What Were the Top Social Media Sites in 2016?

Lance Concannon Lance Concannon, Marketing Director, Europe

Social media continues to grow and command a larger and larger percentage of internet traffic – yet the social media landscape is also getting more complicated and diverse as new platforms enter the fray.

If you want to reach a certain audience, how do you decide where to focus your efforts? It’s important to keep track of the latest news and trends regarding social media. With this in mind, let’s look at the top social media sites in 2016 and who is using them. This analysis will all be based on data collected by Pew Research Center unless otherwise noted.


Facebook is Still Number One

Facebook has long been the largest social media site and it doesn’t look like this is going to change in the foreseeable future. There have been signs that Facebook’s growth is slowing down, but that’s only natural. After all, there are only so many people on the planet. 68 percent of all American adults use Facebook, which is more than twice the number who use any other social network.

Some analysts have been saying that younger users are abandoning Facebook in favor of newer sites such as Instagram and Snapchat. It’s important to note that while teens and young adults may say that Facebook is no longer cool, they still use it. Facebook is now too large and dominant to be considered hip. While younger users are still on Facebook, if not always with great enthusiasm, older adults are now participating in record numbers. More than 60 percent of Americans who are 65+ are using it. That makes Facebook the most powerful tool for both socializing and marketing purposes. No matter who you’re looking for, chances are they’re on Facebook.



While Twitter is probably the most recognized social media site after Facebook, it’s lost a bit of momentum in recent years. In fact, Twitter is no longer growing at all and now trails LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. However, with over 300 million monthly active users, the site is still going strong. With 24 percent of all internet users and 21 percent of American adults using Twitter, it certainly has more than a respectable number of users.

Twitter users are not quite as diverse as Facebook users. If you’re looking to reach younger people, Twitter is a good place to go. In fact, the largest segment of Twitter users fall into the 18-29 age group while only 10 percent of people 65 and over use this platform. Twitter users also tend to be above average in education and income.



About one-quarter of all adults in the United States use LinkedIn. Unlike Twitter, however, usage has been going up in the last few years. Compared to other social media sites, LinkedIn has a more specialized user base, one that’s primarily interested in business. LinkedIn is easily the top B2B social media platform. People go there to offer or seek jobs, find investors, customers or business partners.

LinkedIn is also the social site that’s most popular among high income earners and people with college degrees. In fact, 77 percent of LinkedIn users earn at least $50,000 per year with 45 percent earning at least $75,000. This is well above that of other social sites. On Facebook, for example, the largest percentage of users earns less than $30,000 per year. The age range of LinkedIn users is fairly diverse, with the majority of users between 18 and 49. These numbers point to LinkedIn being the best social site to reach educated, affluent people with an interest in business.



Instagram is another fast-growing social media site. In terms of internet users and Americans who use it, Instagram currently ranks second to Facebook with around 500 million monthly users. Instagram has capitalized on the trend of internet content shifting towards photos and images. Instagram is a youth-oriented platform, with the largest percentage of users falling into the 18-29 age group. Instagram is also more popular with women than men.



Another leading image-based social site is Pinterest, used by 26 percent of American adults and 31 percent of all internet users. One of the most glaring statistics about Pinterest is that more than twice as many women use it than men. This, however, may be gradually changing. Over the last couple of years, men have been using Pinterest more and more. Pinterest is increasingly being used by marketers. The platform has become much more e-commerce friendly in recent years. With buyable pins and the ability to integrate with platforms such as Shopify, it’s convenient for sellers to display their products on their Pinterest boards.

The Importance of Gathering Your Own Data

The top social media sites are currently Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Snapchat, with around 150 million users, may also be included in this group. Along with Instagram, Snapchat appeals to younger users who prefer visual content. If you want to reach your audience on social media, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends. Yet you have to go beyond such broad data and perform your own social media analytics. The only way to really know which platforms are best for you is to test them. Statistics are useful for telling you the current situation, but this may already be shifting by the time you read about it. The best thing about doing your own analytics is that your data is up-to-the-minute.

The future of social media is difficult to predict. Facebook is likely to lead the field for some time. It has unrivaled reach and keeps adding new features to keep up with popular trends. For example, Facebook Live is now competing with Snapchat and other sites that offer live video. Each site has its own features, benefits and demographics. The best way to succeed with social media is to gather your own data and find out where your audience is spending its time.

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