How The Top Social Media Platforms Have Changed And What It Means For Marketers
Staying up to date with these changes is critical if you are to ensure that your marketing stays relevant.
All sessions from #SMWONE, our four-week virtual conference program, are now available on-demand.
If you’ve been in social media marketing for several years, you will have experienced first hand how the top platforms change time and again. Whereas some old favorites still remain popular, others that were once widely-used are nowhere near the top of the list and yet others still have gained a huge number of active users in just the last couple years.
Staying up to date with these changes is critical if you are to ensure that your marketing stays relevant. With that said, let’s look at the stop using the platform this year. However, there is no risk that Facebook will cede its top position — it is far ahead of any other platform and is still increasing in popularity with older generations.
YouTube is another familiar face. The fact that it is in second place with 1.5 billion active monthly users just emphasizes how much people like video content. Plus, YouTube has something Facebook lacks: a huge popularity among young people. In fact, it is the top platform for the 18-to-24 demographic. YouTube does have some catching up to do in one area, though — only 45 percent of users say that they access the platform on a daily basis.
Close to tying with YouTube, WhatsApp also has around 1.5 billion monthly active users. Originally, it became popular because it took texting to another level. For instance, there are no limits on how many words you can send, you can send multimedia content, and you can send a message to multiple contacts at once. Now, WhatsApp maintains its user base by continuing to add new features.
Facebook Messenger is another messaging platform in the top five. (That also makes two messaging platforms owned by Facebook.) It’s monthly active users are steadily growing. This is good news for marketers, as Facebook Messenger offers a great opportunity to reach users with chatbots.
Unless a large portion of your audience is in China, you likely know very little about WeChat. Although it is by far the most popular social platform in China, it has few users outside the country.
WeChat began as a messaging app, but it now has a huge number of capabilities. For instance, users can make payments, play games, share their location, request cabs, and even book doctor appointments. In other words, it is like multiple apps within a single app.
With WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat all appearing in the top five, it is clear that dark social has a major role to play. This becomes even more apparent when you consider that dark social now accounts for 84 percent of all social shares. Furthermore, dark social is not limited to just these platforms: you also have Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat.
Coming in a sixth place (and growing consistently since its launch), Instagram definitely deserves a mention. As a marketer, Instagram is a platform you need to take notice of. For one thing, 60 percent of micro-influencers surveyed said that Instagram is the most effective platform for engagement. For another, it is more likely to fit into your social media strategy than the platforms that ranked third and fifth.
There are several reasons why Instagram is becoming so popular. The first is due to the expansion of mobile usage — Instagram is an excellent platform for viewing, editing, and uploading posts on mobile. The second reason is its visual content. As you can see with Facebook and YouTube, users love visuals. Instagram goes a step further than these other platforms by barely featuring any words.
Why is Instagram not higher in the list? For all its benefits, it does have some disadvantages. For instance, there is no chance to get deep into a topic. Posts are single images without much in the way of explanation. There is also limited opportunity for users to have a discussion and share opinions; plus, there are no links for users to find out more.
Snapchat Is Rising
Another platform not in the top five but still important is Snapchat. It only ranks 17, but it is gaining traction — mainly because of usage among Generation Z. The same age group is losing interest in Facebook. Remember the 2 million users who are leaving Facebook I mentioned above? Well, 1.9 million in the same age group will likely be joining Snapchat.
Why is Snapchat so popular among younger users? Although other platforms have successfully captured the value of creating stories, only Snapchat offers content that has a lifespan of a few seconds. This allows users to share experiences in the moment rather than creating lasting content — which is something that other platforms already offer.
What Happened to Twitter?
Not long ago, Twitter was consistently reaching the top five. In its heyday, it was in second place, right after Facebook. Now, it has dropped all the way down to twelfth position.
You may remember that it wasn’t long ago when everyone was predicting the end of Twitter (due to a combination of poor earnings and a lack of direction). Since then, it has made some significant improvements. In fact, in the first quarter of this year, the platform added six million users, beating all expectations. Better still, its active user base has grown by 10 percent year over year (this is what really matters). For businesses whose target audience is within this group of users, Twitter is still a very valuable platform.
Should You Be Using Pinterest?
Pinterest is right near the bottom, ranking 19 out of 20. This begs the question: should you even care about this platform? Remember, it does still have 200 million active monthly users, which is far from nothing.
If you do want to consider including Pinterest in your social media strategy, it may be worthwhile to think about this platform differently. What do I mean by this? Well, it no longer has likes and counting of re-pins. Instead, it has become more about collecting pins that appear in suggestions (generated by the Pinterest algorithm). This means that Pinterest can provide marketers with a great opportunity to put content in front of users who will likely be interested in their offerings.
You should also keep in mind that the platform is a top spot for ads: it generated close to $500 million in revenue last year.
Paying attention to which are the top social media platforms will help ensure that you are directing your marketing efforts to the right places. To keep up with the trends — or, even better, anticipate them, it is important to remember that these numbers are always shifting. In addition, always bear in mind that your specific audience may prefer different platforms to the population as a whole. Knowing what your customers like, and what they may like in the future, is the most valuable of all.
Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.
Write for Us
Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.