People use social media to share photos and videos, post updates, and connect with family, friends, and brands.
Likewise, brands use these social media networks to grow their audience, conduct targeted market research, and increase platform engagement.
However, as social media evolves, it can be difficult for brands to determine where to focus their attention. And who has the time to effectively engage across all social media platforms and apps? Nobody.
So which ones should your brand use to connect with their audience? Well, it depends on several factors.
Most brands don’t have the resources or, to be honest, the need to be on all social media platforms, sites and apps.
In this guide, I will discuss the evolution of social media and the major social media networks. I will also discuss the different advantages of each type of network.
This will help you define strategies to focus on, what you want to keep in-house, and areas you might want to outsource.
Evolution of social media
Social media platforms have become an integral part of today’s marketing atmosphere.
They play an important role in businesses connecting and interacting with current and potential customers.
From sharing information to building relationships, these platforms offer endless opportunities.
When you think of social media, you probably think of the best ones, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and you probably lump them together.
But even among these major social media platforms, there are subtypes.
Learning the different features and potential opportunities of each platform can help brands create a more effective social media marketing strategy.
So let’s start with the old school platformers. LinkedIn and Facebook (originally Facemash, but who remembers) were launched in 2003.
Twitter followed soon after in 2006.
The second wave brought Instagram and Pinterest in 2010. Pinterest’s growth started slowly before gaining traction – today the platform has over 86 million followers in the US alone.
Next, what some consider to be the first iteration of TikTok – Vine – launched in 2013.
Vine’s surge in popularity was short-lived, as the platform shut down in 2017. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t learned where people’s attention is: short videos.
social media today
As we see today, social media networks compete to follow each other and add more features to keep people on their platforms.
For example, we saw it when Instagram added Instagram Reels to track TikTok.
We’re also seeing more platforms, like Twitter, now providing opportunities for its users to go live.
Now that I have explained how platforms compete to scale and capture the attention of their users, let’s see what I mean by social network.
What is a social network?
A social network is a category or group of a specific type of social media platform or application. There are many types and subtypes of social networks – more than you might think.
I’m sure you know the specific platforms we’ve talked about before, such as Facebook and Instagram. But what category do these types belong to? And how can your brand better connect with its audience on each one?
Next, I’ll break down the following types of social media and the benefits of each:
- Traditional Social Networks.
- Media Sharing Networks.
- Discussion networks.
- Social blog networks.
- Review Networks.
1. Traditional social networks
- Examples: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.
We’ve talked a lot about traditional social networks, so I won’t dwell too much on this guy.
But, like I said, there are changing trends in how brands are using traditional social media.
For example, we can see on LinkedIn and Facebook that people often share long articles and posts.
That’s not to say that abbreviated messages are gone; we see short messages on all traditional social networks.
We can also see that Facebook has evolved to include more options for engagement, such as Facebook Marketplace for shopping, Facebook Live, and Facebook Groups.
The platform also serves as a directory for businesses to create a showcase in the form of a Facebook page to promote their products, book services, send messages to customers, and leave space for reviews.
Facebook pages and groups are great for brands to engage with their audience and reach new people.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, has been a big player in online professional networking.
These traditional social networks offer brands the ability to use ads to target their audience and conduct market research through insights and analytics tools.
2. Media Sharing Networks
- Examples: Instagram, Pinterest, Tik Tok.
There are many forms of visual content on media sharing networks, such as infographics, images, and short and long videos.
Although this type of network includes video and photo media sharing, most are now multimedia, using audio, video and images.
On Instagram, brands mainly use the platform in several ways: sharing videos and images on the brand profile, then Instagram Stories, IGTV and Reels.
People use these sites for entertainment, finding information, and sometimes even shopping. This creates many opportunities for your brand to reach its audience.
Many products have recently gone viral via TikTok. When people can easily buy through an app, it gives them a direct way to buy before they guess.
Brands also use these sites to deliver tutorials on their products, collaborate with influencers, promote discounts, and more.
When it comes to Pinterest, there are plenty of marketing strategies you can use to grow your brand on the platform.
Visual content is an engaging way to connect with customers and inspire them to follow and learn more about your brand – and eventually buy your products.
As with traditional social media, ads work well on these platforms, especially when brands use insights and analytics to support their strategies.
3. Discussion networks
- Examples: Discord, Reddit, Quora.
When people have specific questions or want to discuss a topic, platforms like Facebook or Instagram are sometimes not the place to go.
There can be many reasons why people see and create content on all platforms.
But when it comes to sites like Discord or Reddit, users are usually there to get answers and to connect with communities of people with similar interests.
People also tend to go to these platforms to do research.
Chat networks allow brands to answer questions and connect with their communities.
Discord alone offers the ability to create customer community groups, events, and live streams.
Sometimes participating in a discussion about your brand or industry can help clarify topics and show you’re ready to engage with your audience.
Your efforts to meet your audience where they like to communicate can go a long way in creating long-term customers.
4. Social Blogging Networks
- Examples: Medium, Tumblr, Blog Meets Brand.
When an image or video isn’t the right form of content for a particular topic, blogging can be a great way to share information with your audience.
Sometimes information is best shared through a blog. For example, it can explain a topic better and help readers understand more complex topics.
Blogs are good for thought leader content. They can develop important information or news.
Your brand can also reuse, develop or share what it creates on its site via social blog networks.
For new brands, this is a great way to grow your voice and grow your audience.
These are additional platforms, on top of their websites, for brands to share their insights into what matters to them and their target audience.
5. Review Networks
- Examples: Yelp, Glassdoor, Google Business Profile, Trip Advisor.
The most important thing for brands when it comes to review networks is online reputation management.
Responding to positive and negative reviews quickly – in a polite and empathetic manner – is crucial to maintaining a positive online reputation.
Reading online reviews has become essential to the customer journey, and your brand shouldn’t ignore them.
Claiming listings on various review networks and creating a plan to manage them can help improve your brand image. It can also show potential and current customers how your brand responds to reviews.
It can also provide insight into areas for improvement. As a result, it is an excellent and sometimes underutilized resource.
Check out these Yelp strategies to inspire you on how to optimize your listing.
Reviews are also an essential part of local SEO because when people search locally, they tend to evaluate reviews of businesses in their area before making a purchase.
People often use a combination of Google and Google Maps to find businesses around them. Optimizing your Google Business Profile for local search is key to reaching more potential customers.
Social media has become an overwhelming but incredibly valuable marketing element for brands.
But categorizing the types of social networks and identifying which ones your brand wants to engage with can help simplify things.
Then your brand can allocate the right resources, people, and time to create a social media strategy.
Some brands may outsource components of social media management, such as online reputation management, blog writing, social media post creation, ad creation, and customer service across all platforms .
After reviewing your brand goals, it will be easier to assess which platforms you will strive towards and which ones are worth skipping, at least for now.
Featured Image: Khosro/Shutterstock