Our latest data show that there are 4.33 billion social media users around the world at the start of 2021, equating to more than 55 percent of the total global population.
These figures suggest that more than 9 in 10 internet users now use social media each month.
Social media user numbers have surged in the past 12 months too, with 521 million new users joining social media in the year to April 2021.
For context, the latest data suggest that the number of social media users around the world now equates to more than 70 percent of the eligible global population.
The typical user actively uses or visits more than 6 different social media platforms each month, and spends an average of close to 2½ hours using social media each day.
Assuming that people sleep for between 7 and 8 hours per day, these latest figures suggest that people spend roughly 15 percent of their waking lives using social media.
Added together, the world spends more than 10 billion hours using social platforms each day, which is the equivalent of nearly 1.2 million years of human existence.
Most Popular Social Networks
|Rank||Social Media||Number of active users in millions|
|6||Weixin / WeChat||1,213|
Facebook is the undisputed heavyweight champion of social media platforms.
While it can’t take credit for getting everything started, that honor goes to SixDegrees (RIP), Facebook is the social media juggernaut that not only showed the world what the internet can be, but also fundamentally changed the way humans interact with each other.
The company’s turbulent early days and continued association with epic controversies haven’t stopped it from achieving mind-boggling growth since its 2004 launch.
The second-most popular social media platform on our list, YouTube comes in at a super-impressive 2.29 billion registered users.
However, since ANYONE can enjoy YouTube content, regardless of whether or not they’re a registered user, this figure may not be the most accurate representation of the platform’s true popularity.
Launched in 2005, the video-sharing platform was initially intended to be a dating service, with the founders reportedly publishing ads on Craigslist to entice women into posting videos of themselves talking about their ideal partners.
Founded in 2009 by two former Yahoo! employees, WhatsApp’s original goal wasn’t to be an instant messaging (IM) app, but rather to simply show “statuses” next to the names of each entry in a user’s address book.
This accidental evolution led to the app dominating the free IM market and would also end up making the founders immensely wealthy – the latter thanks to Facebook’s $16 billion acquisition in 2014.
WhatsApp is one of only three social networking platforms with a user base of over 2 billion – a milestone they reached in 2020. The app’s recent growth rate has been astonishing, with the last billion users hopping on in only four years!
4. Facebook Messenger
It says a lot about the power of Facebook that a service WITHIN their main platform reached the number four spot on this prestigious list.
It also says a lot about WhatsApp that they were able to dramatically outperform Messenger despite the latter being embedded into the world’s most popular social network.
Messenger’s initial incarnation was “Facebook Chat” – a simple IM feature that was launched into the Facebook environment in 2008. Noting Chat’s potential as a standalone app with its own unique commercial ecosystem, Facebook overhauled the service and rebranded it as “Facebook Messenger” two years later.
Founded by former Google employee, Kevin Systrom, in 2009, Instagram is the product of an incredibly diligent analysis of the social media landscape at the time.
An early round of seed funding allowed Systrom to pivot the app, which initially focused on attracting whiskey and bourbon aficionados, into something broader. Something with industry-defining image manipulation tech and a far more immersive social experience than any other image-sharing service at the time.
The result was an absolute beast of a social network. By April 2012, the month Facebook acquired it for $1 billion, Instagram had grown its user base to 35 million. Three months later, it stood at 80 million users. By June 2016, it reached the landmark 500 million figure.
With an incredibly wide range of functions that allow users to do everything from sending text messages and conducting video calls to processing digital payments and playing video games, it’s no surprise that WeChat has such a high position on our list.
In 2018 an astonishing 98.5% of Chinese mobile users between the ages of 50 and 80 are registered WeChat users. While 60% of WeChat users over the age of 60 use more than half of their mobile data on the app.
For social media marketers in the US considering WeChat as a possible marketing channel, it’s useful to know that 23% of America’s mobile internet users between the ages of 18 and 24 are registered on the app.
There are overnight success stories and then there is TikTok. The video-sharing platform burst onto the international scene in 2017 and quickly started racking up adoption figures that made competitors weep onto their keyboards.
Two years after its emergence onto the social media landscape, TikTok was in the top five of the world’s most downloaded apps. A year later, it was number one. And not by a small margin, either. The fledgling social network outperformed its nearest rival, WhatsApp, by a staggering 250 million downloads.
Have a look at the table below for some more context. The difference between WhatsApp and the third-placed Facebook is only 60 million downloads!
Another property owned by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent (the other is WeChat), QQ has been around forever (in internet years).
Launched under the name OICQ in 1999 as a downloadable instant messaging service, the platform quickly became China’s most popular digital contact platform and played a pivotal role in “killing” email in the world’s most populous country.
To keep it simple, Douyin is TikTok for a Chinese audience. The two platforms have the same parent company and the same core functionality but are most definitely two different apps, marketed to two different demographics.
In China, Douyin has become one of the most popular marketing channels for luxury brands. Many have struggled to create meaningful engagement with the platform’s young user base, but there have been some success stories.
10. Sina Weibo
Sina Weibo is a Chinese property that started out as a micro-blogging site and has evolved into the country’s third-largest social network.
Unlike the other Chinese platforms on this list, Weibo’s focus is very much on the creation, delivery, and consumption of user-generated content. It’s an information center that’s been adopted by businesses, journalists, influencers, and regular folk alike.
Users left the Facebook-owned chat app in droves – the majority of them trading it for Telegram, a hyper-secure IM and social networking app favored by blockchain enthusiasts and cryptocurrency traders.
The Guardian reports (via data obtained from App Annie) that between January 1 and January 12 of 2021, WhatsApp had fallen from the 8th most downloaded app in the UK to the lowly position of 23rd.
Few people would have guessed that an app rejecting the notion of “once it’s on the internet, it’s forever” would thrive the way Snapchat has.
The photo and video-sharing platform became famous for only displaying users’ posts for a limited time before it’s deleted. Forever. This infused each Snapchat interaction with an immediacy that resonated with a younger generation of mobile internet users.
As of December 2020, Snapchat DAUs in the “rest of the world” now outnumber their US and European counterparts.
China’s 1.5 billion people absolutely love video-sharing and live streaming. So much, in fact, that we find ourselves talking about the second app of its kind that’s focused exclusively on the Chinese market.
Kuaishou is the territory’s second-biggest video-sharing social network, currently sitting with around 80% of Douyin’s total active users.
As little as a year ago, Pinterest wouldn’t have made it onto our list of the 15 most popular social networking sites and apps. The image-sharing platform saw a record growth year in 2020, gaining more than 100 million new monthly active users between January and December.
Important information for brands looking to promote themselves on Pinterest is that the social media platform is only now starting to make its mark outside of the United States.
As of January 2021, the vast majority (roughly 23%) of the social media platform’s users all find themselves in the US. The next closest territory is Germany which accounts for a mere 3.9%. France is third with 2.7%.
Fittingly, the “front page of the internet” manages to remain on our list despite some strong opposition and numerous shakeups in the leaderboard.
Reddit is a haven for the niche-obsessed. No matter what your interests are and where your passions lie, you’re virtually guaranteed to find a like-minded community ready to embrace, educate, and make fun of you.
Founded in 2005, Reddit is one of the oldest social networks featured on our list, a fact that’s evidenced by its uncanny similarity to old-school discussion forums. This clearly hasn’t damaged the platform’s ability to continually attract new users, though, as Reddit has consistently maintained a year-on-year MAU growth of 30%.
Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through its website interface or its mobile-device application software (“app”), though the service could also be accessed via SMS before April 2020.
Twitter, Inc. is based in San Francisco, California, and has more than 25 offices around the world.
Tweets were originally restricted to 140 characters, but the limit was doubled to 280 for non-CJK languages in November 2017. Audio and video tweets remain limited to 140 seconds for most accounts.
In March 2010, Quora, Inc. was valued at $86 million. Quora first became available to the public on June 21, 2010, and was praised for its interface and for the quality of the answers written by its users, many of whom were recognized as experts in their fields.
Quora was co-founded by former Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever in June 2009. In an answer to the question “How did Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever come up with the name Quora?” written on Quora in 2011, Charlie Cheever stated, “We spent a few hours brainstorming and writing down all the ideas that we could think of.