Over the years, social media has evolved and adapted to changing trends and technologies at a record pace. So, as we approach another new year, it is worthwhile to take a step back and layout the social media landscape as we see it today.

Currently, we are able to break up the social media platforms into five categories: Networks, Messengers, Moments, Reviews & Live. However, the major social platforms do not stack neatly into one category. Why? Because they have offerings that fall into multiple categories in order to maximize their reach and effectiveness. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these five categories and what they offer.

With nearly 1.8 billion daily active users on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest combined, we tend to think of the “Networks” as the core of social media and the building blocks of all social media strategies. These “Networks” are platforms that users can leverage to share various types of content with friends and followers. Each day, 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook and roughly 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram. Making Facebook and Instagram the leading platforms for core marketing communications and visual storytelling. With photography as the cornerstone of hospitality marketing, these two social networks are the ideal social platform for hotels. Twitter is also important to the hospitality and serves primarily as a guest service platform, focusing on 1:1 conversations with current, past and future guests. With an estimated 500 million Tweets per day, this network is where users can reach out for real time responses, brand news, promotional information, and much more. Pinterest is an evolving platform that serves as a visual discovery network. With roughly 500 million photos upload daily, Pinner’s can leverage Pinterest when planning for future trips as a source of inspiration.

Next up are the “Messengers,” which have seen tremendous growth in the last few years. The two leading Messengers, Facebook’s Messenger and Whatsapp, have an estimated 2.4 billion active users. Messengers are an extremely popular means of communication, in some instances even more than texting. But, beyond individual communications, Messengers have also proven to be an essential component to a hotel’s success for a very important reason – they transcend geographical borders and device restrictions. Hotels and resorts around the world have heard countless stories of international travelers trying to get a sim card to work, figure out how to make a phone call using the right country code, or simply being able to find the phone number for a specific hotel. Messengers have become the answer to how individuals communicate across borders and for guests, it has become the primary means of interaction with a hotel for general questions, complaints, and even staff compliments.  

We classify “Moments” as content formats that are marked by their short-lived nature with defined times that posted content is available. Stories allow users to share moments of their day in a short-lived, slideshow format instead of living on the user’s profile. Moments are a posting format that was first popularized by Snapchat, but has expanded in popularity with the adaption of this content format by Instagram and Facebook. Snapchat used to stand alone in this category, but Facebook made it a priority to slow Snapchat’s growth and ensure the moment’s format could be utilized on their major platforms. Today, Instagram stories are the leader in all metrics over Snapchat with 250 million daily active users in comparison to Snapchat’s 185 million daily active users. Hospitality has recently started to leverage stories in their social media by showcasing and teasing special events in real-time.

“Reviews” came into sharp focus with TripAdvisor’s hospitality popularity index. Over time, we have seen different versions of public reviews emerge from many different platforms, including the efforts of large hotel brands to own reviews and provide some form of stay verification. Today, TripAdvisor still is a large player in the space with roughly 300 million active users. However, their shift to a somewhat OTA model where the popularity index is less valuable than matching site visitors with the right hotel as quickly as possible has allowed both Facebook and Google to push further into the space. Facebook Reviews have been gaining steam over the last 12 months. With an estimated 86 million monthly active users, Facebook Reviews are one of the fastest rising review types that hotels have to respond to. Finally, Google Reviews have also seen a large uptick in volume. Due to Google simplifying the review process and baking them into their core products such as Maps and Search, Google Reviews has proven to be a popular review site with roughly 158 million monthly active users in the United States.

The last category, “Live,” is one that has received a lot of recent hype. It exists primarily around the ability to quickly and easily broadcast live to anyone who wants to tune in. Live broadcasting is also one of the areas of the landscape where hotels ask the most questions. Live now exists on most platforms and was actually pioneered by two companies, Periscope (acquired by Twitter) and Meerkat (shut down). However, it was Facebook’s version of live broadcasting, with an estimated 32 billion video views per day, that really made it mainstream. The important thing to realize is that most stories that hotels want to tell are actually not good for a “live” format and would benefit from more pre- and post-production to ensure sound & video quality are reflective of the hotel brand. However, this format is still new, evolving and remains ripe for hotels to experiment with.

If it feels like the landscape has gotten more complex, it is because it has. Social Media as an industry has matured with typical users counts above 1 billion on the major networks outlined above. As social media continues to evolve, we can guess that new categories such as Augmented and Virtual Reality, Conversational Commerce, and even new types of original content creation are visible on the horizon. So, while It is not certain to predict exactly what the future holds, one thing for certain is that social media is an industry that continues to keep us on our toes.