A note about sources in this article: Monthly active user numbers are from Statista and Hootsuite’s Digital 2021 April Update, but also confirmed and updated with the platforms themselves, as necessary.
And so, we present to you, in order from largest to smallest (but certainly not in order of hype or value), all the social media sites.
Facebook is not only the world’s largest social network, it’s also the most developed channel for organic and paid social marketing. 18.2% of adults in the US made a purchase through Facebook last year.
People use Facebook to keep up with friends, family, and news using various forms of shared content (everything from written updates to live video and ephemeral Facebook Stories.)
This might be news to a lot of North Americans, but WhatsApp is one of the world’s foremost social media apps.
Facebook purchased WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion, and it has remained, more or less, a straight-up messaging and calling app. (And ad-free, unlike Facebook Messenger.)
Every day, 175 million users in 180 countries message one of the 50 million businesses on WhatsApp.
For those businesses, WhatsApp’s most appealing functions include streamlining customer service conversations and showcasing products in a catalog (essentially a digital storefront akin to Facebook Shop, though users must still leave the app to make purchases).
Next up is Messenger: the other private messaging app owned by Facebook. Part of Facebook’s ongoing strategy to prioritize private messaging, Facebook Messenger differs in a few key ways from WhatsApp:
it does serve a variety of ads (including sponsored messages, inbox ads, etc.)
it also links all of a user’s contacts from both Instagram and Facebook.
In 2019, a Facebook poll found that 64% of people expect to be able to message brands for customer service.
Messenger features like automatic replies, greetings and away messages can help make customer relationships more efficient. For some brands, a more complicated proposition like building a Facebook Messenger bot makes sense.
Rounding out the top five social media sites by population is another Facebook property: Instagram.
Formerly a humble photo-sharing app, over the past few years Instagram has become one of the world’s most important social media apps in regards to social commerce. Alongside astrology memes and latte art, Instagram’s become a virtual shopping mall, with a plethora of features designed to help businesses sell products—preferably beautiful ones.
While the importance of a polished feed has shifted with the rise of ephemeral, live, and video content (a.k.a. Stories, Reels, Instagram Live, and IGTV), brands should keep in mind that a strong visual identity is always key on Instagram.
The first non-North American app on this list is Tencent’s WeChat (or Weixin, in China). Because American social media sites are restricted in China, the country has its own flourishing social ecology.
WeChat is the dominant social network in China, but this super social media app goes beyond messaging. Users can message, video call, shop using WeChat Pay, use government services, call rideshares, play games—you name it. According to one survey, 73% of respondents in China had used WeChat in the past month.
In late 2020, 88% of American businesses doing business in China said that Donald Trump’s plan to ban WeChat would have a negative impact on their operations, and 42% predicted they’d lose revenue if the ban went through. (It didn’t.)
For businesses looking to expand their efforts in China, looking into WeChat marketing—whether that’s advertising, influencer campaigns, in-app e-commerce, or building out a mini-app within WeChat—will be an important step.
First, let us note that LinkedIn hasn’t reported monthly or daily active users (just the number of accounts—a potentially vastly different number) since Microsoft bought it in 2016. So while it’s listed at number 7, in reality, its active user numbers may well be a lot closer to the bottom of this list.
That said, LinkedIn has been a bit of a dark horse social platform these past few years. It has experienced rising popularity as users and brands have realized that the only social media site dedicated to professionals is more than just a job board.
Organic content, including LinkedIn Live and the platform’s new product pages, is increasingly big on LinkedIn, with 96% of B2B marketers reporting that they use these features. Likewise, 80% report they use LinkedIn ads, which include sponsored direct messages.
Brands with a vested interest in reaching youth in China will want to consider adding it to their stable of social media apps.
Designed as an answer to Israel’s ICQ in 1999, in 2021 QQ remains China’s second most-popular messaging app.
Both QQ and WeChat are owned by tech giant Tencent, but while WeChat has gained dominance, QQ has spent the last few years dropping in popularity. (Users peaked at 760 million in 2019, according to Statista.)
QQ offers voice and text messaging (including translation), video and audio calling, a well-developed groups feature, as well as expanded interactive features around games, music, and shopping.
Marketers should keep in mind that QQ’s desktop and mobile messaging attracts a consistently younger demographic than WeChat. And with granular advertising options and in-app e-commerce, it’s a fully developed channel.
Successful marketing campaigns often integrate QQ with QZone (see #14.)
Bonus: Get a free social media strategy templateto quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.
China’s answer to Twitter, Weibo (as it is usually known) is the oldest and largest micro-blogging platform in China.
It has outlasted domestic competitors (including a clone from Tencent) and surpassed Twitter in users, revenue, and innovation (it dropped the 140 character limit and introduced photo carousels and video earlier).
Marketers will be pleased to find a powerful advertising back-end, established influencer channels, as well as a native lottery (a.k.a. contest) feature.
Telegram is a messaging app that allows large group chats (up to 200,000 people) and public one-to-many channels—which gives it more of a social spin.
Founded in 2013 by the founders of Russian social media platform VK, Telegram bills itself as a more privacy-focused alternative to Facebook’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
(Though some security experts would disagree, pointing privacy-conscious users towards not-for-profit Signal, instead.)
As far as monetization goes, Telegram has announced it will soon introduce an ad platform for public channels. In the meantime, enterprising brands have been building audience relationships there for a while already. Organic awareness efforts via chatbots, groups and broadcast channels can be quite effective.
This camera-first, disappearing content app has been around since 2011. Owned by Snap, a company that’s independent of the Facebook empire, Snapchat’s Stories are a popular format that have been repeatedly cloned by competitors.
Nonetheless, Snapchat’s user base is not only youthful but also loyal: 82% of its users are under 34, and it remains the most popular app for teens (though TikTok is now breathing down its neck, see #8).
Brands who care about earning attention from Gen Z (and, soon enough, generation Alpha) are definitely going to want to check this platform out. Start with our overview of SnapChat for business and SnapChat ads.
QZone is another of Tencent’s properties, and an estimated 97% (481.9 million) of its users are in China.
With a user base that is closely intertwined with messaging service QQ (see #10), Qzone offers a fully customizable personal space (think MySpace, but users pay for those cool backgrounds) for people to share photos, blog posts, music, and videos.
Brands participate organically by forming their own profiles, and ads via Tencent’s ad platform are also available.
Kouaishou (or Kwai, outside of China) is known primarily as a Chinese short-video platform that’s funded by Tencent and competes with TikTok/Douyin. But Kouaishou has also carved out its own niche in a subset of social commerce that hasn’t yet hit peak popularity in the West: live commerce.
Livestreaming is highly popular on Kwai, as is social gifting. Kwai allows users to send virtual gifts to their favourite influencers, as well as buy products in-app from those influencers as they livestream. International brands like Volkswagen, the NBA and Cristiano Ronaldo are all active on the platform.
Pinterest—the digital vision board app—has been experiencing notable user growth through the pandemic. For instance, their popularity outside of America was up 46% in 2020.
Pinterest has a reputation as a positive, apolitical, moderated space for brands to advertise to people planning out life events. 92% of advertisers on Pinterest agree that it has the most positive reputation of any social media app.
Advertising on Pinterest, as with most of the other platforms on this list, is headed towards e-commerce. Shoppable ads are now on the menu in select countries in Europe and North America.
Reddit—the web board platform owned by Conde Nast—was founded in 2005. Lately it has been making moves (buying TikTok competitor Dubsmash and rolling out new features) as well as seeing daily usage grow 44% year over year.
Most marketers will probably be able to find at least one subreddit (i.e., a niche online community devoted to a specific topic, like gaming or stock-picking) that attracts your brand’s target audience. However, this is not a platform for a hard sell, branded content, or even influencer marketing. (After all, this is the platform responsible for the New York Stock Exchange halting trading 9 times in one day.)
This question and answer website was founded in 2009 by two former Facebook employees. Whether you use Quora or not, you may recognize this platform from its eerily high position in the SERPs.
Quora aims to be very brand-friendly, and offers plenty of advertising options including “promoted answers.” There are also plenty of opportunities for sharing content (repurposing blog posts, for instance) and thought leadership.
Clubhouse may be the smallest, but it’s also the newest social media app on this list. Launched on the App Store in September 2020, the app’s founders have been pumping the brakes on growth: new users currently need both an invite code and an Apple device to join.
With a slow-growth framework in mind, 10 million users becomes fairly impressive.
So what is it? Clubhouse is a live, ephemeral, drop-in audio chat app. At its best, it’s something like a conference call featuring your favourite talking heads. There are no ads, and not a lot of room for organic content from brands.
So far brands that have explored the space are sticking mostly to influencer marketing—sponsoring a conversation, essentially.
Most businesses use more than one social media site to market their brand. Hootsuite is a social media management platform that lets you to create, schedule, and publish messages to all the major social networks from one dashboard. You can also:
edit and automatically resize images according to each network’s unique specs
measure your performance across networks
moderate comments and respond to customer service requests
streams to monitor mentions of your brand
It will save you time and level up your social media marketing efforts.
Watch the video below to see how Hootsuite works.
Ready to manage all your social media apps in one place? Try the tool trusted by thousands of social pros free or request a demo today.