Biggest Social Media Sites and Apps

Written By Alex

The landscape of social networking platforms is ever changing. It seems that every year brings about new platforms and trends, adjusting the lineup of social media dominance.

From an industry analysis perspective, watching these trends will always be interesting. However, knowing these trends is important if you’re in the business of digital marketing.

Having up-to-date information available platforms and the whims of the online community will be instrumental to what strategy you employ in marketing. This includes being aware of all the relevant nuances that will play into growth.

Making the choice of what network to focus on when setting out is going to be critical, and you need to have the relevant facts before making that leap.

Its true that you might have strong intuitions on which platform is best, but knowing which variables will affect your success will play into making your strategy as effective as possible. For example, growth and relative popularity are two things you’ll need to consider first.

Now, lets take a look at who the major players in the social media world are today.

The Top 15 Social Media Sites and Apps, sorted by Active Users

The number of active users on a platform refers to how many unique users appear as registered members of the platform. This is used to evaluate the size of a platform and indicates other factors like growth and engagement.

Take a look at the graph inserted below, which displays what the top 15 social networking apps/sites are. This data is courtesy of Statista.

Taking a Closer Look at the Top 15 Social Networks

1. Facebook – 2.74 Billion Active Users

Facebook is an absolute monolith among social media.

Facebook might not have been the very first social media network, but it certainly played an instrumental role in changing human interaction in online spaces.

This company has been involved in numerous scandals and has been mired in controversy since its launch in 2004, but this hasn’t slowed it down. In fact, its only grown massively.

10 months was all it took for this platform to get to a million subscribers. Another 8 years, and it had already gotten to one billion. Fast forward to 2022, and Facebook now has about 2.74 billion users, and this number is only growing by the second – it claims that 500,000 a day are signing up.

It might come as a surprise that Facebook isn’t the number one website in terms of traffic. Both YouTube and Google have far surpassed Facebook’s number of visits per month, with 34.6 billion and 92.5 billion respectively. By contrast, Facebook only has 25.5 billion per month.

As for who uses Facebook, the data shows that mostly 12 to 34 year-olds are responsible for Facebook’s traffic. It also indicates that the portion of this demographic located in the US is getting smaller over time.

According to The Infinite Dial, 58% of people in this demographic reported Facebook as the social media network they liked the best. However, this number fell to a mere 32% by the year 2020. A major reason for this was the rise of Instagram. As this number was fluctuating, Instagram’s popularity rose from 15% to 27%.

The country that uses Facebook the most is India, with 290 million active users. In second place is the United States, with 190 million. The third might be unexpected, with Indonesia registering 140 million users.

In terms of daily usage, 78% of American users log in every day. This figure rises to 93% weekly, and the majority log in once a month at minimum.
Recently, Facebook has been the center of a lot of controversy due to its reputation for disseminating misinformation. This is concerning, considering that 36% of Americans report using the network as a news source on a regular basis.

Fun fact: Americans tend to use Facebook for about 38 minutes every day.

2. YouTube – 2.291 Billion Active Users

YouTube comes in second place as the most popular platform, with 2.29 billion users registered and active.

Mind you, this number might be bit of a misrepresentation. This is because you don’t need to make an account in order to watch YouTube, so the platform is likely far more popular than the user count indicates.

YouTube was founded in 2005. Believe it or not, the site was meant to become a dating service based on recorded videos. This idea didn’t end up taking off, so the website instead became a place to post any sort of videos. This small decision made the founders into multi-millionaires.

In 2006, YouTube was acquired by Google for an incredible $1.65 billion. It is now the world’s number one platform for video content. The acquisition only took place a mere 16 months following YouTube’s release to the world, highlighting how truly rapid its rise was.

YouTube is also an outlier in that its demographic also includes people who are under 11 years of age, far younger than most social platforms. In 2020, Pew Research conducted a study about children and how they use YouTube.

According to this study, 80% of parents report that their kids watch videos on YouTube. In contrast, only 19% of parents report that their kids don’t use YouTube. Finally, over 50% of kids are watching YouTube once a day at minimum.

Parents Views About YouTube
Although we’ve just discussed the YouTube habits of the young, it is also a platform for teen and adult viewers. Accordingly, nearly 75% of the adult population watches YouTube. Compare this to Instagram at 40% and Facebook at 68%.

Looking over the statistics that deal solely with adults, YouTube continues to put out impressive numbers. According to those, almost 75% of American adults are users of YouTube. This puts it above Facebook, which follows it closely at 68%. In third place is Instagram, which holds a meagre 40% in contrast.

A look at the statistics around national demographics reveals that a whopping 30% of YouTube’s usership is coming from just three countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, America makes up the majority of that 30% (16.4%). In second place is India’s 9.2%, and interestingly enough, the final 4.8% comes from Japan.

3. WhatsApp – 2.0 Billion Active Users

WhatsApp began in 2009, the brainchild of two individuals who used to work for Yahoo!. Originally, WhatsApp wasn’t even intended to become an app for instant messaging. All it was meant to do was display statuses alongside names that would be added to a user’s virtual “address book”.

Eventually, WhatsApp moved into instant messaging. This move would result in WhatsApp becoming a giant in the sphere of free instant messaging services. The founders also profited immensely, in part due to Facebook eventually buying WhatsApp for $16 Billion in 2014.

WhatsApp actually has a user base that numbers over 2 billion, something they achieved in 2020, and a statistic they only share with 3 other social media social platforms. The past four years have been a busy one for the app, with their user base expanding by one billion over that time period.

WhatsApp hasn’t been using a traditional model of advertising, so they don’t have the same range of marketing options that other platforms tend to have. However, the app continues to offer serious value to businesses.

Recently, WhatsApp has come under some serious negative scrutiny after their privacy policy was updated. However, it continues to be the world’s most popular messaging app, coming before giants like WeChat, Telegram, Snapchat, QQ, and even Facebook’s Messenger app.

4. Facebook Messenger – 1.3 Billion Active Users

Messenger is technically a service that falls within Facebook – what is considered the main platform. So its pretty incredible that this app within an app has also achieved a place on this review.

WhatsApp should be given a lot of credit for their feat of outplacing Messenger on this list, especially given that Messenger is basically imbedded in the most popular social platform on earth.

The first iteration of Messenger was originally born as “Facebook Chat”, introduced to Facebook in 2008. However, Facebook recognized the potential for the chatting feature’s use as an independent app, so the app was given a makeover and rebranding under its current name after two years as “Chat”.

Messenger has been more confident than WhatsApp in adding monetization to the app’s list of features, giving businesses a way to connect with target audiences, customers, and prospects.

Messenger offers so many unparalleled opportunities to connect with potential leads. It also allows the use of chatbots that can be automated and customized to respond to individual needs, frequent queries, and promote services and products. Basically, it can advertise straight into a user’s chat. This makes it a dream come true for any B2C marketer.

Facebook has announced that they current boast 40+ million businesses that are active on Messenger as a way to promote to and interact with customers. They report that 20 billion+ messages are flowing between their users and businesses on a monthly basis.

Notable, Messenger is still second to WhatsApp in their number of total active users worldwide. However, it is the number one most popular app to use in the USA.

In the United States, 56% of people are using Messenger on their mobile devices. However, only 12.1% of mobile users are using WhatsApp instead.

When looking at user demographics, it seems that there is a clear preference among age groups for Messenger over other messaging apps.

13 – 17-year olds make up 1.7% of the app’s usage.
18 – 24-year olds make up 14.7%.
25 – 34-year olds make up 7.3% of Messenger’s US user base.
35 – 44-year olds make up 21%.
45 – 51 year olds make up 14.7% of the country’s Messenger’s user base.

5. Instagram – 1.221 Billion Active Users

Instagram is now the most popular app for sharing photos in the world. It is fifth overall, with their active users totalling 1.22 billion internationally.

Instagram was started by someone who used to work at Google – Kevin Systrom. Since their start in 2009, they have been analyzing the landscape of social media carefully in their operations.

Believe it or not, Instagram was initially supposed to attract fans of whiskey and bourdon. However, gratuitous seed funding let Systrom reconsider and remake the app into something new. The app would eventually come to combine a wealth of technology geared towards image manipulation with an extremely immersive and cutting edge experience, creating a unique combination that set it apart from other apps used for sharing images.

Instagram became a giant among social media. April 2012 saw Facebook buying the app at $1 billion, along with its 35 million users. Three months after Facebook’s acquisition of the app, this user base had expanded to 80 million. Only four years later, Instagram boasted 500 million users.

Discussion of Instagram’s legacy would be incomplete with mentioning its birth of the “influencer”, users whose profiles contain a purposeful “aspirational” theme and gave otherwise normal people the ability to monetize their popularity online.

Instagram appears to appeal mostly to people who are younger than 35, since a whopping 71% of their users are under 35.

B2C marketing is also alive and well on this platform. Currently, a whopping 70% of businesses in the United States are marketing on Instagram. Alongside Facebook, Instagram boasts one of the best engagement rates, even surpassing it to some extent. At first, Instagram seems to be offering a comparable function and method of engagement to its viewers and clients. However, Facebook is lagging 23% behind in terms of its engagement rate.

The USA and India are the two countries that appear to be using Instagram the most, with 140 million of the population on the platform. Interestingly, Brazil has 99 million citizens on the app in second place. Coming in third and fourth place are Indonesia – with 88 million, and Russia – with 56 million users.

6. Weixin/WeChat – 1.213 Billion Active Users

WeChat offers a surprisingly broad number of functionalities. You can do all the standard things like send texts and accept video calls. However, it also has its own games and ability to make digital payments. All of these have had a hand in WeChat’s presence on this list.

WeChat has managed to stay relevant and popular even though its known to be actively providing its user’s information – private and otherwise – to the Chinese government. China’s government has been known to conduct censorship and surveillance on its citizens.

And despite all this, WeChat has become an immense success and omnipresent aspect of life in China. It has also achieved astounding success with the older generations, which has historically been a struggle with tech platforms.

98.5% of the users on WeChat are estimated to be between 50 and 80 years of age. To give a sense of how much this app is used, take a look at this statistic: When it comes to users who are 60+, 60% of them are devoting half of their data use on their phones to WeChat alone.

All this has led to some savvy marketers based in the US to also think about tapping into the marketing potential of WeChat. A useful fact for them is that 23% of people on the USA’s internet are also using WeChat, with most of them between 18-24 years old.

7. TikTok – 689 Million Active Users

TikTok is one of the most well known overnight app successes. The app seemed in some ways to be a successor to Vine, as a short form video-sharing app. Appearing in 2017, this app instantly started to publish figures that dashed their competitor’s dreams.

Just two years after it burst onto the scene, TikTok had achieved the milestone of being one of the world’s top five most used and downloaded apps. And the following year, TikTok had officially taken over as the most downloaded app ever. Not only did it achieve this quickly, it also left other social media apps in the dust. TikTok bested WhatsApp with 250 million more downloads that year.

To get some scope as to how significant these numbers are, some helpful context would be to know the difference between WhatsApp and Facebook, which are in second and third place respectively. Facebook was only behind WhatsApp by 60 million downloads.

Now, TikTok still needs to make some strides if it wants to achieve the kind of demographic breadth that other platforms have. Just in America, the percentage of the user base aged from 10 – 29 is 47%.

8. QQ – 617 Million Active Users

QQ is owned by the same conglomerate as WeChat, Tencent. QQ has actually had a long life in terms of the internet, since it was published in 1999.

Originally called “OICQ”, this app originated as an IM service. It actually reached success quickly and began to replace the use of email in China.

QQ eventually pictured to use as a business platform, bolstered by the software’s success with operating file transfers. This started encouraging more and more companies to get onto QQ, because clients, partners, and vendors had already started using it.

QQ was able to be the first to market with their functionality. This was made more impressive by the fact that China happens to block a lot of apps that are based in the cloud. They really managed to corner the market, giving them a head start in the app’s success.

In contrast with a lot of other Asian apps, QQ has been less successful in its international endeavors. This is partially due to the fact that international versions were unable to integrate the most essential products on QQ, so the app lost a lot of functionality outside of China.

9. Douyin – 600 Million Active Users

Douyin can essentially be considered TikTok, but for a mostly Chinese user base. Douyin comes form the same parent company as TikTok, and most of their features are exactly the same, but the two apps are directed towards different demographics and exist as separate apps.

China has adopted Douyin as one of the favored apps to deploy luxury marketing and advertising. There has been some struggle in generating solid engagement with the younger generation on the app, but a few successes have still emerged.

Douyin has differed from TikTok in its use of user-monetization. It gives creators on the app a lot more ways to earn revenue from posting on the platform. This owes, in part, to the app’s success in collaborating with e-commerce giants in the country such as TaoBao.

10. Sina Weibo – 511 Million Active Users

Sina Weibo is another Chinese app on this list. It had its origins as a site for micro-blogging, but eventually grew in the third most used network in China.

In contrast to other platforms that have made this list, Weibo is focused on user-generated content from start to finish. This has made it a powerful information hub, one that has been used by normal people alongside influencers, journalists, and of course, marketers.

Some corporations have even warmed up to using Weibo for marketing, becoming an opening for international brands to enter the Chinese market. Tourism Australia actually won a 2019 award for at the Chinese app’s influencer event.

As with all the other Chinese apps on this list, Weibo’s publishing has been the subject of the Chinese government’s gaze and occasional censorship. However, foreign companies have seen the potential for marketing to this audience, and have been undeterred by government influence thus far.

11. Telegram – 500 Million Active Users

WhatsApp recently incurred a huge scandal with its privacy policy changes, but Telegram has ended up profiting massively from this. As users began exiting WhatsApp, many of them decided to switch to Telegram. Telegram boasts a secure instant messaging feature that has drawn the attention of users, especially those interesting in cryptocurrency and the blockchain.

Courtesy of information from App Annie, it has been reported that WhatsApp dropped from being the 8th most downloaded app in the United Kingdom to just being the 23rd most downloaded app.

During that general time frame, Telegram’s numbers increased by a new 25 million users. That comes to a massive 5% rise in their users, with this change taking place in a mere three weeks. Telegram also received the honor of being the number one most downloaded app internationally during that month.

Telegram’s numbers were the most active between March of 2018 and January of 2021, with that time frame seeing the app’s user base swell by 150%. The app had grown from 200 million users to 500 million users in those years alone.

Hootsuit’s publications show that Telegram users are using the app for longer durations of time than Facebook Messenger. This has been estimated to entail that users are using Messenger for around 2.7 hours ever month, and 2.9 hours per month are being spend on Telegram.

12. Snapchat – 498 Million Active Users

Snapchat’s premise was intriguing at first, going against the popular idea that something posted on the internet would remain there forever. Its success was an expected one, becoming known for its unique feature of only retaining posts for a set period of time – before erasing them forever. Snapchat managed to give their posts a feeling of relevancy and immediacy that users began to appreciate.

Snapchat also pioneered the use of filters and lenses, adding an additional layer of appeal and functionality unavailable to other apps. The platform has continued to display steady growth in its number of active users, especially outside of the usual US and European demographics.

Currently, the number of daily active users located outside of the US and Europe make up a higher percentage of users.
There are two notable statistics in terms of Snapchat’s demographics.

Between ages 13 – 24 in the USA, 59% of internet users are also using Snapchat.

Following 2016, Snapchat is ranked the number one social media used by young adults and teenagers.

13. Kuaishou – 481 Million Active Users

The popularity of live streaming services in China cannot be understated. And with a population of 1.5 billion people, its unsurprising that this love has translated to heavy use of video sharing networks in the Chinese market.

Kuaishou is currently the second major social network in terms of users in China. It has about 80% of the user base that Douyin has accumulated.

In a lot of ways, Kuaishou seems to be offering something close to what Douyin does. However, it has managed to establish a few strong characteristics that set it apart. These fall mostly in how their content is meant to be displayed, and the content itself.

Kuaishou is focused on its live streaming service, and produces double the number of livestreams that Douyin numbers.

Kueaishou also tends to focus on the relationship between user accounts when serving recommendations, mostly serving content from accounts that the user already follows. In contrast, 90% of Douyin’s user feeds will comprise of content that has gained user popularity.

Kuaishou has managed to foster a stronger community, and this has translated to better e-commerce conversions over Douyin’s.

14. Pinterest – 442 Million Active Users

Just one year ago, this list would likely not have included Pinterest in the top 15. However, 2020 was a record year in Pinterest’s development, with over 100 million users signing up in that year alone.

Pinterest is also beginning to break into the non-USA user base, which will make it more appealing to brands and marketers.

Per 2021 statistics, most of the users on Pinterest are still located in the US. Although this 23% doesn’t seem too big, Germany comes in second place with just 3.9%, and France following it with 2.7%.

It may not come as a surprise that Pinterest’s rapid 2020 growth was related to its international use.

In Pinterest’s Q4 report, it was reported that the company had a 46% growth in its international active users each month. This was compared to a slight 11% increase in domestic users over the same timeframe.

Pinterest’s user base has historically been mostly female. However, this gap has closed a little bit in recent years, with 60% of the user base being female. This came after a 50% increase in the number of male site users after 2020.

15. Reddit – 430 Million Active Users

Reddit has coined itself the front page of the internet, and has held its grip on this list even with yearly changes in the rankings.

Reddit caters to users who are looking for communities built around niches. It is in fact one of the most well established platforms that has found a place on this ranking. It began in 2005, making it also one of the oldest communities on this ranking. Despite the platform’s preference for a more forum- based style, something more reminiscent of old-school internet, the platform has continued to grow each year by around 30%.

Most of Reddit’s users are based in the USA, with 25% of the adult population using the site. In the USA, the reddit desktop site is the 8th ranked website in terms of usage, with most users visiting the site for an average of 20.06 minutes. This is a better visit duration than sites like Twitter, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, and even Wikipedia.

Most of Reddit’s traffic comes from the USA – fairly predictably, at 50.8%. However, the UK and Canada come in second place with less than 10% each. Australia makes up less than 5%.

There are more than 2.2 million subreddits to date, which are allowed to exist with minimal oversight from the site’s top overseers. This has resulted in an autonomy that has contributed greatly to the platform’s growth. Users are basically allowed to create communities revolving around whatever they can find an audience for, creating loyalty and a sense of community kinship.

In Conclusion

This concludes our list of the top 15 social networking apps and sites.

Its critical to have as much information and knowledge as possible about the platform you choose to use to promote your business. There are such vast differences in the individual features and functions available across platforms, which may influence the success of your endeavor. Its also important to understand your demographics and target audiences.

Having a strong understanding of the variables involved is likely to improve your campaign and produce the returns you’re hoping for.

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