The 7 Types of Social Media and Pros & Cons of Each (Research)

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The 7 Types of Social Media and Pros & Cons of Each (Research)

When it comes to social media, I‘m quite the expert. I had to tireless scrub through social media for potential stories back when I was a journalist.

7 Types of Social Media; A woman thinks about several social media platforms she can leverage in a marketing campaign

Now, I’m HubSpot‘s go-to blogger for almost anything social media-related, so I’m always keeping up with the latest online happenings.

Plus, I‘m a younger millennial who grew up alongside social media. So if you’e a marketer trying to figure out the right social media platform to increase your brand’s awareness, generate leads, and improve traffic, you’ve come to the right blog.

To help you make the best decision for your brand, I’ve compiled a list of core types of social media, examples of platforms within each category, and the pros and cons that each type might present.

By the end, you should have a clearer idea of what social media strategy will work for your business. Let’s dive in.

Download Now: The 2023 State of Social Media Trends [Free Report]

What is Social Media Used For?

Most people use social media to express themselves, share their interests, connect with friends, and grow their careers. However, different social media platforms serve specific purposes. For example, expressing creativity is most common on TikTok or Instagram; promoting one’s career is common on LinkedIn.

The list of social media platforms is growing, and well-known platforms like Facebook are constantly evolving and adding new features.

With a greater and greater need for a social presence and an overwhelming amount of platform choices, it can be hard to pick which social channels to use.

You might not want to spread yourself too thin by managing a channel on every imaginable platform, but you don’t want to miss great brand awareness opportunities.

  1. Social Networking
  2. Photo Sharing
  3. Video Sharing
  4. Interactive Media
  5. Blogging / Community
  6. Micro-blogging
  7. Private Community

Social Networking

Examples of Major Platforms

  • Facebook: 3.06 billion monthly active users
  • X (formerly Twitter): 528.3 million monthly active users
  • LinkedIn: 1 billion active users

Social networking is possibly the most traditional form of social media, and most social media platforms fall under the social networking category. So, you’ll likely see at least one of the aforementioned platforms (*cough, cough* X) pop up again later in this post.

Platforms like Facebook, X, and LinkedIn are often called “networking” platforms because they allow user accounts to interact (network) in various ways.

Professional Uses

Facebook

Many brands and businesses are leveraging social media direct messaging (DMs) for customer service.

In fact, our 2024 Socia Media Report shows 88% of marketers are increasing or maintaining their investment in social media DMs for customer service.

Facebook Messenger is a great platform for this strategy as it allows you to respond to messages from your brand‘s Facebook followers.

Plus, as a fellow consumer, I can assure you it leaves a great impression on your customers when you’re respond promptly to their DMs.

There have been many times when I‘ve slid into a business’ DMs because I needed an update on an order, more information about a product, or troubleshooting.

And when the business responds back with helpful information, I always made a note to keep buying from them.

If you’re a small business, like a restaurant, I recommend a platform like Facebook as a great place to start your social strategy. With Facebook, you can build a business profile with links to your website and details about your menu.

I‘m especially fond of Facebook’s community feature, which you can also leverage to create a community page for customers to ask questions or rave about your products and services.

In fact, we found that businesses that leverage social media communities will see excellent results in their marketing strategy.

According to our State of Social Media Survey, 90% of marketers say building an active online community is crucial to a successful social media strategy.

I’m not surprised, considering our Consumer Trends survey found 20% of social media users joined an online community in the past three months, and 22% actively participated in one.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn emphasizes career-related networking, and, for years, I only ever used LinkedIn when searching for jobs or to help friends find opportunities. It turns out, however that LinkedIn is very beneficial for businesses.

For companies looking to offer a professional service, such as B2B or publishing companies, LinkedIn is another excellent way to grow a following.

According to our Socia Media Marketing Survey, LinkedIn is among the top six social media platforms yielding the highest ROI for marketers.

Furthermore, of the marketers who currently leverage LinkedIn in their strategy, 90% plan to maintain or increase their investment in 2024.

Brands looking to build an audience of professionals from a particular industry can create a business profile there, categorize it with an industry type, and then use posts and messaging to publish updates.

They can also use messaging and comment features to interact with their audiences or users who comment on their posts.

X (The app formerly known as Twitter)

An X account could be helpful to companies in a broad spectrum of industries, from entertainment to e-commerce. This platform similarly allows you to create a profile where you can list and link company information.

You can then use X to post about company updates, tag companies or customers in posts, repost positive customer tweets, and respond to customer questions via posts or direct messages.

Like Facebook, you can also post content like photos or videos.

One of my favorite X features I think marketers should look into is Spaces, which allows users to create live audio chatrooms and talk amongst each other.

Companies will often use Spaces to host Q&As, interview thought leaders, or keep audiences informed about the latest happenings with the brand or industry.

On all three social networks, users can easily communicate with others through simple actions like tagging, hashtagging, commenting, private messaging, reacting to posts, and re-sharing content.

Aside from social interaction, feeds on common social networking platforms are designed to show off a mix of text and visuals rather than one primary content type.

This flexibility makes it easy to begin a social strategy on social networking platforms because you can experiment with different forms of content before branching out to platforms that require more specific content types.

For those who want to dabble in video or graphics, these platforms could be a great place to test this new content.

With the growth of video marketing, many have begun to launch more advanced features like Facebook Stories and X’s live streams.

Platforms like Facebook and X have also started encouraging native video and photo uploads more heavily.

Recently, Facebook adjusted its algorithms to favor live video and image uploads. This has caused these types of native content to gain greater user engagement.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out our beginner’s guides for Facebook, X, and LinkedIn.

I’ll be honest, the beginner guide for X was published before the platform rebranded from Twitter, however much of the information still applies today.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Facebook, X, and LinkedIn are some of the most prominent forms of social media.
  • Social networking sites often integrate with scheduling tools like HubSpot and Hootsuite software.
  • All platforms have capabilities for photos and video.

Cons

  • Those interested in posting links may have more difficulty getting engagement than uploading photos and videos.
  • Some platforms, like Facebook, put individual user posts higher than business posts in newsfeeds.
  • Facebook may not be the right platform for you business if you’re looking to target younger consumers like Gen Z, who are more likely to use TikTok, X, or Snapchat.

Photo Sharing

Examples of Major Platforms

  • Pinterest: 450 million monthly active users
  • BeReal: 21.6 million monthly active users

Photo-sharing social media platforms are exactly as they sound — they’re platforms where sharing images is the name of the game. I remember the days when Instagram was the most prominent photo-sharing platform.

But that was then and this is now, so if you‘re wondering why Instagram isn’t mentioned here — don‘t worry! I’ll have more on that when I get to the video platforms.

Professional Uses

Pinterest

One of the biggest platforms that specialize in photo sharing is Pinterest. Pinterest is a “visual discovery engine” for users looking for cooking, style, home decor, and general visual inspiration.

Personally, I‘ve been using Pinterest for over 10 years and, like most users, I interact with other accounts on the platform through tags, likes, comments, or direct messages.

In the early days, Pinterest wasn’t as synonymous with brands and companies as it is now.

It was more so about crafting virtual vision boards based around aesthetics.

However, brands, companies, and creators find it useful whey they want to take photographs, display content, and update followers about their food, goods, or products.

Pinterest is well-suited for e-commerce companies, such as those that sell home goods and businesses that would like a place to share crisp standalone product images with links.

The platform offers a photo-based feed with posts that can include a photo and a short description.

In the last few years, Pinterest has also shifted to include more video content to compete with platforms like Instagram Reels and TikTok. However, the platform still remains a place for users to share their favorite photos.

Here’s little look at my Pinterest feed.

The platform also allows all users to link directly to websites or product landing pages in posts. I especially love Pinterest’s Explore page and can see a lot of opportunities for brands there.

The Explore page updates daily and operates almost like an old-school blog with how you can scroll to see the previous days’ themes as well.

The explore feed features boards curated by celebrities, creators, and brands sharing images their followers would be interested in. And, of course, there are opportunities for consumers to shop.

I clicked on the board called Pinterest Predicts: Spring 2024 Shopping Ideas, and was shown different trends expected to take over this season along with links to buy them.

Brands features on the board include Tory Burch, Nordstrom, and STAUD. Unrelated, but I‘m stil laughing at Tennis Aesthetic being the trend of the season because I don’t do sports.

Before starting on a platform like Pinterest, you’ll want to determine whether your goal is to gain brand awareness, or link-based or e-commerce traffic.

BeReal

If you haven‘t heard of BeReal, I don’t blame you. It’s a fairly new app that launched in 2020 and is pretty popular among Gen Z users.

The app’s main feature is that it allows users to share a photo of themselves and their immediate surroundings during a randomly selected two-minute window every day.

The idea of BeReal is to step away from the overly filtered and curated content users often see on other platforms. Just be real. Get it?

With the apps premise being candid and unfiltered, how can brands leverage BeReal? The best way I could think of is to use the app to build trust with your audience and only share behind-the-scenes candids.

However, that can be difficult given users are only given a random two-minute window to post.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These kinds of platforms help with brand awareness. Approximately 80% of Pinterest users say they’ve learned about products or services on the app.
  • Pinterest provides an outlet for showing off visual content or product shots.

Cons

  • Upkeep on these platforms might require a photo budget or dedicated production time.
  • Some platforms require you to post from a mobile app.
  • BeReal is starting to wain in popularity as its user base has dropped by 18% from its peak.
  • BeReal is most popular with Gen Z users and there is no opportunity for e-commerce or paid content on the app.

Video Sharing

Examples of Major Platforms

  • YouTube: Over 2.6 billion monthly active users
  • Instagram: 1.4 billions users worldwide
  • TikTok: Over 1 billion active users

Video has been the dominant type of content marketing over the last few years and it has no sign of slowing down — especially short-form video.

53% of marketers whose companies are currently leveraging short-form video say they will increase their investments in 2024.

Adding a video platform to your social strategy could make your brand look relevant and keep you up to speed with your competitors.

Video can be helpful to a wide range of industries. While a restaurant could have a vlog with cooking tips, a technology company might focus its video strategy on product demos.

Professional Uses

There are many way businesses can leverage video sharing platforms like YouTube. YouTube offers both short-form and long-form capabilities.

Regarding short-form video uses, YouTube Shorts can be a platform your business uses to post product demos, explainer videos, and more.

If you want to get interactive, you can also host live-stream Q&As to answer consumer questions and build community.

When it comes to long-form videos, YouTube is one of the leading platforms. Compared to competing video-sharing platform like Vimeo, YouTube has an extensive audience base and better SEO capabilities.

YouTube also seems to have better opportunities for advertisers and monetization, while Vimeo offers viewers the perk of no pre-roll ads.

For a longer list of similarities and differences, check out this head-to-head piece where we compare the business capabilities of Vimeo and YouTube.

Along with YouTube and Vimeo, the more traditional social networking platforms have begun to aggressively embrace video marketing.

Instagram

Another top contender for video platforms is Instagram. You‘re probably thinking, “But isn’t Instagram a photo-sharing app like Pinterest?” Well, it used to be.

However, to compete with TikTok, Instagram has shifted away from being a photo-sharing app.

In fact, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri clarified in 2021, “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app.”

While users can still post photos on Instagram, the platform mainly promotes reels and video stories. It’s also worth mentioning that Instagram video posts are more than twice as likely to generate engagement than image posts.

Like YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels is a great platform for posting short-form content like product demos and explainers. However, YouTube, as a whole, still allows long-form video while Instagram does not.

TikTok

I‘m going to revisit TikTok again later in this post because it also falls under another category of social media platforms, however, it is still a video-sharing channel.

What I love about TikTok in regards to marketing is that it’s a very diverse app with many marketing opportunities.

Yes, you can post short-form demos and explainers like on Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, but TikTok has more opportunities to build community with your audience.

This because the app is a breeding ground for new viral trends any can take part in, and the app provides many ways for audiences to interact via liking, commenting, stitching, and repurposing sounds (the latter two really help the app stand out).

But we‘ll dive inter TikTok’s interactive opportunities in the next section.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Regarding YouTube, videos can be longer than on other social platforms.
  • All platforms have website linking capabilities.
  • Platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram often offer analytics.
  • YouTube has search optimization features.

Cons

  • Video content, particularly long-form, might take more time and money to create.
  • Vimeo and YouTube require more backend tasks like SEO.
  • Instagram does not have longform video capabilities
  • TikTok appeals to a younger audience known to distrust brands, so you will likely have to invest in influencer marketing to gain traction on the platform.

Interactive Media

  • Snapchat: 229 daily active users
  • TikTok: 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone

Apps like Snapchat and TikTok allow users to share photos and videos and have various unique interactive and highly experimental features.

These two apps include AR/VR filters, musical overlays, and interactive games. Their audience bases are also predominantly Gen-Z.

Professional Uses

Snapchat

Brands with large followings might consider publishing Snapchat Stories or videos curated by fans.

Without a high-budget or giant online following, it might be difficult for a company just starting out on social media to leverage Snapchat.

Brands and influencers on Snapchat tend to cater their content to the platforms’ younger audiences. For example, on Snapchat, you might see stories that present beauty tutorials, wellness tips, news, or trendy new products.

If you’re interested in interactive media, there are still a few viable ways you could get involved with Snapchat.

While major brands, like VICE and BuzzFeed, have become Snapchat Discover partners, the average business can still create a Snapchat business account that users can search for and friend.

This account allows you to publish temporary stories like individual accounts. However, those with a business account can also purchase ad space.

If you’ve set up an account, check out this guide to getting started on Snapchat.

TikTok

When TikTok first rose to prominence in 2020, it mainly an app-based platform catering to a Gen Z market that wanted little to do with brands.

Since then, TikTok has grown to shift its focus to some longer-form content, and brands are much more aware of how to leverage the channel.

In fact, about a quarter of marketers in our Social Media Marketing survey say TikTok yields the highest ROI compared to other social media platforms.

The key to TikTok is to invest in influencer and creator marketing. Build a partnership with a creator who aligns with your brand’s values and can introduce your products and services to their audience.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These platforms are very creative and experimental.
  • They have young audiences, which can help brands better target Gen-Z.

Cons

  • Producing regular content could be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Business accounts aren’t promoted up-front on the Snapchat interface. You may want to promote your channel on your website or other social channels because users must search for you with your Snapcode or username.
  • Snapchat is limited to mobile and isn’t as easy to use as other platforms.
  • You will most likely have to invest in influencer marketing to gain traction on TikTok, and finding a creator aligned with your business may be difficult.

Pro-Tip: You should try to correctly estimate the time and money that might go into keeping these accounts up-to-date and relevant.

If you’re unsure how short video ads can benefit your business, remember that short-form videos have the highest ROI compared to other video formats.

Blogging/Community

Examples of Major Platforms

  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Tumblr and Reddit allow users to post about exciting niche topics, like memes, events, politics, and pop culture.

When users publish a post, these platforms allow others to share it or add it to the conversation with their commentary.

Professional Uses

Both blogging and community-building platforms could be helpful to those who want to encourage discussion around very niche industries or topics.

For example, on these platforms, you might see discussions about anything from alternative health to machine learning.

By blogging, you can write posts about your company’s industry topics and link them to your product or site.

While many people have a blog on their website, platforms like Tumblr might be great to use if you haven’t set this feature up — or just want to see what others in your industry are blogging about.

With a discussion site like Reddit, you could share a link or a post about a specific topic on a discussion board related to your industry and see how users respond.

You could also start your board if a topic you’re looking to encourage discussion on doesn’t have one yet.

These two platforms specifically encourage web chatter and post shares from users who care about the same topics.

Both also allow users to follow you or subscribe to your blogs or Reddit boards so your content can appear on their feeds. Here’s an example of what Reddit’s feed looks like.

Other users can up-vote or down-vote when someone publishes something on Reddit. Up-voting makes a post show up higher in Reddit feeds, while down-voting does the opposite.

On Tumblr, the feeds are organized by time. However, a post can show up higher when it is re-shared by other users. When a user shares or interacts with your Tumblr content, they give it a note.

When they reshare, they can post a comment with the post that gets added to a thread.

Here’s an example of how notes and threads can be used to encourage discussion:

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Both platforms allow you to share text posts, photos, and videos about your business, brand, or individual thoughts.
  • These platforms enable you to start conversations about a topic.
  • Both platforms allow linking to outside websites.

Cons

  • Longer blog posts might take time to craft or write.
  • Getting downvoted on Reddit or having no reaction from Tumblr users means your posts may go unseen.
  • Your audience might be too niche or limited to just those on the specific platform you use.
Microblogging
  • Threads: 130 million monthly active users
  • X: 528.3 million monthly active users

Microblogging refers to posting short blogs that are meant for quick audience interaction. Both Threads and X fall under this category as they allow users to post blog content with very limited character counts.

Professional Uses

For years, companies have used X to post quick updates regarding their products and services or to engage with their audience in a humorous or relatable way. For example, Wendy’s will often post content like below to humrously entice their audience.

The same can be said about Threads, though the platform has only been around since July 2023.

Both platforms allow users to upload mini blogs, photos, and videos to engage audiences. So, really the possibilities are endless in terms of how to use the platform.

Pros and Cons:

Pros

  • If you have a great sense of humor (like who ever runs Wendy’s social media) you have a great chance of entertaining audiences and raising brand awareness on microblogs.
  • Microblogs are very versatile in terms of the kind of content you can post.

Cons

  • Since rebranding from Twitter, X has been experiencing a steady decline in users.
  • Threads also struggled to maintain consistent users and has yet to eclipse X, it’s direct competitor.

Private Community

  • Discord: 196.2 million monthly active users

Few things are more frustrating and terrifying to me than when I post something on social media that is meant for my friends, followers, or my target audience and it “leaves the neighborhood.”

By that, I mean the post leaves its intended audience and takes on a life of its own.

Sometimes, as a marketer, you want to ensure your content is only being share amongst your audience. You also want to build community and foster trust, which will lead to longterm consumers.

Enter: Private social media community platforms like Discord.

Discord is a voice and chat platform where users join conversation servers, often through exclusive invites, and talk to other members about niche topics.

Professional Uses

Platforms like Discord are great because they allow you to speak directly with your consumers, share content that is more likely to stay with your target audience, and build community with your followers.

You can use Discord as virtual focus group where you can engage with your consumers directly to understand their habits, concerns, and needs.

For example, I have a Discord server I use a content creator to engage with my followers, keep up with the latest happenings in my niche, and build community.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Like I said, private community platforms like Discord are excellent for community building with your followers and likeminded individuals. You can foster community and stay tapped into your audience.

Cons:

  • Discord doesn‘t have features for native advertising, and it’s only really helpful if you already have a stable audience who wants to be in community with you. So, you may have to focus on building your brand’s following before investing in Discord.

A Few Things to Consider

Before you start logging in and setting up your accounts on a bunch of platforms, be sure to consider these factors:

  • How much time do you devote to strategizing around a social platform?
  • Do you have resources for creating graphics or videos?
  • Do your goals involve boosting brand awareness or traffic and revenue?
  • Will you need an additional staff member to run this platform, or will it be easy to maintain?

Once you’re on a platform or two, be sure to stay aware of how it’s changing and what marketers are doing. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for a current outlook.

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