The vast majority of marketers use the biggest social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Many others also use media sharing sites, such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram, along with maybe a few others like Google Plus and Pinterest.
But, there are so many more social sites available to you besides these few juggernauts. In fact, there are a lot of super-focused niche social networks that cover everything you can imagine.
But, trying to group social networks by subject matter can quickly get overwhelming and distracting. You could also try categorizing them by their functional capabilities, such as short text content for Twitter, video for YouTube, etc., but that time has also passed thanks to shifting technology features.
In this guide, we outline nine different types of social media that you can use to grow your business. We’ve categorized the networks according to general categories focusing on what marketers hope to achieve by using them.
So here is the list of 9 types of social media, as well as what you can use them for:
1. Social Networks
Mainly used for: Connecting with people or brands online
Examples: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
How social network sites benefit your business:
There are a lot of ways in which such sites benefit your business, including:
- Market research
- Lead generation
- Brand awareness
- Customer service
- Relationship building
- The list goes on
There’s a reason why social networks are sometimes referred to as ‘relationship networks’. They help people and organizations to quickly and easily connect so they can share ideas and information online.
Although such networks aren’t among the oldest types of social media, it’s clear that they are the ones defining it now. Most of the channels began as simple services, for instance, Twitter was just a place where you could answer the question, ‘What are you doing?’, Facebook was the site where you could check your cute classmate’s relationship status.
But now, thanks mostly to the rise of mobile Internet, these social networks have become massive hubs with the power to transform many aspects of modern life into a rich social experience – from sharing vacation photos and reading news to discovering new opportunities in your career, and much more!
If these core networks are not yet part of your business’s social media marketing strategy, they need to be. If they already are, you will find plenty of blog posts on my site with ideas for how you can improve your existing marketing plan.
2. Media Sharing Networks
Mainly used for: Sharing videos, photos, and other media
Examples: Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube
How media sharing networks benefit your business:
As with any major relationship networks, sites like these are invaluable when it comes to brand awareness, audience engagement, lead generation, and many other goals related to social marketing. Media sharing sites offer people and brands and easy way of finding and sharing media online, including video, live video, and photos.
With the addition of new rich features like augmented reality, live video, etc. to Facebook and other platforms, the line between social networks and media sharing networks is getting more and more blurred these days.
But, their one main distinguishing feature is that sharing media is undoubtedly the primary defining purpose of media sharing networks.
Although most of the posts on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may contain text, you’ll find that posts on Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and other media sharing networks always start with images or videos to which users might then decide to add mentions of others, captions, filters, and other bits of content.
On websites like YouTube or Vimeo, it’s obvious that videos are the primary means of communication.
In order to determine whether or not you need to establish your business’s presence on media sharing networks, you need to consider what resources are available to you. The one thing that the most successful brands on YouTube, Instagram, etc. have in common is that their missions are thoroughly planned.
They have carefully-designed media assets that typically follow a specific theme.
Take a look at what other people in your niche are doing on these sites before you evaluate your business’s chances of succeeding on those media sharing networks. If your competitors are using the media sharing sites successfully, chances are, you’ll be able to do the same as well.
Just keep in mind that even if they are not making use of those channels, it’s possible that you might still find success with it if you have the right approach.
3. Discussion Forums
Mainly used for: Sharing news and ideas Examples: Quora, Reddit, Digg
How discussion forums benefit your business:
Networks like these can be superb resources for your market research. You can also place ads on the sites, although you need to be careful about keeping your posts and ads separate. Discussion forums are among the oldest social media types. Long before people connected to their college friends on Facebook, they were already discussing current affairs, pop culture, and asking for help from others on forums.
Forums like Quora, Reddit, and Digg have a staggeringly wide reach and huge user numbers that continue to grow as the public thirst for wisdom and knowledge remains unquenchable. People go to such websites to find out everything that everyone else is talking about so they can also weigh in on the topic.
Users on these websites generally aren’t very shy when it comes to expressing their opinions.
Although social media networks continue to implement measures that help to reduce anonymity in order to create a safe online space, discussion forums, for the most part, allow users to stay anonymous. This is what makes such forums great places for anyone who wants to do customer research and get brutally honest opinions.
4. Bookmarking or Content Curation Networks
Mainly used for: Discovering, saving, and sharing new content
Examples: Pinterest, Flipboard
How bookmarking or content curation networks benefit your business:
Networks like Pinterest and Flipboard can be extremely effective when it comes to driving brand awareness, web traffic, customer engagement, and so on. These types of networks help people find, share, save, and discuss content and media that is new or trending.
The websites are a breeding ground for inspiration and creativity for anyone looking for information or ideas. By adding such sites to your marketing plan, you open up new channels to build brand awareness while engaging with your prospects and customers.
An easy first step for anyone considering using Pinterest is to ensure that your website is bookmark-friendly. This means optimizing your blog headlines and images for the feeds used by these networks in accessing and sharing your content.
Make sure that the images on your website are a great representation of your content because these are basically the window displays of your Pins.
A content curation network like Flipboard is similar to Pinterest and other bookmarking networks, but its focus is on finding and sharing text content. The platform allows you to create your own ‘magazine’ to sort through content that you find most engaging on your topics of choice.
In addition to choosing content from third-party sources, you’re also able to showcase content from your own blog.
Bookmarking and curation are two features that are growing in popularity, and this has led to other networks like Instagram offering users new features which allow them to save content, create private collections, and so on.
5. Consumer Review Networks
Mainly used for: Finding and reviewing businesses
Examples: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato
How consumer review networks benefit your business:
These types of sites are great for finding, reviewing, and sharing information about businesses, products, or services.
Many people rely on them to help choose restaurants, travel destinations, etc. It goes without saying that positive reviews will bring social proof to claims made by your business. When handled well, you can even use such sites to resolve issues with any unhappy customers.
Yelp and other customer review networks offer people a chance to review all kinds of businesses, products, and services. And these reviews are a certain type of content which adds massive value to many sites and online services – such as the experience of using Google maps to search for local businesses, the Amazon buying experience, and so on.
These review networks take this a step further by developing networks around reviews as the core aspects of the value they offer.
As personal social networks adopt geolocation, Yelp and other location-based review services continue to grow. These days, user reviews have a lot more weight than they’ve ever had before. More and more people are consulting the Internet for recommendations of the best hotels, dining spots, businesses to apply for jobs, and so on.
In fact, according to certain surveys, almost 90% of consumers now trust reviews online as much as they do personal recommendations from friends and family.
So what does all this mean for you as a marketer?
It means that it’s essential that you’re able to attract positive reviews from users relating to your business and products while handling any negative ones that come your way. There’s a post on my blog that goes deeper into how you can manage customer complaints and deal with unhappy customers to turn a negative situation into a positive one that works to benefit your business.
6. Blogging or Publishing Networks
Mainly used for: Publishing content online
Examples: WordPress, Medium, Tumblr
How blogging or publishing networks benefit your business:
As you know, content marketing is one of the most effective ways of engaging with your audience, building your brand, and generating leads and sales. Networks like WordPress, Medium, and Tumblr offer marketers simple tools to help them publish their content online in various formats to encourage discovery and sharing, as well as commenting or taking any other desired action.
These types of networks range from traditional blogging platforms (Blogger and WordPress) to microblogging services (Tumblr), to interactive social publishing websites (Medium).
I’m guessing your blog or business promotion strategy includes content marketing. If it doesn’t, it’s time to consider it.
Content marketing will allow your business to gain visibility.
Running a blog won’t just help you increase awareness of your business, products, or services, and generate engaging content for various social channels like Facebook, it will also help you carve out your niche as a thought leader within your industry.
If you are just getting started with content marketing or setting up your blog, just head on over to my blog to find out everything you need to know about creating great content, crafting a solid content marketing strategy, starting a blog, promoting your blog, and much more (quite frankly, it’s going to feel like Christmas!)
7. Social Shopping Networks
Mainly used for: Spotting trends, following brands, sharing great finds, and making purchases
Examples: Etsy, ModCloth, Fancy
How social shopping networks benefit your business:
With these types of social shopping networks, your business can build awareness, boost engagement, sell products through new channels, and much more. These websites make e-commerce more engaging by adding that social element to it.
But when you think about it, e-commerce elements can be seen in almost all other types of social networks. For instance, Pinterest has ‘Buyable Pins’ while Instagram provides CTA tools like ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Install Now; buttons, etc.
Etsy and other social shopping networks take this further by building their website around the focused integration of social experience and shopping experience. A service like Etsy allows small businesses and individual product creators who don’t have existing brick-and-mortar locations to sell their products on their platform.
Polyvore is a site that aggregates products from various retailers in one convenient marketplace. Being one of the biggest social style communities online, Polyvore is a great example of networks designed for the merging of social experience with the buying experience.
Most of the content on those sites is generated by the users. They create collages from the products they like, then republish the set. They can share sets with others on the website.
If you think that social commerce is something that might benefit your business, take a look at sites social shopping networks in your niche to find out if there are any products or services similar to the ones you offer in your business.
8. Interest-based Networks
Mainly used for: Connecting with other people around a shared hobby or interest
Examples: Goodreads, Last.fm, Houzz
How interest-based networks benefit your business:
Any network that is dedicated to the kind of product or service that you provide will be of great help when it comes to finding places where you can engage with your target audience. It’s also a great place for building brand awareness.
An interest-based network takes an approach that is more targeted compared to the bigger social networks. It focuses solely on one subject, such as fashion, books, photography, home design, music, and so on.
Although you may find groups and/or forums on various other networks which are devoted to interests like these, by focusing on one area of interest, it offers these interest-based networks the ability to deliver a tailor-made experience that caters to their community’s wants and needs.
For instance, on an interest-based network like Goodreads, authors and avid readers can browse each other’s works and connect on the platform.
Do your customers and social audiences share any common interests? If so, and interest-based network will be a great place for you to keep up with your niche’s current trends. There you will find the biggest fans in your industry who are most likely to purchase your products or services.
9. Sharing Economy Networks
Mainly used for: Advertising, finding, sharing, buying, selling, and trading products or services between peers.
Examples: Uber, Taskrabbit, Airbnb
How sharing economy networks benefit your business:
For anyone who offers the type of services and products traded on these networks, you’ll find that these sites can be a great channel for bringing in new business. For instance, for anyone who operates a bed-and-breakfast, a network like Airbnb will help you find lots of customers.
Sharing economy (also known as collaborative economy networks) primarily connect people online to help them advertise, discover, share, and trade goods and services. You may already be aware of the big names like Uber, but there are a lot of niche networks popping up every day which you can use to find everything from the perfect dog sitter, a convenient parking spot, or even a home-cooked meal.
In recent years, this online peer commerce business model has grown in popularity as people began trusting online reviews more and more. Now that consumers feel comfortable gauging a business’s reputation or reliability from online reviews, this trend is only set to continue growing.
When you think about it, this collaborative economy we have today only works because it’s possible to verify trust and electronically through various social networks…
It’s because of social media that our collaborative economy can run so smoothly!
Most marketers, however, find these types of networks a little too restrictive due to their specific targeting. If the product or service you provide in your business is traded on any of the popular sharing economy networks, great. Use that platform to generate new leads and increase your sales.
The Bottom Line
As you’ve seen, there’s a lot more going on in social media marketing than just Facebook and Twitter.
You have countless channels at your disposal that you can use to grow your business. But remember, you don’t have to be everywhere at all times. Simply decide where your time will be best spent and focus on that social media channel. You can always move to the next one after you’ve mastered the first.
Also, there are a lot of other anonymous social networks, such as After School, Whisper, etc. where people go to gossip, snoop, vent, (and occasionally bully…) To be honest, these types of networks almost certainly cannot benefit your business, so you should steer clear of them.
When it comes to social activity, the major social networks make efforts to hold their users accountable. But these types of anonymous social sites tend to go the other way. They allow users to create and post content anonymously.
Although to some it may sound like a fun place where they can go to blow off some steam (maybe you’re a teen who wants to complain about their boyfriend, teachers, parents, etc.), for a serious marketer, this is just not where you need to look if you are exploring potential markets for growing your online business.
Now you know all you need to know about the different types of social media to explore for enhancing your business, let’s take a look at a few social media content categories to include in your social media marketing.
5 Categories for Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns
Once you’ve decided which social media networks will benefit your business, you still need to decide on the type of content to post on those sites. This varies for different industries, but listed below are a few distinct guidelines that will help you choose the best and most effective content that will bring the biggest results from your efforts.
By following these guidelines, you’ll not only be able to easily decide on the types of topics you should create posts on, but you will also have a more balanced platform that has a variety of interesting content for your audience (while still managing to sneak in a healthy portion of promotional content).
As you begin to implement these tactics in your social media content creation, you will be able to tell if one of the categories isn’t a perfect fit for your particular industry, in which case just use it less while adding to one of the other, more relevant categories.
These are your social media posts that are useful and informative. This is where you share tips and tricks, how-to videos, lists, reports, and other content resources that teach your ideal customers something within your niche. For the most part, this should be posts that you created, but you can also use other people’s stuff.
If you come across anything that you think your audience would be greatly interested in, share it with them. As long as it helps to solve their problems, your customers won’t care that it didn’t come from you. In fact, the will appreciate that you’re promoting someone else’s content all in an effort to help better their lives.
These types of posts are typically those that have nothing much to do with you or your business. This can be anything that your target audience will find interesting. You can use jokes, comical photos, memes, and so on. Basically, anything that your audience will find funny or clever and entertaining will do.
Just remember that humor can sometimes be tricky, and it doesn’t work in every type of business. You might also try including educational content from various other people which your audience may find entertaining. For instance, you might share something funny created by someone in your niche or any other niche, just as long as it’s relevant to the conversation.
Again, this depends on the type of industry you’re in.
But inspirational posts in the form of quotes images, quotes posts, stories, or videos that serve to motivate your audience are a great form of content to share on social media. Not everything has to be educational or entertaining, but you can also be inspiring.
Such thoughtful posts are great for increasing interest and encouraging discussion among your followers. You can write inspirational stories based around your opinions of an event, someone’s accomplishments, your business’s philosophy, etc.
It can be about anything, really. You can even use Canva to create beautifully designed quote cards with your own logo and put inspirational messages on them for your readers. These types of things work well for virtually any industry.
This is the type of post that is designed to increase engagement, create conversation, and get everyone involved. In this post, you can ask questions (make sure they require short answers), you can also answer questions, create contest and challenges, etc.
This is also a chance to give your audience a peek into your business or life. You can do this effectively by posting things like photos of you and/or your staff, the tools you use, any upcoming projects, testimonials, etc.
You can boost engagement by using interesting options such as ‘caption the image’, ‘either-or questions’, or ‘fill in the blank’ activities to help you get people talking. Case studies work particularly well, and you can share how you got certain results for some of your customers.
The last category includes all your promotional posts. Remember, your promotional post ratio should never exceed 20% of all the content you post on social media. The last thing you want is to have your feed look like a pitch-fest. So for every promotional post, make sure that you post at least four nonpromotional pieces of content.
Here promotional posts include all advertisements for programs, products, and services. They also include promotion for your freebies, such as webinars, other social sites, events, etc. If you are promoting affiliates or joint venture partners, it also falls in this category.
By now, you know for sure that people will only buy from you once they know, like, and trust you. This means that promotional posts should never be first on your list of priorities. The most important thing is to get people to engage with your content and get to know you before trying to sell them stuff.
Just remember that these are guidelines and you can take this information, make it your own, and switch things around so it works for your niche.
Don’t be too heavy-handed when it comes to promotions, and mix things up with the types of content you post. It may take you a while to figure out the proper balance, but if you follow the tips outlined in this article, you won’t have a problem building a balanced platform with a stunning variety of useful content.
A quick recap of the different social media sites that can benefit your business and the types of content that will help you get the best results:
- Social networks
- Media sharing networks
- Discussion forums
- Bookmarking or content creation networks
- Consumer review networks
- Blogging and publishing networks
- Interspace networks
- Social shopping networks
- Sharing economy networks
Types of content…
- Educational posts
- Entertaining posts
- Inspirational posts
- Engaging posts
- Promotional posts
Remember, simply knowing about the various categories in social media and taking the time to understand why different people use them will help you open up brand-new ideas as well as effective channels you can use to engage with your audience.
So, now you understand that there is so much more to social media than just the big media sharing and social media sites.
Now you can look beyond Facebook to find untapped networks in all (four?) corners of the Internet that will drive floods of traffic to your website.
You know where to explore new potential markets that will benefit your business. And after you’ve found them, you now have a good idea of how to create a balanced social marketing campaign to keep your audience entertained, educated, inspired, and engaged.
Best of all, you get to do all this while building your authority in your niche which means that you will be able to promote your products and services to a crowd that likes, trusts, and respects your recommendations.
Whatever your business’s goals are, it’s a safe bet to assume that social media will help you get there. So use this article as your resource to help you figure out which channel to get started on, and then get to work!