Updated: Apr 29
We tend to lump all web and mobile communication platforms under the heading “social media,” even though many are not technically social. For example, Pinterest functions more like a search engine, while WeChat is a texting platform. At Tandem, we think of social media as digital tools for human-to-human connection. Here are the top 20 social media tools of today and the number of active users for each.
Everyone knows this now huge conglomerate founded by Harvard College students in 2004. It’s so huge that both Instagram and WhatsApp (see below) are now subsidiaries of Facebook. The key to success with Facebook, like many other platforms, is deciding how you want to use it, whether to keep in touch with people you know personally, hosting private groups, or reaching a mass market with public pages and ads.
YouTube is the platform to use if you want to share videos. It’s ideal for education and the arts, as well as sports — anything that fares better with video over text or still photography content. Start with Facebook and YouTube if you’re trying to mass-market goods or services, and work your way down this list to reach the largest audience.
This popular app is a free messaging and VOIP call system. Fans love it to send texts and images internationally, and the no-cost calling between users has been a huge savings for many.
Messenger was created as a private chat function within Facebook, but it is now a standalone app. You can use it to blast chats to all your followers simultaneously and thereby connect with existing and potential customers.
Developed by the same company that gave China QQ and Qzone (see below), WeChat includes social media and mobile payment functions. WeChat is wonderful for building loyalty programs based on geolocation and offering promotions in the areas where your customers are located.
This American photo and video sharing platform has taken off in the last few years, and it’s popular with celebrities and “influencers” who set trends. Instagram is perfect if you have highly visual content that you want to combine with narrative and build a niche following.
QQ is a Chinese instant messaging and video chat service and web portal that offers games, shopping, microblogging, and much more. It’s essential to understand the complexities of QQ if you want to market your business in China.
Qzone is owned by the same company as QQ and is also based in China. Qzone uses blogs, videos, diaries, and photos to keep users engaged.
Known in China as Douyin, TikTok is climbing in popularity with Western users, especially younger ones. Users can make short videos using the platform and share everything from music and dance to cooking and makeup tutorials.
Sina Weibo can best be viewed as Twitter’s Chinese cousin (see Twitter below). This microblogging platform lets you insert rich media, such as images, videos, and music.
This social networking and microblogging site, founded in 2007, uses short-form blogging to post multimedia. Tumblr is an ideal place for creatives to market themselves, and the site publishes 80 million posts per day.
Reddit is a largely anonymous platform (except for “Ask Me Anything” posts) that uses “subreddits” as pages for chatting about every topic under the sun. Marketing with Reddit is less about promoting your products directly and more about creating buzz around trends or finding out what your consumers want.
Known as a social media home for journalists and political pundits, as well as many stars, Twitter makes talking to celebrities easy. You can build a loyal following there, and hashtags make it simple to market through organic dialog.
More of a career medium than a social one, LinkedIn is the platform to use if you want to boost your reputation as an authority in your field. You can network with colleagues, post articles, host webinars, and also hire staff or freelancers for your business there.
This Chinese social networking system is ideal for promoting events, books, films, and music. It’s gaining influence as a popular app with college students and urbanites interested in culture and high-end lifestyle.
You may not have heard of it, but Baidu Tieba is the most used of all communication platforms in China. The big plus of this app is that it facilitates hyper-targeted marketing and building of a specialized brand in Asia.
Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app that displays text and images only for a short time before they disappear. Marketers like Snapchat for storytelling, and the fleeting nature of its messages makes your audience hang on to your every post, lest they miss one.
Launched in 2012, Viber is very similar to WhatsApp in its functions. The big difference is Viber allows calls to landlines and mobile numbers. Because of its international nature, Viber is well poised to help you expand globally, and its business plan lets you communicate effortlessly with consumers in a fun way.
On the surface, Pinterest looks a lot like Instagram, but it’s much less social. Its sophisticated search function makes it great for identifying trends and finding ideas, while business accounts with data and promoted pins can help your marketing.
Like Viber and WhatsApp, Discord allows for instant messaging and VOIP calls, but it is focused on “communities” within the platform for more private group conversations. Consider Discord if you have a very niche market or want to build exclusivity for your brand.
If this seems like an overwhelming list, remember, you don’t need to use every platform. Focus on the media tools where your specific audience is most likely to be, and study how they engage on these platforms. When you add value and create real, human dialog with your customers, you can market organically and create a loyal following.
Being present on social media is more than just posting and leaving comments. It means really showing up and talking to live people.
To learn more about how to make social media marketing effective for your business, sign up for Tandem’s FREE on-demand social media workshop. We’ll teach you how to go from social caterpillar to social butterfly in no time to achieve your online marketing goals!