3.1 Social Media 101

What is social media?

Social media is an online service that allows you to interact with others, create and share content, research topics and broaden your network.

The power of social media is the connection of people. It is a tool to build relationships, share information and connect with a global audience of people.

Social media allows people to have two-way communication, where the recipient of the message can engage back with the sender. This is what distinguishes social media from traditional media like TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. The opportunity for a conversation to occur is what makes it “social.”

What is social media?

The impact of social media

Today, we are all aware that social media has had a tremendous impact on our society and has revolutionized how people communicate with each other.

Social media, mobile technology and smartphones allow people to choose the content they want to consume and share, anywhere and anytime. Social media has become a major source of information, and we are influenced everyday by the content shared online.

This video by Erik Qualman first came out in 2010 and has been updated every year since then. This social media revolution video demonstrates the exponential growth of social media and highlights important data about its use and impact on our society. There are many thought-provoking statements and statistics throughout the video, but perhaps the most powerful is this:

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media.

The choice is how well we do it.”

One thing is for certain: social media is not going away. We need to understand its power and reach, and we need to know how to use it effectively.

The impact of social media

Who is using social media in Canada?

Did you know that Canada is one of the most connected countries with Internet access in the world? According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), 74 per cent of Canadians spend at least three to four hours online per day.

Almost all Canadians have adopted using social media, and about 94 per cent of us are on at least once social platform*. The user base represents the entire population—from young kids to senior citizens—and their use of social media sites varies by factors such as age, gender and interests.

If you are interested in the full report, here is the link to The State of Social Media in Canada.

Who is using social media in Canada?

What are the benefits and challenges of using social media?

Given the large number of potential customers, businesses can effectively use social media to achieve their goals and objectives. With a proper strategy and a clear understanding of how social media works, businesses can efficiently use resources to not only advertise to, but converse with, target audiences, and ultimately grow their business.

Using social media effectively can be very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. It requires time and effort to do it right. You must maintain consistency in sharing your content with your audience.  Building a highly engaged audience who participate and respond to the content you share requires an understanding of what matters to your audience and you creating and sharing relevant content for them.

In the Canadian Beef industry, it is important that our advocates understand both the benefits and challenges of using social media. It is our responsibility to ensure our information is accurate, that we represent ourselves on social media as responsible members of our industry, and that we are consistent with our messaging.

Did you know that social media can be used effectively to:

  • Promote your business
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Attract new customers
  • Build stronger relationships with existing customers
  • Create a human connection with your business and allow your audience  to understand who you are and what you do.
  • Provide customer service and ongoing support
  • Generate leads and conversions to your business
  • Manage your brand reputation
  • Monitor conversations that are relevant to your business and brand
  • Stay current with information on your industry news and trends
  • Learn about your competition

In addition to these opportunities, there are many advantages of using social media including:

  • It is free or low-cost to use.
  • You can distribute your information and content very quickly.
  • If you have a computer, tablet or smartphone you can access and use social media.
  • You don’t need to be an expert to use social media effectively.
  • Social media can allow you to communicate on a personal level with individuals or an online community.
  • Social media can expose your brand to a new audience.
  • You can reach millions of people all over the world.
  • Social media can allow you to target specific audiences and groups of people based on demographics or interests.
  • With an active social media presence, you’ll allow your customers to indirectly advocate for you.
  • You can increase your credibility if people share a positive comment, a review, or interact with your content.
  • A community of your best customers can ignite your word-of-mouth marketing.

There are also challenges associated with using social media. It is important to be aware of the risks and to have strategies to avoid them if you decide to be active online.  Here are some of the challenges you should be aware of before integrating social media into your marketing activities:

Resources – while most social media is free to use, it can take a lot of time to keep your profile up to date and create engaging content.

Reputation – you can’t control what others say about your business or the industry. However, you can respond and protect your brand in a respectful way.

Inconsistency – inconsistent or outdated social media pages can reflect poorly on your business and the industry.

Keeping up with ongoing changes to social media sites – to keep users engaged with their site, social media is constantly changing and requires you to stay current with updates.

Lack of strategy – not knowing what you want to achieve using social media will make it difficult to determine your success

What are the benefits and challenges of using social media?

How is social media used?

Historically, traditional marketing is a one-sided approach. Businesses push out ideas, and consumers passively receive them. Think of how we got our news 15 years ago—we watched TV, listened to the radio or read print publications. But that landscape has shifted with the interactivity and connection the Internet provides.

Social media has created a new style of communication, and there are now billions of conversations happening online. People are discussing trending news and articles, they are sharing photos of their life, and even engaging with brands.

All of these conversations present exciting opportunities for us. We can join in on the conversation to drive brand awareness or education about our industry or create our own conversations and empower our customers to do the talking for us.

Social media marketing is all about creating interactive moments with our customers to achieve a goal that we’ve defined. Oftentimes, that goal is driving traffic to our website  or grow our brand’s awareness.

The content that you share will hopefully then be liked, retweeted, shared again, blogged about, and so on. These actions are called social media engagements and this engagement is what makes social media marketing so effective. A simple “like” on a post could potentially expose that content to hundreds of customers that you normally wouldn’t have access to. Because social media is so personal, when friends share content, it comes with another layer of credibility and trust. This is often what we refer to as “advocacy”.

How is social media used?

Common social media sites

Social media platforms are always evolving, and new ones seem to emerge all of the time.

For the module of this course, we will focus on the most common social media platforms that have proven to be effective for the industry.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing which social media platforms to be on is the time and resources it involves to maintain your social media profile successfully. You should also consider where your target audience is spending their time online.

You do not need to be on all social media platforms. It is better to focus your time and energy on the platforms where your key audiences are and on the ones that you are most likely to use. In social media, quality versus quantity is very true. It is better to be great on one social media platform versus an average commitment across several of them.

In Canada, a 2018 CIRA report found Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are the most popular popular platforms in Canada.

Here is a brief guide of these major social media platforms.


Facebook is a social networking website where users can post comments, share photographs and post links to news or other interesting content on the web, chat live, and watch short-form video. Shared content can be made publicly accessible, or it can be shared only among a select group of friends or family, or even with a single person.

  • Massive global reach and a daily user base (over 2 billion)
  • 87 per cent of online Canadians read or search for information, content, posts or comments from others at least once per week.
  • Older demographic: largest use is with ages 35+
  • Recent algorithm changes are making it harder for businesses to have their content be seen without spending money on advertising.

Sample Facebook page

LinkedIn is one of the most popular social platforms today, but many people still have no idea how to use it or how they might benefit from being on this platform. Quite simply, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It’s for anyone who is interested in sharing ideas and articles, searching for new job opportunities, recruiting professionals, networking, and connecting with others.

  • Key social platform for business professionals
  • Close to 500 million active users
  • LinkedIn continues to evolve and allow new content like video to be shared, not just text updates and images

Sample LinkedIn Profile


Instagram is a social networking platform made for sharing photos and videos. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, anyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile and a browsing feed. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it is displayed on your profile. Other users who follow you will see your posts in their own feed. Likewise, you’ll see posts from other users whom you choose to follow. You can also create “Instagram Stories,” a feature that allows users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours. Content shared to stories won’t appear on your profile grid or in the main Instagram feed. The popularity of Instagram stories is on the rise.

Just like other social networks, you can interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and private messaging.

  • A very visual social platform
  • Effective for businesses with high quality content (photos and videos)
  • Over 800 million active users
  • Younger demographic of active users (18 – 29) and growing in popularity with teens

Sample Instagram profile


Twitter is an online news and social networking platform where people communicate in short messages called “tweets”. Twitter is popular for following news events, interesting people, companies and personalities.

Twitter moves fast. Each tweet is restricted to 280 characters or less, making tweets very easy to scan. Images and videos can also be embedded into posts. Using hashtags on Twitter in a manner that makes sense increases a tweet’s visibility. Adding hashtags allows you to join in on a timely conversation.

  • Popular for sharing news that is timely and for customer engagement like customer service.
  • Global reach with the majority of users living outside of the U.S.
  • Spans all age demographics
  • Timeliness is very critical to the success of brands on Twitter

Sample Twitter profile page.

Sample Twitter page (on mobile)

Sample hashtag search on Twitter.


YouTube is a video sharing service where users can watch, like, share, comment and upload their own videos. The video service can be accessed on PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

  • Over 800 million unique visitors each month
  • Owned by Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • 18-24 is the most active demographic on this social media platform
  • Engaging videos are essential for success

Sample YouTube Page

Common social media sites

Social Media Terminology

Here are some of the most common social media terms defined. There are new terms, phrases and acronyms emerging all of the time, but for now, these are the basics you should be familiar with:


In the marketing world, an advocate is a customer that is so satisfied with your product or service that they share their satisfaction with others. Beef industry advocates are people who share positive messages about how beef is raised and beef as a product. [SN1]


A rules-based procedure for making calculations or solving problems. In social media, the most important algorithms are those that determine which content we see. For example, your Facebook News Feed doesn’t show every status update and every photo from every one of your friends. Instead, it displays an algorithmically curated set of content that Facebook thinks is most worth seeing. Similarly, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube use algorithms to define which topics and hashtags are currently trending.


Report on what happened. It involves using technology to gather data on usage on social media and websites. [SN2]

Community Management
Monitoring and interacting with those who comment, like or share your content. The goal is to build and nurture relationships so that you create engagement.

Direct or Private Message
A Direct or Private Message (otherwise known as a DM or PM) is a private message sent by/to a follower. Different platforms have different means of sending these and they are only seen by the sender and the recipient.

Social media engagement is the act of liking, messaging, sharing or otherwise interacting on social networks. It is any interaction you have with other people online and is the core to social media. High, positive engagement is the goal.

The social media data format of content that is a steady stream of updates and information.

Someone who has subscribed to your social media account to receive your content updates.

A person that you connect with on Facebook. Unlike a follower, a friend requires two way connection—you must approve the relationship before it is established.

This is your account name. It is important to be consistent with your account names across all of your social media accounts.

The hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the “#” sign. #Hashtags are a simple way to mark the topic (or topics) of social media messages and make them discoverable to people with shared interests. On most social networks, clicking a hashtag will reveal all the public and recently published messages that also contain that hashtag. Hashtags first emerged on Twitter as a user-created phenomenon and are now used on almost every other social media platform


To Like something on social media is an understood expression for supporting the content. It can be tracked as a social media engagement.


An update that shows you have new social media activity on your account. For example, if someone likes or comments on one of your Facebook posts you will receive a notification.

Organic Reach

Describes the number of unique people who view your content without paid promotion. The distinction between organic and paid reach is, of course, that the former is free. People come across this content through the feeds, streams, posts, pages of their contacts—usually friends, family, colleagues and trusted brands.

Paid Social Media

Paid social media refers to the use of social media for ad placement. The most common types of paid social media are native advertisements such as Facebook Ads, Twitter Promoted Tweets, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates and YouTube sponsored videos. Other forms of paid social media include traditional display ads on social networks and Twitter Promoted Accounts.

Social Media Listening

The process of finding and assessing what is being said about a company, topic, brand, or person on social media channels.


Refers to the act of tagging someone in a post, which creates a link to their social media profile and associates them with the content.


A Twitter message. Tweets can contain up to 280 characters of text, as well as photos, videos and other forms of media. They are public by default and will show up in Twitter timelines and can be indexed as a result in search engines like Google.

Social Media Terminology


* Source: Social Media Lab at Ryerson University