The Top 6 Social Media Platforms, Explained

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How well do you know the top social platforms?

While settling into my desk one morning this past week, I overheard two members of the Asen team discussing their trivia night experiences at different places in town. The discussion came up because both team members had been asked the same question at each of their respective trivia nights, and it was a very relevant question to us as marketers:

“Rank these 6 social media platforms by popularity, in terms of global monthly active users: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn”

I’m not sure of the order in which they listed these social platforms when asking the question, but the question above actually denotes the correct order:

  1. Facebook – 2.2 billion monthly active users
  2. Instagram – 1 billion monthly active users
  3. Twitter – 321 million monthly active users
  4. Snapchat – 301 million monthly active users
  5. Pinterest – 250 million monthly active users
  6. LinkedIn – 200 million monthly active users

Some may find this unsurprising. Facebook dominates the competition, Instagram is now a social media staple, Twitter remains a powerhouse for succinct information and announcements, the kids dig Snapchat, Pinterest is the premier hub of creativity-sharing, and everyone in the job market utilizes LinkedIn. But as a digital marketing professional working with clients that primarily target the US, I wanted to know more about how Americans — and which Americans — use these platforms. This post is meant to help you understand just that.

(Side note: We’re not including YouTube in this post, simply because YouTube operates more like a search engine than a social media platform. Youtube would rank second in monthly active users worldwide, and second in the US as well.)

Social media is a #bigdeal

Social media is a global phenomenon and it’s particularly huge in the US. Here are some stats for reference:

Global Social Media Stats:
  • 45% of the world population uses social networks (3.48 billion people)
  • 366 million new people started using social media in the past year (more than 1 million per day)
  • Digital consumers spend nearly 2.5 hours on social networks and social messaging every day.
US Social Media Stats:
  • 69% of US adults use social media (244 million people)
  • The average American internet user has 7.1 social media accounts.
  • 88% of 18 to 29-year-old Americans use social media.
  • The US ranks third globally in monthly active social media users, falling behind only India and China.

Now let’s break down those rankings!

Here’s the official list of the top social media platforms in the US, as of October 2018:

  1. Facebook (204 million monthly active users)
  2. Instagram (154 million monthly active users)
  3. Snapchat (85 million monthly active users)
  4. Pinterest (77 million monthly active users)
  5. Twitter (55 million monthly active users)
  6. LinkedIn (approx. 37 million monthly active users)
1. Facebook

It’s been 15 years since Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, and it’s come a long way since. I could go into more detail about what Facebook is, but we all check it daily at this point. Recent changes include the newly added “Stories” feature (once exclusive to Snapchat), changes to the once chronological News Feed algorithm to emphasize content of each user’s interests, and a slew of features to help brands manage their social media marketing and advertising.

“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” – Mark Zuckerberg

While it was once a place for young to middle-aged adults, we are now seeing a spike in senior activity on Facebook, with the number of users aged 65 and above doubling since 2012 – meaning that 41% of US seniors now use Facebook. Teenager use has dropped from 71% of teens to just 51% in the past three years, encouraging the notion that teenagers are less interested in the highly connected and public platform. Regarding activity among all Facebook users, 74% of Facebook users access it daily, and 51% visit multiple times daily.

Some stats for business owners:

  • Facebook is also the leader in social media advertising revenue, racking up $55 billion in 2018. 93% of that came from mobile ads.
  • The average reach of a post is 8% of total page likes.
  • 95% of businesses worldwide use Facebook.
2. Instagram

Founded in 2010, Instagram focuses almost exclusively on image and video sharing, building a lucrative niche in the social media landscape. Some have called it people’s personal “highlight reel” of their best photos. Owned by Facebook since 2012, Instagram’s audience is slightly younger than that of Facebook, with roughly half of it’s US users falling between ages 18-34. #Fortnite was the fastest growing hashtag on Instagram in 2018, which is telling of it’s younger audience. This year, it passed Snapchat as the top platform for teenagers, with 72% of US teens now active on the platform.

“Is this pic insta-worthy?” – Certainly Someone

Instagram’s user base is slightly less engaged than Facebook, with about 60% of users accessing the platform daily. However, while Facebook’s US user-base only grew 1% from 2017-2018, Instagram’s US user-base grew 13% over that same period.

Some stats for business owners and marketers:

  • 74% of businesses worldwide use Instagram.
  • 60% of Instagram users claim they’ve discovered at least one new product from the platform.
  • A third of the most viewed Instagram “stories” are from businesses.
  • Instagram brought in an estimated $6.84 billion in mobile advertising in 2018, up from $3.64 billion in 2017.
3. Snapchat

While Facebook serves as a social network for adults to connect and share publicly, Snapchat serves as a safe haven for young adults and teens to share privately or in small groups, for a limited time. These younger groups who saw Facebook as essentially a “personal LinkedIn” started to find refuge in Snapchat in 2011. Snapchat is comparatively more popular in the US than worldwide, with nearly a third of its monthly active users residing in the US.

“Snapchat is not about silly filters or hidden features (those only exist to encourage individuality and expression); it’s about liberation.” – Huffington Post

In regard to platform activity, Snapchat holds the title of “most frequented” amongst their user-base. Among the 63% of Snapchatters that access the platform daily, the average snapchatter opens the app more than 20 times a day and spends about 30 minutes on the app each day.

Some stats for business owners and marketers:

  • Snapchat made an estimated $660 million in U.S. ad revenues in 2018, up 18.7% from 2017.
  • 8% of businesses worldwide use Snapchat.
4. Pinterest

Pinterest is essentially a digital bulletin board for ideas of all sorts. Users can “Pin” or save images from the web (or on Pinterest) to their private or public pin-boards to keep tabs on things like recipes, inspirational quotes, life hacks, interior design concepts, and much more.

“When it comes to a great idea, you know it when you see it” – Pinterest

As a 25-year-old male, I definitely don’t put the “interest” in Pinterest, and it seems fine by them; 23.5% of the US population uses Pinterest each month, and this group includes 41% of all US women, but just 16% of US men.

Some stats for business owners and marketers:

  • 83% of weekly Pinterest users have made a purchase based on brand Pins.
  • 77% of Pinners have discovered a new brand or product on the network.
  • 84% of Pinners use Pinterest when trying to decide what to buy.
  • 66% of Pinterest users use the network to find last-minute holiday gift ideas.
5. Twitter

I’m sure you’re nearly as shocked as I was to see Twitter fall behind Snapchat and Pinterest on this list. Even the President uses it! Despite Twitter’s worldwide popularity, only 20% of Twitter users are American. Nonetheless, Twitter remains an essential source for keeping up with what’s happening in the world in real time.

“What’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now” – Twitter

Approximately 24% of US adults use Twitter, and this group is skewed toward urban, educated, higher-income Americans. While many teens use the platform frequently to keep up with celebrities and share comedic content, Twitter’s strongest user base consists of people over 25, with 40% of Americans ages 18-29 active on the platform. User activity is slightly lower for the platform, with just 36% of users visiting daily.

Some stats for business owners and marketers:

  • 84% of businesses use Twitter.
  • Twitter’s advertising revenue was 2.6 billion in 2018, an increase of 25% over 2017.
6. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is what we think it is: a digital resume, a place to network with other professionals, and a place for businesses to post job listings and generate B2B leads. While it touts over 610 million users, it’s estimated that only 25% of these users access the platform each month. As expected, LinkedIn is especially popular among high-income earners and college educated individuals.

“Active participation on LinkedIn is the best way to say, ‘Look at me!’ without saying ‘Look at me!” – Bobby Darnell, President, Construction Market Consultants

Some stats for business owners and marketers:

  • 62% of businesses use LinkedIn, but 86% of B2B companies use the network.
  • The top priority for businesses using LinkedIn in 2019 is to drive more leads (63%).
  • There are more than 30 million companies on LinkedIn, with more than 20 million open jobs.

Businesses must act quickly

At a time when social media popularity is riding on an increasing peak, it’s more important than ever for business owners and marketers to understand how to combat several major challenges that come with it, including:

  • Rising ad costs as more businesses join in paid social advertising
  • Finding which platforms are most effective for them to achieve their goals
  • Gaining social influence while platforms like Facebook are making it more difficult to reach users organically

Social media advertising can be complicated, but with a proper strategy in place, a business can flourish and reach new customers at much cheaper costs than traditional advertising. At Asen Marketing, we develop successful social media campaigns for clients in a wide range of industries. Feel free to browse our case studies to see some of our social media strategies in action, and contact us if you’re interested in taking your social media game to the next level.

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