There are a stunning amount of social networks out there, offering some inventive, engaging ways for people to connect and share with one another.

Which ones should you be on?

Beyond the big six networks—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest—there are dozens more that are quickly rising in usage or are super valuable for particular audiences and niches. It’s a ton to keep track of. It can be a mystery to know where to spend your time.

I pulled up some numbers on these fringe networks to maybe help you decide where it’s best to spend your time. Here are the explanations, demographics, numbers, and details on 11 fringe social networks.

choosing social networks

Overall tips for choosing a social network

Some of the best advice I’ve heard on social media marketing is this: You should choose the social networks that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media.

In other words, you don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.

So how exactly do you choose the best social networks? Here are a few factors that we think might fit into this discussion.

  • Time – How much time can you devote to a social network? Plan on at least an hour per day per social network, at least at the start. (Once you get going, tools like Buffer can help you save a bit of time.)
  • Resources – What personnel and skills do you have to work with? Visual social networks like Pinterest and Instagram require images and photos. Social networks like Google+ emphasize quality content. Do you have the resources to create what’s needed?
  • Knowledge – What will be the learning curve for you for a given social network? Are there ones you’re quite familiar with already? Getting up to speed might be a factor to consider here.
  • Your audience – Where do your potential customers hang out? Which social network has the right demographics?

This last one is likely to be quite important as you consider the social networks beyond the big six of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. If your audience is spending its time on a fringe social network, that might make it all the more appealing for you to be there, too.

How to tell if your audience is on a certain social network

To determine where your audience hangs out on social media, you can look for a number of different signals. One of the most important ones in my mind would be intuition. Do you hear about a certain social network quite often? If so, it’s likely because those you are close to—your audience, in most cases—is talking about it.

Beyond intuition, here are some specific signals that could lead you to decide where your audience is hanging out.

1. Check the referral traffic from social to your website

In your Google Analytics reports, you can drill down to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals and see all the traffic that has come to your site from the many different social networks.

google analytics report

Does a certain network seem to send you a bunch of traffic?

That could be a signal that a portion of your audience hangs out there.

(In the example above for the Buffer stats, it might be worth our exploring a bit into Reddit, Tumblr, or StumbleUpon as they both tend to send us a good bit of traffic.)

2. Notice the social networks of the people who email you

If you run your small business or manage your brand through your inbox, you’re likely to receive a lot of email from your audience.

And there’re some cool tools that help provide extra insights into your email contacts, particularly the social networks they all belong to.

Sidekick email info and social networks

The screengrab above is from Sidekick, and you can see clearly which social networks this person belongs to. As you flip through more and more of your contacts as they email you, it’s possible that you might be able to pick up on some trending new social networks where your audience may be heading.

Here is a list of possible contacts tools to check out:

3. Study the demographics of the networks

You’ve likely got a great idea of the makeup of your audience—things like age, gender, interests, and the like. If you can match this to some of the up-and-coming social networks, you may be able to spot opportunities to connect.

Demographic information tends to come out sporadically, when a website performs a study or a social network makes a public announcement.

My favorite places to check for these insights are:

I’ve done my best to include some key demographics for each of the social networks listed below.

Our best tip: Reserve your username everywhere

I still think it’s great advice to pick and choose the social networks that suit you best.

At the same time, go ahead and reserve your username on every social network, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever spend time there.

Doing so helps keep these spots on hold for you if your strategy change or a network gets quite popular. It also helps protect your brand from others who may impersonate you or establish a voice and tone you’d rather they not.

To find out which spots still have your username available, you can use a tool like Knowem, which checks the major 25 social networks (or up to 500 if you’d like) to see what’s available.

Here’s what I found with a search for ‘kevanlee.’

knowem screenshot


1. Should your brand be on Snapchat?

  • What it is: Snapchat is a text-, photo- and video-messaging app that you use to send messages that will disappear one to ten seconds after your friend receives them.
  • Monthly active users: 200 million
  • Demographics: 70 percent women, and 71 percent under 25 years old


Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social networks, especially among the 25-and-under crowd. There’s a lot to like for young people—the network is new enough that it’s yet to see large adoption from parents or too many brands, and the temporary nature of the content is appealing to many.

Which isn’t to say that businesses can’t succeed on Snapchat. Though the content disappears after a short time, it’s not all that different than a tweet or Facebook post getting swept away in the large volume of content on those networks. Users can screenshot what they like, too, allowing some content to live on elsewhere. And Snapchat itself has encouraged brand involvement with the release of Snapchat Discover, a story tool for editorial brands.

One of the fun ways that brands have found to use Snapchat is to annotate the images with drawings and doodles. Here’s an example from the NBA.

nba snapchat

Recommended for: Those who focus on a young audience, 25 and under.

2. Should your brand be on Ello?

  • What it is: Ello is an ad-free alternative to existing social networks like Facebook or Twitter (with many of the same features)
  • Total users: Over 1 million
  • Monthly active users: Unknown
  • Main demographics: 63 percent men, and unknown for age

(source: 1, 2)

Launched in 2014, Ello picked up a huge amount of press and momentum in September, as it was referred to as the anti-Facebook and its invite-only nature caused a bit of a scramble. Growth has slowed since, though the Ello team continues to roll out new features and improvements.

(The network remains invite-only, too. If you’d like an invite, I’m fortunate to have a couple extras on hand that I’d love to pass along.)

On Ello, you can post content just as you would on other social networks, sharing text updates, links, video, or photos/GIFs. Users can reshare and comment on your posts.

ello screenshot

Recommended for: Those who greatly value privacy. Those with an audience of early adopters, outsiders, or unique individuals.

3. Should your brand be on Vine?

  • What it is: Vine is a short-form video sharing service, built by Twitter, where you can create and share 6-second videos filmed on mobile devices
  • Total users: 40 million
  • Monthly active users: Unknown
  • Main demographics: 57 percent women, most popular among 18-to-20-year-olds

(source: 1, 2)

The connection between Twitter and Vine is tight. Vine videos can be shared easily to Twitter, and they embed quite smoothly right into a Twitter stream. The audiences that seem most primed to consume Vines would be those who spend time on Twitter or Tumblr, two of the best short-form networks out there.

Brands have found some creative ways to put Vine video to use, coming up with smart how-to videos and short films. One of the best examples that comes to mind is this fun video from Dunkin Donuts, reimagining a highlight from that night’s NFL game.

More fun examples here.

Recommended for: Those with a large following on Twitter, or those whose content fits a 6-second format well (how to videos, comedy, memes).

4. Should your brand be on Reddit?

  • What it is: Reddit is a user-generated website where the content is submitted and voted up by the community
  • Monthly active users: 169 million
  • Main demographics: 18-to-29-year-old males


The Reddit community is one of the most passionate, well-informed places on the web, which can be particularly useful if your niche has an active thread there.

Topics are divided into subreddits where users submit the best and latest links, stories, and visuals. It’s a great place to turn for content ideas or to keep up with the newest, pre-viral info. And it’s also a great place to hop in and be involved, to build a bit of expertise and some connections with those who share a passion for your topic.

Reddit is for individuals, so you’d join as yourself and not your brand. Some of our favorite subreddits include:

Recommended for: Individuals with a passion for a niche and a community.

5. Should your brand be on Tumblr?

  • What it is: Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can post text or multimedia—images, GIFs, video—to a short-form blog
  • Total users: 420 million
  • Monthly active users: 230 million
  • Main demographics: 50 percent of users are between age 18 and 34

(source: 1, 2, 3)

Tumblr seems to add a lot of value for people who enjoy sharing fast, quick snippets of what they find interesting or amusing. Brands, too, can find value in the short-form nature of Tumblr as its quite easy to quickly publish any small thing—a quote, a photo, a video—that comes to mind.

In some ways, you can use Tumblr as a WordPress alternative, if you’re interested in a fast and simple way to set up and maintain a blog. It’s not as robust as WordPress, which some people appreciate. On Tumblr, people can follow your blog so that your posts are added automatically to their Tumblr dashboards, and Tumblr users can like or repost any of the content on your page.

A great example that comes to mind is Penguin Random House, which shares all sort of fun, short-form book posts.

Penguin Random House tumblr

Recommended for: Highly visual brands. Those with a young audience or whose content lends itself well to images, GIFs, video. Those who have enough unique short-form content to support a Tumblr blog in addition to a main blog.

6. Should your brand be on YouTube?

  • What it is: YouTube is a video-sharing website
  • Total users: 1 billion
  • Monthly active viewers: 1 billion+
  • Main demographics: Men and women age 25 to 34

(sources: 1, 2)

If you’ve ever thought of doing video content for your brand, you’ve probably considered YouTube. As the number one place for hosted video, YouTube is the first choice for getting your video seen by people and embedded into your website.

Recommended for: Any brand with video (Wistia’s tools are a great alternative as well).

7. Should your brand be on Vimeo?

  • What it is: Vimeo is a video-sharing website with a vibrant community of filmmakers and video professionals
  • Total users: 100 million
  • Monthly active viewers: 170 million
  • Main demographics: Unknown

(sources: 1, 2)

Very similar to YouTube in almost every way—social sharing, embedding on a website—Vimeo has carved out a bit of a niche for itself due to its smooth and clean interface. Whereas YouTube is well-optimized to help you find lots of great stuff to watch on YouTube, Vimeo is a bit more focused on the viewing experience itself, which leads to its popular use among professional video makers.

Patagonia has a great presence on Vimeo, where they share some of their wonderfully-produced videos.

vimeo screenshot

Recommended for: Filmmakers and video professionals. Those with big, beautiful HD videos and audiences who care deeply about user experience.

8. Should your brand be on Soundcloud?

  • What it is: Soundcloud is an audio-sharing website where users can distribute their audio—podcasts, music, etc.—across the web
  • Total users: 10 million
  • Monthly active listeners: 175 million
  • Main demographics: Unknown


Soundcloud has become one of the most popular ways to embed audio into your website and blog posts. It’s a great option for podcasters and musicians who can share their bits of audio super easily right on their website.

At the Soundcloud site, users can follow the accounts they choose, as well as repost and like any particular bits of audio. Another unique characteristic of Soundcloud—and one that made the network quite unique early on—is that you can add a comment to someone’s audio at any particular time during the playback so that your comment is attached to a certain timestamp.

Lots of my favorite podcasts are hosted on Soundcloud. A favorite example is Jason Zook and Paul Jarvis’s Invisible Office Hours.

Recommended for: Podcasters, music brands.

9. Should your brand be on Yelp?

  • What it is: Yelp is a website for crowdsourced reviews of local businesses, including restaurants and shops
  • Monthly Yelp visitors: 142 million


You can join Yelp as a reviewer and share your thoughts on the businesses that you visit. Likely a more useful way for marketers to get involved in Yelp is by claiming your Yelp business page. Doing so allows you to respond to comments as the owner of the business and to see the stats on visitor activity on your Yelp page.

Recommended for: Brick-and-mortar businesses

10. Should your brand be on Foursquare?

  • What it is: Foursquare is a mobile, local discovery app that allows users to search for recommended restaurants, shops, and businesses that are near their location
  • Total users: 55 million


Like Yelp, you can use Foursquare as an individual to find places to eat and shop and to leave reviews. And you can also join as a business where you’ll be able to add some extra detail to your business’s Foursquare page, as well as reply to comments and check the stats.

Recommended for: Brick-and-mortar businesses

11. Should your brand be on Quora?

  • What it is: Quora is a question-and-answer website where the questions and answers all come from the community
  • Monthly active users: 2.9 million
  • Main demographics: Unknown


Lots of great conversations happen on Quora, and it’s quite easy to get involved yourself on questions that involve your brand or your industry. Sharing expertise is a great way to be active on Quora. You can also write content directly into Quora’s publishing tools, which is a neat way to repurpose existing blog posts or articles.

We’ve found Quora to be particular useful when questions surface about Buffer’s history or culture.  Joel or Leo can hop in directly and contribute their expertise to the thread. And we can monitor topics and keywords to stay aware of when these conversations occur.

quora example

Recommended for: Individuals who would like to contribute to the conversation about their niche or brand.

Over to you

Which of the fringe social networks do you visit? Are there any in particular where you’ve found great traction or interest from your audience?

I’d love to hear about the networks that are significant for you and your brand. And I’d love to hear if you think Buffer should hop onto any of these up-and-coming spots!

Feel free to share any and all thoughts here in the comments.

Image sources: Pablo, The Noun Project, UnSplash

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Written by Kevan Lee

Director of marketing at Buffer, the social media publishing tool for brands, agencies, and marketers. We’ve got a new podcast! ?

  • Jason Koch

    re: Ello – Yuck. Nice idea but with over 1M users, it feels like Google+ You’re either in the click or you’re not. It seems mostly hip cool young artists. I tried dabbling in mainsteam fitness there, no go. Nada.

    Awesome article! Just installed Sidekick. Never knew about it and so far, it’s pretty awesome. Thanks Kevan.

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Jason! Yeah, my sense is that Ello might appeal to quite a particular niche at the moment – cool young artists is a great observation. 🙂

      Happy to hear you’re enjoying Sidekick. They do awesome stuff!

  • craig graham

    Great article!! I agree with Jason Koch though regarding Ello. Impression I got from signing up was it was anti-marketing. So any form of social marketing on here needs to be really clever and really offer more value to the users.

    Another couple I have come across with various rates of success are Fling, Plag** and Depop.

    Fling – Very similar to snapchat in that you can send (Fling) images, messages or videos. However these are sent to a friends list, they are send to 50 random users across the world.

    Plag** – Again similar to Fling, but with characteristics of Tinder. Users post content which other users can decide whether it is shared further or not. Basically when you see a piece of content if you swipe up it is shared to another group of people if you swipe down you stop it from being shared. I have had some success from this but have also had the occasional comment stating that this isnt the place for social marketing.

    Depop – Not sure if this is the UK only but it is effectively the love child of Instagram and e-bay. Great for small/medium businesses selling products that can be displayed through great photos.

    • Hi there Craig! Wow, it’s so great to hear from you with these extra social networks. I’d not come across them yet! Excited to investigate. 🙂

      • craig graham

        Yeah they are quite interesting. I don’t see anyway of tracking engagement etc from Fling but Plag** actually give a nice little tracking system that lets you see where and who are sharing your content.

    • Russell Hughes

      Depop sounds really interesting – would you happen to know where I could find more stats in their user base?

      • craig graham

        I don’t I am afraid. I have only used it a little. I haven’t had great success from it but I have friends that have used it and have seen a great spike in sales because of it.

  • Silvia D.

    Great post Kevan! I definitely think Snapchat is the best out of the fringe social networks for “under 25s” and if any brand’s target audience is on Snapchat – they NEED to join. Users of Snapchat are so immersed with the app, it’s actually pretty impressive. Sometimes, I post one of my blog posts on Snapchat to my friends as a Story, and it gets results. Most of them actually check out the post.
    So, it’s definitely a powerful marketing tool worth looking at.
    I loved this post, it definitely gave some extra variety. Thanks!

    • Love this tip, Silvia! And so happy to hear that you’ve found some neat ways to leverage Snapchat. 🙂

  • TakeActionWAHM

    I get nearly 70% of my traffic from Pinterest, and I can’t decide if it’s because I’m just rocking Pinterest that hard or if I suck that badly at all the other social media platforms!

    • Sounds to me like you’re rocking Pinterest! 🙂

      • TakeActionWAHM

        Haha… I’d really like to be rocking Twitter and FB just a leeetle bit harder 😀

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  • This is very useful Kevan! Quite often clients ask us whether or not we should be on specific platforms and what they’re useful for – this is a handy little guide to answer those questions and more. 🙂

    One thing I’d like to highlight about Quora though, is that it’s a great way for you to spread awareness about your products and services by answering all the right questions. I think it was Antavo, the contest guys – I used to see a lot of their comments answering questions about Facebook marketing and running competitions, and it was always a well researched response with a call back to Antavo at the end of it. If done right, I feel Quora could be a very good way to drive the right customers to your platforms / business.

    • Great stuff on Quora, Avtar! Thanks so much for the tips there. Have you tried out that strategy?

      • There were other platforms that were working quite well for me at that point, but I still did give it a “half-hearted” shot. It did seem like everyone else had a far better listening + responding strategy to certain threads and comments so felt like I was playing catch-up for a while. I did have some interesting conversations and managed to get some people converted, but never to the scale that I was managing in an effort x benefit ratio on other platforms.

  • Great round up of less main-stream social networks :D.
    I use Quora for our business and while it doesn’t bring much traffic, it’s really quality traffic that converts a lot better than from other sources for us. I think for B2B startups, Quora can work really well if you commit to it few minutes a day.

    I’m a passionate Tumblr user thought I haven’t been so active there lately. What I love about the network is that it has a really strong “community” feel to it. Which also means you can quickly look like an outsider if you don’t know the rules. It would be worth an entire article about Tumblr to guide brands on what’s ok and what’s not ok to do.

    I also got an invite to Ello at the beginning and have been watching it. It looks like it turned into a designer’s paradise. They are running some design contests (an emoticon contest right now I saw). I am really curious to see where they head up :D.

    Oh and I see Craig mentioned Plag**. I am in love with the network. In Europe it became such a nice way to learn from other cultures and the countries around us :D. I’m not surprised about the comments about SM marketing though. I feel like any sort of promotion isn’t welcome there yet. Though there seem to be a lot of spam content lately polluting the feed (naked selfies :/).

    • craig graham

      Hi Aurelie,

      Great tips on the other networks I will need to look at them.

      I use Plag** possibly a couple of times a week, but I rarely post. The comment about SM came when I posted an obvious plug at my website. However, when I scaled this back and only posted slogans or even stock photos I got better engagement and even a couple of sales that I think (but can’t prove) came off the back of it

      • Hey @craigg1205:disqus !

        Awesome stuff about Plag**, I’m sure there’s potential there if the network doesn’t peek and die. I noticed people engage a lot more than on other image sharing networks (there are usually tons of comments on popular cards).
        Just out of curiosity, what kind of business do you run? (I’m trying to think of a way we could drive sales with Plag** but as a B2B startup I’m not sure it would work for us)

        • craig graham

          Yeah I have noticed that there is loads of comments on some cards. There also seems to be a nice little community on there, which is nice because it usually incorporates people from loads of different countries.

          I run a little fashion company call Lost Apparel ( so we are B2C which probably makes it a bit easier for us to operate on on things like Plag**.

          I think as a B2B on this service most people won’t be looking for that. So maybe post a card that loosely relates to your business. Then try to convey your message or ‘sell’ through the comments?

          • Oh I see how Plag** could work for you. I don’t know if you’re also promoting on Tumblr but I’ve seen a lot of similar clothes being posted there.

            I think of all the “new” social networks, Ello might be the one that could work the best for us since we have website designers sometimes buying our software for clients.

            PS: I love your website 🙂

          • craig graham

            Yeah we use Tumblr as well. Not so much to push product more to to push the feel of our brand.

            Not sure what you guys do, but yeah I think things like Plag** and Fling etc are good for brands/businesses that are B2C and can ship products. Especially if these brands are based around visuals.

            Thanks for the feedback on the website. We actually just shoot a new promo video so keep and eye out for that being released 🙂

          • I can’t wait to check out the video :D. I’ll keep an eye on your website then.
            And I work for a live chat company so not really visual or adapted for Plag** or Fling marketing ;). I just like to try new networks because you never know but in this case I don’t think it’s worth spending too much time on it!

          • craig graham

            Thanks 🙂 we are just waiting on the production company finisihin the edits but should be available this week. We will probably post it here and across our social media. (Our Vimeo account has our previous video if you are interested)

            Live chat sounds cool! But yeah I agree neither of these platforms would be probably work, or certainly not enough to justify the time you would need to spend on them.

  • Kim Dobek

    Thanks Kevan! Nice overview and useful tips on insights. Eager to dive into a few. After all, no better advise than from first hand experience. You’ve just made my day -already- with Sidekick. Great tool!

    • Awesome to hear, Kim! Glad you’re enjoying Sidekick. I’d love to hear which networks you end up trying!

  • I created an account both on Ello and Snapchat. I like the first one, but I don’t know anyboy there. I use Snapchat only in a private way with my friends, but I now understand why some brands and TV shows (see Pretty Little Liars) use it. Thanks for sharing all these info with us, I was looking forward this post!

    • Thanks so much, Alice! Really glad this post resonated with you. I definitely understand your experience with Ello so far, really cool place just maybe not the audience I’m used to!

      • Indeed. Honestly, I think Ello is a good environment for minimalist designers and artists, I don’t fit very well there with my geeky stuff and social media strategies 🙂

    • Love ello, it’s like twitter with training wheels, or you can turn it into a private working group (I don’t). I use it as my online/website bookmark. No, you don’t have to be an artist, it’s just some bullshit people are told designed to capture a segment. You can repurpose it as you like.

      In comparison, Twitter was not meant for individuals to connect with friends, it’s really was designed for celebrities, brands and journalists. Imagine if they turned Twitter into something like Kik/BBM? This thing would kick ass for sure.

      Snapchat is just off putting for me. It’s for people who just want to shoot video for and with their friends, or, as the demographics on it shows, really for young women. The only thing I find interesting on Snapchat is this one adult star and a toy dog that’s popular in that network. I stopped using this after two days, I just don’t care what she does in her private life.

      In addition, Yelp is just creepy, especially when you know the sales calls and their agents are creeps, the reviewers are creeps and the whole network has a poor reputation. Their whole business model can ruin small biz and lives. Shame.

  • Amanda Jeffs

    Great post!! I am on all these networks plus some as an individual, but from the perspective of social media manager for a company the big 6 are where it all happens.. Unless you are a millennial brand then it’s important you be on vine, snapchat, meerkat, periscope etc, or if you are a music brand then soundcloud/pandora etc is where it’s at… right network for the right audience 🙂

  • Great post Kevan! I look forward to trying a few more of these out and at least reserving my name there. One other social netowrk I have been working with is (Its like Facebook with revenue sharing like YouTube). It looks like someone may have got a primary Buffer name already: and may be holding it for ransom, etc) I am sure you can get another good one though. The community is active and engagement is high on unique content. If anyone else want to get in, feel free to sign up though me at and I would be proud to have you as my “children” and show you the ropes. 🙂

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  • I like how the headline calls Snapchat, Ello, and Vine the fringe of social networks. I feel like these social networks would be full of people making zines on Xerox machines.

  • I think you’re ignoring one important network here, Disqus. I follow this character, for example |

  • Hello Kevan,
    Ohhhh…what another amazing article.
    So strong, so complete, so well structured, so…USEFUL.
    Added to my faves, another time too.
    A big thank you again.
    Best regards.

  • handsomerandyblackladdiebrad

    I’m a cover boy handsome,63-year-old black Canadian lad whose interests are men’s style/fashion,health,finance,sports,recreaction and relationships.Is there a social media site for someone such as I,or should I create and/or partner with individuals/companies to launch one?