A cover photo from an Arete blog by Eden Sparke on Exposure.co

The goal of social media is to connect people, to act as the conduit through which billions of messages, images, and videos flow. But although social media platforms have a shared goal, in many cases they don’t have a shared audience.

For any business or organisation, social media marketing cannot be ignored. 97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month and 50% of the global population uses social media; that’s 3.8 billion people — with this number increasing year on year (Digital 2020).

When social media was still a fledgeling concept it was typical for people to be active with all, or most of the platforms on offer. Now with so many different platforms available, people pick and choose which social media channels they want to engage with.

This choice is based on a variety of factors, in some cases, there is an element of brand loyalty, or a feeling of personal investment, for others it will come down to how that particular social media platform is designed: is the interface easy to use? Is the type of content that is on display what they want to see? Do they like the way it is presented? Or is this where they will find subjects they are interested in and want to explore?

Knowing your audience

Understanding which platforms attract what type of people is key to carrying out any form of social media marketing. This understanding will inform decisions on which social media platforms to focus attention and how to present content.

As a brand, an exercise to identify the demographic of the target audience will already have been undertaken — but on which social media platforms can this audience be found?

Popularity is a good place to start

Although the amount of active global users a platform has isn’t the only metric that should be taken into account when building a social media marketing strategy, it is a great place to begin.

The world’s most-used social media platforms January 2020 (Digital, 2020)

Globally, Facebook and Facebook Messenger remain the most used social media platform, followed by YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram. For example, as of January 2020, Facebook had over 2.1 billion more active users than Twitter.

Picking platforms based on the target audience

At Arete, we work primarily with global brands, who are looking to target global audiences. Whereas it can be inferred from the popularity metric that platforms like Facebook cannot be ignored, this doesn’t necessarily mean Twitter should be ignored either even though it is less widely used. Ultimately, this is why it is important to tailor a social media strategy and content that targets a specific audience.

FAO in Somalia Twitter page

Although it is useful to know the typical demographic of the users for each social media platform, it is also important to find out how effective each platform is on a country-by-country basis. For NGO’s and the charity sector, this can be a very useful tool for social media advocacy campaigns in particular regions; as well as allowing organisations to know how to develop different content for different countries


Instagram certainly ticks the popularity box. It is the 5th most popular social media application in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users, with the average person spending 6 minutes and 35 seconds on Instagram every day.

It is also a tried and tested platform for business, with 92% of all Instagram users saying they have followed a brand, clicked on their website, or purchased something after seeing a product, or service, on the platform. This seamless integration of purchasing options can be very beneficial for NGOs looking to fundraise, either by selling merchandise through an Instagram shop or by adding a donation button to their profile.

Age International Instagram Profile with ‘donate’ button enabled

In terms of demographics, Instagram has a balanced range of people, based on gender and age, and a useful global reach; touching, on average, 15% of the world’s population.

From a content perspective, it remains the best place to share visual content such as photographs, graphics, and video. If the content is eye-catching, then Instagram is the place to be.


Facebook, as we know, is the most used of all the social media platforms worldwide. Similarly to Instagram, it is used by a diverse range of people and boasts the presence of over 140 million businesses on its platform.

Furthermore, as Instagram is owned by Facebook, both platforms have been designed to work well together — allowing social media managers to crosspost content across both platforms in the click of a button, and displaying any paid-ads on both of the platforms at no extra cost.

Having a presence on Facebook has become non-negotiable for all consumer-facing businesses now, with 64% of people saying they would rather use Facebook to message a business rather than call or email. Particularly for charities and NGOs that are looking to target the younger generations, it is imperative to have a strong presence on Facebook for both outbound and inbound marketing.

Content on Facebook is geared more towards visuals such as photograph and video, but it also has a more extensive character limit per post, allowing for longer, story-type posts that can be more engaging and appeal to people on a deeper level than a typical tweet.

Globally, Facebook reaches an amazing 95% of people in the United Arab Emirates on one end of the scale and 7% of people in Russia — which is still 10.1 million people! On average, Facebook will reach 32% of the world’s population.


LinkedIn is one of the more specialised social media platforms, with the aim of being a digital network for professionals. This has an effect on the type of content people post and engage with on LinkedIn and, as a result, how necessary organisations feel it is to have a presence.

DEC Linkedin Company Page

With 675 million monthly users worldwide, it pales in comparison to the likes of Instagram and Facebook; however, this 675 million people represents a specialised audience of ‘business people’. Consequently, 97% of B2B (business to business) marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing.

Interestingly, the largest percentile of people on LinkedIn are 25–34 years old and male.

Although, these demographics are less useful to businesses looking to market on LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows organisations to target audiences on indicators such as job titles, job experience, and organisations worked for, rather than simply age, gender, and interests.


Snapchat has become a go-to platform for many brands looking to reach the youngest members of society, particularly in the 13–20-year-old bracket. This makes Snapchat an interesting element for charities and NGOs as it is a proven way to reach millennials, generation z, and generation x users.

According to research, Millennials as a group are socially aware and willing to donate to causes they care about. Furthermore, 72% of Gen Z users on Snapchat are not reachable by TV Adverts.

The quality of engagement organisations and brands can drive on Snapchat is also thought to be much higher than apps such as Instagram, with an average Snapchat user spending 30 minutes on Snapchat every day (compared to just over 6 minutes on Instagram).

Due to Snapchat having a much smaller global audience than apps such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, a high potential reach rate doesn’t extend to many countries around the world. This means it can work well as a part of a geographically targeted strategy but perhaps not as well in a Global targeting strategy with an average 6% reach rate worldwide.

Greenpeace USA uses Snapchat to promote climate change awareness to the young audiences in America sharing quick and easy to digest content around helpful tips on how to build greener habits.

Don’t ignore smaller but more specialised platforms

Medium.com homepage

Online platforms such as Medium.com and Exposure.co aren’t large enough to make it on to a list of the Top 15 most used social media platforms worldwide; however, this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time and investment.

In fact, if you have fantastic imagery to share, and you have stories to tell, then both Medium and Exposure are places that should be highly regarded in your content marketing strategy. Not only do these platforms have their own, sometimes exclusive, audiences, both also have great synergy with the more popular social media platforms — creating eye-catching previews simply by entering the URL link.

UN Human Rights Medium Page

The United Nations Agency, UN Human Rights, actively uses Medium to post interviews and opinion driving conversation and awareness around topics that will garner support. These 4–5 minute reads are designed to be easily digested by their target audience, whilst still being able to cover enough ground to present a detailed and nuanced discussion.

Medium is the largest blog sharing platform on the world wide web, sharing your stories here will open up the opportunity of your story being discovered by someone entirely new who might not frequent any of the Top 15 social media platforms. Furthermore, as it is a blog sharing platform, you can tell your stories in far more detail than a simple social media post.

Exposure.co publications page

Exposure.co champions photo-led stories and curates all the content on the platform into different categories, which helps channel interested audiences. The ‘Causes’ section is filled with stories from various NGOs including the WWF, UNDP, and Oxfam.

An email Exposure.co will send if your article is featured

Both Exposure and Medium also have content curators who will decide which blog posts feature on the front page of a category. One of our From the Photographer blogs was recently featured in the Photography publication.

Exposure is younger than Medium and has been created in much the same way, with stories at the heart of the user experience. The key difference between Exposure and Medium is the way the stories are presented. On Exposure, far more emphasis is placed on the imagery, allowing for full-page photographs, eye-catching arrangements, and more. Exposure also has a large number of charities and NGOs on its platform; this attracts a certain audience, which you most likely want to get your stories in front of too.

Tailor the content to the platform and the audience

It is a waste of time trying to share in-depth stories on Twitter, or essays of text on Exposure. These platforms aren’t designed for this type of content and the audiences that frequent them won’t enjoy it.

NGOs and charities that have successful digital marketing strategies, will carefully consider where to post the video update of the latest project, whether to use photos, text, emojis or links to promote the latest appeal, and the type of language that should be used to raise awareness for strategic partnerships.

The subject of the content will be consistent across all platforms, and this is key raising maximum awareness of the issue; however, the medium in which that content is delivered should always be tailored to the platform and the audience that typically resides there.

So which platform should we be using?

Ultimately, it will come down to who the target audience is. For example, global organisations with an international audience will likely be running different marketing campaigns targeted at a variety of audiences from around the world. These campaigns will be in different languages and take into account subtle differences in culture and syntax. The quality of the content and size of the budget allocated for advertising on social media will also influence the success of the campaign.

The best starting point with any foray into digital marketing is to ensure the carefully curated content is getting in front of the right people.

Taking the time to research and understand each target audience and then comparing these demographics with the data on the different social media platforms will ensure more targeted and efficient campaigns that ultimately pay dividends in achieving campaign goals.

At Arete, working with many NGOs and UN agencies, our team have acquired years of experience in the use of data to inform social media marketing, creatively present the outcomes of fundraising campaigns, design data collation frameworks, and more. How could our data-led approach help you?

Are you picking the right social media platforms to share your content? was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.