“Social media is pervasive, widely used, and culturally relevant.” (Appel, Grewal & Hadi, 2020).
Pew Research Centre highlights that every age uses at least one social media platform, with men and women using equally, but overall the younger generation having a higher percentage of usage.
The rate at which social media use has increased over the last few years is phenomenal; globally, the total number of social media users is estimated to grow to 3.29 billion users in 2022, which will be 42.3% of the world’s population. This rate of attention makes social media a key and successful marketing platform.
But, each social platform is different, and In this article, we'll be reviewing the differences between the biggest: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Tik Tok and Snapchat.
At the top of the social media chain, Facebook appears with 2.4 billion active users every month. Facebook's primary features allow individuals to maintain and build friendships virtually through conversation and posting photos. It also allows businesses to create an online presence through Pages.
Facebook Pages are a good focus for marketing strategy for a company when using the four Facebook marketing activities found by Groothius, Spil & Effing (2020): advertisements, recommend/share, likes and reviews, which positively affected the decision-making process of consumers. And this is the case whether your company is big or small: a global survey of Facebook users found that two-thirds of users visit the Page of a local business at least once a week.
As we are aware Facebook received a large amount of backlash after a scandal in 2018. Millions of Facebook users' personal data was collected without consent by Cambridge Analytica to then be used for political advertising. However, despite the vast media coverage around this case, Facebook users did not appear to change their behaviour or decrease their social networking usage.
A survey in 2018 of 1,300 U.S. Facebook and Instagram users showed that two-thirds of these 1,300 were active on these social media sites as much as they were in 2017. This is possibly because social media has become embedded in our culture, especially amongst the younger generation: the idea to not have an online presence feels strange and perhaps even cut-off from society.
With around 1 billion monthly users globally, Instagram has become the third most popular social networking platform. With 18-34 year olds being the most active users, it is a significant communicating tool in digital marketing amongst this generation.
However, the nature of this communication needs to be authentic: after seeing ad after ad, users’ levels of scepticism has increased and overthinking the company’s motives comes into play. “Consumers have created resistance towards marketing which can be seen, for example, as cynicism and criticism towards advertisements. Consequently, marketers do not achieve the aimed effect on consumers as easily as earlier.
Authentic advertisement is said to be a tool to surpass the consumers’ resistance.” (Martikainen & Pitkänen, 2019). This especially comes into play when someone, e.g. an influencer, is promoting a product whilst being paid to do so. “Sponsorship disclosure (compared to no disclosure) negatively affects brand attitude through enhanced ad recognition, which activates ad scepticism, which, in turn, negatively affects the influencer's credibility.” (Veirman & Hudders, 2020). This highlights the importance of authenticity when using Instagram as a marketing platform.
LinkedIn is a more professional social space: “users interact on LinkedIn through functions that favour self-promotion, participating in groups, exchanging work-related information, networking, following profiles, and building professional networks.” (Basak & Calisir, 2014).
LinkedIn is a useful tool in targeting and connecting with professionals in your chosen domain, knowing they will certainly share an interest in your topic.
Brenner, Sivrikaya & Schwalbach (2019) analysed a large data set of employed individuals on professional social network sites (SNS) such as LinkedIn. They tested the conflicting predictions that;
Individuals who are unsatisfied with their career status adversely select into professional SNS in order to reap marginal online network benefits, versus;
High-status individuals positively select into these networks because they are more likely to receive invitations to join.
Their study found that the second hypothesis was more likely the case and rejected the first. This is a factor that digital marketers need to be aware of when approaching individuals or groups on LinkedIn.
Twitter has evolved quickly over the years; what started as a platform for people to express views, random thoughts and comical stories, quickly turned into a hub for debates on sociopolitical issues and election campaigns.
This shift in energy has generated a lot of research and has seen Twitter becoming a more volatile space to express one’s thoughts (Bruns et al., 2013, Ince et al., 2017, Tremayne, 2014). Although Twitter is a great platform to catapult a brand’s existence awareness, it can be a tricky one to navigate.
Digital Video Sharing Platforms: YouTube, Tik Tok and Snapchat
YouTube is the second most popular, with almost 2 billion monthly users of all ages. It appears to be the go-to site for all video content. However, Tik Tok, the newest digital video sharing platform, appears to be taking the younger generation by storm as the new way to express one’s creative flair and music taste.
Perhaps YouTube is the space to globally project a message with no age bias, whilst TikTok could be a new way to target the creative individuals in a younger generation.
On the other hand, Provincial Health Committees (PHCs) in China started using Tik Tok to communicate with local residents about health-related information. Researchers felt "It is considered a missed opportunity that most PHCs struggle to take advantage of the Tik Tok platform, especially given its growing popularity and daily increase in account creation." (Zhu, Xu, Zhang, Chen & Evans, 2020).
Snapchat appears to be the platform that is wavering in its’ popularity. The purpose of the app is to share videos (perhaps with filters) on your 'stories’ (personal account) or with selected friends. However, Instagram adopted this idea a few years ago, allowing people to create stories with filters to share with the public, your followers, or a selected group of friends, along with everything else Instagram has to offer.
People are using Snapchat less and less nowadays as they can do it all on Instagram, better, and with more people paying attention to what they are posting. As Tropp & Baetzgen (2019) found “Snapchat is not so much a medium for continuous communication with the consumer. Nevertheless, it can enrich relationships with them.”
In conclusion, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are highly popular social networking sites: Facebook is at the top of its’ game in users expressing views, sharing their daily lives and connecting with people.
Facebook also does so in a less aggressive way than Twitter allows its’ users to behave, especially as, although Facebook and Twitter are similar in what they do at a high level, the nature of what people share on these sites can be largely different. Facebook appears to be a better marketing tool for promoting a business or a brand.
With YouTube being the go-to site for video content it appears it is a valued marketing platform. However, the emergence and popularity of Tik Tok could be the start of a new era in video sharing and should not be ignored by digital marketers.
One that could be left alone however is Snapchat, appearing to have lost a lot of interest and appeal over the past couple of years.
LinkedIn offers more professional virtual workspace. This may make the job of a digital marketer easier as they can clearly pinpoint their target audience based on an individual’s career, location, age and interests.
(Appel, G., Grewal, L., Hadi, R. et al. The future of social media in marketing. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 48, 79–95 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-019-00695-1)
Pew Research Centre, Washington, DC, USA. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/
eMarketer (2018). Social Network Users and Penetration in Worldwide. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ycr2d3v9)
Groothuis, D., Spil, T., & Effing, R. (2020). Facebook marketing intelligence. In Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (pp. 2559-2568). Maui, Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/64054
Martikainen, I., & Pitkänen, A. (2019). The Significance of Consumers’ Perceived Authenticity to Engagement : Explorative Research of Influencer Marketing in Instagram (Dissertation).
Veirman, M., & Hudders, L. (2020). Disclosing sponsored Instagram posts: the role of material connection with the brand and message-sidedness when disclosing covert advertising, International Journal of Advertising, 39:1, 94-130, DOI: 10.1080/02650487.2019.1575108
Basak, E., & Calisir, F. (2014). Uses and gratifications of LinkedIn: An exploratory study. World Congress on Engineering 2014 (Vol. II, pp. 1153-1156). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.00117315.2004.02524.x
Brenner, S., Sivrikaya, S. A. & Schwalbach, J. (2020). Who is on LinkedIn? Self-selection into professional online networks, Applied Economics, 52:1, 52-67, DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2019.1638497
Bruns, A., Highfield, T., Burgess, J. (2013). The Arab spring and social media audiences: English and Arabic twitter users and their networks. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(7), 871-898.
Ince, J., Rojas, F. Davis, C. A. (2017). The social media response to black Lives matter: How twitter users interact with black Lives matter though hashtag use. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(11), 1814-1830.
Tremayne, M. (2014). Anatomy of protest in the digital era: A network analysis of twitter and Occupy Wall Street. Social Movement Studies, 13(1), 110-126.
Zhu, C.; Xu, X.; Zhang, W.; Chen, J.; Evans, R. (2020). How Health Communication via Tik Tok Makes a Difference: A Content Analysis of Tik Tok Accounts Run by Chinese Provincial Health Committees. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 17, 192.
Joerg Tropp & Andreas Baetzgen (2019) Users’ Definition of Snapchat Usage. Implications for Marketing on Snapchat, International Journal on Media Management, 21:2, 130-156, DOI: 10.1080/14241277.2019.1637343