People use social media to share photos and videos, post updates, and connect with family, friends, and brands.
Similarly, brands use these social networks to grow their audience, conduct target market research, and increase platform engagement.
However, with the evolution of social media, it can be difficult for brands to decide where to focus their attention. And who has the time to participate on all social media platforms and apps effectively? no one.
So, what tags should your brand use to communicate with its audience? Well, it depends on two factors.
Most brands don’t have the resources or, frankly, need to be on all social media platforms, websites, and apps.
In this guide, I will discuss the evolution of social media and the most important social media networks. I will also take advantage of different brand benefits for each network type.
This will help you strategize about where you will focus, what you want to keep in the house, and which areas you might want to outsource.
The evolution of social media
Social media platforms have become an integral part of today’s marketing atmosphere.
They play an important role in connecting businesses and interacting with existing and potential customers.
From sharing information to building relationships, these platforms provide endless opportunities.
When you think of social media, you probably think of the most important ones, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — and you probably group them all together.
But even among these major social media platforms, there are sub-genres.
Learning the different features and potential opportunities of each platform can help brands create a more effective social media marketing strategy.
Let’s start with the old school platforms. LinkedIn and Facebook (originally Facemash, but who remembers that) launched in 2003.
Twitter followed shortly thereafter in 2006.
The second wave brought Instagram and Pinterest in 2010. Pinterest’s growth started out slow before it gained traction — today, the platform is over 86 million Followers in the United States alone
Then, what some consider to be the first iteration of TikTok — Vine — launched in 2013.
Vine’s surge in popularity was short-lived, however, as the platform shut down in 2017. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t recognized where people are interested: short videos.
Social media today
As we can see today, social networks are competing to keep up with each other and add more features to keep people on their platforms.
For example, we saw this when Instagram Reels added Instagram to keep up with TikTok.
We also see more platforms, such as Twitter, now offering opportunities for their users to go live.
Now that I’ve covered how platforms compete to evolve and capture the attention of their users, let’s get into what I mean by a social network.
What is a social network?
A social network is a category or group of a particular type of social media platform or application. There are many more genres and sub-genres of social networking than you might think.
I’m sure you’re familiar with certain platforms we’ve already discussed, such as Facebook and Instagram. But what category do these species fall under? And how can your brand best communicate with its audience in each?
Next, I will detail the following types of social networks and the benefits of each:
- traditional social networks.
- media sharing networks.
- discussion networks.
- social blogging networks.
- Network review.
1. Traditional social networks
- Examples: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
We’ve talked a lot about traditional social networks, so I’m not going to go too far into the genre.
But, as I’ve talked about, there are some changing trends in how brands use traditional social networks.
For example, we can see on LinkedIn and Facebook that people often share articles and long posts.
This does not mean that short posts have disappeared; We see short posts across all traditional social networks.
We can also see that Facebook has evolved to include more sharing options, such as Facebook Marketplace for shopping, Facebook Live, and Facebook Groups.
The platform also acts as a guide for companies to create a storefront in the form of a Facebook page to promote their products and services, write to customers, and leave space for reviews.
Facebook Pages and Groups are great for brands to engage with their audience and reach new people.
On the other hand, LinkedIn has been a significant player in online professional networking.
These traditional social networks provide opportunities for brands to use advertising to target their audience and conduct market research through statistics and analytics tools.
2. Media sharing networks
- Examples: Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok.
There are many forms of visual content across media sharing networks, such as infographics, images, and short and long-form videos.
While this type of network involves video and image media sharing, most of them are now multimedia using audio, video, and images.
On Instagram, there are several key ways brands use the platform: sharing video and photos on a brand’s profile, then Instagram Stories, IGTV, and Reels.
People use these sites for entertainment, to find information, and sometimes for shopping. This creates great opportunities for your brand to reach its audience.
Several products have gone viral recently via TikTok. When people can easily buy through an app, it gives them a straightforward way to buy before they second guess.
Brands also use these sites to post tips on their products, collaborate with influencers, promote discounts, and more.
When it comes to Pinterest, you can use several marketing strategies to grow your brand on the platform.
Visual content is an engaging way to connect with customers and get them to follow, learn more about your brand – and ultimately buy your products.
As with traditional social networks, advertising works well on these platforms, especially when brands use insights and analytics to support their strategies.
3. Discussion networks
- ExamplesDiscord, Reddit, Quora.
When people have specific questions or want to discuss a topic, sometimes platforms like Facebook or Instagram are not the place to go.
There can be many reasons why people watch and create content across 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 search.
Discussion networks allow brands to answer questions and connect with their communities.
Discord alone provides opportunities to create customer community groups, events, and live broadcasts.
Sometimes navigating a discussion about your brand or industry can help clarify topics and show that you’re willing to engage with your audience.
Your efforts to meet your audience where they want to connect can go a long way in creating long-term clients.
4. Social blogging networks
- Examples: Medium, Tumblr, Blog Meets Brand.
When a photo or video isn’t the right form of content for a particular topic, blogs can be an excellent way to share information with your audience.
Sometimes information is best shared through a blog. For example, it may explain a topic better and help readers understand more complex topics.
Blogs are useful for content from thought leaders. They can expand on important information or news.
Your brand can also repurpose, expand or share what you create on their site through social blogging networks.
For newer brands, it’s a great way to develop your voice and build your audience.
These are additional platforms, along with their websites, for brands to share their insights on what matters to them and their target audience.
5. Review networks
- Examples: Yelp, Glassdoor, Google Business Profile, and Trip Advisor.
The most important thing for brands in terms of review networks is online reputation management.
Responding quickly to both positive and negative comments—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 across different review networks and creating a plan to manage them can help improve your brand image. It can also show potential and existing customers how your brand responds to criticism.
It can also provide insight into areas for improvement. As a result, it is an excellent and sometimes untapped resource.
Check out these Yelp strategies to get inspiration on how to improve your listing.
Reviews are also an important part of local SEO because when people search locally, they tend to evaluate reviews for 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 essential to reaching more potential customers.
Social media has become an overwhelming yet invaluable marketing element for brands.
But categorizing the types of social networks and identifying which networks 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 managing online reputation, writing blogs, creating social media posts, creating ads, and customer service across platforms.
After reviewing your brand goals, it will be easier to assess which platforms you’re going to make an effort for and which are worth skipping, at least for now.
- Top 14 benefits of social media for your business
- 30 crazy facts about social media that might change the way you think about marketing
- Social Media Marketing: A Complete Strategy Guide
Featured image: Khosrow/Shutterstock