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Social Media Networks Basics

Social networks are websites and mobile applications that enable people to share their own ‘media’ with friends, followers or the public. Usually these networks are referred to simply as “social media.” Social media users can express themselves online, kindle new connections with people who have similar interests, and help people discover content about the things that interest them in practically any niche. These platforms have also become a powerful tool for marketing and communications for organizations and businesses.

To use social media as an organization is different than using social media as an individual. For organizations social media are a way to connect with their current audiences and find new ones. The visuals and language you choose can impact how your organization is perceived, how many people see or engage with a given post, and the ROI of your investment in social media.

Social media platforms are continually changing. Because social media are ever changing and usage trends are highly dynamic, this guide centres on universal principles that are platform agnostic. Algorithms and feature updates may affect which tactics you choose, but the strategy that guides your approach to social media as an organization should persist.

What are social media networks?

Social networks are websites or mobile applications that encourage users to share their own writing, photos, videos, comments, or other expressions with others. These writing, visuals, expressions and opinions are the media that largely make social networks popular. The popularity of different platforms varies by demographics and usage. Popular sites for Canadian artists, presenters, and cultural organizations in 2021 include:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. TikTok
  4. Twitter
  5. YouTube

View or download the complete PDF file here.

Social Media Marketing November 2021

Written by Briana Doyle, Troubadours & Vagabonds Productions

With contributions and reviewed by Inga Petri, Strategic Moves

Links to Topics

Social Media Marketing – Summary

The Basics

Social Media Landscape in 2021

Using Social Media Strategically

Creating Quality Content

Social Media icons

Who uses social media?

The short answer is, almost everyone. According to a July 2021 Canada-wide survey on social media use by the Ryerson Social Media Lab, 94% of Canadian adults have a social media account. However, younger adults are more likely to engage more frequently through social media. According to a March 2021 report from eMarketer, social networks will reach almost full market penetration among adult Gen Z this year, or 99% of users ages 18 to 24. The next-highest penetration rate will be among the 25-to-34 age bracket, younger millennials, at 91%.

Social Network market penetration 2021 by emarketer

A May 2020 MTM Junior / CBC Radio Canada study conducted by Ad Hoc Research found that teens were most likely to use Instagram (67%) and Snapchat (57%) and they were almost as likely to use TikTok (42%) as Facebook (48%). Among adults, 90% used Facebook and 47% used Instagram, while only 4% used TikTok.

These usage statistics will continue to evolve as market share shifts and new networks emerge, so it is important to consult recent usage statistics when building your social media strategy.

Social Network platforms used by teens versus adults 2020

Canadians’ use of social networks

Social networks help people to maintain connections with family and friends and find others who share common interests or experiences. They also are a platform for expression for artists, a tool activists use to raise awareness and rally support, a way for writers and thinkers to publicize their work, a way for entrepreneurs to sell their products and services, and much, much more.

A Statista Global Consumer Survey of Canadians aged 18-64 in 2021 found the most popular social media activities were:

  1. Spending time on social networks like Facebook (70% of those surveyed did so regularly)
  2. Sharing and viewing media on sites like Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, or Snapchat (65%)
  3. Communicating via instant messenger services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or WeChat (63%)
  4. Microblogging on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, or WordPress (22%)
  5. Networking for business on sites like LinkedIn (21%)
  6. Participating in discussion forums like Reddit and Quora (20%)
  7. Using consumer review networks like Yelp or Tripadvisor (16%)

Only 7% of those surveyed said they did not use social media regularly.

A Statistics Canada report on Canadians’ perceptions of social media use on their life released in March 2021 found that the vast majority (over 80%) used social media to keep up with activities of families and friends, and almost 60% shared their thoughts, photos, or videos with their friends online — though women were more likely to be sharers than men. Far fewer Canadians were creating content to share publicly online, only 26%. Older teens (aged 15 to 19) were more likely than average to be sharing content publicly. The survey also found that social media sites are a popular way to follow current events, with 58% of social media users using them in this way. People in their 20s and 30s were the most likely to follow the news on social media.

The Ryerson Social Media Lab survey found some notable gender differences in how people use social media. Women are more active on social media in general, and especially on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok and messaging apps. Men are more likely to spend time on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr.