Wondering which apps you should jump in on in 2021? Here’s a list of the 25 top social media networks you can use to grow your business and enrich your personal life in 2021. I’ve included the strengths and weaknesses of each network at the end of the descriptions for additional detail. Just keep in mind that these are my subjective opinions based on my experience on the network and outside research.
I’ve included many popular networks such as Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, and Snapchat, but also many newer or lesser-known networks that also offer many benefits such as Clubhouse, Houseparty, and Caffeine.
Whether you just want to learn more about the rapidly changing world of social media, or are looking for the best apps to grow your business and connect with friends, you’re sure to find some helpful information in this list.
25 Social Media Networks You Should Know:
1. WhatsApp: WhatsApp is a popular messaging and voice-over app with users in over 180 countries. When it first started, WhatsApp was only used by people to communicate with their family and friends. Now, WhatsApp is used by people across all age groups to communicate around the globe by sending text, audio, images and videos.
Strengths: WhatsApp is a great way to connect with friends and family who live in other countries. Both parties need to have a working phone number, but there is no fee for using the app. This is a great alternative to being charged for placing international calls or for those who do not have an unlimited phone plan.
Weaknesses: On the marketing side of things, there is not much opportunity for reach, as the app is a consumer-based network. There is no way for users to see ads or recommended content.
2. Facebook: Facebook is most likely the first network that comes to mind when thinking of “big social media networks”. What started as a Harvard student’s side-project, has arguably grown to become the most used social media network. Today, toddlers to grandmothers can be found on Facebook. The app has so many useful features, such as group pages, a marketplace, daily stories, event postings, news, games, etc.
Strengths: Facebook is the app that I would say has the widest variety of features of comparatively great quality out of all the apps I’ve used (and that’s a huge compliment). The network is especially great for marketers and small business owners, as it has such a wide reach and established methods of paid and free advertising.
Weaknesses: Younger generations have collectively sworn off using the app. Whether the younger audience has gotten tired and wanted to move to newer, more exciting networks, or simply wanted more privacy from all of their relatives on the app, there is no denying the exodus of gen Z and millennials off of Facebook.
3. Clubhouse: Clubhouse labels itself as a “drop-in audio chat” that is based off of the early internet chat rooms of the 2000’s, except instead of messaging, it’s…well, solely audio. Users on the app can either create, participate in, or simply listen to discussions and interviews on a variety of topics like venture capital, real estate, tech, philosophy, politics, self-improvement, music, makeup, languages etc. Virtually any topic you can think of will have an audience and group of experts willing to discuss, and if there isn’t yet, there soon will be given the app’s exponential growth in popularity.
Strengths: Due to the app’s new release and invite-only policy, users have access to industry leaders and content creators that they might not have access to otherwise… at least for free.
Weaknesses: It’s difficult to say whether the app will take off or not. A lot of new social media apps are also being created and there is talk of existing apps installing features similar to Clubhouse.
In terms of marketing, I would say Clubhouse is only beneficial if you are a consultant or small business owner, as it is time consuming to gain any type of following.
4. CaringBridge: If you’re looking for a true community filled with well-mannered and good-hearted people on the internet, look no further than CaringBridge. This wonderful site is fueled by donations. The network lets people share their health journey as they struggle with challenging health issues. In a health crisis, there are a ton of decisions, choices, and practical needs that come up. CaringBridge helps people connect with others to support them throughout their journey.
Strengths: This is a very unique site that can offer a lot of support if you or someone you know is dealing with a difficult health journey, and needs some encouragement along the way. This is a judgement free zone, much needed in today’s world.
Weaknesses: To be honest- none. I think this is the most wholesome a network can get. I would just suggest showing them some love so that the user base can grow.
5. Houseparty: This is a social networking app that allows friends to video chat all together in a “room.” Think of it as Zoom, but for friends (and more fun). Users can have infinite rooms and move between rooms, or they can just talk 1 on 1. Users receive a notification when friends open the app and can join chats with friends (and friends of friends). This is a great place to catch-up with your best friends and family in one place, especially during quarantine.
Strengths: The network is great for getting people together on a short notice and for expanding your social network by meeting new people with common connections.
Weaknesses: Users have expressed privacy concerns in the past concerning hackers and data breaches. Be cautious if you have young children using the app.
In addition to this, the pandemic has brought about many other group video networks that provide similar services.
6. LinkedIn: Ah yes, Linkedin. The network I’ve been spending the most time on as a recent graduate looking to kick off my career. LinkedIn is considered one of the original social media networks, and is still going strong today. It allows members, workers and employers, to create profiles and connections, simulating real-world professional relationships. Members can network with others in their career field or post and apply to job openings all over the globe.
Strengths: Linkedin dominates the business social media networking space, with the most users and job postings. There is no better place to connect with industry professionals, whether you are looking to launch your career or learn more about your industry.
Weaknesses: Active users tend to be young professionals, as established professionals have generally already built a network through their career and may not feel the need to engage frequently. The average monthly minutes used is low (see chart at the top of the post). Low response rates also leave more to be desired.
7. hi5: On the other side of the spectrum from Linkedin, this American social networking is popular among a younger audience. The service allows users to create a profile and provide personal information including interests, age, photos, and hometown. Users can also send friend requests via e-mail to other users. Members can play games, watch videos, or just browse around. I’ve personally never heard of the network before writing this article, which may be a bad sign considering it’s been around for 16 years.
Strengths: If you were really into MySpace back in the day, hi5 may just fill the spot for nostalgia. (I struggled to find other strengths, if I’m honest.)
Weaknesses: This site seems very outdated and not so pleasant to look at. There are many more innovative networks nowadays that offer better, more relevant services.
8. QQ: A widely popular instant messaging network, QQ is used primarily by young people in China. It is also connected to another popular social network, WeChat, which has played a part in its wide adoption. IThe network also enables users to decorate their avatars, watch movies, play online games, shop online, blog, and make payments.
Strengths: The app has built significant traction in China. According to Alexa, it’s the 5th most searched website in the world, so they must be doing something right!
Weaknesses: It’s used primarily in China, not the U.S. But who knows, maybe it will catch on soon.
9. Messenger: One of Facebook’s many babies, Messenger started off as a built in feature but became a stand-alone app in 2011 due to its success. Users can use the network similarly to other messaging platforms, including video chat, with Facebook friends. This is also great for businesses who can advertise, create chatbots, and send newsletters to potential customers.
Strengths: It’s a great way to chat with your network, especially since most of us have garnered a lot of friends and family members on Facebook over the years.
Weaknesses: Well… many people just don’t use it anymore. To be honest, I personally really like the network, but if my friends don’t, there’s not much incentive.
10. WeChat: This is an innovative social media network used around the globe, but especially in Asia. In 2018, WeChat was the largest standalone mobile app, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Users can use WeChat to do almost anything imaginable with an app such as shop online, make payments offline, make reservations, and much more. Almost all of my international friends from China and Korea rave about the app, and use it consistently.
Strengths: Extremely innovative. The app allows for multiple services to be provided under 1 network. Imagine an app like Facebook combined with Amazon, PayPal, Airbnb, and Uber. Crazy, right!
Weaknesses: Failure to catch on here. Unfortunately, the app has not gained much, if any, popularity in the U.S. If the network finds a way to expand into the U.S. market, other networks should watch out!
11. Nextdoor: Like Clubhouse, Nextdoor is another social media app that skyrocketed during the pandemic. It’s currently the eighth-biggest social network in the US! If you want to stay up to speed with the happenings in your neighborhood, this is the app for you. The network allows you to input your neighborhood and connect with others living nearby. If, perhaps, you want to sell something or bring attention to an issue that affects the area, this would be the best place to look.
Strengths: Great opportunity for local businesses. If you have a local or service-based business, this is a great site to promote your brand to potential customers.
The site also acts as a sort of community center, where you can voice concerns that directly impact your neighborhood. Most networks do not focus on local issues of events.
Weaknesses: The app has faced controversy over racial profiling and vilification of the homeless. It is hard to say if the app will be working to solve these issues.
12. Quora: If you’ve ever typed a question into Google, you’ve probably gotten a Quora answer as one of your top results. But you don’t only have to access answered questions through Google. You can create an account and ask your own questions, or answer questions too. If you have a question about anything, you can ask people on Quora for advice. Most of the questions I’ve had have been answered previously on the site, but if you are more original than me, you might have some unique inquiries waiting for unique answers on Quora.
Strengths: You can get direct answers- and quickly. No need to spend hours reading articles and conducting research if you just need advice or a quick response.
Weaknesses: Positives can also be negatives. Although you might get a direct and short answer, the validity or accuracy of the answer can’t be proved. Use at your own risk.
13. Meetup: Are you interested in meeting other people who share your interests or hobbies? If so, then Meetup is for you. Meetup allows users to organize online groups that host in-person and virtual events. There are all kinds of events on the site from gardening and yoga, to salsa dancing and dating. The pandemic may not allow you to attend those kinds of in-person events, but the site also offers a lot of online events that you can attend from anywhere.
Strengths: A great way to meet people in-person (post-Covid, of course)
I’ve also seen this network be used quite often by travelers who want to experience the charms of international locations while avoiding tourist traps.
Weaknesses: None, really. Just be cautious with who you decide to meet with and be safe!
14. YouTube: Youtube allows users to upload and view videos on virtually any topic under the sun. It offers a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media videos. You can watch How To’s, movie trailers, lives treams, music videos, comedy shows, tutorials, vlogs… pretty much anything. Whether you are looking for entertainment, education, or relaxation, you are sure to find something for the topic you are looking for. Youtube also has a Premium membership that grants subscribers access to movies and tv shows, some being exclusive to the network.
Strengths:If you’re on the viewing end, Youtube is a great form of information and entertainment without the time commitment associated with watching a movie of tv show.
If you want to create and upload content, it’s a great way to share information and go in-depth with what you do, while developing a follower base.
Weaknesses: On the creator side, there have been many issues with accounts and videos being taken down without thorough investigation.
15. Caffeine: Caffeine is best described as a social broadcasting network that allows users to watch live streams of different genres including gaming, sports, and entertainment. The network is different to other popular live streaming sites, Such as Twitch, in that it offers its services without pesky ads. This provides a better viewing experience for users.
Strengths: The company puts a bigger emphasis on personal conversation between broadcasters and their friends /fans to avoid some of the hate and harassment that have occurred on other networks.
Weaknesses: Hmmm can’t think of any just yet!
16. Instagram: It’s one of the most popular social media apps and one of my personal favorites. The app allows you to post pictures and videos, and follow brands, people or friends who upload content you enjoy and want to keep up with. The app is very aesthetically pleasing and can offer artistic inspiration, if that is what you’re looking for. You can also simply use it to keep up with your friends or celebs you admire. According to Wikipedia, the most followed person is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo with over 233 million followers.
Strengths: The app has a huge user base, and they are pretty active.
It’s also a great place for businesses. Creating a page and reaching out to people is free, and many people aren’t as picky with who they follow compared to other networks.
Weaknesses: Although praised for its influence, Instagram has been the subject of criticism, most notably for policy and interface changes, allegations of censorship, and illegal or improper content uploaded by users.
Instagram may also be losing steam to the next big social media network, Tiktok (but more on that later).
17. Steemit: Steemit is an up and coming blogging and social media website that rewards its users with the cryptocurrency STEEM through private transactions for publishing and curating content. I haven’t used it yet, but it seems like an interesting idea considering the increasing interest and popularity of cryptocurrency, especially in the last year.
Strengths: Very original idea that incentivizes users with currency.
Weaknesses: Seems like the app is losing traction, as the app lost users in 2020.
18. Parler: Parler is an American alt-tech microblogging and social networking network. The app launched in 2018, and markets itself as a free speech and unbiased alternative network to mainstream social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The app has a significant user base that includes Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and far-right extremists. Posts have been known to contain far-right content, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories such as QAnon. I’m not sure if this is the best network for everybody, but if your values align with the ones I described, then it might be a good fit for you.
Strengths: Since being widely criticized by people across the political aisle, a certain group of Conservatives and Trump-supporters expressed strong support for the app. This may cause the app to make a come-back, or at least spark future attention.
Weaknesses: As of 2021, the app remains suspended from Apple and Google’s app stores. The information on the app is also highly controversial.
19. Tumblr: Tumblr is a microblogging site that allows users to share stories, photos, GIFs, TV shows, links, quips, dumb jokes, smart jokes, Spotify tracks, mp3s, videos, fashion, art, deep stuff. Users can engage with others who have similar interests and passions, building off of each other’s posts. Tumblr,really lets you explore and share niche interests that would be difficult to do on other networks. However, in the past 5 or so years, the network hasn’t been as popular as it was in the 2010s.
Strengths: You can really explore niche interests and find accepting and interesting communities.
Weaknesses: The network seems to be declining. Tumblr has also had issues with regulation and explicit content.
20. TikTok: Finally, we’ve arrived at the hottest app of the moment, and I completely understand the appeal. TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing social media network and has been downloaded more than 1.2 billion times all over the globe. The network allows users to edit, post, and interact with short videos ranging from 3 to 15 seconds. The app is particularly gifted in curating custom content to each user, making sure to generate content to keep you entertained. Many users of TikTok have had so much success with their posts, that they are garnering celebrity status.
Strengths: This app is the best at catering content specifically to each user. Each video you’re recommended will most likely fit your interests.
It’s also extremely user friendly, allowing you to scroll easily through each video. This is definitely the place to go to disengage.
Weaknesses: The user base skews very young. I would say most users are between 13-24. As a 22-year-old, I definitely feel like I’m at the older end of the spectrum. Older audiences might not find content that caters to them.
21. Twitter: This is a social media network great for sharing news and information about entertainment, sports, politics, and more. The network has created a strong emphasis on providing real-time information, which can be great to communicate with friends and followers during sports events, political debates, concerts, tv shows, and more. You can also use the network to generally share content and gain insights on the world’s happenings. If you want to keep up with the latest happenings or you’re interested in hearing from celebrities and industries straight from the source, this is the place to be.
Strengths: Because all information comes in real-time, you’ll be the first to hear lots of news and commentary.
Weaknesses: Twitter has been under a lot of scrutiny for selective censorship and fake news. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet!
22. SnapChat: SnapChat is a social media network that allows users to add friends and send teach other pictures with cool filters and messages . After a designated period of time, the pictures disappear forever. I remember my friends being obsessed with maintaining “streaks” or sending pictures to the same people for days, months, and years, on end to keep some kind of personal record.
Strengths: Snapchat was able to capitalize on the fear that the “internet is forever”, by allowing photos to disappear.
Weaknesses: “The internet is forever”. Pictures can still be saved, so the premise of the app is flawed.
Also, other networks, like Instagram, have since installed similar features.
23. Pinterest: Pinterest, the ultimate aesthetically-pleasing getaway. This social media network is designed to help members share their designs, photos, images, and other artistic interests. Think of Pinterest as a cork board where you “pin” images and designs to your “wall”. You can use these images as inspirations for your future creative endeavors. This is the ultimate network for artists, creators, or anybody looking for inspiration. Pinterest has become my go-to for outfit, nail, and apartment inspiration.
Strengths: Never-ending stream of creative content tailored to your interests. Can’t get much better than that. I particularly recommend this app if you’re looking to decorate your home or spruce up your wardrobe.
Weaknesses: I would not really call this a “social media network”, as not a lot of socialising is going down on here. The app is more for inspiration. It’s not REALLY a weakness, just something to keep in mind.
24.Reddit: Reddit can be described as a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. Users can create “threads” where they talk about certain topics and issues. Users can also vote on comments that they enjoy, which increases the comments’ visibility in the app. The network has a very loyal following — 1.3 billion users so far. So, if you want to stay up-to-date on where culture and society is going, Reddit is a good tool for that.
Strengths: If you don’t particularly like being “loud” and prefer to be a silent observer, there is still a lot you can learn by reading discussions on the network.
Weaknesses: Not great for marketing or promoting. The network will penalize users for sending out too many links. Focus on contributing to conversations and you may gain a following.
25. Twitch: This is a live-streaming network that’s used mostly by gamers to stream their game play or watch other gamers doing the same, either to learn or for pure entertainment. It has been steadily gaining popularity, with certain popular streamers like xQcOW, Trick2g, Rubius, and many others having millions of followers each. I am personally not a huge fan of video games, but I can certainly see the appeal from learning from others with similar interests.
Strengths: With so many video games out there, I can only see this network growing. The network also boasts a devout user base, with many people spendings hours and hours on the network everyday.
Weaknesses: As someone who knows nothing about video games, it’s hard to find any technical weaknesses. But with so many prolific gamers on the site, I’m sure Twitch is doing something right.
Phew! That was a lot of information I just went through. Hopefully you gained some insight into what the social media world has to offer. Were you persuaded to join any networks? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be updating this post again in the future.
About the Author: Francheska Rossi is a recent graduate from Emory University and marketing intern who is actively looking to land her first job in a marketing department or an ad agency.
If you’d like to reach Francheska, you can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/anna-francheska-rossi