Not so long ago the words social media used to be a term that people spoke about to impress friends and to start a conversation about additional ways to brand their business, make people aware of what it is they do and reach out to people in mass inexpensively.

Today social media has gone mainstream and often gets clumped into the most popular talked about sites like Instagram, facebook, twitter, Linked in and Pinterest.  Of course these are just a few of the more well-known social media sites and is just the tip of the iceberg when we speak about social media marketing. In an effort to try to wrap our arms around what social media does and what its purpose is, I Googled it (What else would anyone do today to find a current definition for something)

The current definition of social media is defined as forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content by using video, text and images.

In other words social media is the way by using the internet that a message can be delivered to a community. Though it comes to us digitally which is the common denominator of all social media its purpose and how we receive it is what makes the social media experience different. Knowing when to use which social media platform is what makes the social media conversation so compelling and why an article like this is important.

Since there are so many different types I decided to just highlight a few with some applications.

 Facebook is all about friends, likes and shares.  Started “way back” in 2004 Facebook is the most well-known. Started with the idea of putting like-minded people together to share experiences, facebook today has over 1 billion people posting on a daily basis around the world. From simple personal pages to posting about whatever it is you are doing or thinking, facebook offers business pages to attract people to promote products, offers boosts to send messages to people by geography and interests and also offers online shopping experiences through an on-line web store called Shopify.

Facebook is a great place for sending out general information to large groups virtually about anything.

Twitter is all about following and followers. With twitter allowing tweets of only 140 characters, this medium allows those who have followers to get snippets of information out to them. Many politicians, entertainers and sport figures have amassed millions of followers who get to learn on an ongoing basis what those they care about are doing, saying or thinking as often as those who are tweeting want to share.

Twitter is a wonderful medium if you have a desired product or service that has a short lifespan and you have many followers wanting to have it. Think about how quickly a crowd can be drawn if a famous musician with thousands of followers tweets when he will be performing in Central Park at no charge.

Linked-in is a much more sophisticated social media platform and is all about making business related connections. Often times a general audience is not the best solution to a specific need as we are looking for a specific person to promote our wares to or a specific job description. If we offer services that facilities managers can use it is really not helpful or necessary to send out a tweet or post a message on  facebook  when most of the people we know would have no use for something specific to a facilities manager. Through Linked-in and our 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation connections we can quickly identify people either we know or our connections know that we might be able to meet that fit the specific sector and job title.

Instagram is an easy to use platform that has been embraced by many but most recently by young people tired of the facebook experience. With 130 million users it offers a lightweight platform which puts the focus on images instead of the text heavy world of its parent facebook.

Instagram is a photo sharing app which allows users to assign filters to photos and share them with followers.

Understanding these social media platforms and what they do is a first step in deciding which one is right for you. The good news is though each platform offers additional functionality and features for additional costs, opening an account in any one of these are free. Go to any one of the sites in this article and start exploring how you can use them and see what kind of responses you get as you invite people to become your friends, your connections or your followers.