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The Big 3 Social Media Platforms to Advertise On

Discover the big 3 social media platforms to advertise on. Learn more about Facebook, Instagram, X and other options like TikTok and more.

We all know the Big 5 of the animal planet: Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, and Buffalo. But did you know that there is also a Small 5? This group is made up of the Elephant Shrew, Ant Lion, Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver, and Leopard Tortoise. Even more interesting, if you look towards the ocean, the Big 5 can be expanded to a Big 7 by including the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark.

Similarly, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (now known as “X”) have been named the Big 3 of social media platforms. They are the platforms that changed how we see and use social media. However, with so many new platforms popping up every day, could we have seen a shake up in the ranks?

When it comes to Social Media Marketing services, it’s worth examining what platforms will work best for your brand.

social media stats


Facebook is the largest social media platform with 2.96 billion monthly active users. That means that roughly 37% of the world’s population are Facebook users. In South Africa, 66% of social media users are on Facebook, making it the most popular social media platform in South Africa.

Due to their popularity, 93% of social media marketers use Facebook as one of their preferred platforms. More than 200 million businesses (mostly small businesses) use Facebook tools, and more than seven million advertisers actively promote their business on Facebook.

With its expansive and varied audience this platform appeals to most companies to advertise on. Facebook is a useful platform to build a community with your customer or client base, interact with customers, get customer feedback and learn about your target market.


Instagram used to be a platform where you could find perfectly curated images and aesthetically pleasing grids, explaining why it’s popularity in South Africa is on par with Pinterest – with 11% of South African social media users being on either Instagram, Pinterest, or both. Brands with luxury and photographable products could successfully use Instagram to advertise on.

However, with the introduction of Reels and the cross-posting from TikTok, more authentic and relatable content can now be seen on Instagram, opening up the platform for varied products. Instagram has the second-highest engagement rate of all social media platforms and has one of the youngest audiences.

With its 2 billion monthly active users, this platform is ideal to build your brand’s visual presence, show the human aspect of your company, show your products in real situations, and leverage user-generated content.


X, also known as Twitter, has been one of the most popular social media channels since its launch in 2006 as the go-to platform for discovering breaking news and engaging with small and big-name influencers.

This platform can be used for releasing quick updates, mentioning other brands and users, and researching your audience. Its 238 million monthly active users often also use the platform as an alternate customer service channel. According to advertisers on X, more than 80% of social customer service requests happen on X.

South African users are showing a declining interest in X, dropping from 17% of social media users being on X in January 2023, to only 6% by August 2023.

With their large share of social media users and diverse features, these 3 platforms can give your social marketing strategy a solid foundation. They hold a large sway in the social media advertising realm, but newer and smaller players are making inroads to expanding this group.


As a relatively newer player in the social advertising game, TikTok advertising holds enormous possibility for reaching potential customers, especially among younger audiences. In just three years, the platform has grown globally from 35.7 million users in 2019 to more than 1 billion monthly active users in 2023. The platform recently overtook Google as the most visited internet site.

TikTok has the highest engagement rate per post. And South African’s are just as excited about the app, with ByteDance reporting 11.83 million active users in South Africa older than 18 years in 2023.

big 3 social media platforms

Other Social Media Platforms

Other platforms that should not be disregarded as competitive platforms to advertise on include:

  • Pinterest with its highly targeted search engine where users are 7 times more likely to purchase your product if they’ve pinned your post
  • LinkedIn and its extensive professional user base that can target customers based on job qualifications. However it is considered expensive by some marketers.
  • Snapchat’s primarily millennial and Gen Z audience of over 557 million members
  • Reddit – known for its popular upvoting feature that has been called the “front page of the internet”
  • Threads – the new Meta version of Twitter.


And what about a platform like YouTube, the second largest social media site based on the number of monthly active users globally? Although this platform has many users, it is only effective if your advertising campaign consists of videos, which are more costly to create.

This limitation has prevented YouTube from historically being recognised as one of the Big 3, however if video ads are part of your marketing strategy, this platform should be very high on your strategy’s priorities.

How Effective Are These Platforms?

Although all the above platforms have tremendous potential to advertise on, the ultimate decision on where you should be spending your digital campaign budget would be determined by the goals you have in mind for your campaigns and company in general, as well as the audience your advertising is focussed towards.

Why Choose Social Media Advertising?

social media advertising platforms

With 75% of Gen Z’ers and 48% of millennials making their purchasing decisions through what they see and are influenced by on social media, it is imperative that you know where to spend your company’s ad budget.

Ad spend in South Africa is expected to reach more than $249.74 million by 2027, but regardless of how much or how little your company wants to spend on social media ads, spending it on the right platform is crucial to your digital ad campaign’s success.

Reach out to Digital Squeak so we can create and walk through a digital marketing strategy that would work for your company and determine which is the right platform for you –

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