2016 Social Media Update: Top Social Media Channels By Category.

Social Media Channels

This post provides an update on the latest social media channels. Social media success is dependent upon sound social media strategy, which is built upon a systematic process and research. In Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution I layout a step-by-step process to developing social strategy:

  1. Perform a situation analysis including organization history/mission, target market, performance and marketing efforts., plus insights into competitors and the industry.
  2. Conduct a social media audit such as this social media audit template to identify problems and opportunities and form SMART business and social media objectives.
  3. Gather traditional and social media consumer research on target audience for key insights to develop a big idea to drive social media brand content and engagement.
  4. Select social channels by category to fit big idea, content and target audience. Identify social integration beyond marketing such as sales, customer service, R&D and HR.
  5. Link business and social media objectives to specific metrics per social media channel to identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and measure performance and success.

Selecting social channels in step 4 can be overwhelming with so many options. Some report thousands of social media sites and apps, Wikipedia lists over 200 and Brian Solis’s Conversation Prism has just under 200 social channel options in 26 categories. To simplify the selection of social channels I have divided social media options into 9 categories by key characteristics and list the top 3 or more channels in each.

Social Media Channels

Social Networks: Social networks are websites/apps that connect people sharing personal or professional interests through profiles, groups, posts and updates. Facebook is still at the top with over 1.6 billion monthly active users and includes multiple generations from teens to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The latest considerations are live video, instant articles, highly targeted native ads and customer service and transactions in Facebook Messenger. LinkedIn is the dominate business/professional oriented social network with 433 million users (100 million active monthly). LinkedIn offers excellent opportunities for recruitment, professional networking/development, B2B prospecting, and native advertising to professionals. The big shift is more emphasis on publishing long-form posts and Slideshare (owned by LinkedIn) presentations. Google+ is the much debated social network since its launch in 2011. Recent estimates put users at 111 million with active Google+ profiles. 2015 was the year of pronouncing Google+ dead, but a small core group of users remain active and many marketers claim positive results in driving traffic to their sites. Google+ is now not as integrated with other Google products, authorship is gone and the network has very low user rates. However, Content Factory put together a nice guide that says Google+ is sill good for high Google rankings, social sharing and overall SEO. Plus, Google is unlikely to shut down the network as evidenced by a new redesign in November 2015.

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 also called message boards where people hold conversations via threads around common interests and topics. WordPress is the top blogging platform boasting 409 million users viewing over 22.3 billion blog pages a month with top media and marketing publishers on the platform including CNN, CBS Radio, TED, TechCrunch, the NFL, and UPS. Blogger was the first major blogging platform and is owned by Google. Recent stats indicate around 240 million monthly visitors to blogger.com. Blogger is a simpler platform with less customize options and is hosted on Google servers versus self-hosting available on WordPress. Tumblr (now owned by Yahoo) is the short-form blog focused more on photos and video and less text with 227 million registered accounts and about 550 million monthly users. Other blogging considerations could be Medium with over 30 million active users, Typepad with around 23 million monthly visitors, Squarespace which claims hundreds of thousands of blogs published in its platform and Wix also supports blogs. To find forums try some of the many forum directories and search options including BoardReaderProBoards, or Omgili.

Microblogging: Microblogs are a form of traditional blogging where the posts have been limited in some way such as length of content or file size. The innovator and leader in Microblogging continues to be Twitter with 310 million monthly active users with 83% of those active on mobile. Every 6 seconds 1,000 tweets are sent which makes the site great for news discovery in real time. Twitter is also used as a second screen for live events and has grown into a mainstay for social media customer service. Pinterest is the social pin board dedicated to visual discovery, collection and sharing that limits posts to single images or video with captions of 500 characters and one link in the bio. Pinterest continues to grow to over 100 million monthly active users. Early on the site was dominated by women, but now 1/3 of new sign ups are men. Pinterest is the place for certain topics such as holidays, DIY, travel, holidays, event planning, recipes and decorating. Vine is the micro-video platform built on a 6 second video limit. This Twitter owned app/site has over 100 million viewers each month and has produced many Vine stars which companies have leveraged for influencer marketing (Vine shut down January 2017). Musical.ly is quickly capturing the young teen market with instant music videos growing to 100 million users. The app creates 15-second videos and lets you add popular songs, choose speed options and add filters and effects with hashtags. Clammr is the short form (24 second or less) audio sharing social media app. This micro social channel is new and still small but may grow quickly. The idea is to share audio clips from longer programs like Podcasts or record original content. Some have called it Pinterest for Podcast clips.

Media Sharing: This category is for social media channels developed mainly for the sharing of image or video media. YouTube, is the original video sharing site with over 1 billion users with many shifting TV viewing to this channel. YouTube is a great place for content marketing, original shows, native advertising and video bloggers that provide reviews. The channel is good for brand content marketing or influencer marketing with YouTube stars. Instagram is the photo sharing social channel first created as an app that now has over 500 million active monthly users. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is quality image driven and has one of the highest engagement rates. It is a good place for fan interaction, native advertising and user generated brand content, but has switched to a timeline of users’ photographs based on an algorithm versus chronological order. Snapchat is the newest channel in this category but has grown quickly to over 100 million daily active users and is now more popular with 12-24-year-olds than Facebook. Snapchat is great for pictures that can be drawn on, filters, 10 second video and stories that disappear after they are viewed. Also consider Flickr (owned by Yahoo) which has 112 million active monthly users with 1 million photos shared daily, Vimeo with 170 million monthly active viewers for niche video audiences and LinkedIn owned Slideshare with 70 million users for business and content marketing. The big development in media sharing is live streaming video. Twitter owned Periscope  has emerged to be the leader with 10 million users and 15% of Twitter’s top brands using it regularly. Recently rival Meerkat admitted defeat to Periscope with Meerkat CEO announcing to users that the company was heading in a different direction. Facebook Live is however a big competitor to Periscope with Facebook Live opening to all users and Facebook already claiming 8 billion video views per day. Music.ly has also jumped into live video with the Live.ly app for live streaming video with streams viewable in Music.ly.

Geo-location: Geo-location or geosocial is a type of social networking where user-submitted (GPS) location data connects users with local people, businesses and events. The innovator and leader in this category is Foursquare with 50 million monthly active users and 65 million places. Swarm is a separate app for checking in, but marketers can still reach consumers on Swarm through Foursquare. Foursquare is obviously great for businesses with physical locations. Google+ Locations had check-in features, but now marketers can leverage Google geo-location features though Google My Business that gets businesses added to Google location search and Google Maps and includes ratings and reviews. Facebook Check-Ins are the geo-location feature in Facebook that provides valuable benefits to marketers. It is good for increasing reach, generating awareness and has ratings and review features. Other considerations in this category are Nextdoor which is a private location-based social network with nearly 100,000 active neighborhoods and growing quickly. Alignable is a more B2B focused social channel. It helps build relationship between local businesses and creates a community around referrals. Other social networks also offer geo-location features such as public location pages from Facebook tagged in Instagram and geo-filters in Snapchat. The real innovation in this category could come from the success of Pokemon Go. Reports indicate more daily users than Twitter (21 million in the U.S.) and more engagement than Facebook (33 minutes per day vs. 22 minutes) and the augmented reality (AR) app will be taking advantage of that selling location sponsorships. This app may remain popular or not, but the big news is that after years of talk about AR taking off, it may final go mainstream combined with geo-location social media. Look for new or current geosocial channels leveraging this trend.

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. The top social channels in this channel include Yelp with 145 million active monthly users and 2.8 million business pages. Yelp is the early innovator in crowdsourced ratings and reviews. Founded in 2004 it has grown city by city and can be very influential on sales for many businesses from restaurants and salons to dentists and mechanics. For travel related business TripAdisor has 340 million active monthly users. This social channel provides reviews of travel-related content and travel forums relying on user-generated content. TripAdisor offers many free and paid tools for marketing. Angie’s List is the subscription based ratings and review site with crowdsourced reviews of local businesses. Starting with review of local contractors the service has moved on to cover much more such as health care and auto care. With 12 million active monthly users Angie’s list could grow even more after announcing plans to get rid of its pay wall to complete with larger networks. Citisearch is an online city guide that was one of the earliest review sites. Citisearch could be a consideration, but has lost a lot of ground to Yelp. Ratings and reviews should also be tracked on Google My Business and any other site or app that applies to your product or service such as retail sites like Amazon.com. The ground breaking website in this category was Epinions, but it was closed in 2014 by owner Ebay.

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 channels with 36 million user accounts, which is impressive, but Reddit also has a lot of non-user reach drawing a total 231 million unique visits a month. If handled correctly Reddit could be a great way for a product, service or organization to get discovered – especially in a specific category or topic called Subreddits. StumbleUpon is the discovery engine that finds and recommends web content to users who can rate web pages, photos and videos. StumbleUpon reports more than 30 million unique users attracting 100,000 advertisers. This social channel is good for content marketing, influencer marketing and paid social. Digg is the social news site that aggregates news and publisher’s streams via peer evaluation of voting up content for sharing. Digg has made a rebound since its relaunch growing from under 3 million monthly active users in 2012 to nearly 12 million in 2015. Digg is a good place for content marketing and also native advertising. Buzzfeed is more on the content discovery side of this category but has attracted a lot of attention with over 200 million unique monthly visitors. The big opportunity for marketing with Buzzfeed is native advertising. Buzzfeed focuses on advertising partners who help create “content that is worth sharing.” Related to Buzzfeed is NowThis News, which creates video news to distribute to other social network feeds. This news for social company started by former Huffington Post heads has now reached 1 billion monthly video views and may reach more Millennials. Content marketing options may be limited but NowThis has formed partnerships with advertisers such as Mondelez International (Oreo) to product real time marketing videos.

Social Knowledge: Social knowledge channels are web-based information exchanges where users can 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 of course with 374 million unique monthly visitors and over 70,000 active contributors to over 5 million articles in English. Marketers should monitor their Wikipedia pages, but cannot make changes themselves. The question and answer sites could be good for content creation, thought leadership and influencer marketing. Yahoo! Answers is a community question and answer site. Yahoo! Answers reported 24 million active monthly users in 2012, but this may have dropped to roughly 6 million recently (In November 2016 Yahoo went mobile for the first time with Yahoo! Answers Now). Quora is the newer question and answer site that looks to focus on and provide higher quality content. This social knowledge channel has risen in a short time to 100 million unique visitors a month. This channel could especially be good for building thought leadership. Ask.fm is a new entrant to this category. This global social site enables users to create profiles and send each other questions. Ask.fm has grown to 180 million active monthly users after being bought by Ask.com. Also consider Answers.com, ChaCha, WikiAnswers (now part of Answers.com), and Ask Jelly.

Podcasts: Podcasts are a series of episodes of digital audio or video content delivered automatically through subscription. Podcasting provides a great opportunity for content marketing with brands creating their own shows or native advertising where brands can sponsor influencers. iTunes is the innovator in Podcasting with the name coming from the Apple iPod. Some estimate there are over 200,000 million Podcasts on iTunes – a number that has doubled since 2013. But not all Podcasts are on iTunes. Other social channels to consider are SoundCloud, which is the global online audio  platform that enables users to upload, record, promote, and share their original works. SoundClound now has 170 million monthly active listeners with a lot of Podcast content being produced and shared. Stitcher is an on-demand internet radio service that provides news, radio and podcasts. Stitcher delivers free online streaming to over 16 million monthly listeners. iHeartRadio, the internet radio platform owned by iHeartMedia (formally Clear Channel Radio) also features Podcasts. iHeartRadio used to call them Shows On Demand, but has embraced the term Podcast and iHeartRadio has over 80 million registered users. The latest consideration in Podcasts would also be Audible, which is the audio book distribution channel owned by Amazon. This big player in audio books has now branched out into Podcasts.

This is by far, not a comprehensive list of social channel options, but it does give an update on the top channels in each category to choose the best for your social strategy. For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

To consider the bigger picture in measurement see Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One. To consider the bigger picture in social media marketing Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

Is Live Streaming Video Right For Your Social Media & Content Marketing?

GoPro Live Periscope Live Video

Live Streaming Video has been in the news since the Meerkat app was launched Spring 2015 at SXSW followed by Periscope a week later. Then in late summer 2015 we were introduced to Blab and, not to be left out of the video steaming movement, Facebook has launched Facebook Live to all users in Spring 2016.

GoPro Live Periscope Live Video

Ironically streaming video has been around for nearly a decade.

Live video streaming websites like Livestream and UStream both launched in 2007. I used UStream for a live event promotion for an airport and airline client back then.

Why is live streaming video such big news now?

The newly released apps and services are designed for mobile phone use and Pew Research reports that Smartphone use has increased dramatically. From 2011 to 2016 U.S. Smartphone ownership has nearly doubled 35% to 72%. Live video apps have also grown dramatically – more so than previous social media apps. The Salesforce blog explains Instagram reached 10 million users in one year while Periscope grew much faster. It took Periscope just 5 months to reach 10 million users. Click To Tweet

Is it time for your business to jump on live video?

Despite this enormous grown, these social apps are still very new and the user base is small compared to established social networks. Yet I see real opportunity in using live video to supplement current social strategy to boost engagement, build awareness, and, yes, drive conversion. Let’s look at each in more detail.

Live Video Can Boost Engagement           

After years of declining viewership (ratings) the broadcast TV industry has learned the value of live video programming combined with social commenting. Nielson research has shown that live TV shows leveraging Twitter can boost TV ratings. There is something about the word “Live” that makes us want to join in and not miss out. Live combined with social media means we are participating in consumption of content within community.

Bloggers like Copyblogger recently turned their comments back on after years of having them turned off upon realizing the value of real-time content consumption and feedback in community. A smaller user base sounds like a negative, but this also means higher engagement rates. That is why Snapchat is very attractive right now. And like Snapchat’s expiration on Snaps, live also builds in a sense of urgency. Some people can’t resist tuning in for fear of missing out and crave the community and direct interaction live video offers.

Live Video Can Build Awareness

Even with the smaller user base creating content in these new social media apps will attract new audiences because the room is simply not over crowed like mature social channels.. User base demographics are also probably different from your current social media channels. You’re showing up in different social circles that are smaller, so you get noticed. Plus, participating in live video is interesting new content that will also help drive awareness in your existing crowded social media channels with dwindling organic reach.

These social network apps are new and doing all they can to attract users. Live streaming content is getting preference over other content – it could help you stand out in the content arms race. Meerkat and Periscope send out notices like tweets to let your fans know you are on live. Periscope is even giving you a Periscope channel on Apple TV. Kim Garst says people watch her scopes like a morning TV show. Facebook Live sends followers a notification when you are live and places your video in your newsfeed. Right now these notices are guaranteed to reach your audience driving up your organic reach.

Live Video Can Drive Conversion

What better way to build rapport than live interaction with a real person? Seeing it in video makes it real. From product demonstration to sharing valuable content and answering questions, live video speeds up the know, like and trust process and can quicken time to conversion. Kim Garnst has attributed 17,000 opt-ins directly from Periscope in 9 months adding multiple 6 figures to her business.

Live video is the best way to date to bring the full power of personal sales to social media. That is not to say that you jump in with the sales pitch. You have to deliver value first, but seeing and interacting live with a real person is powerful. Research has indicated that the impact of communication is determined 7% by words, 38% by voice, and 55% by nonverbal communication. If you are not using video you could be missing out on up to 93% of communication effectiveness! Click To Tweet Live video allows you to adjust your message on the fly based on number of people coming and going, hearts you are receiving, and questions being asked.

Who are the main players in live video?


icon175x175The talk of 2015’s SXSW, Meerkat’s appeal was how easy anyone could broadcast live from their smartphone. Meerkat was first highly integrated with Twitter, until Twitter cut off many of the features in favor of Periscope. But Venturebeat tells us brands have found higher engagement on Meerkat versus Periscope. The latest Meerkat stats available say this app has 2 million users. (UPDATE: Meerkat is leaving live streaming to become a video social network)


largeicon-e1437357187302Periscope was introduced a week after Meerkat and is owned by Twitter. Periscope is also about the broadcast of the individual, but close integration with Twitter is a bonus such as Periscope streams being able to be viewed live in a person’s Twitter stream. The latest Periscope Stats report 10 million users, 2 million daily users, and 100 million broadcasts as of January 2016.


1024x1024srBlab is about live video but emphasizes more of a group participation dynamic. Similar to Google Hangouts, Blab brings in up to four broadcasters at a time with participants able to come and go as they please. This newer entrant has grown quickly because of its ease of use and slightly different interface. Blab is also integrated with Twitter for sharing and promoting. The latest Blab stats report 2.5 million users. (UPDATE: Blab is shut down to reinvent itself as an “always on place to hang out with friends”)

Facebook Live

Facebook LiveFacebook Live is the latest addition to live streaming. This option is integrated into Facebook’s mobile app. The big news here is that now any of the over 1.5 billion Facebook users can share a live video stream as easily as making a status update. Facebook Live user stats are too early to report, but they are starting with the largest bucket of current users. Facebook does report that users are 10 times more likely to comment on a live video than on a normal one.

UPDATE: Instagram Live

tumblr_inline_ogt42zaskd1svf3j7_540Instagram has launched their version of live video. Techcrunch says it combines the best of Snapchat and Periscope. It lets you broadcast video to followers live, but can only be watched while you’re streaming. There are no replays. But live video can be found by browsing the algorithmically curated Explore page of the best Instagram Live videos happening now. Users can also send live video vial Direct message via ephemeral Stories to specified friends who can watch it twice before it disappears. You can also now add text and drawing overlays.

What content can you create for live video?

Business2business community suggests:

  • Broadcast live company events
  • Make live announcements
  • Conduct live interviews
  • Do a live video blog
  • Moderate live panel chats

Entrepreneur adds ideas such as using live video to:

  • Promote other content you have already created
  • Live stream comments and discussion to your content
  • Use live video to create content like a Q&A session

Top Rank Blog says live streaming presents further opportunity to:

  • Supplement customer research with real time feedback
  • Newsjacking that draws audience by commenting on trending topics
  • Product demos that can share more than a standard press release

Of course one last consideration before you hop on one of these live streaming channels and start broadcasting it to consider the legal aspects. Social media law expert Keery O’Shea Goregone has a great Live Streaming with Meerkat & Periscope Marketer’s Legal Checklist. Her live streaming legal check list covers considerations in: 1. Location, 2. Privacy, 3. Intellectual Property, 4. Likeness, and 5. Contingency Plans.

Perhaps now is the time to start experimenting with live video as a strategic addition to your social media strategy. Where do you see opportunity or where have you already seen success?

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

To consider the bigger picture in measurement see Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One. To consider the bigger picture in social media marketing Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.