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The Business Purpose Of Each Social Media Platform – A 2021 Comparison

I was watching the triathlon a couple of weeks ago, giving my best commentary from the sofa with a bowl of crackers (suddenly an armchair expert) and I was thinking about the difference in each of the disciplines, the athletes’ ability to adapt to the conditions and ultimately, the shared goal of each.

It got me thinking about how each of the social media platforms requires a slightly different knowledge base and execution, but also should work together for the overall goal of marketing your business. Thankfully, understanding mastering each of these disciplines can be done without squeezing yourself into any form of lycra, unless that’s your thing. So let’s have a run-down of the business purpose of each* social media platform.

*This isn’t an exhaustive list – I know there’s Clubhouse, Tik Tok, Snapchat and more to consider, but I try to focus on the platforms that bring the most meaningful growth to my fabulous clients.


Head of the eponymous conglomerate, the Facebook platform itself still holds the title for most active users with a quite healthy 2.853 billion worldwide. Old Zuckerberg and his friends have done alright since creating the platform in their dorm rooms and recruiting their mates.

Facebook has placed more emphasis on community in the last couple of years, so while the potency of brand pages took a sharp nosedive, there are still meaningful ways to interact with your customers through Facebook Groups or perhaps directly selling your products through their e-commerce platform. Facebook remains a great way of announcing and promoting events too, giving attendees the chance to share their RSVPs and encourage others to join.


Like Facebook, Instagram’s gone through a major evolution, but probably more so. At its heart, the little indie photo-sharing app launched and gained popularity through its filters, helping us turn sorry selfies into glossy mag worthy close-ups (I’ve never looked better than with Nashville). Now it’s so far from just a photo-sharing app that they mentioned it in their recent company announcements on changes to the algorithm.

Like with all the platforms, the changes present opportunities, and businesses have really thrived on Instagram when building community, speaking directly to customers or harnessing influencer marketing.  They too allow seamless e-commerce through their Instagram shopping tab, which is set to dominant even more beyond 2021.


No platform has arguably got a better finger on the pulse than Twitter, who really were the original champions of the words ‘trending’ and ‘hashtag’. Breaking down cultural and geographical barriers, Twitter gives you the news from the heart of the action in any sector, from politics to entertainment.

For businesses, there are two directions that work well: business-to-business and consumer-to-business. Twitter is a great social listening tool to gauge general sentiment towards your business, but it becomes harder for businesses to speak directly to customers. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, or happen well; take the recent joint campaign from Weetabix and Heinz, who set Twitter alight with response to their beans on Weetabix meal suggestion. Barf-worthy idea, but from a marketing perspective, it couldn’t have been tastier.


Launched back in 2005, if you were a company concerned with cats chasing laser pens, or perhaps riding a robot hoover, you were quids in. However, YouTube grew quickly beyond its usage as a sort of You’ve Been Framed portal into something that Google recognised had universal appeal, prompting their $1.65 billion acquisition of the platform in 2006, just a year later. Now that’s a payday.

Nowadays YouTube is recognised for its authority as the second most popular search engine (even if we don’t think of it in this way), with content creators providing thought leadership in every industry, from ‘How to Fix a Leaky Tap’ to the Pope’s ‘Our Moral Imperative to Act on Climate Change.’ Unboxing and ‘unbiased’ reviews are also a great boost for e-commerce marketing, with the option for influencers to add affiliate links.


LinkedIn is the spiritual home of business online. Even though other social media platforms have tried their hand (can we say a quick RIP to Google+), keeping your work profile and your social profile separate has been LinkedIn’s currency since its inception.

Not a lot has changed since Microsoft’s acquisition of the platform, and its cornerstones of purpose remain the same: to provide thought leadership, build strategic business connections, hire talent and provide possible lead opportunities for businesses.


Home of craft moms and DIYers, wedding inspiration and diet meal plans, Pinterest is your digital fridge door, with their ‘pins’ acting like fridge magnets, saving ideas, recipes, quotes and more for either referral later or just to delight you. Like YouTube, Pinterest has become as much a search engine as a social network, with users engaging with the content rather than other users.

E-commerce businesses can add ‘rich pins’, which carry price details and a direct link to your online shop, increasing the chance of conversion.

So let’s recap on the main business purposes of each social media platform:

Facebook – Community building, events and customer service.

Instagram – E-commerce, community building and influencer marketing.

Twitter – Social listening and customer service.

LinkedIn – Talent acquisition, thought-leadership and strategic partnerships.

YouTube – SEO and influencer marketing.

Pinterest – SEO and e-commerce.

I hope this overview of the business purpose of each social media platform has served as a reminder of the unique opportunities available to businesses – to you – and given you some inspiration on the best content or connections to create for each one.

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