Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business

1. Social networks

Examples: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

Why people use these networks: To connect with people (and brands) online.

How they can benefit your business: Let us count the ways. Market research, brand awareness, lead generation, relationship building, customer service… the list is pretty much endless.

Social networks, sometimes called “relationship networks,” help people and organizations connect online to share information and ideas.

While these networks aren’t the oldest type of social media, they certainly define it now. These channels started as relatively simple services—for example, Twitter was the place to answer the question “what are you doing?” and Facebook was where you might check the relationship status of that cute Economics 101 classmate.

Now, and especially since the rise of the mobile internet, these networks have become hubs that transform nearly every aspect of modern life—from reading news to sharing vacation photos to finding a new job—into a social experience.

If you’re not using these core networks yet as part of your social media marketing plan—or if you’re looking for ideas to improve your existing strategy—you’ll find a wealth of usable information in our guides to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

2. Media sharing networks

Examples: Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube

Why people use these networks: To find and share photos, video, live video, and other media online.

How they can benefit your business: Like the major relationship networks, these sites are invaluable for brand awareness, lead generation, audience engagement, and most of your other social marketing goals.

Media sharing networks give people and brands a place to find and share media online, including photos, video, and live video.

The lines between media sharing networks and social networks are blurring these days as social relationship networks like Facebook and Twitter add live video, augmented reality, and other multimedia services to their platforms. However, what distinguishes media sharing networks is that the sharing of media is their defining and primary purpose.

While the majority of posts on relationship networks contain text, posts on networks like Instagram and Snapchat start with an image or video, to which users may decide to add content like captions, mentions of other users, or filters that make you look like a bunny.

Similarly, on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, video is the primary mode of communication.

When determining whether or not your business needs to establish a presence on a media sharing network, it’s important to consider your available resources. If there’s one thing the most successful brands on platforms like YouTube or Instagram have in common, it’s a thoroughly planned mission and carefully designed media assets, usually following a specific theme.

To increase your business’s chances of success on media sharing networks, see our guides to marketing on Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Vimeo.

3. Discussion forums

Examples: reddit, Quora, Digg

Why people use these networks: To find, discuss, and share news, information, and opinions.

How they can benefit your business: These networks can be excellent resources for market research. Done right, you can also advertise on them, though you’ll need to be careful to keep your ads and posts separate.

Discussion forums are one of the oldest types of social media.

Before we connected to our first university friends on The Facebook, we discussed pop culture, current affairs, and asked for help on forums. Take a look at the wide reach and massive user numbers on forums such as reddit, Quora, and Digg and you’ll see that the public’s thirst for collective knowledge and wisdom remains unquenchable.

10 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Quora.

These are the sites where people go to find out what everyone’s talking about and weigh in on it—and users on these sites generally aren’t shy about expressing their opinions. While social relationship networks are increasingly implementing measures to reduce anonymity and create a safe space online, discussion forums generally allow users to remain anonymous, keeping some of the “wild west” feel that used to define the online experience.

This can make discussion forums such as reddit (the self-styled “front page of the internet”) and Quoragreat places to go for deep customer research and brutally honest opinions. If you’re careful to keep ads and posts separate, they can even be a place to advertise—for all the details, see our guide to reddit advertising.

4. Bookmarking and content curation networks

Examples: Pinterest, Flipboard
Why people use these networks: To discover, save, share, and discuss new and trending content and media.

How they can benefit your business: These networks can be highly effective for driving brand awareness, customer engagement, and website traffic.

Bookmarking and content curation networks help people discover, save, share, and discuss new and trending content and media.

These networks are a hotbed of creativity and inspiration for people seeking information and ideas, and by adding them to your social media marketing plan, you’ll open up new channels for building brand awareness and engaging with your audience and customers.

Bookmarking networks like Pinterest help people discover, save, and share visual content. An easy first step for getting started with Pinterest is to make your website bookmark-friendly. This entails optimizing headlines and images on your blog and/or website for the feeds these networks use to access and share your content. You should also pay close attention to the images featured on your site or blog—these are the window displays of Pins, so you want them to be good representations of your content.

10 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Pinterest.

Content curation networks like Flipboard are similar to bookmarking networks, but with a focus on finding and sharing articles and other text content. You can create your own Flipboard magazine to sort through the most engaging content on your topic of choice from third-party sources, and to showcase your own content.

Other types of networks are also adding bookmarking and curation features. For example, Instagram now offers features for users to save content and create private collections.

To start planning your strategy for bookmarking and content curation networks, see our guides on using Pinterest and Flipboard. And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out these 10 Pinterest accounts that will make you a better social media marketer.

5. Consumer review networks

Examples: Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor

Why people use these networks: To find, review, and share information about brands, products, and services, as well as restaurants, travel destinations, and more.

How they can benefit your business: Positive reviews bring social proof to your claims. Handled well, you can resolve issues with unhappy customers.

Consumer review networks give people a place to review brands, businesses, products, services, travel spots, and just about anything else.

Reviews are a type of content that adds a lot of value to many websites and online services—think about the buying experience on Amazon, or the experience of searching for a local business on Google Maps. Consumer review networks take it one step further by building networks around the review as a core part of the value they provide.

10 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business | Hootsuite Blog

Location-based review services such as Yelp and Zomato continue to grow as personal social networks adopt geolocation and more users choose to consult the internet along with their friends for recommendations of best dining spots.

There are sites to review anything from hotels and restaurants to the business where you’re thinking of applying for a job—and user reviews have more weight than ever before. In fact, according to a survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

It’s vital for your brand to have the ability to attract positive user reviews and handle negative ones. To do this, you can select a customer success team member to address reviews on sites relevant for your business. Entrust them with answering any questions or concerns from clients with average or negative experiences, and see if there is anything that can be done on your end to turn a possible detractor into a fan. For more on this topic, read our blog posts on how to respond to negative reviews and online reputation management.

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