Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—oh my!

How can one be expected to manage multiple social media profiles while posting intriguing, original content relevant to each platform that will generate shares and likes? With new platforms popping up left and right, it can be confusing for consumers and marketers alike to figure out what’s appropriate to post on each one.  In order to find the answer, one must understand two keys things:

1) Why people are inclined to share

2) The social norms of social networks

Why Do People Post?

By understanding the basic motives of social network users, marketers can zone into the minds of their target audience to find and spark content they care about.  As argued in Aaron Balick’s recent book The Real Motivation Behind Social Networking, the simplest explanation of why people social network is to receive recognition. Humans have an intrinsic need to belong, and sharing online allows them the interaction and recognition they desire.

Balick uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in support of his argument. Once people fulfill their basic physiological needs to survive, they need to feel safe, be loved and belong, have a respected status in society, and have a feeling of accomplishment. It’s clear people post to fulfill deeper emotional and interpersonal needs. They put thought and care into the content they share; they view their posts as a definition of who they are and what they care about. Being aware of a social network’s primary demographic allows even further insight.

What’s Appropriate?

Facebook Facebook’s population is primarily composed of 35-54 year-olds (31.1%), followed by 25-34 year-olds (24.4%) and 18-24 year-olds (23.3%). Unlike on other platforms, users hardly face any restrictions in terms of character limits on posts, allowing them to share longer, more detailed content. Facebook also has the highest engagement index compared to other platforms, meaning users spend the most time on it. By combining these facts, one can assume Facebook users often post content they feel their networks will take the time to entertain. Marketers can take advantage of this by using Facebook as a medium for more in-depth interactions (i.e. conversations between consumers and brand) and sharing lengthier videos, such as uncut commercials or CSR promotions. Full-length music videos, YouTube clips, and news articles are all appropriate things consumers feel they can share.

More specifically, Statista recently came out with a list of the top eight reasons men and women use Facebook. Women use Facebook because it allows them to view pictures and videos, while men like the fact they can share with many people at once. Overall, humor is valued more than news, and visuals are more desired than articles.

Twitter Limited by 140 characters per post, Twitter is utilized to distribute and gather information quickly. Although pictures are typically favored across all social platforms, Twitter users aren’t seeking visuals. Motivation to access Twitter is primarily driven by the want to share valuable content and engage in conversation. Jeff Bullas categorizes these drives into three motivations: relational motivation, promotional motivation and information motivation. Tweets are centralized around spreading the word about things users deem important, whether it’s a new business, website or strong personal opinion. Twitter parties are an example of how both consumers and marketers can benefit from interactions on the platform: consumers can have the social conversations they desire, and marketers can share their messages at scale.

Twitter’s users are 2/3rds male, and young adults (18-29 years old) are the most avid users (38%). However, 26% users are 30-49 years old.

Instagram Although still ranked behind Facebook and Twitter in the number of users, Instagram is viewed as the most prestigious social network amongst the current generation. Thirty-seven percent of Internet users between 18 and 29 are active on the network.

Instagram is strictly for photo and video sharing. It offers special effects and “filters” that allow users to document their daily lives through pictures—with an artsy twist. Commonly Instagrammed subjects include colorful dishes, romantic sunsets, and adorable pets; but, many consumers dare to be different. Hashtags are also extremely popular on Instagram, and they allow users to find photos similar to their likes and interests—eventually harvesting more likes and activity on posts.

Filters and editing tools allow marketers to post captivating photos directly from smartphones. Instagram is great for capturing and promoting new products, events, or anything else aesthetically appealing.

Note: Being a photo-sharing platform, Instagram has different post-frequency etiquette rules compared to Facebook and Twitter. Consumers and brands know posts should not be published within minutes of one another. Also, only relevant hashtags should be used. Check out The Huffington Post’s list of additional Instagram etiquette tips.


All social media users seek their online networks to fulfill intrinsic needs and gather information, but they turn to different platforms for different uses and gratifications.  Be aware of the social norms unique to each site so you can help your communities fulfill those needs.

Interested in more?

Check out our Community Marketing 101 eBook and discover how to harness the power of online brand communities to take your marketing strategy to the next level.

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