Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category

Multichannel social media strategy: Social media is no longer a small experimental part of marketing. Social media spending represents 15% of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to nearly 25% in five years. Social media is also seen as an essential part of digital marketing which has surpassed traditional with digital ad spending reaching 54% of total ad sales. Today brands must go beyond the top three social platforms or simply continue to use current brand social platforms. As social media plans become more sophisticated with a combination of organic and paid content how do you decide among the over 200 social media platforms? To simplify this process the chart below lists social options in eight categories by key characteristics and top platforms per category.

Audience Size and Engagement: Total audience size is important when selecting a social media platform within which to invest your time and money. Yet tradition measures of monthly active users or unique monthly visitors only tell part of the story. A user could visit a platform once a month and be included in audience size. Engagement is another important factor that looks at how active those users are on the platform. How many users are daily users and how much time are they spending per day or session?

Target Audience Demographics: How active is your target audience on each platform? Define  target audience by demographic characteristics such as gender, education, income, ethnicity and age. Look for social media platforms popular with your target age group. Be sure to look at both monthly active and daily active users by age. A high percent of Millennials may be monthly users of Facebook but if you look at daily usage they may be spending more time on Instagram. If your target is Gen Y, Snapchat may have the highest daily usage.

Target Audience Psychographics: Not all people in a generation have the same interests, therefore it is also important to define target audience with psychographic variables such as, values, beliefs and interests. People interested in crafts, fashion, the environment, or gaming may be active on other social media platforms where those interests are popular such as Reddit, Pinterest, Forums or Twitch.

Target Business Category: Not all purchase decisions are considered in the same social media channels. Therefore also consider type of business. Is the brand B2C or B2B? What industry is it in? Is it a local or national company? Does the brand offer online sales, in-person or a combination of both? The type of business could make other social media channels more relevant to a plan such as LinkedIn, TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Target Communication Objective: Finally, consider the communications objective. A plan to build brand awareness may work best with Facebook, YouTube and Buzzfeed. A plan to improve customer response may work better in Twitter and Messenger for customer support and Google My Business for customer reviews. A B2B lead generation plan may best leverage Blogs, Podcasts, LinkedIn and Slack. A direct sales plan for a multinational fashion brand could work best with Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and WeChat.

Now that you know what to consider in selecting plans. What are the latest social media channels? Bellow is a list of the top three or more social media channels divided into eight key characteristic categories.

Social Networks: These are the websites and apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly users (1.8 billion active daily) and is by far the largest social media channel of any of the categories. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional social network growing to 722 million users (260 million active monthly).

Social Messaging: Instant messaging platforms are chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. Facebook Messenger has grown to 1.3 billion users but is still behind Facebook owned WhatsApp with 2 billion users (1 billion active daily). Other popular messaging apps include WeChat with 1 billion month active users mostly  in the Chinese market. Slack is the business messaging service with 12.5 million daily active users providing opportunities for B2B.

Blogs and Forums: Blogs are websites that contain posts or articles in reverse chronological order that include hyperlinks and usually allow commenting. Forums are online discussion sites where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform with 409 million users viewing over 20 billion blog pages a month. Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 463 million blog accounts but usage has dropped to 327 monthly visitors from a previous high of 642 million. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is owned by Google. Recent stats estimate 60 million monthly visitors to blogger.com down from 167 million in 2017. To find forums try search and directories like ProBoards.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts are limited by content length or file size. The leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 353 million monthly active users (187 million active daily), but this is down 9 million from last year. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video. Pinterest has grown to over 442 million monthly active users. TikTok has grown quickly to 689 million monthly active users. A new entrant in this category is the invite only, real-time, audio-chat app Clubhouse. Clubhouse has grown from 1,500 users in May 2020 to 10 million users in 2021.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube is the lead video sharing site with 2 billion monthly active users and an average 60 minutes spent per mobile viewing session. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the quality photo sharing social channel that has grown to 1 billion active monthly users with 500 million active daily. Snapchat is a photo- and video-sharing messaging service in which media and messages are only available for a short time before disappearing. Snapchat’s monthly active users total 283 million with 180 million active daily.

Live Streaming Video: Top live video channels are mainly built into other social platforms.  Periscope is integrated with the Twitter app with last reported numbers of 10 million users and 1.9 million daily active users. Facebook Live is a big competitor with Facebook emphasizing live video in the newsfeed. Facebook claims 8 billion video views per day or 100 million hours (includes all video). Instagram Live works in Instagram Stories which has 500 million daily active users. Instagram launched a new long form video platform IGTV, but reports indicate they have struggle to boost user numbers. For niche audiences Amazon owned Twitch is a live streaming platform attracting gamers with 140 million unique monthly users and 30 million active daily.

Geosocial: Geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator in this category is Foursquare, but the platform has dropped to 7 million monthly users for location discovery while its app Swarm has only 2.1 million monthly users for checking-in. However, Swarm users spend an average of ten times longer on the app versus Foursquare. Marketers can leverage Google geosocial features though Google My Business that adds businesses to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geosocial feature in Facebook that is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Instagram Location has locations that integrates with Facebook Places. Snapchat offers geosocial features with Snapchat Geofilters.

Ratings and Reviews: Reviews are reports that give someone’s opinion about the quality of a product, service or performance. Ratings are a measurement of how good or bad something is expressed on a scale. Yelp is the innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews representing a broad range of interests. Yelp has 132 million active monthly users and over 184 million reviews. For travel related businesses TripAdvisor has 463 million active monthly users and 730 million reviews. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums. Amazon attracts 138 million monthly visitors and has been reported as being the largest single source of Internet consumer reviews. Angi is a ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses is merger between Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor than 22 million monthly users. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business. If you are in the human resources or the recruitment industry, company reviews on Glassdoor are important. Ratings and Reviews are also important on the video sharing platform YouTube as many a Vlogger reviews products and services on their channels.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking sites are online services that allow users to save, comment on, and share bookmarks of web documents or links. Social bookmarking sites have also expanded into content discovery and curation tools. Reddit is one of the top social bookmarking social platforms with 430 million users. Digg is the social news site that aggregates publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has reached 7 million visitors a month up from a low of 3 million several years ago. Buzzfeed is a content discovery platform with a monthly audience of 125 million on it’s website, but Buzzfeed also creates its own content with popular channels on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube and offers native advertising opportunities for brands generating 3.2 billion cross-platform content views a month.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users search topics or ask questions and get answers from real people. This includes social sites such as wikis and question and answer websites. Wikipedia is the big one with 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors and over 71,000 active contributors to over 6.2 million articles in English. Brands cannot created their own pages, but should monitor for misinformation. Quora is the question and answer site that focuses on higher quality content and attracts 300 million unique visitors a month. Yahoo! Answers was a popular community question and answer site but shut down in 2021 after 16 years.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcast consumption has grown in the US to 90 million monthly listeners. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting . Other social platforms to consider are SoundCloud, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audible and Spotify. For the video version of podcasts, called a vlog, YouTube is a top destination. A useful podcast directory is PodBean.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels by category to choose the best for your social strategy. What social platforms have you found to be the most effective in your social media strategy? A good first step is to Perform A Social Media Audit and as social spending increases Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

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