Social media continues to evolve, innovate, and adapt to society. Meanwhile, it has essentially overtaken traditional media in terms of ad revenue and marketing potential. New social media platforms pop up almost every day and new trends like blockchain-based apps and privacy-enhanced, encrypted sites may be the future.
However, some of the original social media juggernauts still dominate the landscape. Between Facebook and Google (YouTube), for instance, about 70 percent of the Internet’s ad revenue is controlled.
Here are the top social media platforms in 2020:
People forget that Twitter was a bit of a Hail Mary when it first came onto the scene. Most media analysts didn’t think it would gain traction, much less transform the Internet. Early infusions of cash by the multi-stage investment firm TCG combined with word-of-mouth and a devoted community of loyal users allowed Twitter to slowly change expectations of social media.
Previously, this landscape was dominated by only Facebook and there wasn’t a demand for micro-blogging or the kind of rapid-fire real-time reporting that Twitter began to facilitate. Then, revolutionaries began using Twitter to report on the Arab Spring and evade authoritarian governments and soon it became clear that Twitter was a different kind of social media that was vitally important in the world.
Facebook has come under fire in recent years for its handling of misinformation, censorship, and its facilitation of unethical data harvesting. For years, it was the hottest property on the Internet and ruled the roost when it comes to social media. Then, it became a publicly-traded company and various entities began manipulating its vast trove of user data. Facebook also began to de-platform alternative media sites and algorithmically censor posts it considered disinformation, even though some of these posts were just expressing anti-establishment views.
As such, it appeared that the private sector had joined forces with the government to control the flow of information. Facebook has had a rough few years as a result of these scandals but it is still the most powerful social media platform in the world, worth many billions, and one of the leaders in online ad revenue.
LinkedIn is sometimes overlooked on lists of social media because it’s based on more professional interactions and networking opportunities. But just because there are no political memes or funny cat gifs doesn’t mean it’s not a powerhouse. LinkedIn has grown steadily since 2003, outliving dozens of competitor sites, and as of 2020 has 310 million active monthly users. 61 million of those users hold senior positions with their companies.
Because of the site’s massive trove of entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and business contacts, there are salespersons whose only Rolodex of leads is LinkedIn.
Now owned by Facebook, Instagram continues to be one of the most popular social media apps, boasting 1 billion active users. Instagram is an image-based platform that appeals to a lot of people who don’t otherwise like social media or who are jaded by Facebook and Twitter. While it’s difficult to share links on Instagram and the site faces competition from other visual platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok, the crowning jewel of Facebook’s acquisitions is certainly one of the most successful platforms of the century.
Snapchat is a recent phenomenon that is based on short-lived, impermanent posts. It is extremely popular among young people and has assembled 360 million active monthly users in an astonishingly short amount of time. As a social media platform, Snapchat features user-generated content of the kind we used to see on extinct apps like Vine, as well as behind-the-scenes videos and exclusive offers. It is a beehive of cultural influencers and advertising, which could eventually dilute the app’s popularity.
Reddit has stirred controversy in the past due to some of its more strange and offensive communities, but Alexa still ranks it in the top 20 most-visited destinations online. Reddit is a mixture of social bookmarking, aggregation, and user content, featuring 150,000 individual micro-communities, called subreddits, that obsess over pretty much every idea or subject in human history. It’s fantastic as a research tool and beloved by many Internet users.
These are just the top social media platforms for 2020. There are many more – Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, etc. – that incredibly strong and could be listed as well.
What’s your favorite social media platform and why do you use it? Feel free to leave comments below.