Are You Using The Best Social Media Platforms For Your Strategy? Know With This Social Media Platform Guide.

Use this guide to help select the best social media platforms for your social media strategy.

Social media is no longer an experimental part of marketing. Social media spending is 16% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to  24% in five years. Social media is also an essential part of digital marketing which has surpassed traditional with digital ad spending reaching 62% of total ad sales. Today brands must go beyond the top social platforms or simply continue to use current brand social platforms.

Social media plans are more sophisticated with organic, paid, and influencer content. How do you decide among hundreds of social platforms? To simplify the process the table below lists social options in eight categories by key characteristics and top platforms per category based on total users.

To develop or update a social media strategy, focus on social media categories, social media platform content characteristics, and social media platform user demographics. The table and this article provide monthly, daily, and U.S. user stats. For user demographics of each social media platform visit Pew Research Center’s Social Media Fact Sheet. For user demographics of social media websites visit Similarweb.

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Use this guide to help select the best social media platforms for your social media strategy.
Use this guide to select the best social media platforms for your social media strategy in 2024.

Audience Size and Engagement: Total audience size is important when selecting a social media platform within which to invest your time and money. Yet traditional measures of monthly active users or unique monthly visitors only tell part of the story. A user could visit a platform once a month and be included in the audience size. Engagement is another important factor that looks at how active those users are on the platform. How many users are daily users and how much time are they spending per day or session?

Target Audience Demographics: How active is your target audience on each platform? Define the target audience by demographics such as gender, education, income, ethnicity, and age. Look for social platforms popular with your target age group. Look at both monthly active and daily active users by age. A high percentage of Millennials may be monthly users of Facebook but if you look at daily usage, they may be more active on Instagram. If your target is Gen Z, Snapchat or TikTok may have the highest daily usage.

Target Audience Psychographics: Not all people in a generation have the same interests, therefore it is also important to define the target audience with psychographic variables such as values, beliefs, and interests. People interested in crafts, fashion, the environment, or gaming may be active on other social media platforms where those interests are popular such as Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or TikTok.

Target Business Category: Not all purchase decisions are considered in the same social media channels. Therefore, also consider the type of business. Is the brand B2C or B2B? What industry is it in? Is it a local or national company? Does the brand offer online sales, in-person, or a combination of both? The type of business could make other social media channels more relevant to a plan such as LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, or Yelp.

Target Communication Objective: Finally, consider the communications objective. A plan to build brand awareness may work best with Facebook, YouTube, and Buzzfeed. A plan to improve customer response may work better on Twitter/X and Messenger for customer support and TripAdvisor for customer reviews. A B2B lead generation plan may best leverage Blogs, Podcasts, and LinkedIn. A direct sales plan for a multinational fashion brand could work best with Instagram, Pinterest, and WhatsApp.

Now that you know how to select social platforms what are the top social media platforms? Below I describe the top three or more social media platforms by eight key characteristic categories.

Social Networks: These are the websites and apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts, and updates. Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly users (198 billion active daily) and 239 million users in the U.S. It is the largest social media channel of any  category. LinkedIn is the dominant business and professional social network growing to 810 million monthly users (559 million active daily) and with 200 million users in the U.S.

Social Messaging: Instant messaging platforms are chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with fewer limits and more features than traditional texting. Facebook Messenger has grown to 736 million users (390 million active daily) and 188 million users in the U.S. But is still behind Facebook owned WhatsApp with 1.3 billion users (1.1 billion active daily), but only 93 million in the U.S. Other popular messaging apps include Discord, WeChat, and Slack.

Microblogs: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts are limited by content length or file size. The leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter/X with 436 million monthly active users (217 million active daily) and 94 million users in the U.S. Pinterest is a social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection, and sharing that limits posts to single images or video. Pinterest has grown to over 431 million monthly active users (112 million active daily) and 85 million users in the U.S. TikTok has grown quickly to 150 million monthly active users (36 million active daily) and 113 million users in the U.S. Another consideration is Instagram’s Threads just launched in July 2023 but Mark Zuckerberg reports that it reached just under 100 million users in October.

Blogs: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. WordPress is the top blogging platform with 297 million monthly visits and 65 million in the U.S. Wix is the second-largest blogging platform with 52 million monthly visitors and 17 million in the U.S. Other blogging platforms to consider are Blogger and Squarespace.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for sharing image or video media. YouTube is the lead video sharing site with 2.6 billion monthly active users (319 million active daily) and 246 million users in the U.S. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is a quality photo sharing social channel that has grown to 2 billion active monthly users with 1.4 billion active daily and 158 million users in the U.S. Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing messaging service in which media and messages are only available for a short time before disappearing. Snapchat’s monthly active users total 557 million active monthly with 319 million active daily and 107 million users in the U.S.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service, or performance. Ratings measure how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. Yelp is the innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews representing a broad range of interests. Yelp has 141 million monthly visits with 131 million in the U.S. For travel related businesses TripAdvisor has 169 million monthly visitors with 92 million in the U.S. Other ratings and review platforms to consider are Google My Business (Google Business Profile), Angi, and Amazon.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services for users to save, comment, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is the top social bookmarking platform with 861 million monthly active users (36 million active daily) and 223 million in the U.S. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with 97 million monthly visits to its website and 52 million in the U.S. Buzzfeed also creates content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands generating 2.4 billion cross-platform content views a month.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge platforms are web-based information exchanges where users search for topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the crowdsourced encyclopedia with 4.5 billion monthly visits a month and 650 million in the U.S. Brands cannot create their own pages but should monitor for misinformation. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 806 million visits a month and 330 million in the U.S.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. The number of podcast listers has grown to 505 million monthly active users. There are 164 million podcast listeners in the U.S. (48 million weekly listeners). iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting. Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, Audible, and Spotify.

This is not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does provide a list of the top platforms by category to choose the best for your social strategy in 2024. What social platforms have you found to be the most effective? For more details on selecting the right social media platforms see this article about Selecting Social Media Platforms Based On Strategic Fit.

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Free Social Media And Digital Marketing Certifications: What’s Available And What’s Valuable?

Today, there are many online training and certifications to help you learn social media and digital marketing skills. If you are a professional, student, or a professor it’s hard to know which ones to earn yourself and which to include in your courses. Below is a guide and links to certifications, badges, and additional training resources. Most are free or have minimal costs and represent a short time commitment.

Free Online Social Media and Digital Marketing Courses and Certifications are easily displayed in your LinkedIn profile.
Professional Certifications award badges that can easily demonstrate specialized skills online such as in LinkedIn profiles.

Why are these professional certifications and online learning resources valuable? A Marketing Hiring Trends Report indicates that 69% of marketers are hiring and 59% want digital marketers, yet only 19% of people with those skills are looking for jobs. This represents a 30% digital skills gap creating high demand for people who can demonstrate those skills.

9 Recommended Social Media Certifications

Facebook blueprint is Facebook’s free online courses and paid certifications for marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Over 87% of U.S. marketers use Facebook and 75% use Instagram for social media marketing. Recommended certifications include:

  • Facebook Certified Digital Marketing Associate (8-9 hours) teaches entry level marketing skills and foundational advertising concepts on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Facebook Certified Media Planning Professional (9-10 hours) teaches what you need to create, place and measure effective Facebook, Instagram and Messenger advertising campaigns. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Additional Facebook blueprint certifications include Media Buying Professional, Ads Product Developer I, II and III.

Hootsuite Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. This popular social media management software is used by over 18 million people at top brands. Recommended certifications include:

  • Hootsuite Platform Certification (3-4 hours) teaches you how to use this popular social platform to publish and engage in social media while tracking results with analytics. It is useful to understand this platform but also how many social management platforms work. The online course is free. The certification is $99 for professionals and free for college students when professors enroll their course through the student program.
  • Hootsuite Social Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches social media marketing skills to grow followers and increase engagement. It teaches social strategy needed to meet and track business results through both paid and earned social media tactics. The online course is free while the certification costs $199 for professionals and free for college students through professor enrolled with professors who apply through the student program.
  • Additional Hootsuite online courses and certifications include Advanced Social Advertising, Social Media ROI, and Social Selling and require payment ranging from $249 to $299.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. HubSpot is a top marketing, sales, customer service and CRM platform used by over 15,000 businesses. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Social Media Certification (5-6 hours) teaches effective social media strategy to drive conversation, build loyalty and attract customers. The online course and certification is free.

Snapchat Explore is Snapchat’s free online course and professional certification. Over 33% of U.S. marketers use Snapchat for social media marketing. Recommended certification is:

Twitter Flight School is Twitter’s free online training courses and badges for marketing on Twitter. Over 66% of U.S. marketers use Twitter for social media marketing.

  • Twitter Video Badge (2-4 hours) teaches how to create video and run video ads on Twitter. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional Twitter Flight School courses include Twitter Ads Manager, Audiences, Campaigns and Reporting.

LinkedIn Marketing Lab offers free online training for using LinkedIn Ads. There are 3 Basic courses and 3 Intermediate courses and then two certifications you can earn through exams.

12 Recommended Digital Marketing Certifications

Google Analytics Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certifications for Google Analytics. Over 88% of search traffic worldwide occurs on Google. Recommended certifications include:

  • Google Analytics for Beginners Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches the basic features of Google Analytics for creating accounts, tracking, basic reports, goals and campaign tracking. The online course and certification is free.
  • Advanced Google Analytics Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches advanced Google Analytics features for data collection, processing, configuration and more complex analysis and marketing tools. The online course and certification is free.
  • Google Analytics Individual Qualification Certification (3 hours) is the exam to become professionally certified based on skills learned in the two courses above. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Analytics 4 Certification (5-6 hours) teaches Google Analytics 4 which will replace Google Universal Analytics summer 2023. The online courses, exam and certification are free.
  • Google Ads Search Certification (3-4 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Ads Display Certification (2-3 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Ads Video Certification (4-5 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Data Studio Certificate of Completion (3-4 hours) teaches how to connect and visualize data online to gain insights and collaborate.
  • Additional Google Analytics Academy courses and certificates of completion include Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 360, Google Ads Measurement, Google Shopping Ads, and Google Ads Apps.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free training courses and professional certifications. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Inbound Certification (2-3 hours) teaches the HubSpot Inbound methodology for driving customer acquisition from a marketing, sales and service perspective. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Content Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches a strategic content creation framework for creating and repurposing effective content for search engines and customer engagement. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Inbound Sales Certification (2-3 hours) teaches specific skills useful to sales people. It explains inbound approaches to personal sales for identifying new prospects and connecting with them. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional HubSpot courses and certifications include Inbound Marketing, Growth Driven Design, and Email Marketing.

SEMrush Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for search engine marketing. Over 5 million marketers use the SEMrush online visibility management platform. Recommended certifications:

  • SEO Fundamentals Certificate (4-5 hours) teaches the essentials for search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Keyword Research Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the basics of keyword research. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Mobile SEO Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the specialized knowledge for mobile website visibility. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Technical SEO Certificate (5-6 hours) teaches the essentials for the technical aspects of search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Additional SEMrush courses and certificates include SEMrush platform functions such as SEMrush Site Audit, SEO Toolkit, Competitive Analysis, Keyword Research, Technical SEO, Link Building, Rank Tracking and Backlink Management.

Amazon Advertising learning console is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for Amazon Advertising. Over 54% of product searches start on Amazon. Recommended certification is:

  • Amazon Sponsored Ads Accreditation (3-4 hours) teaches Amazon Sponsored Ad types, targeting, strategy, reporting and optimization. The online course and certification is free.
  • Amazon Stores Accreditation (1-2 hours) teaches Amazon Store, benefits, features and how build and promote an Amazon Store. The online course and certification is fee.

Institute for Brand Marketing is a collaboration between Adweek and IBM Watson Advertising to provide free online courses and badges to teach brand marketing with technology.

  • Advanced Marketing Technologies (4 hours) introduces you to innovative marketing technologies such as machine learning, AI and blockchain and how they can drive business success. The online course and badge is free.
  • Monetizing Engagement (4 hours) covers ways companies can monetize engagement across social channels to measure ROI by attributing sales and other KPIs to marketing efforts. The online course and badge is free.

freeCodeCamp is an online non-profit that teaches people to code for free and earn certifications. Free verified certifications include Responsive Webdesign, JavaScript, Front End Libraries, Data Visualization, APIs, and Python.

10 Recommended Non-Certification Online Learning Resources

Academy of Influencer Marketing by Traackr influencer marketing platform. It offers courses teaching influencer marketing skills, strategy and measurement. The first course is free. Advanced courses are $495.

Adobe Creative Cloud Tutorials is an online education site offering free training for Adobe Creative Cloud software including Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator, Adobe XD, and Adobe Spark. Over 90% of the world’s creative professionals use Adobe.

Adobe Education Exchange is a free learning program and community for educators to ignite creativity in thier classrooms and leverage Adobe software.

Canva Design School is an online education site offering courses from the popular graphic design platform Canva. Free online courses include Graphic Design Basics, Social Media Design, Branding Your Business, and Presentations to Impress.

Code Academy is an online education site offering courses that teach how to write code in popular program languages such as HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Java and SQL. These program languages are useful for web development, data science and design. Basic classes are free. There a $19.99 per month fee for Pro support.

ConvertedU by Leadpages is an online education site offering free and paid training and professional certification for conversion marketing. More than 40,000 small business use Leadpages to build landing pages, pop-ups, alerts and websites. Free online courses include Email List Building and Leadpages Launchpad. Paid courses include Conversion Marketing and Drip Marketing Certifications.

Google Academy for Ads is an online education site offering free courses in Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, Google Ad Manager, and Google My Business. Google Ads Certification is available, but you must work for a Google Partner business and use that business email to take the exam.

How to Use TikTok for Business by Later is a free 35 minute video course. The course gives insights into creating viral videos, understanding TikTok’s algorithm and using TikTok ads to reach new audiences.

Pinterest Academy is Pinterest’s online education site offering free training courses for marketing on Pinterest. Over 35% of U.S. marketers use Pinterest for social media marketing.

Social Media Examiner Training Videos is a YouTube channel by this popular soical media publication and conference. Their channel offers short training videos by social media experts. Videos are updated often and are usually 5 to 15 minutes long.

YouTube Creator Academy is an online education site offering free courses that teach setting up YouTube Channels, YouTube Content Strategy, Video Production, YouTube Channel Optimization, Money & Business, on YouTube, and YouTube Policies & Guidelines. Over 53% of U.S. marketers use YouTube for social media marketing. A YouTube Certification is available, but only for those with a YouTube partner manager or access to Content ID.

11 Additional Online Learning and Certification Options

Other online courses and certification options include AMA Digital Marketing Certification (Exam), Blogging University (WordPress), LinkedIn Learning (Wide Variety of Subjects), Marketo (Marketing Platform), Meltwater Masterclass (Social Management), Microsoft Advertising (Ad Platform), Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Microsoft Business Applications), Moz Academy (SEO), Salesforce Trailblazer Connect (Salesforce CRM), Trading Academy (Programmatic Ad Buying), and Yoast Academy (SEO).

Whether you are a professional, student or professor I hope you find these recommendations to be useful. Even though I’ve highlighted 40 free and low cost online learning courses and certifications I may have missed some. What online courses and certifications have your used that your find to be valuable?

Ready to put these skills and certifications to use in a social media job?

See my post “Social Media Career Guide: What You Can Do and Where You Can Do It” and my guide to creating a social media plan for your personal brand “Consider This A Sign: Now Is The Time To Create A Social Media Plan For Your Personal Brand.”