We live in exciting times where technology has given us all the opportunity to connect online and voice our opinion, even if we’re not in each other’s company.

Social media is the amazing intersection between human connection and technology.

You can have conversations with your family in different countries, post pictures of your adventures, or even have an influence on addressing core social issues by voicing your opinion. Mobile phones make social media easily accessible with smartphone apps and your level of engagement on these platforms completely depend on your appetite for social media.

Business owners, or if you plan to start a business, can build relationships with their target audience, strengthen their brand positioning and even advertise on social media platforms to increase their sales.

But where do you start, and which social media platform will suit you best?

If you’re wondering how to use social media or what to post, fret no more… Superprof is here with your beginners guide to social media. This article will give you an introduction to the most popular social media platforms, explain how to use social media and guide you in creating content that might make you a social media influencer or the next social media celebrity.

Business Social Media
Social Media is a great way to meet new people, whether they are customers or new friends - Image by Christina Wocintechchat on Unsplash
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Why Social Media?

The most obvious reason for going on social media is to create connection. Connecting with friends, family, celebrities and brands is possible regardless of your location. Connection is an important part in keeping our relationships healthy and sometimes it can help us keep in touch with our loved ones when we are far away from home.

Social media is also trendy, and it’s where the popular people hang out. You can explore their lives, comment on their posts and all this without feeling shy or embarrassed.

Other reasons why businesses or individuals will turn to social media include:

  • Broadening their horizons and reaching more people
  • Sharing their talents and products with the world
  • Finding a way to creatively express themselves
Share your Talent
Social Media enables us to share our talents with the world - Image by Erin Song on Unsplash

The Top Social Media Platforms

What exactly is social media?

Social media is an online, interactive way for people to connect by sharing ideas, content and opinions to a virtual network using a variety of digital platforms.

Historically, social media platforms were created to suit specific content like Instagram was for photos and Twitter just for text. More and more these platforms have been diversifying in the type of content you can post and most of them allows you to post almost all types of content.

If you think about the type of social media platform that will suit you best, you also have to consider what they were built for. Here are the top social media networks and what they are known for.

Facebook

The first one to make it big on the internet, even before smartphones were a thing. Facebook is still very popular across the globe and especially in Africa and South Africa. It’s a networking platform that allows you to make friends, post pictures, videos and stories. They were the first to invent things like a newsfeed where you can see posts from people you follow.

Instagram

This is your visual storytelling platform. What was originally the best platform for selfies, evolved into a visual social network where people post pictures of their adventures, videos on their Instagram story or find content that makes them happy. Instagram has some amazing filters to bring your pictures to life and with over 1 Billion users it’s no wonder why celebrities also use it to stay in contact with their fans.

Cats of Instagram
Cats of Instagram is a great account to follow if you love these little furry animals and their funny tendencies.

Pinterest

What makes Pinterest so great is how easily people can connect on this platform around their interests. Making use of pictures they will share their crafts and images related to a specific topic and interest. If you like a specific image, you can pin it while you categorise them in through the creation of your own virtual boards.

Twitter

The king of the hashtag … For running commentary around a specific issue, or knowing about events as they happen, Twitter is the best platform. It’s usually more ‘opinionated’ where everyone has their say and has also led to a couple of people getting into trouble for their comments. Originally text-based, you can post your thoughts using the 280 character-limit and include other media like video or images.

Tumblr

Less popular in South Africa than the previous mentioned social media platforms, Tumblr is known as a short form blogging social network. This platform allows a lot more ‘free-form’ customisation to allow users to express themselves.

Snapchat

Imagine Whattsapp or a mobile chat app, but you chat by posting videos and pictures of a specific moment. You can snap any moment within seconds and share it on snapchat. To add to the thrill, content will only be available for a short time before it becomes inaccessible to the recipients you share it with.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the business networking social platform. Consider it as Facebook for businesspeople. In the last couple of years, they’ve also started to delve more into creating content for training and development with the site hosting a range of training videos and courses. You can also get some of your skills verified, so if you are looking for a job in digital marketing, getting your SEO skills, Google analytics or any other digital skills verified will help you come out top with recruiters.

Facebook
2.79 Billion people use Facebook across the globe - Image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Your Guide to Posting on Social Media

You might still be wondering how to actually use social media...?

The first thing when you start on a new social media platform would be to register your own account. Generally, this is an easy and intuitive process where you download the app or go to their website and follow the step-by-step prompts under ‘create new account’. To create your account, you would have to provide some personal details like a selected username, password and email address.

Some social media platforms allow you more personalisation where you add a profile picture, a bio or description of the account and some even allow you to change colours and backgrounds.

Once registered you can log back in and start your posting and networking. This simply means doing your first post, tweet or live video. Maybe try and post content before you even get followers as you’ll be able to delete the post without landing up with egg on your face. You can also contact one of our Superprof technical tutors if you need additional help on how to create an account and post on a specific social network.

We all want a great social media presence, and this might require a bit of creativity and effort when you are starting out. It is also important to understand that people might not personally know you, and whatever you put out onto a social platform will create the perception they have of you.

To help you hit the ground running and bring you closer to creating content that goes viral, we’ve included a couple of tips you can consider when you plan your content creation:

  • What do you want your public persona or ‘brand positioning’ to be? Quirky, serious, insightful, adventurous, humorous? Interacting with followers in a consistent way will create a clear perception of who you are and what you stand for. On a personal or business level this can also guide you in creating relevant content for your niche.
  • Stories can be told in different ways. Try and go beyond the ordinary and obvious choices for content. Can you say it in pictures, video and words and how can all these contribute to create a tiny little story for people to enjoy?
  • To develop your social media, you have to post frequently. As an ordinary person, there are much less pressure around this than using social media for business. As a business you have to commit to some platforms and set goals as an extension of your marketing strategy.
  • Give your opinion, but don’t get involved in discussions that are abusive, racist or damaging to you or other people. If they are personally attacking you, you can take the discussion to direct messaging or simply block them.
  • Understand what content is trending and include that in your content strategy. You can follow trendy accounts, keep up to date with news on Twitter and then create current content that is produced in a way that’s unique while providing your point of view.
  • Using hashtags in your posts will help improve your discoverability. People will search a specific hashtag around a topic and the thousands of posts who used that hashtag would appear. This is great if you want to link content across platforms or you want to discover people and competitors with the same interests.
  • Try a social media expert for guidance if you are a business who want to do social campaigns, paid social media or specific targeting. The measurability is important to see whether people are interacting with your content but be careful not to expect all channels to lead to direct sales. You can contact one of our Superprof marketing tutors with that skillset to help you with this. They will provide guidance around branding, social media strategies, marketing strategies and how to align social content to your business goals.

Growing Your Social Media Accounts and Following

Start posting today
Start exploring the exciting and creative world of social media today - Image by Leon on Unsplash

To grow your own social media account, you’ll have to engage with the content and comments of those people you follow as well. Like normal relationships, communication goes both ways, and some people feel it’s human and respectful to respond to people who comment on their posts.

The most important part when you start out on social media is to find the fun in your content creation. You are creating a brand-new online identity. Be authentic, behave in a respectful and ethical way and allow yourself to be creative.

The time to start the conversation online is now.

Find a Superprof tutor online if you need more advice with account set-up, to help you decide which of these social networks will be best for you to guide you in the best ways for you to tell your story to the world online.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.