Updated Nov 21, 2021 - Technology

How to hit the top on each social media platform

Data: Axios Research; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Axios Research; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The creator economy has produced thousands of social media entrepreneurs who have built mega-audiences in the millions — larger than many media companies. Often, they operate in parallel universes, with little overlap between platforms.

Why it matters: What differentiates social platforms is no longer their features, but their values and communities. What makes one person popular on one platform may not make them remotely interesting or influential on another.

For example: Mr. Bean, a fictional British sitcom character, is the 4th most popular page on Facebook, with 129 million followers. He has just 215,000 followers on Twitter.

Driving the news: According to an Axios analysis of the top 50 most-followed accounts on each platform, TikTok is especially unique in minting its own stars who don't blow up on other platforms.

  • The top five most-followed accounts on TikTok — Charli D'Amelio, Khaby Lame, Addison Rae, Bella Poarch and Zach King — do not rank in the top 50 of any other social media network.
  • Collectively, those five stars have 480 million followers on TikTok, but less than half of that amount of followers across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook combined.
  • Top TikTok personalities have been able to land massive Hollywood deals across film, TV and podcasts, without building audiences on other platforms.

The personalities of each platform are illustrated by the 50 biggest accounts:

  • TikTok favors individual creators that built their presence on the platform, rather than heavily resourced entertainment organizations. Outsized success of dancing and lip-syncing accounts stems from its origin as Musical.ly.
  • On YouTube, the top accounts are bigger music and entertainment operations, often international. Among the 20 most-followed accounts: six are from India, four from the U.S., three from South Korea, two from Russia.
  • Facebook gives an edge to brands thanks to its design, which encourages users to 'like' any type of page, whether or not it produces content. Chinese news organizations are four of the 21 biggest accounts, and accounts from China don't appear on the top 50 list of any of the other platforms.
  • Instagram is the place to be a celebrity — it offers the opportunity to show off your lifestyle and be a tastemaker. The followings on Instagram are higher than any other platform.
  • Twitter also rewards celebrity, but on a smaller scale than Instagram. People known for their ideas can also build a following: It is the only platform with politicians and business leaders in the top 50.

The big picture: While there is some overlap across each platform, the very top performers tend to be widely different.

  • Sports stars and actors shine on Facebook and Instagram, while musicians do better on YouTube and TikTok, naturally.
  • The only accounts to appear in the top 10 of more than one platform are Cristiano Ronaldo (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), Ariana Grande (Instagram, Twitter) and Will Smith (Facebook, TikTok).

The big picture: About half (123) of the top 50 accounts across all five platforms measured originate from the United States.

  • The next-largest country of origin for top accounts is India with 29, followed by the U.K. with 12, South Korea with 9 and Canada and Spain with 8 each.

Editor's note: This story was originally published with a different graphic on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

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