What is That Facebook Thing: An Introduction to Popular Social Media Platforms

There’s new social platforms cropping up all the time and it can be tough to keep up with “what the kids are doing these days”. That said, an American study reported 64% of people aged 50 to 64 use social media, and 37% of those 65 and older use social media

We’ve taken a moment to review the most popular social platforms and let you know what they are best used for.


Facebook is the biggest social platform in North America and extremely popular around the world.

  • Users create a profile, then connect with friends by sending a friend request.
  • Friends can exchange messages, updates, photos, videos and more.
  • Users can like or choose from a set of reactions to show approval for other users’ posts.
  • Users can comment on other user’s posts.
  • Users can like pages to stay current on brands and businesses.
  • Users join common-interest user groups to meet new friends and like minds.
  • When sharing posts or media, users can determine who these are visible to with the privacy settings.
  • Users can make phone calls and video calls within the platform to other Facebook users.
  • Hashtags work on Facebook, but are not as popular as on other platforms (see Twitter).

Here’s one example of what a Facebook feed looks like:

Facebook Messenger can also be downloaded as a separate app for messaging contacts.

If you’re looking to connect with businesses, friends or family, or meet new friends, Facebook is your best due to sheer volume of users.


Twitter is an online news and social networking service. Users post updates and links called Tweets that are up to 280 characters long.

  • All tweets are publicly visible.
  • Only registered Twitter users can send a tweet.
  • Tweets may also include videos or images.

Hashtags are indicated by the # sign in front of a word or phrase. They portray the focus of a tweet and can be used as a search term — when you click on a hashtag, Twitter will produce all Tweets using the same term.

Due to the short nature of the posts, many users share multiple tweets in a day or use tweets as a way to share play-by-play action during an activity or event. This makes Twitter excellent for keeping up with the news in real-time.


LinkedIn is a professional networking platform. Employees create profiles, businesses create pages. It is used for business networking, job hunting and employee recruitment. Users share their employment history and career field knowledge to demonstrate their authority.

The LinkedIn newsfeed features articles posted by other LinkedIn users and businesses. There are opportunities to search job postings as well as join groups, created by users for those with similar interests.

Here’s a peek at Digilearn’s founder, Sally Ng’s LinkedIn profile:

If you were to scroll down, you’d see Sally’s resume listed by category and chronological identifiers. Other LinkedIn users have also left references for Sally.

If you are looking for a new job or to move up in your field, LinkedIn may be an excellent platform for participation.


Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform owned by Facebook. Images and videos are uploaded via your mobile device and can be edited within the platform.

  • You must follow an instagrammer to see their photo in your home feed.
  • Users may mark their profiles private so that only accepted friends see the photos.
  • Double tap on images or videos to show you like them.
  • Users may comment on the video and images of others.
  • Stories are photos or videos in a sequential feed, only visible for 24 hours each.

Hashtags are indicated by the # sign in front of a word or phrase. They portray the focus of a image and can be used as a search term — when you click on a hashtag, Instagram will produce all posts using the same term.

Search results include profiles, hashtags, or geotags, if an image has been identified by location. The user in the image below is looking at the Canada Parks profile and has searched ‘New Brunswick parks’.

Instagram is terrific for sharing imagery and can be more private than Facebook.


Snapchat is a multimedia messaging platform. Posts to this platform are only available for a short time before they become inaccessible.

  • Send video or text messages.
  • Edit photographs and videos with filters, stickers or animated images.
  • SnapChat maps share locations.
  • SnapChat Discover offers news from media and celebrities.

SnapChat can be a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends.


WhatsApp is a messenger service owned by Facebook that allows users to send text messages, voice calls, video calls, images and other information.

To use WhatsApp, you must have a smartphone and provide a cell number.

WhatsApp is good for keeping in touch via calls and messages, and may replace a standard telephone line.


Pinterest isn’t a social media platform — it’s actually a visual search engine. Users can search terms and will receive image results.

  • When you login, you’ll see a display, or image feed, featuring pins along themes or from other pinners that Pinterest thinks you’ll like.
  • Pinning an image to a board is like saving a favourite website.
  • Pinners can follow other pinners.
  • Hashtags, like Twitter and Instagram, denote a term commonly searched for.

Pinterest is often used as a source of inspiration or to catalogue ideas.

Social media makes keeping in touch with friends and families easy.

Social media is for all ages and all skill levels. Before you sign up on any of these platforms, talk to your family and friends to find out where they have accounts, too. And consider signing up for technology coaching with Digilearn to get a more in-depth look into your social media options.

Is there a social platform we missed? Tell us in the comments!


Technology Coaching Group for Seniors and Adults


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Helping adults and seniors expand their technology skills. We share stories and information on how seniors are coming into their own in the world of technology.


Technology Coaching Group for Seniors and Adults

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