With so many social media channels out on the world wide web, it can be difficult to choose what works best for your business. Should you be on all of them? Do you have the budget and the resources needed to operate on several channels? Which types of social media sites are in alignment with your marketing goals? What type of social media users are you trying to reach?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you connect with your tribe, grow your audience and even your business. And that’s exactly what we will cover in this ready-reckoner of the 13 most prominent types of social media you should be paying attention to in 2021.
Sounds useful? Let’s jump straight in.
What We’ll Cover
1. Social Networks - Connect with people
2. Messaging Apps - Message privately
3. Photo/Media Sharing - Share photos, videos and more
4. Blogging & Publishing Networks - Long format content
5. Interactive Apps - Connect, create and share content
6. Discussion Forums - Share knowledge, news and ideas
7. Bookmarking & Content Curation - Discover, save and share content
8. Review Network - View and publish reviews
9. Social Shopping Networks - Shop online
10. Interest Based Networks - Explore hobbies and interests
11. Sharing economy networks - Trade goods and services
12. Audio only apps - Join discussions, share ideas and knowledge on audio
13. Anonymous Social Networks - Post anonymously
The primary goal of social networks is to help you connect with people, build communities and groups, share ideas, interests, and information. What started as simple services, have now become a mandatory part of any social media marketing strategy. The benefits of using social networks to grow your brand in terms of awareness, relationship building, market research, lead generation et al, are endless!
This social media giant requires no introduction. With 2.7+ billion monthly active users, Facebook lets you connect with people and brands, create or join groups, share photos, videos, links, go live and find events nearby. It also has a marketplace that lets you buy and sell locally as well. Since Facebook was primarily created to connect people, brands have a tough time with visibility. But that can be compensated for if you have a good marketing budget as Facebook gives you the opportunity to create great ad campaigns.
For instance, in September 2020, GoPro launched the #GoProMillionDollarChallenge that asked its 10.9 million users to “capture meaningful moments” from their GoPro HERO9 Black and share it using the hashtag. The result was around 29,000 submissions from over 125 countries out of which, 56 of those submissions composed 2 minutes of a highlight clip with 668k views and still counting. The creators were awarded $17,857 each.
While you might not have that kind of marketing budget, the key takeaway here is that GoPro is still heavy on using user-generated content that fuels their page, appeals to their target audience and keeps them engaged.
If you’re new to Facebook ads, check out this step-by-step tutorial that will get you upto speed.
Twitter is a type of social media that lets you share text-based content, videos and images. Over the years, it has become a source to get the latest updates on any current topic including news, entertainment, sports and even politics. The real advantage of Twitter is that it lets you share content in real time. One drawback is the 280 character limit unlike most other sites that do not have this limit but it lets you keep your message short and crisp.
Twitter has currently become the go-to for customer service as you find people directly messaging brands for quick online resolutions. It’s a great way to build your brand image and show your consumers that you care. The international sports brand Nike created an account @NikeService that responds to customer queries in English, Spanish and French, even providing real time updates.
It is not all about searching for a job or uploading your resume for prospective job hunters. This professional social media site lets you share content in the form of text, links, photos or videos, network by connecting with users and businesses, build your brand and position yourself as a thought leader and authority in your industry.
For instance, when you head over to HP’s page, you know exactly who they are and what they do. They’ve kept things fresh with their visual content, even while sharing a job posting.
We’ve all been guilty of forwarding a joke or a meme through WhatsApp or a quick sticker exchange on WeChat but these types of social media apps have evolved to be more than just a way to share text messages. With features for calling, creating groups, broadcasting messages to multiple users, exchanging money and the option of creating chatbots, messaging apps could help your business in more ways than one.
Currently, businesses such as Booking.com use WhatsApp to share booking confirmations with their users, providing a quick and easy customer experience. In 2016, Whole Foods Market launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot that shared recipe recommendations if you typed in a single ingredient or sent a food emoji.
There are infinite ways in which you could leverage messaging apps to give your audience a direct communication channel to respond to queries, resolve complaints, share updates and build trust.
What started out as just a picture sharing site has now culminated into a media sharing giant. Through Instagram, you can share photos, videos, and stories with a myriad of different filters which you can save as Highlights under your bio. You can also publish 30 second vertical videos called Reels, post on IGTV for long format video content and even go live!
It also lets you connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps and cross share your content directly. You can even connect privately with other users through direct messaging.
As a brand, you can create an Instagram Business Profile and get analytics for your posts to improve your marketing strategy. What’s more? You can even advertise and promote your posts via Facebook Business Manager or boost posts directly through the app.
FitBit’s posts currently excel at delivering a mix of great, clean visuals, information and adding value to their community of followers in the form of health tips, fitness hacks and self-care.
ProTip: You can make super engaging videos for your Instagram page with thousands of ready-to-use templates on InVideo.
Launched in 2009, Imgur (pronounced image-ur) is an image and GIF sharing media network that lets you create and browse visual content that mainly consists of memes. There are no ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ on Imgur, just users, and the content on Imgur is promoted via upvotes by its users. Content that is found to be of little value, is downvoted. This democratic approach to content is what makes Imgur a very niche community.
To crack this niche community, mostly made of millennial men belonging to the age group between 24-36, Imgur pairs its in-house creative team with advertisers to ensure the message is well-suited for the platform. For instance, eBay experimented on Imgur, where, instead of directly selling their product, they shared Father’s Day gifting ideas that paired videos and photos of drones with product links to their site. The ads were successful because they were not heavily branded.
If your brand has meme worthy content or great ideas to share, Imgur might just be an untapped reservoir of potential growth for your brand.
While not officially a search engine, after Google, the second most number of searches happen on YouTube. Their statistics speak for themself. YouTube hosts a variety of video content ranging from how tos, to TV shows, to commercials - if its in a video format, you will find it on YouTube. Creating and sharing your video content is easy and you have the option of going live too. As a business, YouTube offers you excellent SEO and provides all the analytics you need - all for free. More so, you can even advertise on YouTube to increase your reach.
The key to winning on YouTube is either providing value to your subscribers or entertaining them. For instance, LEGO’s video content caters to both children and adults alike. From educational videos (using LEGO) to animated series, LEGO has mastered the art of keeping its audience engaged.
Similarly, depending on what your business does, you can create tutorials, how-tos, plan a product launch and publish the video as a premier while uploading videos, plan live sessions or create interesting videos around your product. The creative possibilities of using YouTube to leverage your business are endless.
Vimeo is a video sharing platform that provides businesses with tools they need to create, share and market high-quality videos. It offers you a more community driven audience that prefers quality and shares valuable inputs. You also don’t have to worry about pre-roll ads because Vimeo doesn’t allow it. It has great customizable options and good audio-video quality. By subscribing for their paid packages, you can access premium features that include technical support, using a custom player logo, powerful analytics et al.
If you’re new to video marketing and have little expertise, a paid Vimeo account can offer you personalized support from their team. It also offers you very specific privacy options which can be quite useful if you want to embed your video on just one site, password protect it or adjust viewer permissions. If you have videos that are very specific to your brand like introductions, explainers, product videos or testimonials, Vimeo is the way to go, given the quality and customizations it offers.
If your business does not have a blog, you might want to consider getting one. Having a tight content marketing strategy enables you to establish yourself as a thought leader by carving out a niche of readers who find value in your content. More so, it can help you with SEO, increase awareness about your business by sharing insights and knowledge as well as generate content you can cross-promote on other social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn. A blog can become the backbone of your content marketing strategy.
For instance, the Etsy Blog publishes the success stories of its users among other content that ties back to their store. It’s a brilliant way to attract more users and meet your business objective.
If you choose to host on your website, Wordpress is your best option. You can build a truly customized website that speaks your brand language. With the option of various plugins, you can drive the engagement you want without worrying too much about server management and the tedious backend checks.
If you choose to host your blog independently, then Tumblr and Medium are definitely the types of social media you should go for. Tumblr is a microblogging website that lets you post multimedia and other content such as text, quotes, links, chats and even audio to a short-form blog that other users can discover and share. Posts here can be liked, commented on and reshared. Tumblr is a great website if you’re looking to publish less wordy, entertaining content that appeals to a younger audience.
Medium, unlike Tumblr and Wordpress, is a publishing platform that means business. It isn’t flexible in design as all you’ll get is your own profile and the formatting options are limited unlike Wordpress. The real advantage with Medium is the visibility. Albeit, it is not free, but it ranks much higher in search engines and has a more premium appeal due to the quality of content and the writers it hosts.
These types of social media allow users to share photos and videos with a variety of experimental features that include AR/VR filters, music overlays and other interactive features.
Snapchat was responsible for popularizing the stories format when it launched. It lets you share pics and short videos known as ‘snaps’, with the peers you’ve added, using multiple filters. A snap you share to your stories is viewable for 24 hours. Within private messages, your snaps disappear after the person you’ve sent it to has viewed them.
Snapchat has an interesting feature called Discover where you can view your friends’ stories, Our Stories - which is a collection of Snapchats submitted by different users, Publisher stories by Snapchat’s media partners and Shows which are stories by TV Network partners. VICE was one of the first users to partner with Snapchat and be featured on their Discover page. Currently with 8.2m subscribers, they share news, documentaries and utilize the quiz feature within Snapchat too.
Snapchat also offers you powerful advertising tools which can help you drive sales, get leads or reach a wider audience. All you need is a Snapchat Ad Account. This tutorial can help you get started on your first Snapchat ad.
In just a few years, TikTok has established itself as one of the biggest social media platforms that hosts over 1 billion monthly active users. Popular among GenZ and Millenials, you can use TikTok to create and share less than 60 second videos which can range from lip-syncing, dancing, fitness, voice overs and the ability to collaborate with or comment on other users’ content.
TikTok is versatile, authentic, appeals to local audiences and is short and concise. Plus, cashing in on the latest trends is a good way to improve visibility on the platform.
Currently, 50% of the top brands have no TikTok presence or activity. This is a great chance for small businesses to leverage the platform and create a fanbase. You could create a catchy video in minutes using 100s of free templates to get started on TikTok.
Discussion forums are one of the earliest types of social media. These websites aren’t very welcoming of direct advertising, but can become a valuable space to gather market research, build a community, get honest customer feedback, build trust and generate leads. You will not find brand pages here like you do on other types of social media. You create individual accounts with basic information.
Discussion forums like Quora and Reddit follow a simple Q&A format where answers that are of value to the community get upvoted while unfavorable ones are downvoted. You can also opt for paid ads on these platforms. But, it does get a little tricky for brands as promotional content can get downvoted.
If you are new to Reddit, a user account is represented as u/”username” and then there are subreddits which are represented as r/”topic”. Subreddits are communities generally dedicated to a single topic, issue or query. As an active contributor in these communities, you will earn Karma Points when you comment, share links and get downvoted or upvoted. Karma Points are like scorecards for Redditors.
From Netflix’s user profile, you can see how many Karma Points and Awards they’ve received from the Reddit community for being active contributors.
As a business, you can observe the conversations around your brand by searching for topics or subreddits that suit your marketing goals. You can also contribute to subreddits by leaving honest comments about your service, starting your own discussion threads and finding suitable subreddits to post your content. For instance, Netflix posts their trailers under the subreddit u/trailers or they find relevant subreddits to post specific content on. For example, they posted a beyond the screen video for Army Of The Dead under the subreddit r/zombies.
Quora follows the same Q&A mechanisms as Reddit. You can use Quora to build your brand image. The trick here is to follow Topics that are related to your business. Let’s say you’re a clothing brand. You can type clothing in the search bar and choose to follow any topic you relate to. You can even filter it out by type (question, answer, post, profile, topic), by author and time.
Once you’re following topics, you can search for the right questions to answer. You need to be careful about not sounding too promotional or else you will get downvoted. Since there are no brand profiles on Quora, you will have to get your employees or preferably someone in the top management or an industry expert to answer the questions you pick. The answers can be followed up with a CTA to direct them to your website. Give out as much information as possible without any fluff to get your answers upvoted. More upvotes means more visibility.
For example, in the question below for “What’s the best place to find cheap clothing online”, the most upvoted answer is by an owner of a brand, who is sharing information of value to the community.
These types of social media networks help you discover, save and share content and can easily become your go-to channels for ideas, news, hot topics and trends.
One of the world’s leading platforms to share ideas and find inspiration, Pinterest functions as a visual search engine. With an interesting UI, Pinterest functions using “Pins” that are essentially visual bookmarks that you collect on “Boards”. A Pin could contain an image, a video, an infographic or could link back to a source. You can create a collection of Pins or Repins, from another source, on a specific Board, which essentially functions as a category of items or ideas. Boards help you organize your pins and as a business, it makes it easier to help your audience find what they are looking for. For instance, Whole Foods Market creates tips, DIY or How-To infographics that are seasonal, topical and relevant to their audience.
Whole Foods Market’s content is visually appealing, neat and provides value to the user in the form of tips, hacks, information on new products, etc. Each piece of their visual content links back to their website.
ProTip: If you haven’t already begun marketing on Pinterest, read our ultimate guide to marketing on Pinterest for insights and how to get started!
Founded in 2010, around the same time as Pinterest, Flipboard is a content curation website that allows you to pick topics that interest you, ranging from news, entertainment, tech, design, etc. and flip them into a magazine. A magazine is a customized collection of the stories you pick and helps you access/organize them in one place. You can have multiple magazines for each of your interests. The editorial team also curates special magazines with the latest news and trends with publishers from the Guardian, BBC, The Telegraph, Forbes, etc. ensuring that you have authentic and reliable content.
As a platform that is driven by news, information sharing and hot topics, it is a little less about visual appeal, unlike Pinterest. By creating and curating content that is current and relevant to your industry, you can establish yourself as an expert and drive more traffic to your website by sharing links. Levi’s does a fantastic job at that. They have flipped stories into 11 Magazines across different topics.
Each magazine has curated content that either promotes their brand, shares news specific to Levi’s or drives users to their website.
If you are in a clothing and lifestyle industry like Levi’s, you could create product catalogues and flip them into a magazine, highlight industry news, share company insights and events or even create a newsletter for your followers. The key is to remain consistent.
How many times has a review on Yelp saved you from ordering something you’d regret eating or a Tripadvisor review that saved your vacation from turning into an absolute nightmare? These types of social media networks help you find and share reviews on products, services, food, travel and stay, etc. People often check reviews to avoid an unpleasant experience. Positive reviews can undoubtedly influence sales and are extremely vital for your business.
As a business, these types of social media networks can help you understand your customers’ perspective. Reviews, good or bad, help you identify what is working and what is not, and make necessary improvements. They give you a chance to solve issues and establish yourself as a reliable brand. Whether you’re big or small, the way you handle negative comments can make a world of a difference in building trust and loyalty with your customers.
ProTip: Assign a team to monitor review networks relevant to your business and respond to queries or complaints within 24 hours. Quick resolutions and the ability to turn a negative experience into a positive one can turn a disgruntled customer into a fan.
Remember when malls were a thing? Now, with everything available online, social shopping networks like Etsy and Fancy take the experience of e-commerce a step further by combining product sales with consumer recommendations. These types of social media networks focus on creating a community of individuals who share similar interests, opinions and influence each other's purchasing decisions.
Fancy has a unique feature which lets its users curate the products they sell. You can browse another user or “Tastemaker” for inspiration or as they call it - “a more connected shopping experience”. If you’re a part of the lifestyle industry, you can reach out to these Tastemakers as influencers for your product.
Similarly, Etsy’s store promotes small businesses and individual crafters giving them a chance to sell and market themselves for as less as $0.20.
The products you sell are reviewed by people who purchase them. Helpful reviews are often upvoted and we already know the impact of positive reviews.
The key to succeeding on Etsy and Fancy is to ensure good branding. This does not only involve your logo but how you shoot your products and how descriptive your content is. If you do not want to invest in a studio, there are many ways to shoot epic product videos at home.
ProTip: To find more enticing ways to showcase your products, try these product templates by InVideo for free.
Unlike other types of social media that cater to a wide variety of topics, interest based networks focus solely on a single area of interest, be it books, music or home design. If you have a very specific niche, interest based networks can help you specifically target the right audience.
For instance, if you’re a publisher, Goodreads is a great resource to tap on. Goodreads content is fueled by authors and avid readers. You can discover, explore, rate and review books across a wide range of categories. By adding friends, you can explore what they are reading, what they want to read and leave comments.
By searching for a genre, you can access various books, rate them or click on want to read which then gets shared on your profile where your friends can comment or leave a review.
Similarly, if you’re in the space of housing or interior design, Houzz lets you browse the work of other designers, create collections of your own work as well as connect with people looking for interior design services. When you upload a design, users can either save or share your pictures, ask questions or leave a comment.
If you have a very specific target audience, an interest based network can help you connect with an audience looking specifically for your service as well as keep up with current trends.
People don’t want to own things anymore and sharing economy networks solve that issue. It enables individuals to save money by sharing services. It’s a perfect tech enabled online solution for those wanting to save money and those wanting to make it. For instance, Uber connects drivers to users who need a ride, all from the convenience of a mobile app. You even have the option to share feedback on your ride by providing ratings.
Like interest based networks, sharing economy networks also cater to specific niches. So venturing into these types of social media is only possible if you fit into those specific industries. For instance, if you own a bed & breakfast, listing your business on Airbnb can help you drive more leads and sales.
There are many people out there who listen to podcasts regularly. You might be one of them too! As the name of this category suggests, it is audio only. Apart from your profile picture, your content does the talking for you - literally!
Currently, Clubhouse, a social audio app, has been making waves. The app lets you explore different rooms created by users for a wide variety of topics. Where else could you possibly join a room where Elon Musk is talking about cryptocurrency? You can listen in, share your thoughts and chat with like-minded individuals. Best part is that you can host your own room which gives business owners the exciting opportunity to share their knowledge and establish themselves as thought leaders.
By creating a room or joining a club, you can stay up-to-date with what’s happening, listen to experts, find people with the skills you need, give free advice and probably even get new business! The possibilities are endless.
If your business already owns a podcast, what better way to get more ears on it than putting it out on Spotify? It currently has 356 million monthly active users and 158 million premium subscribers. If your business isn’t into podcasting, you can always create an audio ad for Spotify for as little as $250.
If you’re looking for new potential spaces or social media networks or users, these are the kind of networks where you won’t find them. As the name suggests, anonymous social networks let you post anonymously. Sites like Whisper and 4chan are prime examples.
As these sites allow you to post anonymously, there is no accountability for the user and these networks can easily become sites for cyberbullying, to vent, gossip or snoop - all of which don’t do much for any business or brand.
Now that you’re aware of the different types of social media and you fully understand the possibilities you hold with each, you can see which network best suits your brand and how you can leverage these platforms to achieve your business goals. If you want to further learn how you can best leverage popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube you should definitely check out these playlists that we have on our YouTube channel:
We deep dive into different aspects of growing on these social media platforms and keep adding new videos every week.
If you want to keep the conversation going and learn from 25,000 other marketers and creators just like you, check out our super helpful community here.
1. What are the 6 types of social media?
Social media is not just limited to giants such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the different types of social media.
2. What are the 7 functions of social media?
They 7 functions of social media are Identity (social media profiles), Conversations (these include comments, calling features, etc), Sharing (pictures, videos, information, etc.), Presence (social influence), Relationships (seeking and maintaining connections), Reputation (social standing) and Groups (communities and sub communities).
3. What are the features of social media?
Different types of social media have a different set of features which can range from photo/video/audio sharing to news publishing, sharing reviews or promoting interests and hobbies.
4. What are the benefits of social media?
Social media can help you gain awareness, build relationships, share your expertise, connect with your followers or peers, get information, market research, build trust as well as establish yourself as an industry leader.
Different types of social media platforms serve different purposes and have their own unique set of users. Depending on your business and marketing goals, you can target the ones that meet your needs.