Social Presence Theory is a concept that has gained popularity in the field of online communication in recent years. Essentially, it is a theory that describes how people perceive and react to one another when communicating online. This theory is particularly relevant in the context of social media, where people interact with others through various forms of digital communication.

What is Social Presence Theory?

Social Presence Theory was first introduced by John Short, Ederyn Williams, and Bruce Christie in 1976. According to this theory, social presence refers to “the degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationship” (Short et al., 1976). In other words, it refers to how much people feel like they are communicating with another person rather than just a machine or a screen.

Key Concepts of Social Presence Theory

There are several key concepts that are important to understand when discussing Social Presence Theory:

1. Media Richness

Media richness refers to the extent to which a communication medium can convey information effectively. According to this concept, face-to-face communication is considered the richest medium because it allows for immediate feedback and nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. On the other hand, text-based communication such as email or instant messaging is considered less rich because it lacks these nonverbal cues.

2. Social Context

Social context refers to the norms and expectations surrounding a particular form of communication. For example, social media platforms have their own norms and expectations around how people should communicate with one another (e.g., using emojis or hashtags). Understanding these norms is important for building social presence on these platforms.

3. Self-Presentation

Self-presentation refers to how individuals choose to present themselves when communicating online. This can include factors such as tone of voice, use of emoticons, and choice of words. Self-presentation is important because it can impact how others perceive us and whether or not we are able to establish social presence.

4. Interactivity

Interactivity refers to the extent to which individuals can communicate back and forth with one another. This concept is closely related to media richness, as more interactive communication allows for more immediate feedback and a greater sense of social presence.

5. Media Naturalness

Media naturalness refers to how closely a communication medium resembles face-to-face communication. According to this concept, communication mediums that are more natural (e., video chat) are better at conveying social presence than those that are less natural (e., email).

The Importance of Social Presence

Social Presence Theory has important implications for online communication. For example, understanding the key concepts can help individuals and organizations build stronger relationships with their audiences on social media platforms. By using techniques such as self-presentation and interactivity, they can create a more engaging and authentic online presence.

In addition, understanding Social Presence Theory can also help individuals navigate the challenges of communicating online. For example, it can help them understand why certain forms of communication may be less effective than others in certain situations.


In conclusion, Social Presence Theory is an important concept in the field of online communication. It describes how people perceive and react to one another when communicating online and provides valuable insights into how we can build stronger relationships in digital spaces. By understanding the key concepts of this theory and applying them in our own online interactions, we can create a more engaging and meaningful online experience for ourselves and others.