Social media is here to stay – and providing ever-new and innovative ways to stay in touch. All you need is a computer, tablet or mobile device, and a few apps of your choosing, to connect with friends and family.

Some social media apps have been around for a quite some time. Facebook is by far the most popular, with close to 1.5 billion users worldwide. It is a means par excellence to renew old friendships and share updates, photos and videos with the people in your life. Twitter, another high-ranking and recognized social channel, lets you receive quick updates on topics that interest you, as well as share “tweets” of your own.

But there’s more to social media than Facebook and Twitter. As mobile devices become more sophisticated, so do your options for socializing. Here are some of the top social networking apps on the market today, all of which are free.

1. Facebook Messenger is an app for almost everything social.

Originally the texting component of Facebook, Messenger was separated out as a standalone app for mobile devices in 2014. Since then, it has evolved to include many new features that are both fun and practical. With this one app, you can:

  • Send text messages, as always, as well as voicemail messages– a helpful (and more personal) option, especially when you’re on the go.
  • Call anyone anywhere – whether by voice or video. The call costs nothing if you’re on Wi-Fi.
  • Take photos and videos and send them instantly – or draw from the camera roll on your device.
  • Send money to a Facebook friend – one debit card account to another.
  • Share any of your messages with friends, groups of friends, and friends of friends.

Features planned for Messenger’s near future include a virtual assistant known as “M” that will do everything from dialing your phone to purchasing items online.

2. Pinterest is a place to collect ideas and inspiration.

You could spend days on the web in search of that special something – a kitchen design, an antique lampshade or the perfect soup recipe to warm a wintry afternoon. What if you could collect all your findings in one place – and be inspired by the collections of others?

That’s what Pinterest is for. Pinterest is a place to save and organize your Internet findings on your own virtual pinboard. You can also explore others’ pins, searching by a wide range of categories such as crafts, sports, technology and pets. All pins are links, so you can visit the original website with ease.

3. Instagram is all about visuals.

Instagram is a mobile app that lets you share your life’s moments in pictures – both photos and short (15-second) videos. It offers a range of filters, which allow you to alter the tone of your images, and you can share your creations with others on Instagram and through your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can also follow others’ feeds, including celebrities.

Instagram is all about visuals – whether artistic creations or simple snapshots from your daily life. Accompanying text is welcome, but is generally limited to short photo captions and hashtags that tie your image to specific topics.

4. Periscope is the ultimate in live broadcasting.

What if you could share your present experience with others – and they with you? With Periscope, you can use your phone’s camera to capture video for instant streaming to share with the viewers you choose, whether a select group of friends or the public. Your viewers in turn can share comments and show their appreciation with virtual hearts – making for a live, unedited and interactive experience.

You can use Periscope for anything, from a news event that’s unfolding before you to a how-to demonstration or just-for-fun clips of your family, pets or holiday gathering. While there’s no limit on the length of the video, it’s only available for 24 hours after broadcasting, though you can always save a copy to your camera roll.

5. Timehop lets you go back in time.

What were you doing a year ago, three years ago, five years ago? Timehop lets you see the moments of your past in a daily replay. It does this by gathering together the current day’s posts from previous years and presenting them in the form of a snapshot meant only for you. You can share the snapshot with Facebook friends or Twitter followers if you wish.

Timehop draws from all sorts of locations – including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as Dropbox and your iPhone – to find items you’ll enjoy, including photos, videos, status updates, text messages and location check-ins.

6. Snapchat is for fast and fun messaging.

Snapchat lets you send pictures and videos that disappear 10 seconds after they’ve been viewed. This brevity is a welcome feature for those who want to share their immediate experience without having their images forever filed in the ethers, as Facebook and Twitter do.

“Snaps” can be shared individually or they can be compiled into a “story” that is viewable for 24 hours after publication. Your audience is limited to your phone contacts (one or more), which keeps your sharing more personal than other social channels.

Snapchat’s popularity first grew among 18-24 year-olds, but is also catching on with a larger demographic, including users age 50-plus. Features include the ability to:

  • Caption photos and draw on them, too
  • Tell when snaps are opened by viewers
  • Save photos to your camera roll, and know when others do the same
  • Chat via text messages or live video
  • Pay for goods or send money to friends using Snapcash
  • View exclusive content from Snapchat’s Discover network, including content from CNN, Cosmopolitan, Food Network, National Geographic and more

Remember to keep an eye on your data usage.

Accessing social media apps on your mobile device can significantly increase your data usage. This isn’t a problem if you have an unlimited data plan, but if not, you can avoid running up your bill by using these apps only when connected to Wi-Fi.

KEEP READING: 8 Apps to Help You Get Everything Done Online

If you want to receive great tips on home, auto, wellness, and technology, don’t forget to like the Extra Mile Facebook page! You can also follow the Extra Mile Pinterest page for holiday recipes, DIY tips and more. And remember that mobile apps aren’t just for social media.

If you’re a customer of The Hartford, our free mobile app allows you to take your Hartford policies – and award-winning service – along with you wherever you go.  Download the free App to your iPhone or your Android phone and log in to access your policy documents, pay your bills, view claim information and a whole lot more.

Apple, the Apple logo and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.

Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc. Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

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