In this fourth article in the series on social media marketing (SMM), I consider the questions:

  • Content or paid SMM?
  • What platforms should I consider?

Again, I refer to the Digital 2022 Global Overview Report by DataReportal/We Are Social/Hootsuite as I delve into the social media (SM) landscape. In this article, I provide some pointers about what to consider and what is happening in the SM space, using broad brushstrokes. There is much more to know about SMM than we could fit into even a collection of textbooks; therefore, my best advice is that you do more research and consult a specialist before embarking on SMM.

First let’s understand what ‘content’ and ‘paid’ SMM are before we consider the questions above using some simple examples. Content SMM is when you prepare content that will be uploaded to a SM platform, e.g. an article for a blog, a video for a YouTube channel or a post for a Facebook page. You do not pay to ‘place’ the item where it can be seen by users. Paid SMM is when you place an advertisement on a SMM and pay the associated fees, e.g. an advert on an Instagram page.

Paid or content SMM?

Which approach you choose will depend on you, your qualifications, skills, preferences, objectives and resources. Do you have funds to pay for advertising? If yes, you will have to determine where to place your advertisements, i.e. which platforms and which channels. If not, you will use the content marketing approach, by preparing content and submitting it to a targeted channel, blog or website that has a blog.

Let’s look at two simple examples.

  • You opt for paid SMM.

Example: You decide to place adverts on the Facebook page of a group for novelists based in Cape Town, because you live in Cape Town and focus on editing fiction manuscripts.

  • You opt for content SMM, because you don’t have the funds needed to create adverts and pay a SMM agency to place and monitor the adverts.

Example: Perhaps you have a law degree and have moved into editing after retirement and decide to specialise in editing legal texts. You already have a website and decide to add a blog and then write articles on legal matters that you post on your blog page. But you then need to attend to the underlying digital marketing (DM) requirements in order to boost the visibility of your articles, e.g. via search engine optimisation (SEO) or by promoting them on an associated Facebook page that you set up. However, you might not have a website and don’t want one or you don’t have the funds to have one developed. So you write articles on legal matters and submit them to a website that has a blog, such as a professional body for attorneys or a publisher of legal textbooks, and hope that they will publish your articles on their blog.

The article you are reading now is a real example of this type of SM content marketing. It was written by me. I am not an employee of PEG, but it appears on PEG’s blog. There is no fee involved in this type of marketing transaction, either by PEG to me for writing the article or from me to PEG for publishing the article. I contribute my skills, knowledge and time to write the article, and PEG bears the cost of running the website and promoting its content. In effect, both parties contribute ‘what they have/can’ to help each other in their marketing efforts.

Whether you opt for paid SMM or content SMM, there are a host of SM matters to then consider, including the size of the platform (number of users) in the targeted region/country/area; the growth rates; the user rates per age group (if this has a bearing on your product offering); the user rates per gender (if your product offering is gender-specific); audience; area; language and much more. For example, the chart below shows the following:

  • The highest number of SM users in terms of age and gender is males in the 20–29 age group (18.1% of total SM users). In comparison, the figure for males aged 60+ is only 4%.
  • The combined gender total for the 20–29 age group is 32.2% but only 8.4% for the combined 60+ age group.

SMM Age end 2021

So, in general, when engaging in SMM, the biggest audience (in general) will be people aged 20–39 (54.4%), unless you specifically target a platform that reflects very different data. For example, TikTok has a much younger audience. (Note that the chart reflects SM platforms only. It does not include blogs – whether stand-alone or website blogs. However, these are also included in the broader SM marketing sphere.) But you need to consider what data is important in terms of your product offering, your marketing objectives, your skills and your resources.

Which SM platforms should I consider?

You need to consult a specialist on this question, as there are so many different options to consider, including Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Messenger, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Telegram, Pinterest, BitChute and Reddit. Here, I provide only a few basic examples to help stimulate your thinking.

First, let’s look at the overall big picture of what’s happening in the SM world. The graph below shows that Facebook still rules SM with 2.9 billion active users; but YouTube is not far off, with 2.5 billion active users. Other charts will show you that YouTube is rising, while Facebook is starting to show signs of falling out of favour. WhatsApp and Instagram (also rising fast) are next, with 2 billion and 1.4 billion active users, respectively. However, TikTok is the rising star, particularly for the youngest age demographic. This may be important to editors who specialise in academic editing, as these teenagers will soon be students and part of the student target market.

SMM platforms used 2021

There are also big differences between countries and platforms on a range of metrics, which need to be noted, including growth rate, user distribution by age group, advertising reach, amount of time spent on the platform and so on. For example, Facebook’s advertising audience age demographic is older than the overall SM age demographic: its biggest user group is males aged 25–34 (18.4%). Next is males aged 18–24 (13.3%). The figure for the combined genders for these two age groups is 31%  and 22.6%, respectively. The third biggest age group is 35–44 (17.9% when combining the gender figures). This means that, when engaging in SMM on Facebook, the biggest audience (in general) will be people aged 18–44 (71.5%), unless you specifically target a Facebook channel that reflects different data to the average or overall data.

Facebook age groups end 2021

Let’s look at one example of country differences for Instagram. The data shows that the ‘Eligible reach rate’ for advertising to the population aged 13+ is 23.9% worldwide, but 76.5% in Turkey. However, in Africa, the reach rates are much lower: Morocco – 32.1%; Egypt – 21.8%; South Africa – 13.6%; Ghana – 10.1%; Nigeria – 6.9%; Kenya – 6.7%. There will also be differences in the user rate percentages and in the age demographics for each country. Therefore, all SM platforms need to be looked at very carefully, in order to determine which one suits your needs best.

Let’s consider two more simple examples.

  • Perhaps you are an editor who edits for magazines and newspapers, and you have a good sense of humour. You also know that one of the main reasons for using SM is filling spare time. So you decide to create some funny videos on correcting articles, and you upload these to a YouTube channel that you start. As in the earlier example of writing blogs and posting them to your own website, when using this strategy, you will again have to look at how you are going to promote your channel.
  • Perhaps you are an editor in a small city in South Africa and you focus on helping your community, e.g. schools, small and medium enterprises, local government, etc. In order to build your network and your profile, you join a local business Facebook group and become active on its page.

It should now be clear that in terms of which platform and which channel to look at (and which website, if you are considering writing for a website with a blog offering), you will have to consider what data is important in relation to your product offering, your marketing objectives, your skills and your resources.

These first four articles on SMM have only scratched the surface of what SMM is all about, but I hope they will help to stimulate your thinking and provide some guidance on what to start looking at, if you are thinking about venturing into the SMM space. Social Media Today is a good place to start learning more about SMM. Here is a link to one article, which provides a user-friendly infographic on content marketing:


Datareportal (2022) Digital 2022 Global Overview Report.  (Accessed 15 May 2022).

SocialMediaToday (2022) 10 Content Marketing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know In 2022 [Infographic]. (Accessed 15 May 2022).

Social media icons by from Flickr; blog icons created by Freepik from Flaticon

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Juliet Gillies

Juliet spent 20 years in the corporate and government environments as a professional writer and editor, before going freelance in 2006. She edits for government entities, authors, publishers, researchers, academics and scholars. She writes articles, textbook content, training manuals and poetry. She is also a voracious reader and lover of SMM statistics.

You can also find Juliet on LinkedIn.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.