Social media platforms abound, and even “regular” apps, such as your phone’s chat app or your company’s email software, most likely includes social media features, such as the ability to “like” content or share photos. However, with companies interested in reaching new audiences in order to present their products and services, the number of platform choices can make it fairly overwhelming for companies of all sizes to determine which social channels — and their associated features — are the best fit for their use.
Many businesses are attracted to social media for the simple reason that it’s free: it costs nothing to create an account. However, businesses soon realize that subsequent costs can escalate out of control, thanks to the time needed to not only invest in creating fresh content but also monitor and listen to their audiences. It’s never a bad idea to run through the different types of social media platforms in order to decide which is right for your business. Let’s have a look.
1. Social Networking
As vague as this sounds, this is a “catch-all” category that includes the largest of the social networks — Facebook and LinkedIn — because they have extended profile features and allow users to interact with each other in a variety of different ways. The numbers say it all:
- Facebook: 2.6 billion monthly active users.
- LinkedIn: 160 million users in the U.S. alone.
Facebook and LinkedIn primarily focus on the individual user and the profiles that are created. Indeed, many people may not necessarily be active on these platforms but they maintain accounts anyway as a sort of social address book. Further, it’s the rich user details that allow Facebook and LinkedIn to present the right content to users at the right time, increasing engagement.
Companies of all sizes use Facebook and LinkedIn to create company pages. While Facebook is more for consumer businesses, both platforms are a great way to broadcast news, promotions and multimedia content, including photos, videos and links.
2. Photo Sharing
Instagram is the largest photo sharing social media platform, with over one billion monthly active users. Instagram offers a visual feed with posts showing photos and short videos with captions. Users can also post live video or create Instagram Stories that disappear after one day. Additional social networking features include the ability to interact with other users through tags, likes, comments and direct messages. Pinterest is the other well-known photo sharing site, with about one-third the audience size of Instagram.
Photo sharing sites are obviously great for building and maintaining visual brand awareness. Restaurants, apparel brands, travel companies and others can find value in presenting their experiences on these sites.
3. Video Sharing
With over two billion monthly active users, YouTube is still going strong as the destination site for publishing videos. No longer seen as a platform for just consumer brands, YouTube now appeals to all industries and companies of all sizes. For example, B2B and professional services firms have found success on YouTube, sharing advice or providing product demo’s.
YouTube is owned by Google, so SEO capabilities abound, such as the ability to add content for each video so it can be found in searches. Social networking features, including liking, favoriting and commenting on videos are also present and can be helpful for businesses trying to understand which videos truly resonate with their audience.
A competitor to YouTube is none other than TikTok, which is growing and currently boasts 100 million monthly active users in the US alone. TikTok video clips are much shorter and are repetitive, with built-in editing tools and overlays.
4. Blogging/Community Building
Blogs, or mostly text-based publishing, are still worth considering as far as a social media platform type because text still runs the Internet: Google search results (and their accompanying ads) are shown based on keywords entered into a search engine. Even an Alexa or Siri voice search transcribes the voice into text in order to deliver results.
Besides a blog on your own website, you might wish to consider blogging externally, on such sites as Medium or LinkedIn Publisher. Due to fewer multimedia features and the focus on text, blogging is generally good for professional services firms or to present thought leadership of senior management at a company.
Twitter is a microblogging platform, and is included in this social media type. With 166 million daily active users, Twitter is one of the oldest social networks to use text-based discovery: the hashtag, which has been incorporated into several other platforms.
In sum, a review of the different types of social media platforms is never a bad idea for a business considering leveraging the dynamic publishing nature and potential virality of the platforms. A fresh look at new or retired features can help when developing or continuing a marketing strategy is also important.
Additionally, there is no single magic one-size-fits-all social media marketing plan. Many of the features of one category of social network crossover into the features of another (i.e., livestreaming is available across several platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube). Many brands and companies have discovered clever ways of harnessing certain features of one social media platform yet doing very little with or ignoring other social media platforms altogether. Finding the right mix might take time, but the benefits can be innumerable.
Jake Wengroff writes about technology and financial services. A former technology reporter for CBS Radio, Jake covers such topics as security, mobility, e-commerce, and IoT.