As a social media pro, you probably already use all the biggest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and media sharing sites (Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat), along with maybe a handful of others like Pinterest and Google Plus.

In our quest to bring you the latest and best social media news from all corners of the internet, we’ve stumbled upon plenty of hyper-focused niche social networks for everything from jet setting and green living to knitting and all things manly. However, grouping social networks according to subject matter quickly gets overwhelming—and sometimes utterly distracting. (Plus, Wikipedia’s already done it for us.)

And while there was once a time when you could simply categorize networks according to their functional capabilities (Twitter for short text content, YouTube for video, and so on), that time has passed. As more networks add rich features like livestreaming and augmented reality, the lines between their feature sets continue to blur and change faster than most people have time to read up on the changes.

So instead of categorizing networks according to hyper-specific user interests or shifting technology features, we prefer to think like marketers and group networks into 10 general categories that focus on what people hope to accomplish by using them.

1. Social networks

Why people use these networks: To connect with people (and brands) online.

How they can benefit your business: Let us count the ways. Market research, brand awareness, lead generation, relationship building, customer service… the list is pretty much endless.

Social networks, sometimes called “relationship networks,” help people and organizations connect online to share information and ideas.

While these networks aren’t the oldest type of social media, they certainly define it now. These channels started as relatively simple services—for example, Twitter was the place to answer the question “what are you doing?” and Facebook was where you might check the relationship status of that cute Economics 101 classmate.

2. Media sharing networks

Why people use these networks: To find and share photos, video, live video, and other media online.

How they can benefit your business: Like the major relationship networks, these sites are invaluable for brand awareness, lead generation, audience engagement, and most of your other social marketing goals.

Media sharing networks give people and brands a place to find and share media online, including photos, video, and live video.

3. Discussion forums

Why people use these networks: To find, discuss, and share news, information, and opinions. How they can benefit your business: These networks can be excellent resources for market research. Done right, you can also advertise on them, though you’ll need to be careful to keep your ads and posts separate.

Before we connected to our first university friends on The Facebook, we discussed pop culture, current affairs, and asked for help on forums. Take a look at the wide reach and massive user numbers on forums such as reddit, Quora, and Digg and you’ll see that the public’s thirst for collective knowledge and wisdom remains unquenchable.

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