Verto Index: Social Media

This month’s Verto Index looks at the most popular social media platforms (apps and websites) from Facebook to Tumblr, based on monthly unique users (among U.S. adults, ages 18 and above). As we have done in previous years, we are also including messaging apps and services in this Index, as they often blur the line between social media and communications services, and many of the leading messaging apps are also owned by the globe’s biggest social media platforms.

The Top-Ranking Social Media Platforms

Unsurprisingly, Facebook dominates our Verto Index, taking the top three positions in our list of the most popular social media platforms. Despite a tumultuous year, Facebook’s vast flagship social media platform is still used by nearly every U.S. online adult at least once per month, with almost 205 million monthly unique users and a reach of 96%. Instagram (acquired by Facebook in 2012) comes in second, with nearly 155 million monthly unique users and a 72% reach. And Facebook’s Messenger service slides comfortably into third place, with about 121 million monthly users and a 56% reach. Twitter is the first non-Facebook owned property to enter our rankings, at the number-four position. Over the past few years, the company has struggled with leadership changes and user retention numbers, while experimenting with content such as live-streamed sports matches and other major events. Its efforts appear to be gaining traction: Twitter claims 110 million monthly users and 51% reach, surpassing the likes of Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr. And Snapchat, often cited as a one of Facebook’s principle rivals (or at least, source of “inspiration” for new features) is the sole mobile-only platform in our top ten rankings: it racked up more than 51 million monthly users on mobile devices alone, with a reach of 24%.

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Which Social Media Platforms Are Most Engaging?

Stickiness is Verto’s measure of user engagement, comparing daily users to monthly users. While Snapchat may lack Facebook’s massive user numbers, its efforts to create an engaging app continue to show signs of success. While Facebook’s 69% stickiness still tops the list, Snapchat racks of a 43% stickiness rating, placing it comfortably ahead of larger competitors like Google Hangouts (37% stickiness) and Instagram (35% stickiness).

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When It Comes to Social Media, Where Do We Spend the Most Time?

While user engagement is an important measure of any digital property, the amount of time that the average user spends on a given social media platform is also a solid indicator of a property’s potential to develop loyal users who come back on a regular basis. And our data demonstrates how Facebook dominates this field as well: its users spend an average of more than 16 hours per month using the platform. But looking beyond the blue behemoth, the other social media platforms that draw the greatest amounts of user time are smaller, more niche properties; Discord, a chat platform for gamers, is the second-ranking platform in terms of time spent – the average user spends nearly six hours per month on Discord, and five hours per month with Tumblr, the third-ranking social media platform on our list. WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, also attracts users for more than four hours per month, while Kik – a mobile-focused social media platform known for attracting teenagers and younger users – also draws about four hours of user time per month.

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The Great Debate: Facebook vs. Instagram vs. Snapchat

Facebook and Snapchat have spent the past few years engaged in a sort of rivalry, particularly around features related to sharing ephemeral video and images, and the near-viral range of filters and stickers that can be applied to these images prior to sharing. While our earlier charts show that Facebook is clearly leading the way in terms of sheer user numbers and engagement, Snapchat has made it clear that it’s targeting specific audiences. In the past few months alone, it’s made big bets on meme-heavy content to attract Gen Z and Millennial audiences, while rolling out a widely-panned redesign aimed at making the app easier for older users to navigate. But do its user demographics tell a different story?

We analyzed users of Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram based on age and gender. The user demographics of Facebook and Instagram are largely representative of the U.S. adult online population – that is, they index at around 100 for most age groups and both genders (in the chart above, index numbers are shown in the lighter color blocks). However, Snapchat’s user base tells a different story: while the ratio between male and female users index close to 100, our analysis of Snapchat users by age reveals the service is overwhelmingly more popular with younger users. Verto data shows that the service indexes at 305 for users between the ages of 18-24, meaning that 18-24 year olds are 3.06 times more likely to use Snapchat compared to the general population. A similar, though less drastic, effect is seen among users between the ages of 25-34, who index 155. In contrast, Snapchat users above the age of 55 index just 27, which means they are significantly underrepresented, and especially compared to users in the same age range for Instagram and Facebook.

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