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7 types of social platforms and when to use them

There are more social platforms than the big 3. Go ahead. Take a deep breath.

While Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the most commonly thought of social platforms, there exist thousands of others for various purposes. It’s shocking, really. But it’s important, when building a social strategy, to consider all avenues at hand. It’s also important to recognize that although there are various types, they all have one thing in common: they’re social. This means that they’re designed to foster relationships, not facilitate mass promotion.

While more visual-based platforms like Instagram and Vine have been getting a lot of press lately, even these mainstream platforms may not give you the best bang for your buck. It’s true that they may have the greatest reach potential (or, in other words, the largest number of users), but they’re also full of unqualified, disinterested noise: people who are not your target nor have an interest in your product or service.

So what’s out there? At Fides, we’ve found that there are seven main types of social networks:


Written/Visual Publishing

Blogs, white papers, eBooks, and presentations are all common forms on written publishing. Publishing content that is relevant to your audience is key to developing engagement, building awareness, and establishing yourself as knowledgeable in your industry.

Live Sharing

This is really exactly as it sounds – it includes any type of audio or visual sharing that is consumed by the audience at the same time as production. Learn how your brand can utilize live sharing here.

Video Sharing

We’re all familiar with this one … yes? This category has received a lot of attention recently due to the rise of Vine and Instagram video. Content shared on these platforms are purely video – from stop motion to animation and home videos to multi-million dollar commercials.

Image Sharing

They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words. And since images are so easily consumable, they’ve stimulated the rise of their own social networks – from images on the web to personal photographs, everything picture-based is covered on these photo-sharing sites. And for good reason, a 2012 study by ROI Research found that 44 percent of respondents were more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media.


One of the rising trends and a key component of Web 2.0 is online collaboration. For businesses, this can be a great way to engage users, encourage them to be part of the conversation, and even gain valuable insights or feedback from the market you’re targeting. Dmitry Dragilev wrote an excellent article for about the lessons we can learn from Xbox and Netflix on consumer collaboration in the decision-making process.


Micro-blogs involve users exchanging small or short posts, shorter than your typical blog. These can include text, images, or video. Status updates, link previews, and sayings are most common on these platforms. Due to the character restrictions, they’re not ideal for lengthy discussions and debates.


These sites are often the most well recognized or easily thought of. They general involve interactions between users who know each other on some level. Keep in mind that while businesses can certainly prosper on these sites, they can be difficult because users are looking to connect with those they know.

Choosing a social platform category

Understanding the social network landscape is great, but how do you know which one to use? This is where the foundation you’ve built regarding your target market and social goals come into play. With a solid understanding of who you’re trying to reach and why you’re doing so, you can begin to evaluate your options for social media platforms. Below, we’ve highlighted six possible reasons for joining social (originally highlighted in our previous post) and how they can help you determine which social platform category to join.

1. Drive traffic to site

Social platforms best suited for this are those that offer you the opportunity to showcase your expertise within your industry or share product information.

  • Written/Visual Publishing
  • Live Sharing
  • Micro-blogging

2. Increase brand awareness

Platforms to increase brand awareness should offer interesting and engaging content without the necessity for high participation from the user.

  • Video Sharing
  • Image Sharing

3. Strengthen relationships with current customers

Current customers have already shown some level of commitment to your brand. Here, you’ll want to take them to the highest level of engagement opportunity and build a sense of community.

  • Collaboration
  • Networking

4. Strengthen relationships with potential customers

This is similar to point 3, but these users will have less commitment since they’re not yet customers. Offering engagement opportunities will help to build relationships, but keep them to a moderate level.

  • Micro-blogging
  • Networking

5. Social proof

Which platform category will give you the highest results? This will probably be linked to another one of the points above.

6. Optimize search engine results

These should be the platforms that are more well recognized by your chosen search engine. If you’re like most, you’re trying to rank the highest on Google first. In this case, use platforms like YouTube and Google+. The category choice should be similar to number 5 – the more success you have on the platform, the more likely it will be to help your search engine results.

Choosing the specific social platform

Once you’ve decided which category/categories to play in, you should determine which specific platform to use. This will be purely based on your social media target market. Determine which platforms they use, either by asking them directly (see our previous post on target market primary research) or finding out through the social platform’s site. If you really want a return: start researching the smaller platforms first. Finding a platform that your target frequents will make reaching them a whole lot easier.

Did we miss any categories of social media platforms? Have you found success in choosing a social platform that aligns with your target and goals? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below.


Kimbe-PhotoKimbe MacMaster

Co-Founder at Fides

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