 metres in length and 2200 kg in weight. Facebook has similar characteristics in its relative size, over 1.1 billion users, making it a very powerful medium to express ideas to numerous people.

Great Whites have been known to attack seals, whales, tuna, humans, and even boats. Their wide selection of potential meals enables them to always have something to eat.  Like a Great White’s ability to adapt its tactics to many types of prey, Facebook users can post many types of content. Members can post videos, comments, pictures, and like pages, giving a Facebook user the ability to post anything at any time.

More people have seen more sharks on their televisions than they will ever see in the water. Stephen Spielberg’s “Jaws” struck fear in every beach goer and still remains one of the most iconic movies of our time (not so much the sequels…). Similarly, the 2010 movie “The Social Network” further cemented Facebook’s spot as the Great White of Social Media by revolutionising the way people perceived social media.


Though not as large as a full grown Great White, Bull Sharks are considered by most marine biologists to be the second most dangerous species of sharks. Bull sharks are very dangerous because they are extremely aggressive and are able to swim in fresh water areas. Many Bull Shark attacks also occur in water that is less than a metre deep.

Bull Sharks and Twitter share many analogous characteristics. Like a Bull Shark compared to a Great White, Twitter does not have as many users as Facebook. However, Twitter’s ability to “swim up fresh water” in the world of social media is the amount of celebrities that personally use Twitter.

Facebook users are able to like a celebrity’s Facebook page, but it is very seldom that it’s the actual person who is posting content. Celebrity Twitter accounts are, however, the actual figure’s personal account, and are verified by the blue tick next to their name.

This creates more of a personal connection between the celebrity and the users because a response to a tweet means the user is talking to the celebrity themselves. Bull Sharks also spend much time around humans, and contact with them is much more common than with a Great White, like Twitter celebrity accounts versus Facebook pages.


Like the land animal it’s named after, Tiger Sharks are formidable hunters. In fact, more Tiger Shark attacks are registered than Bull Shark attacks.

Similar to Tiger versus Bull Shark attacks, YouTube actually has more unique page views per month than Twitter (490 million vs. 190). Also parallel to the Tiger Shark’s expansive appetite, all sorts of videos are posted on YouTube, from commercials, to music videos, and even entire movies.

Even though Tiger Sharks are larger creatures and have been credited with more attacks, the Bull Shark’s tendency to live closer to humans makes them more dangerous. Like Tiger Sharks, YouTube doesn’t generate as much engagement. Twitter’s ability for users to interact with one another makes it more of a sociable than YouTube, because most people care about the video itself, rather than the user who posted it. This makes Twitter a better predator when it comes to interaction.


There are more than three types of sharks in the sea. In fact, there are more than 470 different species of sharks. There are also a lot more than three social networking websites, and they play an equally important role in cyberspace.



Black Tips are notorious for attacking swimmers, especially surfers; 16% of all shark attacks on surfers are the result of black tips. LinkedIn targets professionals similar to how Black Tips target surfers. LinkedIn dominates the social network for connecting professionals to one another.

Black Tips are relatively small for sharks, typically only 1.5 metres in length and 18-20 kilograms. LinkedIn has similar characteristics in its relative size, nowhere near Facebook’s 1.1 billion users. However, unlike a shark’s inherent inability to grow larger as a species, LinkedIn has seen significant increases in following and is likely to become an even larger player in the world of social media.


Oceanic White Tips have a very low number of registered attacks, only seven recorded. However, registered is the key word; many scientists believe that the number is much higher because White Tips live in the open ocean. With little chance of escape and the long distance from land, White Tips are much less likely to leave evidence of their attacks.

Similar to White Tips, Google leaves little room for escape in the corporate world. With their purchase of YouTube in 2006, it is likely that Google may buy out other smaller websites and integrate them into Google+. Whether you see a white dorsal fin along the surface of the water or a blue box with a white “g,” it’s safe to say that the status quo is likely to change.



After “Jaws” was released, humans experienced a hatred for sharks, seeing them as vicious and mindless man-eaters. Shark Week began in 1987 to help combat some of the misconceptions that people have about sharks. Due to its incredible popularity and success, sharks are becoming more understood, and people are starting to realise that we are more dangerous to sharks than they are to us.

Social media is changing in the minds of people as well. These websites are no longer only meant for cat videos and embarrassing picture of your boss dancing at the Christmas party, but have become an effective way to reach thousands of potential customers. Businesses that are able to utilise social media have increased profits and helped ensure their future success. As the digital landscape continues to change, it will be interesting to see which originations adapt, and which ones become shark bait.



Matthew Sullivan studies Economics and Spanish at the University of Florida and has spent this summer studying and interning in London. He enjoys travelling and interacting with people from different cultures and hopes to live outside the US sometime in the future.

Created by

Alexis Pratsides

Published at 

More insights from the team