There are many kinds of social media platforms available, each capable of achieving different goals. In this reading, you will gain an understanding of each type of platform, and you will review examples of each type.
Common types of social media platforms
Certain social media platforms will be more appropriate and effective for your brand than others—and when you decide which to use, you need to be sure you choose the ones your target audiences use. Even if your company is on 20 different social media platforms, you will need to deliver content that users on each individual platform prefer—while staying true and authentic to your brand voice.
Each social media channel (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has a certain number of monthly active users. Monthly active users refers to the number of unique customers who visit a platform over a month-long span. As social media shifts and changes over time, this number can change pretty dramatically. Monthly active users is a number you will want to be familiar with as a brand, because it may affect where you place your priorities and focus. Visit this link for more information on each social media platform’s monthly user numbers.
Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are known as social networking sites because they allow users to interact with each other. Social networking is often used for both personal and professional reasons.
For instance, Facebook is a great tool for small businesses who want to keep in touch with and share updates with their customers. It’s a great place for companies to post new products or services, sales, hours of operation, and much more.
LinkedIn is an effective social networking site for people who want to manage their professional identity and network with others. Companies (big and small) also use LinkedIn to share company updates and new projects, and even engage with and/or hire other professionals.
Pro tip: The beauty of social networking platforms is that they are designed to encourage users to share various types of content—like visuals, text, and external links—rather than just one primary type. If you’re running a social networking page for your brand, keep your content fresh by sharing different types of content each day.
A company’s post on social media with lots of engagement from users in the comments section.
Blogging refers to self-published writing that lives online. Microblogging is blogging, but on a smaller scale. Microblogging platforms allow users to distribute short-form content, quickly and frequently. Twitter and Reddit are good examples of these platforms. While blogging allows you to write lengthy, in-depth content, microblogging allows you to introduce brief concepts to users, and invites those users to interact with that content.
Because of the way it’s formatted, Twitter is a useful platform to optimize engagement and interaction with users. Users can use the search function to find tweets on anything they might want to discuss. Brands often use the “trending” section strategically, by tweeting relevant content based on what topics others are talking about.
A thread of posts written by a company, with several users replying to it.
Reddit is a platform that encourages web chatter and sharing of posts to create a sense of community. Within Reddit, there are “subreddits” which are niche online communities that cover a certain topic. There are subreddits for all kinds of topics, such as specific TV shows, hobbies, political or religious affiliations, industries, and much more.
Photo sharing platforms like Instagram and Pinterest offer visually appealing “feeds” where you can engage with content posted by other users, or host your own. They offer users the ability to engage with their own community, but they also include features that allow users to engage with new users and content.
Instagram is a photo and video sharing social networking platform. It’s a great place for businesses because it includes a feature that allows brands to post photos and link the product directly in the photo, so users can make purchases from the app. And, even if your brand isn’t creating shoppable content on Instagram, photos are a great way to keep users interested and engaged in your brand.
Pinterest is a useful platform for brands because unlike Instagram, brands can link directly to websites or external landing pages in the captions and replies. Users can save these posts, known as “boards.” So, if you work for an interior design company, you may create design mockups, post them to Pinterest, and link back to your website where users can book you for your services.
Pro tip: Photo sharing services offer users the ability to save photos posted by other accounts within the apps, so users can always reference content they enjoyed, for any number of reasons. Those analytics are available to the account managers, so make sure to check in and see what content your audience is saving so you can keep delivering tailored content to them.
A company’s post on a photo sharing app featuring comments and interactions below the photo.
Video sharing platforms allow users to upload and share videos, and live stream their own videos to the internet. Video sharing platforms are becoming increasingly popular within most industries because of the informational aspects and community-building capabilities of video content. Platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Vimeo, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live are great examples of video sharing platforms. Some platforms are better suited for long-form video while others are best used for short-form video, but both have huge advantages for businesses.
YouTube and Vimeo are great for long-form videos. For instance, a fitness instructor can lead a full exercise class on a platform like YouTube or Vimeo. A carpenter can show off their woodworking skills all while persuading customers to buy their work in a video format on these platforms. The possibilities with video are endless, but keep in mind that creating video—especially long-form—is one of the most time consuming and specialized types of content you can create. So it isn’t right for everyone.
If your brand doesn’t find long-form video necessary, maybe they want to prioritize short-form videos like on TikTok. TikTok is newer than most social media platforms, but it’s quickly becoming a huge asset for brand growth. Brand videos on TikTok can range from informational content like short “how-to” videos, to behind-the-scenes videos, to community-building videos like songs or dances, and so much more.
Instagram Live and Facebook Live differ from the other video sharing platforms because the content is live, rather than created and then uploaded. These platforms are often used for question-and-answer style videos, where users can get a feel for who you are as a brand.
A brand executing a live post on a video sharing platform.
Resources for more information
The 5 types of social media and pros & cons of each: This resource gives you even more tips and information about what to post on each site.