Which Is The Fastest Growing Social Media Network?

Social Media Article
20 mins

Update: Read the latest figures in our recent update of this  article

Every year in January and February there are a host of new stats released for social media platforms. Knowing which platforms are on the up and actively growing as well as which have fallen on harder times can be really important when it comes to informing your digital marketing Strategy. It’s not the only metric the smart marketer will be using. Who the audience is and demographic reach are massively important as well, but for most marketers, resources and time are a precious commodity and there just isn’t enough to be everywhere on every platform. All of us want to reach a growing potential audience so overall usage and engagement stats are a great starting point to understand and follow.

The issue is a  lot of the data available online contradicts alternative reports or fills in missing gaps with published ‘facts’ from other sources to try to give a complete picture.  For any of you how have delved into the statistics you will be well aware of what a minefield finding reliable social media stats can be. So many sources, so many different metrics, so many published ‘truths’! which are you to believe?

Each year one of the areas we look into is Social media platform usage stats. A really great source of well-researched data is We Are Social’s annual Global Digital reports published in association with HootSuite. Unlike a lot of the stats thrown around the internet about social media platform usage, the global digital report cites its sources and makes it clear from where and over what time periods the information has been gathered. So out of interest, we thought we would analyse and compare the social stats published in 2017 ( see slide 46) vs 2018( see slide 59) to see which social media platforms have the highest rate of growth. The results were quite interesting but it wasn’t as easy as we had hoped it would be and there were some lessons in the process that we want to share with you.

We Are Social’s annual reports are an amazing feat. They definitely shine a torch on an otherwise dark and hard to determine arena of online social media metrics. Small criticisms aside ( more on this in a moment) the reports they produce are epic and you should definitely familiarise yourselves with them if you are looking for some supporting stats to help support your focus and strategy.

Here is the comparison table for Social Media Platforms Active monthly users comparing figures published by WeAreSocial in 2017 and 2018. We have simply calculated the gains and % change from the data in the two annual reports.

Social Platforms Active Monthly Users in Millions
Platform 2017 2018 Gains % Change
Facebook 1871 2167 296 +15.82%
WhatsApp 1000 1300 300 +30%
Facebook Messenger 1000 1300 300 +30%
Wechat 846 980 134 +15.83%
Instagram 600 800 200 +33.33%
Tumbler** 550 794 244 +44.36%
Twitter 317 330 13 +4.10%
Sina Weibo 297 376 79 +26.59%
Pinterest 150 200 50 +33.33%
LinkedIn** 106 260 154 +145.28%
Vkontakte 90 97 7 +7.77%
Data from We are social’s Digital in 2017 and Digital in 2018 reports
** These platforms do not publish Monthly Active Users ( MAU) data. Tumblr figure is monthly unique visitors Dec 2017 via Similarweb.  LinkedIn Data Via Fortune / Apptopia April 2017

New user growth for Twitter has undoubtedly slowed, and it will be interesting to see what future published figures show given a large number of changes and improvements Twitter made in the final quarter of 2017. We can only presume that Twitter saw the new user adoption slow and that is why they took the decision to release so many changes to their platform in an effort to increase user adoption. Those changes won’t have had time to take effect for these annual figure comparisons which were both published in January but the low growth rate is interesting enough in itself.

As you might expect Facebook continues to dominate in terms of sheer numbers of active monthly users. The overall growth of the platform is healthy at 15.83% but in growth terms, it would certainly appear to be slowing.

In terms of sheer numbers growth, Facebook as a network still had the highest overall number of new active monthly users, topped only by messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both of which are obviously owned by Facebook.  The growth explosion being enjoyed by messaging apps with both Facebook Messenger and WhatApp is in itself interesting. It shows much more rapid new user adoption between 2017 and 2018’s reports and is a warning to us all in business not to neglect what these platforms could bring to the table in terms of improved user reach, engagement and growth.

Instagram continues to go from strength to strength with a healthy 33.33% growth in regular monthly users. An additional 200 million users is an amazing achievement. As Instagram is owned by Facebook it would seem they really do have the Midas touch on choosing social channels to back but then given their dominance in the market they also own access to the largest audiences. It almost feels unfair… and perhaps it is.

Pinterest ( incidentally not owned by Facebook… At least not yet!) achieved a similar growth rate to Instagram but with a much lower overall user base currently at 200 million users according to the reports.

Tumblr’s growth was a surprise to us. Tumblr as a platform doesn’t seem to be grabbing the headlines like it used to when microblogging was the new kid on the block. It is certainly not getting the headline airplay that Instagram gets with its 800 Million active users. That’s a whopping 44+% increase on what was reported last year in January 2017 and with 794 million active monthly user its snapping at Instagram’s heels in terms of audience size. It always used to be Twitter that grabbed the headlines as the ultimate microblogging platform but Tumblr’s success in terms of its user base size surpasses Twitter’s. Perhaps that’s what is driving Twitter’s recent move to not be quite as micro with content as they always have been doubling tweet length to 280 characters and bringing in threaded tweets?

It is, of course, debatable how much of a true social network Tumblr really is. We have never really seen it in that vein at Target Internet but the platform does have all the typical social attributes other social networks offer. You can follow people, like, share and upvote content. It also has some really interesting advertising options. Certainly, these results caused us to sit up an re-evaluate Tumblr as a social network that could drive results. The growth rate certainly provides some food for thought if you have never really considered Tumblr as a potential network that could boost your business. Many marketers tell of its fantastically high reach with younger audiences, so if millennials are your target audience you should maybe re-evaluate how Tumblr could help you reach them.

The biggest % growth change was LinkedIn achieving a startling 145%+ growth in users. At 200 million users LinkedIn still has a long way to catch up some of the other stars in the social media stratosphere but as a growth rate achievement, they are clearly doing something right. Adding 154 million users from a starting point of 105 million reported in 2017 is quite simply an astonishing achievement.

The more eagle-eyed among you may be curious about the lack of any mention of Snapchat in the comparison above. Snapchat is listed in both the 2017 and 2018 reports by WeAreSocial but a close look at the footnotes shows the 2017 figure for Snapchat are not official sources from the company itself but a figure reported in the press back in June of 2016.Worse still the data from Snapchat which is reporting daily active users have been placed next to data from other social platforms which reports on Monthly Active users. We took the decision that a fair comparison between the two reports for Snapchat wasn’t viable. We are also not sure where a figure of 300 Million users in 2017’s report has actually come from. It’s a lot higher than any snapshot figures we have seen including Snapchats own figures.

Snapchat don’t regularly report on users stats so there is always a lot of conflicting data on their user base but investor report data published TechCrunch in February 2018 show a healthy growth rate of +18.35% from Quarter 4 in 2016 to Quarter 4 of 2017. That would put it ahead of Facebook in terms of user growth rate as a percentage.  But given that this is actually a measure of daily users rather than monthly users we think the performance is actually rather more impressive than the % suggests.  It just goes to prove that you cant always rely on headline stats and that you really do need to look at the small print and reference notes before drawing your conclusions. It’s so easy to compare apples with oranges when it comes to social media statistics.

Now if we could just find a source of reliable daily active users of social platforms we could really build a true picture of how the Snapchat platform is really stacking up against its competition in the race for the widest user base possible. Alas, our search for that data drew too many blanks, but be wary of third-party data available about Snapchat growth and user adoption. There is a lot of misleading information out there.

So in conclusion, for all of the above platforms, there is good news. The regular monthly userbase is growing. For some its expanding faster than for others, but one thing is for sure. Social media platforms are continuing to grow and will be a part of the overall marketing scene for some time.

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