It’s time to face the music – social media is not a fad and it’s not going away anytime soon. Sure, some platforms have come and gone (RIP Myspace), but social media has proven it has staying power.

It’s proven by the fact that this year there are 1.28 billion (yes, that’s billion with a b) active Facebook users, more than 1 billion Youtube users, 540 million monthly active Google+ users, 255 million monthly active Twitter users, 200 million monthly active Instagram users, 187 million monthly active Linkedin users, and 40 million monthly active Pinterest users. There are a ton of other social media platforms out there, like Vine and Snapchat, but those mentioned are the big players in the social media industry right now.

Do you know what those statistics mean to you as a content marketer? They mean that your current and potential audience members are out there just waiting to hear from you and engage with you.

But one important thing you should know is that content marketing and social media marketing are two different things. Yes, they work with each other, but don’t confuse them as being interchangeable terms.

Content marketing is the act of you producing content on your brand’s website and blog, through whitepapers and in newsletters.

Social media marketing is the act of you going onto your brand’s social media accounts and engaging with your audience, listening to them, and, as you produce content, sharing it with your audience in these networks.

See? Two different entities with some essential overlap.

Social media marketing can really boost your content strategy since it gives you a platform to distribute your content, but it also provides you an outlet to learn about your audience and its wants and needs. That can then help you truly produce the content they’re craving.

So the big question now is which social media platforms do you choose? If you have all the time and resources in the world, you could try to tackle all of them. But the reality is you could be wasting your time with certain platforms.

The same is true if your time and resources are limited – you may make the most of what you have and reap more rewards if you focus your efforts on just a few social media networks.

With so many social media networks out there for you to choose from, here’s a breakdown of the big social media players and how they can help your brand and your brand’s content marketing strategy:

It seems like everyone and their mother is on Facebook now. No, really, my mother is on “the Facebook” as she likes to call it. Facebook is people-based and all about social networking. The focus of this personal networking site is fun, nostalgia, keeping up with friends and family and sharing personal information. People treat this site very differently than a professional networking site. B2C companies flock to this site because of its ability to help you with your brand awareness.

Linkedin is the place to make business connections online. On professional networking social media sites, people’s focus is on doing their job better, achievement, success and on attaining goals. Overall, Linkedin and other professional networking sites are good for brand building and career building. Many B2B companies thrive on these sites.

This site is all about social identity. It can improve your brand’s SEO while engaging customers and increasing brand exposure. Similar to Facebook, this platform gives you the flexibility to post photos and videos along with your text-based content to enhance it.

This one’s another people-based site with a focus on microblogging. You have just 140 characters to blast news and information out to your audience. This site has the ability to increase traffic, brand exposure, and customer engagement for brands.

In general, these four people-focused social media sites a are ideal for businesses that provide services. That’s because they tend to be less visual – yes, you can post videos and photos on the sites mentioned about, but it’s not the same as the visual- focused sites like Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and more. The emphasis on images and videos on those sites is typically better suited for companies that provide a product – these sites allow brands to show off their products to its audience.

When choosing where to focus your time and effort when it comes to social media, think about these questions:

  • Do you need to socialize with customers?
  • Should you maintain a professional identity?
  • Do you need to build rapport?
  • Do you need to elicit emotion with your posts?
  • Do you need to make and engage with contacts?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be able to figure out which network will provide you with the best return on your investment and then build your social media campaign.