Verto Index: Social Media

Social media is a core part of the consumer internet: according to Verto Analytics data, social media apps have the highest overall reach of all mobile app categories. Collectively, American adults (ages 18 and over) spend nearly five billion hours on social media apps per month alone (and that doesn’t even include time spent on social media websites using PCs or laptop computers).

This month’s Verto Index looks at the most popular social media apps, websites, and services from Facebook to Match.com. We’ve also included messaging apps, which also play a key role in this sector and often blur the line between communications tool and social network.

The Dominance of Facebook

Facebook rules the social media landscape. Three of the top five social media properties are owned by Facebook (in addition to its eponymous brand, Facebook also owns Instagram and Facebook Messenger), and Facebook’s flagship property eclipses its competition in just about every metric: its user base, reach, and the amount of time that users spend on the Facebook app or website all surpass YouTube, the second-place contender. Notably, the average Facebook user racks up 311 sessions per month, which is nearly three times the number of sessions claimed by Snapchat users (the next highest-ranking site for monthly session numbers). Facebook’s 95% reach also means that nearly the entire online adult population in the U.S. spends time using Facebook each month, totalling more than 235 million users.

Snapchat Has Discovered the Recipe for Stickiness

While it has only 17% of Facebook’s user base and only 16% reach among adults in the U.S., Snapchat stands out in one important metric: its stickiness score of 48%, which places it in the #2 spot on the Index (just behind Facebook) when it comes to user engagement. Verto’s stickiness rating compares daily users to monthly users to quantify the most engaged users, and Snapchat is clearly doing something right: its users rack up an average of 119 sessions per month, putting it far ahead of YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram.

Snapchat already seems prepared to take this user engagement to the next level. In the past few months alone, the company has rebranded itself as Snap, released a wearable device, and laid the groundwork for an IPO. And, just this week, Snap appears to be repositioning itself as a fully-fledged media platform by tailoring itself as the “de facto news outlet” for its users – and it even changed its ad revenue models to reflect a system more similar to conventional television programming. It’s a strategy that’s taken straight from Facebook’s own playbook. With a small but highly engaged user base, can Snap transition from a simple, ephemeral photo app to a robust publishing platform and media entity?

While Snapchat has a healthy advantage when it comes to stickiness, it has a few notable competitors in the “small but sticky” category – especially among social media properties that didn’t make it into the Top 15 on our index. While LINE and Kik both have much smaller user bases than Snapchat, these users are highly engaged, accounting for hundreds of sessions per user per month. If either of these properties can maintain this level of engagement while scaling up their user base, they could start chipping away at Snapchat’s numbers.

Pinterest is Still Pigeon-Holed

While Pinterest recently celebrated reaching 150 million monthly active users and developing an increasingly diverse global user base, Verto Analytics data shows that its American user base remains largely unchanged. Seventy percent of Pinterest’s adult U.S. users are female and under the age of 45. (For comparison, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter audiences demonstrate greater gender parity: 53% of their users are women). This gender skew is especially strong among users ages 45 to 54: 87% of Pinterest’s users within this demographic are female, although users on the younger and older edges of the spectrum show a greater move towards a more balanced audience.

The company has launched recent efforts to shed its image as a female-leaning shopping and fashion pin boarding site, and Pinterest’s own reported numbers indicate that men now make up 40% of all users globally – but can the company achieve these numbers domestically?

What’s Next for Social Media?

As in the media sphere, consolidation is a major trend in the social media market. Of the top 15 properties we profiled in this Index, seven are owned by either Google or Facebook – and Microsoft will soon be able to claim two for its own. The next year will be an important one for  Facebook and Google. Will either company try to make another big social media acquisition? And, of course, all eyes are on Snap’s pending IPO, which is widely expected to happen in early 2017. With a rumored valuation of up to $35 billion, Snap’s ambitious plans will have a serious impact on the social media sphere and beyond.

Interested in our data on social media rankings? Download a copy of the Social Media Index. Or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest insights.