News, photos, stories, videos, tweets are just a shortlist of all the contents that are shared by people and organizations on different platforms online, every day, and at any time. Social media became, in fact, an important tool to deliver information and to communicate and interact with other people, but most of all represent a great opportunity for international organizations to present their work, achievements, and to connect with potential partners, donors, and beneficiaries. But which is the best platform to use?
Before answering this question, let us look at some data: according to DataReportal, in January 2021 the number of people interacting and posting on social media amounts to 4,20 billion people, more than half of the total worldwide population.
Figure 1. Social media use around the world, DataReportal, 2021
Not only the number of active users is high and constantly increasing, but also the importance that online platforms are gaining in our lives: 98.8% of active users access social media through their mobile phones, which means that people can easily connect in few seconds, maybe while waiting at the bus station, during lunchtime, or during any free time, just reaching out to pick up the mobile phone. How many times did we find ourselves checking social media without even thinking about it?
To explore the extension of the phenomenon more in detail, the following image shows the top Social Platforms by the number of active users, updated to January 2021. On the top of the list, we find Facebook, with 2,74 million active users, followed by YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram, the three of them oscillating between 1 and 2,3 million users.
Figure 2. The World’s most used social platforms, DataReportal, 2021
Considering the list shown above, it could be logical to deduce that the best social media to deliver our message or to share our contents is the one with more active users, assuming that it would imply more visibility and therefore more engagement. Adopting a platform with a high number of active users, though, does not assure that our content is well delivered if it is not coherent with who we are and with the message we are sending. What we should consider, first, is what we want to communicate, and which is our target.
Now that we understood the frequency and the extent to which people and organizations share their contents, it is important to learn how to communicate on social media. Especially for organizations, it is important to reflect an image coherent with their Mission and Vision and to deliver a clear and effective message when sharing content on social media. To do so, we should choose which social media we want to use based on our objectives. Said differently, which platform to use is literally the last thing we should think about!
But how is this possible if we are developing a digital strategy that the choice of social media is not the first aspect to be taken into consideration?
To understand this choice, the first aspect that we have to consider when thinking about social media is its nature, which brings us to the difference between network-based and content-based social media. Network-based social media are platforms born and meant to connect with others, and, as the name suggests, create a network of people all over the world. Examples of network-based social media are Facebook, LinkedIn, or WeChat. Differently, content-based social media are supposed to be adopted from people whose objective is to share particular multimedia content, like photos, videos, infographics, etc. Examples of this category of social media are Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. If we want to promote a debate about a certain topic, for example, Twitter is a better platform than Facebook.
Secondly, we also have to consider the purpose of each platform. Let’s consider as examples some of the social platforms with more active users: Facebook is meant to share our personal life, Instagram to deliver visual representations of a particular situation, YouTube is efficient to share videos, and so on. Each type of content is effective in its role of delivering a message when posted on the proper social media. If we want to publish photos or a video about a project we implemented to present our activities and our organization to potential beneficiaries, partners, or donors, Instagram or YouTube are probably a better choice than Facebook.
Besides the objective of our digital action, it is also important to define to whom our communication is directed because depending on the target we are trying to reach, we will choose a different social media. For instance, if we want to reach a younger audience, probably the choice of social media will be different from the choice we would make if we wanted to reach a middle-aged audience. In this case, Instagram could be a better choice than LinkedIn.
Figure 3. Digital Strategy, Carolina Bianchini
Therefore, social media are different and each one of them has its specific nature, purpose, and target. This concept is extremely important while developing our digital strategy, that starts defining I) the objective, as sharing information connected with our working environment, sharing news about our organization or our projects, or promote a dialogue about a certain topic, II) the target and III) the results that we want to accomplish. Defined all these aspects, we can select the social media that better fits with our goal. It is important to notice, moreover, that the choice of social media is not exclusive: you can combine different contents and social media, planning a Social Media Content Calendar to better manage your plan.
Independently from the social media you will choose, to develop an effective digital strategy is recommended to balance the communication according to the Rule of Thirds, which suggests balancing the social content among sharing news and tips, promoting your activities, products, and projects, and interacting with your audience. Thanks to these you will be able to keep your audience engaged and interested in what you share.
Other sources used to write this article:
- “Social Media for NGOs – Why, How, and Which ones?” by Eva Wieners, https://proposalsforngos.com/social-media-for-ngos/
- Data on social media,
- Social Media Content Calendar, https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-create-a-social-media-content-calendar/
 The All-in-one Social Media Strategy Workbook, p.23, https://socialbusiness.hootsuite.com/rs/hootsuitemediainc/images/Social%20Media%20Strategy%20Workbook.pdf