With so many types of social media platforms out there it’s difficult to know which would be most beneficial.

Sure, we all know having an understanding of social media is important when starting an online business. But with so many kinds of social media, it can be hard to figure out exactly how many of them can be helpful.

We all know Facebook is great for connecting with customers and Instagram is the perfect place to show off products, but have you ever considered how Reddit could be useful for your business? Or even Yelp?

It may sound far-fetched, but stick with me because these slightly off-the-wall social media categories can be treasure troves of information that can help elevate your business.

So, which social media is best? We believe there are seven types of social media categories that are worth considering as an online business owner:

  1. Social networking sites
  2. Image sharing sites
  3. Video sharing sites
  4. Microblogs
  5. Discussion forums
  6. Blogs
  7. Review sites

But before you can start using these types of social media to improve your business, first it’s crucial to have an understanding of what they are, who uses them, and how they can benefit you

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1. Types of Social Media: Social Networking Sites

A smartphone sits next to a laptop with Facebook's Facebook page displayed

When you think about the types of social media, it’s generally social networking sites that spring to mind first. Social networking sites connect users to people and information of all varieties, and obviously, Facebook and LinkedIn are the big examples.

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Why Do People Use Social Networking Sites?

Social networking sites make users feel as though the platform is oriented around them. They are the sun in the social media solar system and the sites work to connect them with what they want to see: posts from friends and family, news and lifestyle content, or updates from brands.

On social networking sites, the spread of information is highly encouraged through users interacting with content and sharing it in their circles. People can also create their content through posts, statuses, and albums and all types of media are welcome, including video, text, and image posts.

How Can I Use Social Networking Sites for My Online Business?

This is the ideal place to grow a community and brand. Creating a page for your business is a great way to reach potential customers, giving them a place to connect with others who like the same things they do while getting familiar with your brand.

With so much data on its users, social networking sites are also fantastic places to advertise your products. Using this data, you can target very specific audiences and figure out who’s the most interested in what you’re selling.

2. Types of Social Media: Image-Sharing Sites

A person holds a smartphone with a gallery of images displayed in Instagram - a type of social media

The saying goes that a picture’s worth a thousand words and image-sharing sites have certainly ceased on that notion. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Imgur allow people to quickly access visual content they’ve curated from various sources.

Why Do People Use Image-Sharing Sites?

Being so simple to use but so visually pleasing, image-sharing sites easily capture people’s attention and imagination. These sites give users insights into the lives of their friends and people they admire, as well as showing off brands, companies, destinations, and events.

Many image-sharing sites having an endless scrolling feature, as well as filters that make it easy to find more content on topics that interest users, basically providing infinite new content.

How Can I Use Image-Sharing Sites for My Online Business?

These kinds of social media sites can be a great way to showcase your products – or get others to showcase them for you. Influencers are a major part of image-sharing sites and those with dedicated, engaged followings can be extremely helpful in driving customers to your business.

Screenshots of Leaderbags and Kylie Jenner using Instagram for their online business

Image-sharing platforms can also be a great way to both see and show off your customers using your product after they’ve purchased it, providing great social proof. Creating a specific hashtag for customers to use is an easy way to encourage this and you could even display the posts directly on your website.

Image-sharing sites can also be used to engage with potential customers, posting content relevant to your business, as well as the lifestyle of your audience. If you have a large following, image-sharing sites can be the perfect place to test new products as users give quick, honest feedback.

3. Types of Social Media: Video-Sharing Sites

Silver laptop open with YouTube home page displayed

Video-sharing sites have exploded in recent years and become thriving communities with millions of engaged users. Launched in 2007, YouTube still dominates as the most well-known video-sharing site, but TikTok, Periscope, and Vimeo are other big players.

Why Do People Use Video-Sharing Sites?

Naturally, people primarily use video-sharing sites to be entertained. Heck, there are even different sites depending on how long you’d like to be entertained for. Under 60 seconds? Head to TikTok. Long form content more your style? YouTube is where you want to be.

People also use video-sharing sites to be informed and learn new skills. This has given rise to formats such as review, tutorial, and unboxing videos. Users of video-sharing sites actively seek out knowledge from those they deem trustworthy and authoritative on certain topics or products.

How Can I Use Video-Sharing Sites for My Online Business?

Filming a demonstration or review video is a fantastic way to show off your products. This works particularly well if you have a hard-to-photograph item, something that requires instructions to use, or a feature that you want to highlight.

Alternatively, engaging with video influencers can be a great option. This can work particularly well if an influencer is trusted and well-liked by your target audience, as you can capitalize on their social proof.

Video-sharing sites also offer you the chance to learn about your audience, as well as build a community and good reputation using the comment system. Comments on videos can reveal a lot, including any questions or concerns about your product that potential customers have.

4. Types of Social Media: Microblogs

Twitter login page shown as a type of social media you can use on a smart phone

Where do you go when you want to express an opinion or thought, but don’t want to spend hours crafting a long editorial or journal entry? Microblogs, of course! Websites like Twitter and Tumblr let users quickly fire off short posts and connect with wider communities.

Why Do People Use Microblogs?

Microblogs not only allow users to express their opinions and thoughts, but also become part of conversations with other users – or simply observe it.

For websites like Tumblr, users particularly enjoy the ability to share and bond with various communities, as well as the creativity of other members. Its community is artistic and often have niche interests, making the platform the perfect place to meet like-minded folk.

Allbirds using their Twitter account to interact with customers

Twitter users make the most of being able to interact with brands and celebrities with ease, as well as sharing and spreading pictures and videos. The site is also useful for discovering breaking news, as it’s easy to filter and search for updates.

How Can I Use Microblogs for My Online Business?

Microblogs can be a good place to engage with customers and gain a deeper understanding of your target audience. Many brands use microblogs to offer support and give updates.

Being genuine and not coming across as stiff and corporate is important to microblog users. People are generally happy to engage with brands and companies, but also want to be entertained and informed.

By cultivating a feed that shares useful and entertaining content that isn’t just self-promotion, users will be more inclined to like, share and engage with your account. You can also team up with influencers to make the most of their following to promote your product.

5. Types of Social Media: Discussion Forums

A young man wearing jeans and a tshirt uses his Apple computer outside

Discussion forums are one of the OG forms of social media, originating from bulletin boards and used to talk about very specific topics. Home to over a million different communities, Reddit is the most well-known discussion forum, with Quora and Digg also very popular.

Why Do People Use Discussion Forums?

Discussion forums are extremely community-based with people seeking information and discussions around specific topics, questions and ideas. Forums often offer a degree of anonymity, with people identified by usernames rather than real names.

Users embrace discussion forums because they offer a sense of community and can be a source of knowledge that a user may not have been able to find in their offline life.

How Can I Use Discussion Forums for My Online Business?

Discussion forums are the ideal place to learn more about your target audience as they can be an absolute wealth of information. They’re a space where you can easily discover your potential customers’ pain points so you can be sure your product will adequately solve them.

One example of this is the image-hosting website Imgur. After Reddit user Alan Schaaf noticed problems with other image hosting sites, he created Imgur as an alternative that solved the issues users had with the other services. It was an instant success.

There’s also room to advertise on discussion forums, though it requires a level of finesse to appear organic. Posting in relevant subreddits in a subtle manner or answering applicable questions on Quora could be ways to promote your business. However, forum users are the types of social media users who will quickly sniff out self-promotion over genuine participation, so tread carefully.

6. Types of Social Media: Blogs

Wordpress blog

Although it might not seem like a type of social media site on first thought, a blog can definitely function as a form of social media, particularly if it covers queries the community has, has a strong following, or encourages discussion in its comment section (and on that note, feel free to leave your own comments in the section below). Spaces such as WordPress, Blogger, and Medium all fit into the blog category.

Why Do People Use Blogs?

Blogs let people learn more or be entertained on a particular topic. People choose to follow specific blogs because they enjoy the author’s writing style, connect with an author’s situation, or because they know they provide useful and insight information.

Blogs can be a great place to discover likeminded people and comment sections offer a chance to discuss and clarify related topics.

Unlike social networking sites or microblogs, when people read blogs they generally expect a longer, more in-depth piece of writing.

Blogs also offer the chance for a series of posts to be written on a single topic that can then be easily categorised so newcomers can find them with ease. This is something that can be difficult to do on other kinds of social media.

How Can I Use Blogs for My Online Business?

Blogs are a smart way to market your business, build your brand, and connect with your target audience at the same time.

Homepage of go-to skincare blog You can construct posts explaining decisions, new products, special features, or upcoming events that you feel are important for your audience to know about. You can also post articles related to your product, things your audience enjoys, or would be interested in knowing more about – like how to get samples.

In addition to this, well-optimized blog posts are a fantastic way to reach potential customers who otherwise may not have found your store. Writing insightful and useful SEO posts can set your business apart from similar ones as your website then becomes a destination people visit for a reason other than purchasing an item.

7. Types of Social Media: Review Sites

Torso of a man in a suit giving a thumbs up sign

Used to recommend and educate users on products, services, and experiences, review sites are something that might not immediately jump to mind when considering different types of social media platforms. However, the undeniable social element to sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare ensure they fall into the social media category.

Why Do People Use Review Sites?

First and foremost, people use review sites to gain information so they can make well-informed choices about where the choose to spend their time and money.

Review sites make it easier to get details that are otherwise hard to know without experiencing something first hand. This can be great for those who want or need to be sure of particular options – vegetarian cuisine, accessibility, ability to pay with a credit card, and so forth.

Review sites often have a community aspect and users enjoy the feeling of contributing something useful to the wider group. Many review sites have features where community members can engage with submitted reviews, indicating their helpfulness or asking follow-up questions.

How Can I Use Review Sites for My Online Business?

Although review sites like TripAdvisor or Foursquare might not be the perfect fit for an online business, on-site user reviews can be extremely powerful.

Reviews from the Soda Stream website

Asking customers to review items they’ve purchased and displaying these reviews on your website is great social proof, which can help sway future customers. Obviously positive reviews are the ideal outcome from, but negative reviews can also be helpful in building a trusted brand, as they highlight issues that need to be addressed, make the review section look genuine, and let you know what you should fix with your store.


Feeling more informed, or perhaps even a little overwhelmed?

Don’t worry! This social media categories business is a lot to take in. The good news is that you don’t need to become an expert on everything straight away.

As you’ve just read, each of these seven types of social media can benefit your business, but if you’re more familiar with constructing Facebook ads than tackling an entire blog post, make it something you work up to over time.

Setting up a content and social media strategy could be a good step to ensure that you properly investigate all of your social media options in due course.

The most important thing is being aware that there are many different types of social media and understanding how they can all help your business in their own way.

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