Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 9 days left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

What are the top 10 social media apps?

Want to find out what the top 10 social media apps are in the UK? We’ve got the full list, as well as details about each one.

Fl  Blog   Top 10 Social Media Banner

The internet has been around for a relatively short time, yet it’s contributed to a rapid shift in our society. Along with greater access to information, a more connected world, and more convenience in our day-to-day lives, we’ve also seen things like the rise of online shopping and social media. This latter point is important, as some estimates suggest nearly half of the world’s population uses social media platforms. But what are the top 10 social media apps?

We take a look at some of the most popular and prevalent platforms out there for staying connected. We also explore how many people are using them, where they started, and what they can be used for.

Social media apps – a brief history

The World Wide Web became publicly available on 6th August 1991 and has since grown to touch just about every part of our lives. Around 4.57 billion people around the world are using the internet, as of the start of April 2020, with roughly 3.81 billion using social media. But what exactly is social media, and when did it start becoming popular?

What is social media?

Put simply, social media apps and websites are platforms that give users the chance to create, share, and engage with content and/or take part in social networking. Users can create a profile, connect with others, and interact with different types of digital media.

The first social media platforms

In 1997, a website called Six Degrees was created. This site is widely regarded as the first recognisable social media platform on the internet. It allowed users to list their friends and family members, as well as send messages to others and create posts. This model was then adopted by other sites such as Friendster (2002), LinkedIn (2002), and Myspace (2003).

Social media today

Although many of the early social media sites aren’t around anymore, several have grown to a colossal size. With the launch of the first proper apps in 2008, as well as the rise of smartphones and mobile internet, social media is now ubiquitous. 

There has also been a significant shift in the way we use the top 10 social media apps. They’re now much more than just a place to keep in touch. As we’ll see, they’re also used by businesses for marketing campaigns, by news outlets to keep people informed, and by companies searching for new employees. Clearly, having digital skills in social media is essential in the modern world.

The top 10 social media apps

So, what are the top 10 social media apps? It’s not necessarily a simple question to answer, as there are several ways you can measure the success of the various platforms. For example, we could look at revenue, number of users, how active the communities are, how long they’ve been in operation, and many other factors.

What’s more, how do we measure success in different parts of the world? Although platforms such as YouTube are popular in the West, it’s been blocked in Mainland China since 2009. Similarly, WeChat has over 1 billion users in Asia, yet barely registers in the UK.

To give some context to our list of the top 10 social media apps, we’ve used data from Statista on the prevalence of social media in the UK. We’ve also focused on the more media-driven apps, which is why services such as WhatsApp and Messenger don’t feature.



Number of users worldwide

According to the statistics, there are 2 billion YouTube users, with 29% of internet users having an account on the video-sharing platform. We even have a FutureLearn channel.  YouTube is also the most widely-used social media app in the UK.


YouTube first launched back in 2005. It was designed as a website where people could view, upload, and share content. The first video uploaded was of one of the founders on a trip to San Diego zoo.

The platform was a rapid success, so much so that Google purchased the company in 2006. Since then, it’s continued to grow; now allowing live broadcasts, feature-length films, music videos, and many other kinds of content. In 2019, YouTube generated $14 billion in revenue.

What is it useful for?

There are so many great uses for YouTube. Whether you use it to stream music, watch your favourite stars, or keep up-to-date with current affairs, it’s a mainstay in the top 10 social media apps. For those who want to create content, it’s also a place where you can practise your art. Aspiring filmmakers can learn how to connect with audiences, as well as explore how films go from script to screen.



Number of users worldwide

Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide, with over 2.6 billion users each month. It was also the first of the social media apps to have more than a billion users. Facebook is second on our list of the top 10 social media apps, as 73% of active internet users in the UK reported using it. You can check out the FutureLearn Facebook page for our latest news and courses.


When most of us think of the rise of social media apps, Facebook is the first one that springs to mind. Launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is now an industry in itself, also owning Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus VR.

By 2007, Facebook had over 50 million users, and also opened their Marketplace and included pages for businesses. Over the next few years, it continued to grow, add features, and court controversy. Today, the company employs over 48,000 people to power a service that’s used by 1.73 billion people per day.

What is it useful for?

From humble beginnings, Facebook has grown to be an almost essential part of many peoples’ lives. As well as keeping in touch with friends and families, it’s also a go-to for news and lifestyle articles, buying and selling items, and live streaming content.

Given how commonly used the platform is, it’s also a valuable place for businesses to use social media digital marketing and analytics. Companies of all kinds can use data to understand what their customers like and dislike and advertise to them based on this.



Number of users worldwide

Over a billion people use Instagram, with around 500 million of these using it daily. It’s third on our list of the top 10 social media apps and fifth overall in the UK, with 49% of internet users accessing the platform. Other than the top two already mentioned, Instagram is next after WhatsApp and Messenger.


Instagram is the first app on our list that actually started out as an app. Originally developed under the name Burbn in 2010, the team behind the app soon realised that photo-sharing was what users enjoyed most about their service. They renamed it Instagram and launched it shortly after.

Since launch, Instagram has added a variety of different tools and features, making it a popular place to share images and videos, and explore what’s trending. In 2012, Facebook purchased the company for around $1 billion.

What is it useful for?

Instagram is useful for all kinds of users. Individuals can use it to stay connected with others and share their own work. Businesses can use it to expand their brand reach and keep their finger on the pulse of what’s trending. If you’re interested in photography, it’s the ideal place to gain recognition for and feedback on your work. You might even use it as the basis for your professional portfolio.




Number of users worldwide

There are around 330 million people around the world who use Twitter (including FutureLearn), with 145 million daily active users sending around 500 million tweets each day. 45% of UK internet users access the social media app.


The microblogging site Twitter was launched in 2006, originally as a free SMS/social network hybrid. Yet the app soon gained popularity, as many journalists and celebrities jumped on the platform. By 2013 when the company went public, it was valued at around $31 billion.

Initially, users could only tweet messages of 140 characters. However, this limit increased to 280 in 2017. Nowadays, the social media platform is essentially a live-feed of current events and trends.

What is it useful for?

People use Twitter for all sorts of reasons. It’s a useful way of keeping in touch with people, but more than that, it’s a place to get breaking news and reactions to current affairs. It gives us a view of culture in the digital age, while also raising questions about ethics in social media.



Number of users worldwide

LinkedIn has around 675 million monthly active users, with up to 40% of those accessing the site on a daily basis. In terms of why it appears on our list of the top 10 social media apps, roughly 28% of UK internet users have an account. As you’d expect, FutureLearn is also on LinkedIn.


The business networking site is the oldest on our list, first launching back in 2002. Since then, the platform took a slow and state route to popularity. By 2005, companies were able to list jobs and search for employees. It then took another six years for the service to reach 100 million users.

In 2016, Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for around $26 billion, by which time the social media app had members in nearly 200 countries.

What is it useful for?

LinkedIn is the ideal place for making new professional connections. With such a massive user base, you’re likely to find colleagues and other professionals working in your industry. When it comes to effective networking, there are few better places to start.

Whether you’re looking for a new job, hoping to expand your network, or starting your own business, LinkedIn is the place to go for building relationships in business, and it’s the best place to start when it comes to maintaining a professional online presence.



Number of users worldwide

There are over 335 million monthly active Pinterest users who have created over 200 billion Pins. Around 25% of internet users in the UK, including us, have an account, a number that’s tied with Snapchat.


Pinterest launched in 2010, yet it soon attracted attention and traction, receiving $27 million in funding the following year. In 2012 it became the fastest site in history to gain more than 10 million unique users.

One of the turning points for the company’s success was when they launched Promoted Pins in 2013, giving advertisers the chance to market towards users. The social media app has helped revolutionise the way we search for images, utilising technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. When the company went public, it was worth around $12.7 billion.

What is it useful for?

If you’re looking to find or document inspiration and ideas, Pinterest is the ideal social media app. It’s also useful for businesses to secure more traffic to their website. So, if you’re interested in fields such as content design, Pinterest can be a great place to visually collect and display your workings.




Number of users worldwide

There are about 360 million monthly active users on Snapchat, with around 218 million of those using the service daily. In the UK, 25% of internet users use Snapchat.


Snapchat is one of the newer services on our list of the top 10 social media apps. The company was founded in 2011 by a group of Stanford University students. They wanted to create a service where younger users could create short-lived content that wouldn’t come back to haunt them in years to come.

In the years since it launched, Snapchat has added a variety of features and updates, and by 2015, 75 million monthly users were on the platform. Although the company isn’t quite profitable just yet, it soon will be, as the app and its audience continues to grow.

What is it useful for?

Snapchat is all about instant communication. The short-lived messages can convey a wealth of information with minimum effort. What’s more, the platform has helped to revolutionise social media mobile apps, attracting a younger, more tech-savvy audience.

The service is particularly useful for building brands, both personally and professionally. For those interested in such a process, you can find out how brands use culture and place to promote products.



Number of users worldwide

Reddit is home to around 430 million users across the world. These ‘Redditors’ created nearly 200 million posts in 2019, as well as 1.7 billion comments. 16% of UK internet users are on the platform, slightly behind those using Skype (21%).


Reddit is another platform that emerged from a college friendship, but this one has been around since 2005. Originally a content and news aggregation site, it’s grown to have over 130,000 active communities (subreddits) for all kinds of topics.

The site has had its share of controversy and positive attention over the years. A number of famous people have run ‘Ask Me Anything’ events on the site, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

What is it useful for?

If you love creating content, Reddit is the place to go. No matter what niche you’re interested in, the social media app will have a place for you. With our program on creating digital content, you’ll learn how you can build your online presence and create great online content.



Number of users worldwide

Twitch has around 140 million monthly users, with 5.8 million active streamers. In the UK, approximately 12% of internet users use the site.


Although only gaining popularity in the last few years, Twitch started back in 2005 as, named after its founder, Justin Kan. It became Twitch in 2011, by which point it had 3.2 million unique visitors each month. This rose to 20 million by 2012, and in 2014, Amazon purchased the company for $970 million.

Today, streamers broadcast streams of them playing games and interacting with their audience. Over 568 billion minutes of content have been watched on the platform so far this year.

What is it useful for?

If you’re into video games, Twitch is the place for you. Not only can you check out your favourite streamers playing the latest titles, but you can also connect with other gamers from around the world. Whether it’s indie games or the latest AAA releases, you can vicariously enjoy or stream them at any time during the day. Check out our game development courses if you want to make your own.



Number of users worldwide

As of July 2019, Tumblr had more than 472 million registered accounts, with nearly 376 million unique monthly visitors. However, this is significantly less than the 500 million visitors achieved in 2016. In the UK, 11% of internet users access Tumblr.


Tumblr has had a tumultuous run of things over the years. The microblogging platform first launched in 2007, after 20-year-old high school dropout David Karp set up the site. By the end of 2010, Tumblr was attracting nearly 3 billion visitors across countless blogs, leading to a sale to Yahoo for $1.1 billion.

A policy change in 2018 saw a sharp decline in the number of users, leading to a sale of the social media platform for around just $3 million.

What is it useful for?

If you’re looking for a free-to-use platform to publish short blog posts on, Tumblr is a smart choice. It’s ideal if you want to create quick multimedia posts from your mobile device. There are also all kinds of communities on the platform. So, whether you are looking for a place to host your poems or the first song you’ve written, it’s not a bad choice.


 Brush up on your social media skills

If you’d like to incorporate more social media into your career, or even if you’d just like to make the most of your personal platforms, we have a range of excellent courses to help. Here are a few options from our partners – go to our social media page for the full range available.

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now