Turn the clock back just 20 years and the term "social media" was just making its way into our day-to-day language. Now, social media has become an integral part of our lives. We use it to stay connected with friends, find jobs, meet people, get the news, and pretty much anything in between.
If we had to guess which social media site is the most popular, most of us would correctly pick Facebook. It's been around as long if not longer than any other site, and it's become the go-to social media platform for most people around the world.
But what other sites are popular? It's a big world out there, and everyone uses social media a bit differently. Let's do a deep-dive into the many different social media sites to find out which ones are the most popular both in the United States and the rest of the world.
Social Media Users Around the World in 2019
Before talking about the most popular social media sites, let's spend a moment to look at just how pervasive social media is in the lives of people around the world.
Overall, more and more people are getting connected to the internet every day. According to Internet World Stats, there are about 4.2 billion people connected to the internet around the world, which is just a touch over 55 percent of the entire global population.
But what about social media? As we would expect, social media use has been growing. Statista has been tracking this number over time. Here are some numbers for you to think over:
The Most Popular Social Media Sites By Number of Users
Okay, so now that we have it clear that social media is a huge part of people's lives all around the world, let's get into which sites are the most popular.
Some of the numbers won't surprise you, but others will. This data is from Statista:
Facebook and YouTube being near the top of the list should shock no one.
However, for users in the United States, that WhatsApp is so popular around the world might be a bit of a surprise. If you've ever had the chance to travel to Europe, then you will know that most people use WhatsApp in place of SMS messaging, which can help to explain why it's so popular worldwide.
The Facebook Family
We must never for that Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp are all part of the Facebook family of apps. Together, they represent a huge portion of the world's total social media users:
However, part of the reason these numbers appear so dramatic is because many people have more than one account with Facebook.
For example, you can't have a Messenger account without first having Facebook. Nevertheless, these numbers help to show just how prominently Facebook features in our social media lives.
The Most Popular Social Media Sites By Time Spent on Site
Looking at the number of users on each social media site is a good way to figure out which platform is most popular, but another good measure is the amount of time we spend on Facebook vs. Instagram vs. YouTube, and so on.
For this data, we've had to limit ourselves to just the United States because there aren't any reliable numbers worldwide. However, this still gives us an idea as to which social media site is the most popular.
Overall, people in the U.S. spend around 116 minutes per day on social media, which equates to 1 hour and 56 minutes. This time is divided up in the following way:
Interestingly, from this data, Facebook is actually not the most popular social media site. YouTube is, although Facebook is not far behind. However, this data might not fully represent the dominance of Facebook. YouTube is a video platform, so it makes sense that people would spend more time on YouTube every time they visit the site.
But perhaps more surprisingly is that the average person only spends 1 minute per day on Twitter, which has been on the decline recently.
This makes sense, though, considering how Twitter's character limits make it easy to scroll through and catch up on all the latest news in no time at all.
The Most Popular Social Media Sites By Frequency of Use
Another way to measure the most popular social media sites is to look at how often people use it. The Pew Research Center collected some of this data, which you can see below:
Some Stats About the Most Popular Social Media Sites
Depending on how we measure it, the same social media sites come up as being the most popular. Facebook clearly stands on top, especially when you consider that Instagram and WhatsApp are also part of Facebook.
But to demonstrate just how popular these sites are, consider the following stats about each one:
Each time someone visits Facebook, they spend an average of 10-12 minutes on the site. [We Are Social]
88 percent of all Facebook users access the site from a mobile device. [Hootsuite]
Facebook's revenue per user has doubled in the past three years. [Kleiner Perkins]
Over a billion people use Instagram, but 80 percent of users are from outside the U.S. [Statista]
72 percent of teens use Instagram daily [Business Insider]
Instagram users "like" 4.2 billion posts a day [Time]
There are 95 million new posts each day [Reuters]
500 million tweets are sent each day [Twitter]
Twitter became profitable for the first time in 2017 [Recode]
User growth is expected to be only 1 percent next year, suggesting Twitter's popularity may be leveling. [eMarketing]
71 percent of users are reading the news on Twitter [journalism.org]
65 billion WhatsApp messages are sent each day [Business Insider]
WhatsApp is used in 180 countries around the world [WhatsApp]
WhatsApp has 1 billion daily active users [Tech Crunch]
There are 100 million voice calls made each day on WhatsApp [WhatsApp]
YouTube is the world's second largest search engine, behind only Google, which belongs to the same company as YouTube. [Pulse Marketing]
The average mobile session is 40 minutes [YouTube]
There are over 1 billion mobile videos viewed each day. [Statistic Brain]
78 percent of all Americans aged 18-24 use SnapChat [Pew]
47 percent of U.S. teens think it's better than Facebook [Fool]
66 percent of all SnapChat users are under the age of 25 [Hootsuite]
The Most Popular Social Media Sites You've Never Heard Of
Looking at the list of the most popular social media sites, we see many of the ones we're most familiar with. But there are quite a few most of us have probably never heard of. For example, what's QZone? Or Tik Tok?
It turns out, many of the world's most popular social media sites are specific to China.
China has severe restrictions on internet use. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not allowed to operate there
China has the world's largest population, and this population is getting more and more affluent by the minute, meaning they have more time and money to access the internet and social media.
It's hard to say if these sites will take over Facebook and YouTube as the world's most popular sites, but as long China maintains its strict regulations, these platforms likely aren't going anywhere.
Here's a little more information about these hugely popular social media sites that are relatively unknown in other parts of the world.
WeChat is very similar to other messaging apps, such as WhatsApp or LINE, but it's almost exclusively used in China, where Facebook, and its family of apps, is not allowed to operate.
However, because China's population is so large, and because so many people use WeChat, it's made the top of the list of most popular social media sites.
Here are some more stats to know about WeChat:
It was first released in January 2011, making it one of the newer social media platforms around the world.
There are 1.058 billion WeChat users, and 902 million of them are active on a daily basis [Tech Node]
Each day there are around 38 billion messages sent over the WeChat platforms [Tencent]
Of the 1.058 billion users on WeChat, just 70 million live somewhere other than China. [Business Insider]
98.5 percent of Chinese people aged 50-80 use WeChat [Tech Node]
QZone, which is also owned by Tencent, the same company that owns WeChat, is considered by some to be China's most popular social media site.
This is largely because QZone operates more like Facebook. It allows you to write blogs, keep diaries, send photos, listen to music, and more. This is different from WeChat and QQ, which are almost exclusively messaging services.
Currently, there are just over 548 monthly active QZone users, 542 million of which are mobile users.
Yet another Chinese social media site, QQ is WeChat's biggest competitor. It's an instant messaging service that also allows people to pay for goods at participating stores and restaurants.
We don't know much about QQ in terms of usage, but we do know that it's growing quite quickly.
To give you an idea, consider that right now there are over 800 million users on QQ. However, in 2014, there were just 200 million users.
Interestingly, QQ is owned by Tencent, the same parent company as WeChat and QZone.
Tik Tok used to be known as musical.ly. It functions similar to YouTube in that it is primarily a video sharing service.
As musical.ly, it officially launched in 2014, but it rebranded as Tik Tok in
- Tik Tok's target audience is in China, although it has a significant amount of users worldwide.
Some stats to consider:
There are about 13 million new videos uploaded to muscial.ly every day [Sensor Tower]
42 percent of Tik Tok's monthly revenue comes from the U.S. [Sensor Tower]
14 percent of young adult internet users in the US are on Tik Tok [Forbes]
28.56 percent of Tik Tok users open the app at least once a day [eMarkerter]
Often referred to as the "Chinese Twitter," the social media site Sina Weibo, which is commonly referred to as just Weibo, is rapidly becoming one of the most widely-used social media sites in the world.
Here are some stats to consider about this relatively unknown social media site:
Currently, Weibo has around 430 million registered users.
It has around 195 million daily active users
In 2017, Weibo pulled in \$1.15 billion in revenue.
Formerly known as Vkontakte, VK is the most popular social media site in Russia, making it the only unknown social media site that's not specific to China.
Because of Russia's smaller population and VK's limited reach outside of Russia, it's not a major player on the world stage. It only has around 80 million monthly active users, which is no small number, but it pales in comparison to many of the other social media sites currently in use around the world.
Social media use around the world is immensely popular, and these statistics show that most people spend the majority of their social media time on only a handful of sites.
However, if the last 20 years have taught us anything, it's that there will surely be new sites for people to use. It will quite interesting to see, though, if any of these upstarts are able to eat away at the massive popularity of those that we currently use most frequently.