10 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business. Here’s our list of 10 types of social media and what they’re used for: Social networks—Connect with people Media sharing networks—Share photos, videos, and other media Discussion forums—Share news and ideas Bookmarking and content curation networks—Discover, save, and share new content Consumer review networks—Find and review businesses Blogging and publishing networks—Publish content online Interest-based networks—Share interests and hobbies Social shopping networks—Shop online Sharing economy networks—Trade goods and services Anonymous social networks—Communicate anonymously Knowing about these categories of social media and understanding why people use them can open up new ideas and channels for engaging with your audience more effectively—so let’s get started. Social networks Why people use these networks: To connect with people (and brands) online. Media sharing networks Why people use these networks: To find and share photos, video, live video, and other media online. Media sharing networks give people and brands a place to find and share media online, including photos, video, and live video. Discussion forums are one of the oldest types of social media. Other types of networks are also adding bookmarking and curation features. Consumer review networks give people a place to review brands, businesses, products, services, travel spots, and just about anything else. How they can benefit your business: If there’s a network devoted to the kind of products or services you provide, these networks can be a great place to engage with your audience and build brand awareness. In our opinion, anonymous social networks are a step back toward the wild-west early days of the internet in a time when we’ve learned the importance of keeping the internet a safe place for everyone.
As a social media pro, you probably already use all the biggest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and media sharing sites (Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat), along with maybe a handful of others like Pinterest and Google Plus.
But there’s much more to social media than the top social media and media sharing networks. Look beyond those social media juggernauts and you’ll see that people are using many different types of social media to connect online for all kinds of reasons.
In our quest to bring you the latest and best social media news from all corners of the internet, we’ve stumbled upon plenty of hyper-focused niche social networks for everything from jet setting and green living to knitting and all things manly. However, grouping social networks according to subject matter quickly gets overwhelming—and sometimes utterly distracting. (Plus, Wikipedia’s already done it for us.)
And while there was once a time when you could simply categorize networks according to their functional capabilities (Twitter for short text content, YouTube for video, and so on), that time has passed. As more networks add rich features like livestreaming and augmented reality, the lines between their feature sets continue to blur and change faster than most people have time to read up on the changes.
So instead of categorizing networks according to hyper-specific user interests or shifting technology features, we prefer to think like marketers and group networks into 10 general categories that focus on what people hope to accomplish by using them.
Here’s our list of 10 types of social media and what they’re used for:
- Social networks—Connect with people
- Media sharing networks—Share photos, videos, and other media
- Discussion forums—Share news and ideas
- Bookmarking and content curation networks—Discover, save, and share new content
- Consumer review networks—Find and review businesses
- Blogging and publishing networks—Publish content online
- Interest-based networks—Share interests and hobbies
- Social shopping networks—Shop online
- Sharing economy networks—Trade goods and services
- Anonymous social networks—Communicate anonymously
Knowing about these categories of social media and understanding why people use them can open up new ideas and channels for engaging with your audience more effectively—so let’s get started.
1. Social networks
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
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.
3. Discussion forums
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.
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 Quora great 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
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…