I don’t think I need to tell you how big social media is.

Social media is the fastest growing trend in the history of the world.

This sector has grown faster than the internet itself.

Within the first 10 years of being publicly available, the internet managed to gather roughly 1 billion users.


(Image source: Internet World Stats)

If you think reaching 1 in 6 people on the planet within 10 years is fast, then I agree with you.

But, how about reaching 1 in 5 within 9 years?

Since opening up for everyone to sign up on September 26, 2006, Facebook just crossed 1.49 billion monthly active users in June, 2015.

Even though the world population has grown to over 7 billion, by now, 1 out of every 5 humans on this planet has a Facebook account.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the biggest country in the world.


(Image source: Huffington Post)

It surpassed China and beat my home country, India, in terms of “population numbers.”

The number is also based on who is active on the platform at least once a month, therefore it’s not artificially blown up and gives a realistic estimate.

Needless to say, if you’re not using social media marketing already, you’ll have to learn it – or lose in the long run.

In this social media marketing guide, I’m going to walk you through the 15 most popular platforms.

I’ll give you an overview for each one, show you how to build a successful social media strategy for it and point you to some of the best places to learn even more.

But first, some definitions.


As usual, Wikipedia is a disappointment, when trying to define social media marketing: “Social media marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.”

Wow, who would’ve thought, right?

I’d like to take a swing at defining social media marketing myself:

Social media marketing is the process of creating content that is tailored to the context of each individual social media platform, in order to drive user engagement and sharing.


You gaining traffic is only the result of social media marketing. What do you do to get that result? Create content that works well on each platform.

Of course, everyone wants their content to go viral, if possible.

But, to do that, it has to be engaging, so that people want to share it. Your content must be so good that it makes the user want to tell all of his or her friends about it.

Otherwise, your social media strategy will fail.

No shares, no viral content, no traffic back to your site.


Even though you hear about the same few social networks all of the time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any others out there.

Wikipedia alone lists over 200 of them.

This great graphic, called “The Conversation Prism,” gives a good overview.


(Image Source: The Conversation Prism)

While this list is fairly up to date, it may come as a surprise to you that it’s entirely different from the first version of this graphic created back in 2008.

All versions aggregate around 200 services, but from version to version (usually updated every 2-3 years), the creators remove over 100 social media platforms and add another 100 in.

The world of social media is changing incredibly fast, so when you’re just starting out, start with the ones that have been around for years.

Betting on “the next big thing” can pay off, if you’re right.  But, if you’re just getting started on a social media strategy, you can’t afford to miss having a Facebook page or a Twitter account, which are proven and well established.

Let’s look at some key social media terms.

Content: Content is whatever you are posting. It can be a Facebook status update, a photo on Instagram, a tweet, to pin something on a board on Pinterest, a video on Vine, etc.

The graphic already showed you that content comes in many different forms and it needs to be custom-tailored to each platform. What’s even more important than content though, is context.

Context: Gary Vaynerchuk said that if content is king, context is god. You can have a great joke, but if you place it somewhere inside a 3,000 word blog post, it’ll probably go mostly unseen. On Twitter however, that same joke, as a tweet, might crush it.


And, the opposite is also true.  Packaging your entire blog post into one tweet is hardly possible, so try a good call-to-action with some relevant hashtags instead. Speaking of which…

Hashtags: By now, they’re a very common form used to add meta information on almost all social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest all use hashtags to let you describe the topic of your content or mark them as part of current trends.

They make your content easily discoverable and, thus, more likely to be shared.

Share: The currency of the social media world. Shares are all that matters on social media. People will keep talking to you about impressions, click-through rates and potential reach. But, none of these tell you whether people actually pass on what you have to say.

When people engage and interact with your content, that’s good. But, when they share it, that is the time when you celebrate.

A great tool to measure shares and the overall impact of content is Buzzsumo:


The more shares, the more people love your content. It’s the best form of engagement that people can make with it.

Engagement: A general term meaning people interact with the content that you produce. It can be a like, a recommend, a comment or a share. All of these are good, but the shares are where it’s at.

Alright, time to look at the most popular platforms (and a few up and comers). For each platform, I’ll give you a short history of how it came about and where it’s at right now, what the context of the platform dictates and how to come up with great content for it.

Below is a table of contents, so you can quickly jump to whichever platform interests you the most.

We’ll start with the “biggest country in the world.”


History: Like the movie name suggests, this is THE social network. Founded in a Boston dorm room in 2004 and originally only accessible to Harvard students, Mark Zuckerberg and his co-founders quickly realized the site’s potential.

After expanding to Ivy League colleges and a few more, they opened Facebook to everyone in 2006 and it completely exploded, as you saw above.

Now it’s the biggest social media platform out there. It offers marketers the most data and the most targeted ads. You can be as specific as defining your customer down to the socks she’s wearing.

With Facebook ads, you can target 45-54 year old management executives in the Bay area who play golf on a regular basis and regularly spend money on equipment (thanks to credit card data).


Context: Facebook gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to content. Images work, videos do and so do text posts. What matters, though, is that you integrate your content into the platform as much as possible.

For example, instead of just posting a link to a YouTube video, upload the video to Facebook’s own platform. If you want to redirect people to a giveaway or landing page, publish it as a tab inside your fan page.

Try to keep your user on the platform as long as possible. People trust Facebook and they don’t want to leave the comfort of “their home.”



History: Google+ has only been around since 2011, but can you believe it has managed to gather 250 million users in that short period of time?

It was Google’s counterattack to Facebook and even though it surely hasn’t dethroned the king, it’s done fairly well.

Out of 2.5 billion Gmail users, around 250 million have activated their Google+ account. However, only 25 million have ever posted on the platform and only 4-6 million are really active on it.

However, the advantage of Google+ is its seamless integration with Gmail. This is owed to the idea of circles, around which Google+ groups everything. When you add someone to your network, you can instantly mark them as a friend, colleague or family member

Google+ makes it really easy to connect with more people, as it recently started allowing you to add people back (in return for them adding you) right from your notification email.

One of Google’s most successful moves was integrating Google Hangouts, which plenty of people use to host webinars.

Context: Similar to Facebook, Google+ allows for a wide variety of posts, including images, videos and even polls.


Even if your main outlet is Facebook, cross posting to Google+ is an easy win, especially if your circles differ a bit from your Facebook fans.

Consider the popular YouTube music parody channel Schmoyoho, for example. Their Google+ page is just linked up as a tiny symbol on their channel page, but with 2.5 million subscribers, there’s still a lot of people who click through.


I bet they set up their Google+ profile just once (it shows their YouTube videos), yet it has nonetheless garnered over 15 million views and 26,000 Google+ followers, so far.


Not bad, considering it’s just a little extra on top of their other social media channels.



History: These guys did everything right. They had the perfect app and released it at the perfect time. Within 3 months of releasing Instagram into the app store, it had reached 1 million users.


(Image source: Quora)

Their growth was entirely organic.  The app was so good, that it dominated the app store charts for months.  And, it still does. The iPhone 4 had just come out, which meant a major leap forward in the quality of pictures taken with smartphones.

5 years and 400 million users later, the way the app works is almost entirely the same. People post pics, tag friends, insert hashtags and double tap to show they like what others share.

It might seem like nothing has happened, but let’s not forget the fact that Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012, only 24 months after they started, for a whopping 1 billion dollars.

Most recently, they rolled out the use of ads for everyone.

Context: Pictures. Instagram is and was always about pictures. Out of all of the big networks, Instagram has the highest engagement rate. Since liking is so easy (you just double tap on a picture, as you scroll through your feed), people tend to do it more than on Twitter or Facebook.

You can also release short 15 second videos on Instagram, but very few accounts do that successfully.

This guy, for some time, only posted videos on there, but the engagement was really low (under 10 likes with 11,000 followers).

When he posted pictures, people liked and commented a lot more. Proof that video on Instagram can work, though, is Ms. Dash.

Her videos routinely collect 3,000+ likes and hundreds of comments within a day of posting.


She has collected over 300,000 followers, because her videos are excellent. Each one shows you an entire recipe in 15 seconds.

But, if I was to start a new Instagram account from scratch, I’d focus entirely on pictures. Here are a few categories that work well:

  • Inspiring quotes
  • Questions in text form (they engage your followers)
  • Photos of items from luxury brands (like Louis Vuitton handbags, cars from Ferrari, Coca Cola, etc.)
  • Sparsely clothed women (who would have guessed?)

Of course, you must also make use of hashtags, give a call-to-action with each photo and make sure that you’re using your bio right (it’s your only chance to link back to your site). But, more on that below.

You can also focus on Instagram influencer marketing, but that’s a subject for another day.



History: Ah Google video. Anyone remember the old player?


(Image source: KISSmetrics)

Who knew it would blow up to 1 billion monthly users in less than 10 years? This social network has changed the way we consume video, since it has made it easy (streaming is super fast), free and gives us a way to express our opinion instantly (thanks to comments).

About 200 million hours of videos are watched each month – that’s 22,000 years of time.

YouTube has spawned entire industries and kickstarted thousands of careers. 10 years ago, no one could make a living playing video games.

Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, was the biggest earner on the platform, making $7.4 million dollars in 2014 alone, just from ads (he’s super humble about it). About 40 million people watch his every move with the joystick and he just released his own game.

Thanks to YouTube, people can now build a nice small business teaching things, sharing make-up tutorials, doing funny pranks and sharing their athletic abilities (or lack thereof).

For marketers, it’s a great way to share long form content with your audience, especially if they’re not avid readers.  For example, you could turn your blog posts into video tutorials.

Pro tip: Use other social media channels as a gateway to drive your followers to YouTube, by giving excerpts, snippets and previews of your videos, for example. The little bite sized teasers will spark curiosity and make people want to see the whole thing.

Context: There are two ways to succeed on YouTube. You can either entertain or teach.

There is no limit to how long your videos can be, and people have published entire courses in the form of a single, 3 hour video.

If you’re trying to be funny, you should be funny on all channels, it doesn’t make sense for your brand with a blog about PPC advertising to suddenly make animal jokes on YouTube. You’d be better off teaching some of your strategies on video.

Don’t overthink this, as you don’t need high quality recording equipment or fancy editing. Chances are that you are a few steps ahead of most people in your niche, so just get in front of your webcam and start teaching.

As Nathan Barry says:

Teach everything you know.



History: LinkedIn is older than Facebook. It was founded in 2002, by one of the early members of PayPal, Reid Hoffman. But, initial growth was slow.  Some days had only 20 sign ups.

LinkedIn’s growth never exploded as much as Facebook’s, but they’ve been around for 13 years and have grown to over 400 million members.

The strategy that got them some traction was focusing on what went well.  For example, their homepage, which accounted for 40% of the signups.

They quickly increased that number to 50%, within 4 months (13,000 people more per month), whereas getting email invitations to increase from 4% to 7% (19,000 people more per month) took 2 years.


(they are very clear about what you should do)

What they always had going for them was being profitable very early.  After only 3 years of being in business, thanks to premium subscriptions, a paid job board and a few other freemium options, they were making money.

Ultimately, a few key turning points, like allowing users to import contacts, focusing on the professional San Francisco tech scene and the acquisition and integration of great services, like Slideshare and Pulse, helped them grow to a 7,600 people company, traded publicly and valued at roughly 18 billion dollars (Until Microsoft paid more for them).

Context: On LinkedIn, it’s all about being professional. The casual writing style that’s used to make some blogs, including my own, so popular, doesn’t work as well on LinkedIn. People are there for one thing only: business.

They want to learn about what’s new in their industry, who’s hiring, who’s firing and how to optimize their performance at work.

A slideshare about baking muffins won’t do nearly as well as an in-depth company presentation from a tech conference.

If it helps people to expand their network or conduct business in a better way, your content has its place on LinkedIn.  If not, you might want to focus on other channels first.



History: The self-described, “front page of the internet,” isn’t very far off. With over 200 million unique monthly users, it just might be.

Reddit is another college originated social media site and a very special one at that. Focused entirely on community benefit, Reddit’s users will ferociously attack you for spamming link bait or dumping promotional links on their boards, called subreddits.

If Redditors like what they see, though, they can easily take down your site, as a Reddit traffic storm is not to be taken lightly.

Two key factors that helped Reddit grow to such a massive platform are AMAs (Ask Me Anything) and their voting feature.

Users can up and downvote entries, links and comments, so the most popular and helpful submissions always show up on top.

The accounts are rewarded (or punished) with karma, which is separately displayed for links and text posts.


This way, users don’t have to dig through tons of content before finding what’s good, but can see right at their first glimpse what’s popular.

Once celebrities started doing AMA’s, where they will hang around on the platform for a while and answer user questions live, the platform took off.

People who have done AMA’s include Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tim Ferriss, David Copperfield and even Bill Gates.


(people are required to post proof they’re doing an AMA)

Context: Reddit is tough to crack. You can’t use it as another distribution channel and just submit a link every time you press publish on your blog.

You have to be present, communicate and give value to fellow Redditors, without asking for anything first.

Submit funny and helpful links for a while, just to build up your karma, then refer back to your content, but only where appropriate.  And, be sure to make the links a side note, rather than the entire content of the post.



History: I remember downloading this app, back in 2012, thinking: “This is stupid,” deleting it again and not hearing about it again until about 2 years later.

I still think it’s stupid, but 30% of America’s teens between 13 and 17 years old don’t. Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users. While the majority of those are girls (about 70%), the boys who share on the platform all have one thing in common: they’re all young.

70% of the users are under 25 years old. The hacks and spams and naked selfie scandals might easily distract the average adult from the fact that this is one serious platform for marketers.

Founded only a few years ago, in September 2011, the app is already valued at $10-20 billion dollars (depending on the source).

Context: If your products are targeting 14 year old girls and you’re not on Snapchat, you are doing something wrong. However, even if you’re on the platform, it’s easy to do a lot wrong.

Since all images and videos disappear after 10 seconds max, the context suggests that all content on the platform is fleeting and short-lived.

Naturally, it makes sense to provide content around that same theme.

For example, you could give your audience access to a live event. If you’re giving a talk at a conference, take a few snaps when you’re on stage and share them with your followers.


(Image source: Social Media Examiner)

Let them behind the scenes: the happy hour on Friday at the office, the IPO party.  Even show them how you act when you’re alone at home.

You could show them your practice run of the speech, how you screwed up your make up or what a cool car they got to pick you up from the airport.

Snapchat is all about sharing those precious moments that we all have so few of in life, so make sure that you use it for just that.



History: Pinterest is the number 1 social media platform for marketers who want to target women. 85% of their 100 million users are female.  The site can be seen as a giant, digital scrapbook.

Between their closed launch in 2010 and 2012, you needed an invitation to get on the platform, so it’s only been open to the public for 3 years.

Nevertheless, its leads are considered high quality and from funding round to funding round they’ve increased their valuation, which was at $11 billion, the last time they solicited investor money.

Even though Pinterest doesn’t yet make any serious money, except for a few ads for famous brands, they are definitely one of the top 10 most influential social platformsright now.


(one of the most popular boards on Pinterest)

Context: Always, always, always remember that 85% of the audience are women. They collect, they curate and they share. Topics, like decorations, interior design, cooking and clothing do extremely well.

Pinterest is also one of the only platforms where images are best displayed vertically, due to the nature of the pin boards. Keep in mind that your pics need special formatting to look good on Pinterest.



History: You’d think, by now, that there are enough blogging platforms out there.  But nope, apparently not. Somehow, within 2 years, Medium grew into one of the largest blogging sites on the web, with an Alexa ranking of 578.

A big part of that is its sleek and simple design.  Ev Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, initially launched it in a 2012 closed beta, before eventually opening it to the public.

Similar to some apps, like Hemingway, the user interface is incredibly simple. The difference is, users can press publish directly, instead of copying the content to their own blog.

Before Williams founded Medium, he also created Blogger, which he eventually sold to Google.  Clearly, he has a knack for blogging platforms.

Thanks to having numerous big publications, Medium can be a way to build an entire audience, without ever creating your own website.


(Better Humans is a popular one)

The most popular topics are design, startups, marketing and social or political matters.

Context: Being a blog platform, Medium naturally does well with long form content. However, posts also shouldn’t be too long.

Medium shows the estimated reading time for each post, right on top.


If people see that it’ll take 20 minutes to read your post, most of them will be scared away, not willing to make such a big time commitment.

7 minutes does best, so it makes sense to break up longer articles into a series of posts.

Ali Mese has done exceptionally well on Medium, creating a huge audience from scratch, thanks to multiple articles going viral.


If you have a big following already, you can use it to catapult your articles to the top, since the most recommended posts land in the featured stories, which are seen by most of the users.

As few as 50-100 recommends, within an hour or two, can drive your article right to the front page.

Content that has done well on Medium is also often picked up by big outlets, like Huffington Post, Business Insider or Entrepreneur.  That gets it additional exposure.



History: Another Silicon Valley-based startup, founded by two former Facebook employees. They thought Q&A was one of the great formats of the internet, but no one had built something solid, to that point.

Turns out, they were right. With a comparatively low $80 million in funding, so far, they built out Quora to over 100 million users in 7 years.

Questions can be asked and, if popular, re-asked. Answers can be upvoted, in order to make sure quality answers show up first.

People have built entire platforms from answering questions on Quora.  And, some answers boast more than 1 million views.


The startup isn’t monetizing its site just yet, but wants to launch ads later this year.

Context: This platform centers around one thing: questions. You can get the most out of it by providing quality answers to popular questions, which have been re-asked lots of times.

Thanks to the voting system, quality answers make it to the top. And, they usually stay there for a long time.

Try to give answers which are still valid in a year, or two or even five. Some of the most popular Quora answers were written years ago.


You can double your benefit from Quora, if you use it to come up with content.  For example, you could write a blog post that gives a very detailed answer to a popular question.

Not only will you have a great blog post then, but you’ll also be able to republish it as the answer to that question.

This will also help you to build a reputation as an expert on your topic, since people often browse what other answers someone has given, if they liked the first answer they read from them.



Alright, that was a lot. You now have an overview of the 15 most important social media platforms.  You should establish a social media presence on at least a few of these.

You know how each platform got to where it’s at, what the context of each channel suggests that you do and you know how to come up with good content for each of them.

Will you change your social media marketing strategy?

Which platform will you focus your social media strategy?

And, which site will go big next?

Let me know your guesses and answers in the comments.

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