All the Social Media Apps You Should Know in 2021
If you're creating a social media marketing strategy and want to find out what each social network can do to reach your target audience, read on. This is a complete rundown of 20 of the largest and most popular social media apps in the world.
Note on the sources in this article: The monthly active user numbers are from the Digital 2021 April Update from Statista and Hootsuite, but are also confirmed and updated by the platforms themselves if necessary.
And so we bring you all of the social media sites in order from largest to smallest (but certainly not in order of hype or value).
Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to plan your own strategy quickly and easily. Also use it to track the results and present the plan to your boss, teammates and clients.
Monthly Active Users: 2.8 billion
Not only is Facebook the world's largest social network, it's also the most advanced channel for organic and paid social marketing. 18.2% of US adults made purchases on Facebook last year.
People use Facebook to keep up to date with friends, family, and news about various forms of shared content (from written updates to live videos and short-lived Facebook stories).
Brands that are present on the platform may use organic content for brand awareness and / or to maintain relationships through social customer service. Marketers can also tap Facebook's user data to reach new customers with relevant advertising.
Recently, Facebook has been prioritizing ecommerce shopping over Facebook stores.
Source: Ink meets paper
Do you want more details? You can find our full introduction to Facebook Marketing here.
Monthly Active Users: 2.29 billion
YouTube isn't always viewed as one of the world's social media apps. You might as well call it a video platform or the world's second largest search engine.
For established brands with major marketing agencies, YouTube ads that appear before or in the middle of original video are not a huge stretch of what you saw on TV. For brands building their own youTube channel by posting original videos, it is important to play well with the YouTube algorithm, which requires a combination of skill, strategy, budget and luck. But there is a potential payoff there too: 70% of viewers bought from a brand after seeing it on YouTube.
In short, since YouTube is a video (usually a long-form video), the barrier to entry for DIY marketers who benefit from time, money, and talent (or preferably all three) is slightly higher.
Learn more about what it takes to be successful on YouTube in our YouTube Marketing Intro.
Monthly Active Users: 2.0 billion
WhatsApp is number 3 social apps on the list by user base, but it is number 1 messaging apps worldwide. In fact, it was recently voted the world's most popular social media app (though the survey excluded users in China).
Source: Digital Statshot Report Digital 2021 April
This may be news to many North Americans, but WhatsApp is one of the world's leading social media apps.
Facebook bought WhatsApp for $ 19 billion in 2014 and has remained more or less a pure messaging and calling app. (And ad-free unlike Facebook Messenger.)
Every day 175 million users in 180 countries send a message to one of the 50 million companies on WhatsApp.
For these companies, some of WhatsApp's most appealing features include optimizing customer conversations and presenting products in a catalog (essentially a digital storefront similar to the Facebook store, although users still have to exit the app to make purchases).
However, Facebook recently announced that brands using the WhatsApp Business app will be able to more easily create Facebook and Instagram ads that allow users to click WhatsApp to initiate conversations through the app.
For brands whose customers are already in the app, using WhatsApp for companies can make perfect sense.
Monthly Active Users: 1.3 billion
Next up is Messenger: Facebook's other private messaging app. Facebook Messenger is part of Facebook's ongoing strategy to prioritize private messaging and differs from WhatsApp in a few key ways:
- It does not provide end-to-end encryption to users
- Various ads will be served (including sponsored messages, inbox ads, etc.).
- In addition, all contacts of a user from Instagram and Facebook are linked.
In 2019, a Facebook survey found that 64% of people expect to be able to notify brands for customer service.
Messenger functions such as automatic replies, greetings and out-of-office messages can help make customer relationships more efficient. For some brands, a more complicated affair like creating a Facebook Messenger bot makes sense.
Here is our complete guide to Facebook Messenger for Brands.
Pro tip: Given the multitude of messaging apps, it is helpful to keep all cross-platform DMs and comments in one inbox (e.g. Hootsuite inbox).
Monthly Active Users: 1.22 billion
Another Facebook object rounds off the top 5 social media websites by population group: Instagram.
Formerly a humble photo sharing app, Instagram has become one of the world's most important social media apps in the field of social commerce in recent years. In addition to astrology memes and latte art, Instagram is becoming a virtual shopping center with a multitude of functions designed to help companies sell products – preferably beautiful ones.
While the importance of a polished feed has shifted with the advent of ephemeral, live and video content (a.k.a. Stories, Reels, Instagram Live, and IGTV), brands should keep in mind that having a strong visual identity on Instagram is always key.
Consumer brands in particular should take note of Instagram for its shoppable posts and stories, as well as its powerful back end for targeted ads.
The platform demands as much art as science. So start here with our step-by-step guide to Instagram marketing.
Monthly Active Users: 1.22 billion
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 thriving social ecology.
WeChat is the dominant social network in China, but this super social media app goes beyond messaging. With WeChat Pay, users can send messages, make video calls, shop, use government services, call ridesharing, play games – whatever you call it. According to a survey, 73% of respondents in China had used WeChat in the past month.
At the end of 2020, 88% of American companies doing business in China said Donald Trump's plan to ban WeChat would have a negative impact on their businesses, and 42% predicted that if it were banned, they would lose revenue. (It wasn't.)
For companies looking to expand their efforts in China, getting into WeChat marketing is an important step – be it advertising, influencer campaigns, in-app e-commerce, or building a mini-app within WeChat .
Pro tip: The Hootsuite WeChat app allows you to integrate your WeChat strategy into your team's day-to-day workflow.
Members: 756 million
First, let's note that LinkedIn has not reported any monthly or daily active users since Microsoft bought it in 2016 (just the number of accounts – a potentially very different number). So while it is listed at number 7, in reality it is active user numbers can well be much closer to the bottom of this list.
Even so, LinkedIn has been something of a social platform for dark horses over the past few years. It has seen an increase in popularity as users and brands realize that the only social media site dedicated to professionals is more than just a job board.
More than half of marketers say they want to use LinkedIn in 2021.
For brands with a professional audience – especially B2B marketers who are focused on lead generation – a LinkedIn marketing strategy is key.
Organic content, including LinkedIn Live and the platform's new product pages, is growing in abundance on LinkedIn. 96% of B2B marketers say they use these features. Similarly, 80% say they use LinkedIn ads that contain sponsored direct messages.
Monthly active users: 689 million
TikTok is hands down one of the liveliest social media apps on this list. It is notable for its explosive growth, as it has only been around since 2017. Still, it was the number 1 most downloaded apps in 2020.
TikTok is a short video sharing platform with a uniquely addicting algorithm. It has a lot of impact on teenagers and Gen Z.
For example, it surpassed Instagram as the second most popular social platform for American teenagers in the fall of 2020, and now it is approaching Snapchat as number 1.
For brands, TikTok can create confusion and intimidation. What kind of videos should you post? Do TikTok Ads Have To Be Funny? How do you work with TikTok influencers?
my @dunkin obsession … but do it merch !! comes tomorrow 30.03.15 o'clock est🧡 shopdunkin.com #ad
♬ Original sound – charli d’amelio
Rest assured, if the Washington Post can do it, so can you. Start with our guide to TikTok Marketing.
Monthly active users: 600 million
Brands with a vested interest in reaching teenagers in China should consider adding them to their inventory of social media apps.
Monthly active users: 595 million
QQ was developed in 1999 in response to Israel's ICQ and will remain China's second most popular messaging app in 2021.
Both QQ and WeChat are owned by tech giant Tencent, but while WeChat has grown in dominance, QQ has lost its popularity in recent years. (According to Statista, users peaked at 760 million in 2019.)
QQ offers voice and text messaging (including translation), video and audio calling, a well-developed group function and advanced interactive functions for games, music and shopping.
Marketers should keep in mind that QQ's desktop and mobile messaging attracts a consistently younger population than WeChat. With detailed advertising opportunities and in-app e-commerce, this is a fully fledged channel.
Successful marketing campaigns often integrate QQ into QZone (see No. 14).
Source: QQ International
Monthly active users: 511 million
China's response to Twitter, Weibo (as it is commonly called) is the oldest and largest microblogging platform in China.
Marketers will be happy to find a powerful advertising back-end, established influencer channels, and a native lottery (a.k.a. competition) feature.
Pro tip: Hootsuite users can easily monitor their Sina Weibo accounts from the Hootsuite dashboard using our Sina Weibo app for Hootsuite.
Monthly active users: 500 million
Telegram is a messaging app that enables chats in large groups (up to 200,000 people) and public one-to-many channels.
Telegram was founded in 2013 by the founders of the Russian social media platform VK and is considered a more privacy-oriented alternative to Facebook's WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
(Though some security experts disagree and instead point out nonprofit signals to privacy-conscious users.)
In terms of monetization, Telegram has announced that it will soon launch an advertising platform for public channels. In the meantime, entrepreneurial brands have been building audience relationships there for some time. Organic awareness efforts through chatbots, groups, and broadcast channels can be very effective.
Monthly active users: 498 million
This camera-first, disappearing content app has been around since 2011. Owned by Snap, a company independent of the Facebook empire, Snapchat's Stories is a popular format that has been repeatedly cloned by competitors.
Even so, Snapchat's user base is not only youthful but loyal too: 82% of its users are under 34 and it remains the most popular app for teenagers (although TikTok is now breathing down its neck, see # 8).
Brands that care about getting Gen Z (and soon Generation Alpha) attention will definitely want to check out this platform. Start with our overview of SnapChat for Business and SnapChat ads.
Source: Dr. Julie Smith
User base: 496 million users
QZone is another Tencent property. An estimated 97% (481.9 million) of users are in China.
With a user base tightly tied to the QQ messaging service (see # 10), Qzone offers a fully customizable personal space (think MySpace, but users pay for those cool backgrounds) where people can share photos, blog Share posts, music and videos.
Brands participate organically by creating their own profiles. Ads through Tencent's ad platform are also available.
Kuaishou (a.k.a. Kwai)
Monthly active users: 481 million
Kouaishou (or Kwai outside of China) is best known as a Chinese short video platform, funded by Tencent and competing with TikTok / Douyin. But Kouaishou has also carved out its own niche in a subset of social commerce that has not yet reached the highest level of popularity in the West: live commerce.
Live streaming is very popular on the Kwai, as is social talent. With Kwai, users can send virtual gifts to their favorite influencers and purchase products from those influencers while live streaming in the app. International brands such as Volkswagen, the NBA and Cristiano Ronaldo are all active on the platform.
Monthly active users: 442 million
Pinterest – the Digital Vision Board app – saw remarkable user growth as a result of the pandemic. For example, their popularity outside the Americas rose 46% in 2020.
Pinterest has a reputation for being a positive, apolitical, moderated place for brands to advertise to people who plan life events. 92% of advertisers on Pinterest agree that it has the most positive reputation of any social media app.
Advertising on Pinterest, like most of the other platforms on this list, is geared towards e-commerce. Shopable ads are now on the menu in select countries in Europe and North America.
Here's a longer look at how to use Pinterest for business.
Montly active users: 430 million
Reddit – Conde Nast's webboard platform – was founded in 2005. Lately, steps have been taken (purchase of TikTok competitor Dubsmash and introduction of new features) and daily usage increased by 44% over the previous year.
Most marketers will likely find at least one subreddit (i.e. a niche online community devoted to a specific topic like gaming or stock picking) that will attract your brand's audience. However, this isn't a platform for hard sell, branded content, or even influencer marketing. (After all, this is the platform responsible for causing the New York Stock Exchange to stop trading nine times in a day.)
Ads are available, of course, but sticking to the Reddit tone helps.
Pro tip: Brands can keep an ear to the ground using the Hootsuite Reddit app, which is used to monitor and track activity related to your keywords or favorite subreddits.
Monthly active users: 353 million
Because of its relatively small user base, Twitter has impressive name recognition skills – 90% of Americans have heard of Twitter when only 21% use it. Along with an active population of politicians, journalists, celebrities, and comedians, this keeps the platform above its weight, especially in North America (and Japan, where it's the # 1 platform).
How can brands use Twitter? Organic Twitter marketing depends on your brand voice, but there's plenty of room for personality (American fast food brands regularly argue with each other).
Customer service is also an important opportunity. And of course, Twitter offers an advertising platform for brands to address their target groups.
Monthly active users: 300 million
This question-and-answer website was started in 2009 by two former Facebook employees. Regardless of whether you use Quora or not, you can recognize this platform by its scary high position in the SERPs.
Quora strives to be very brand friendly and offers a wide range of advertising opportunities, including "Promoted Responses". There are also many ways to share content (e.g. repurposing blog posts) and guide thoughts.
Registered users: 72 million
Russia's Facebook clone is known as VK. Founded in 2007 by Pavel Durov (who now runs Telegram (see No. 12), only YouTube is more popular in Russia.
Most of VK's users are millennials, and Statista estimates that half of them live in St. Petersburg.
For brand marketing to Russian-speaking companies, VK is the key to the entire online sales funnel: from brand awareness to e-commerce.
Pro tip: To learn more about non-English social platforms, check out our list here.
Weekly Active Users: 10 million
The clubhouse may be the smallest, but it's also the newest social media app on this list. The app founders launched in the App Store in September 2020 have slowed growth: New users currently need both an invitation code and an Apple device to become a member.
If you look at a slowly growing framework, 10 million users will be pretty impressive.
So what is it Clubhouse is a short-lived live audio chat app. At best, it's a conference call with your favorite talking heads. There are no ads and not much space for organic branded content.
So far, brands that have scouted the space are mostly sticking to influencer marketing – they're essentially sponsoring a conversation.
Would you like to know more? Read our overview of what marketers need to know about clubhouse, and what marketers actually think of clubhouse.
Most companies use more than one social media site to market their brand. Hootsuite is a social media management platform that allows you to create, schedule and post messages to all major social networks from a dashboard. You can also:
- Automatically edit and resize images according to the specific specifications of each network
- Measure your performance across networks
- Moderate comments and responses to customer service inquiries
- Streams to monitor mentions of your brand
- and more!
You will save time and increase your marketing efforts on social media.
Check out the video below to see how Hootsuite works.
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