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Introduction to Social Media

Unless you’ve been on a mission to Mars you will have heard of the term ‘Social Media’ and probably already use one or more of the plethora of social media platforms or networks.

This lesson provides an introduction to social media – the key platforms and why we use them in digital marketing.

In a nutshell, a social media platform allows it’s users to post and share content as well as interact with each other and each other’s content.

The business value of social media platforms is the way in which it facilitates referrals i.e. one person recommends a product or service to a group of friends and colleagues, as well as provide a new publicly available customer service channel.

For most businesses, especially small business, social media networks are used as a traffic generation channel for a website.

The key social media networks are:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • LinkedIn

In future lessons we are going to cover 6 of the platforms in a lot more detail but for now here is a brief summary of each:

Twitter – is classed as the go-to-place for breaking or current news and trends, as well as a method of communication between friends, colleagues and peers.

Facebook – formerly [thefacebook] was launched in 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities and later to high-school students. As of September 2014, the social network reported 864 million daily active users on average.

Google+ is Google’s own social media network that plays an important role in search results as well.

Pinterest – is a visual social media platform whereby users create themed boards of images that they pin photos on from websites and other Pinterest users’ boards. The source of the image can be attached to the ‘pin’ providing a useful backlink to your website.

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram image size should be a minimum of 1080px wide and can be square, portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal). Users can also apply digital filters to their images. The duration for Instagram videos is between 3 and 60 seconds.

Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social networking website which is now owned by Yahoo! Inc. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users’ blogs, as well as make their blogs private. Much of the website’s features are accessed from the “dashboard” interface, where the option to post content and posts of followed blogs appear. As of January 1, 2015, Tumblr hosts over 216.9 million blogs

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service founded in 2002, which by 2006 had grown it’s member to 20 million. As of June 2013, LinkedIn reports more than 259 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories.

As you can see already these social networks attract huge volumes of regular users, providing rich seams of potential customers for you.

What social media platforms should I use?

Our advice is usually to start off with the main ones and if appropriate one of the visual social networks (Instagram / Pinterest) as well.

The table in the image below was created by Buffer (Nov 2014) and shows some interesting trends. The objective therefore is to compare your target audience, customer base or purchase influencer with the relevant demographics.


For example if you were deciding on a visual social network to use and your product or service is aimed at women over 30 with a higher income, you might consider Pinterest rather than Instagram.

Download the entire “How to Choose a Social Network” guide from Buffer which includes gender, age, education, income and location demographics by social network.

Monitor your effectiveness

As with all of your digital marketing activity you should monitor the effectiveness of your efforts by analysing your Google Analytics for the level of referrals from social media activity. These should include actual volume, the bounce rates and ultimately the number of conversions/goal achievements from each channel.

This can be compared with other activity such as email marketing, traditional advertising and organic search.

Being efficient on social media

One of the recurring reasons why people and businesses say they aren’t active on social media is time – they think they will be spending too much time on it. In a future lesson we will cover social media management tools that enable you to be involved in social media in an efficient manner, as well as provide easy to read statistics and trends.


  1. Start thinking about the words to describe your business and it’s services and products.
  2. Make sure you have high resolution versions of your logo – you’ll need them to fit into a square format for many of the social media platforms
  3. What are the demographics of your typical customers?
  4. What are the demographics of the customers you would like?
Updated on September 27, 2016

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