Billions of people around the world grew up during the age of social media, and mankind is slowly marching toward a future where nearly everyone will be a digital native.
For the one-third of humanity that now uses a smartphone, messaging and status updates are often more natural than having a live conversation. In a world where social interactions are peppered with emojis and funneled through a front-facing camera, the platforms we use become more than mere service providers; they are the connective tissue of our society.
What services are people using to communicate?
Monthly active users (MAUs) is a metric commonly used to evaluate how many people are using a service regularly.
Let’s take a closer look at these massive platforms.
The Facebook Empire
On its own, Facebook is a behemoth, but adding in the other platforms run by Mark Zuckerberg paints a clear picture of who controls the social media in 2018.
During its growth spurt in the late aughts, Facebook emerged as the first truly global social networks, hitting one billion monthly active users and essentially popularizing the idea of social media. These days, Facebook appears to be hitting engagement and growth plateaus, but acquisitions such as Instagram and WhatsApp are fueling growth for the company, with the former accounting for over a third of revenue.
In China, WeChat isn’t just a typical messenger app.
This “super app” – which facilitates everything from point-of-sale purchases to accessing public services – is likely the template that other social platforms around the world will emulate as they strive for more thorough integration with their users’ lives.
Because WeChat is typically also used for work, the average user spends about an hour in-app each day. That is a level of engagement most platforms can only dream of.
The “Front Page of the Internet” has grown up.
The oft controversial message board – created in 2005 – is now worth an estimated $1.8 billion, and is contemplating an IPO in the near future. While the company does make money from advertising, a unique membership feature called Reddit Gold is helping bring in funding directly from the community.
When people have something to say publicly or look to debate big issues in the news cycle, more often than not, they use Twitter. Tweets from world leaders and CEOs can have far-reaching consequences, and hashtagged social movements have united more people than ever to affect change. For better or worse, Twitter fills an important role in modern society.
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Unfortunately for Twitter, great responsibility has translated into greater scrutiny rather than strong revenue growth. The company has faced high profile controversies over harassment, bots, and fake news, and has struggled to match the sky-high growth expectations set when the “microblogging” platform went public in 2013. Twitter is still experimenting with new ways to monetize its 300+ million active user base.
In 2015, Snapchat, having already thoroughly conquered the under-18 market, looked set to disrupt the social media landscape. What came next was a tragedy in two acts.
First, Instagram released its Story feature that same year, effectively cloning Snapchat’s features and layout within their app. Many users, who had only recently began using novel new platform, flocked back to Instagram where they already had a developed following.
Secondly, a redesign of the Snapchat interface was widely criticized by high profile users, speeding up an exodus to Instagram.
Snapchat, which has since gone public, still has a quarter of billion MAUs, but questions remain about whether the platform can recapture the magic of their earlier years.