Socialize strikes again! Scoring not one, but two spots in Campaign Middle East‘s Top 10 Digital & Social Media Campaigns!
2020’s getting a plus one and hopefully, so do our wins!
Socialize strikes again! Scoring not one, but two spots in Campaign Middle East‘s Top 10 Digital & Social Media Campaigns!
2020’s getting a plus one and hopefully, so do our wins!
Today marks the launch of our annual trends report, Think Forward 2021. In this post, our Chief Strategy Officer Mobbie Nazir explains the six key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months.
With lockdown shaping much of our experience in early 2020 – at its peak, the first wave of Covid-19 saw over 3.9 billion people confined to their homes – the role of digital tools and communications have been pulled into even greater prominence.
As we move into 2021, we’ll see people re-evaluate the role platforms should play in their lives, rethink which sources they engage with, and relearn how to use social in line with tectonic shifts in the drivers that underpin our screentime. This is the social reset. And it’s levelled the playing field, presenting a major opportunity for brands and creators.
In Think Forward 2021, our sixth trends report to date, we explore how brands will have to re-learn to navigate the ever-evolving role of social platforms. By offering an insight into the trends expected to shape social media over the next year, the report sheds light on how brands can best use their platforms to ensure their relevance in social spaces.
Below we’ve summarised each trend in brief, and you can see the full report here.
The Simple Life
People are re-evaluating what’s important to them, sharpening a desire to pay more attention to life’s simple pleasures, and reconsidering the role social can play in enjoying them.
Where we’ve seen it: There has been a rise in communities like Gardening TikTok and the cottagecore movement – a Tumblr-born aesthetic defined by mostly-city based women participating in quaint, agricultural aesthetics and hobbies.
Amid new constraints, ‘armchair activism’ has undergone a practical transformation, bolstered by global communities who’ve realised the power they wield can translate to tangible offline change.
Where we’ve seen it:People are getting an education on social justice via Instagram slideshows, with high-design 101s created for the IG carousel format.
The notion that screens and social have a negative impact on our offline relationships is falling away, as people begin to overcome the inertia attached to tools designed to humanise our digital interactions.
Where we’ve seen it: Facebook updated its suite of reactions with the ‘care’ emoji to facilitate more intimate online interactions and people are using TikTok to discuss complex subjects with empathy and nuance.
People are being more discerning about who they follow, and why. They’re not unfollowing beautiful people, but they are putting more emphasis on the tangible value these figures can bring to the feed.
Where we’ve seen it: Medical professionals are blowing up for democratising information that typically comes with a consultant’s fee, while specialists in niche fields are gaining traction for combating misinformation.
Amid the new content needs of 2020, people have evolved the way they engage with social platforms, repurposing old tools for new purposes, and expanding their already prominent role in everyday life.
Where we’ve seen it: Games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing have transformed into social hubs and live content has seen social feeds evolve into 24-hour events venues, whether for catwalks from Louis Vuitton on TikTok or micro drag shows aired on Instagram Live.
In a landscape of duetting and out-of-context soundbites, major social platforms are increasingly spaces for people to co-create content, not just engage with it.
Where we’ve seen it: Charli XCX collaborated with her fans via Zoom to write her latest album, and on Instagram, film industry polymath Miranda July has been crowdsourcing entire scripts from her followers.
Read the Think Forward 2021 report in full here.
More than 4 billion people around the world now use social media each month, and an average of nearly 2 million new users are joining them every day. The world is spending more time on social media too, with the typical user now spending roughly 15 percent of their waking life using social platforms. However, social media isn’t the only aspect of digital that’s delivering impressive numbers. The new Digital 2020 October Global Statshot Report – produced in partnership with Hootsuite – shows that connected tech continues to play an ever more important role in various aspects of people’s everyday lives. Top stories in this quarter’s report include:
You’ll find the complete October Statshot report in the SlideShare embed below (click here if that’s not working for you), but read on below for the in-depth analysis of this quarter’s key stories.
Essential headlines Just before we dig into this quarter’s trends in more detail, here are the essential headlines you need to make sense of the global ‘state of digital’ in October 2020:
To put these numbers in perspective, more than two-thirds of the world now uses a mobile phone (67 percent), while almost 60 percent of all the people on Earth now use the internet. Meanwhile, it was just three months ago that we reported social media penetration had passed the 50 percent mark, but the latest data show that this figure has already jumped to almost 53 percent. More than 9 in 10 internet users around the world connect via mobile devices, but two-thirds still connect via computers too. However, when it comes to social media, users clearly prefer mobile devices. Kepios analysis reveals that 99 percent of the world’s social media users access via mobile devices, but just 1 in 5 use a laptop or desktop computer. Now, let’s dig into those top stories in more detail. Social media adoption accelerates The number of people using social media around the world has grown to 4.14 billion in October 2020, with that figure passing the momentous 4 billion user milestone for the first time this quarter. Analysis by Kepios shows that more than 450 million people started using social media over the past 12 months, equating to annual growth of more than 12 percent. That means that an average of more than 14 people started using social media every second since this time last year, which is even higher than the rate we saw last quarter. Indeed, the latest data show that social media growth is actually accelerating. More than 180 million more people used social media between July and September compared to the previous three months, equating to an average increase of almost 2 million users per day. That’s roughly double the growth rate that we reported back in January, and represents the largest quarter-on-quarter increase that we’ve seen since we started producing these reports back in 2011. Much of this quarter’s growth in social media use is the direct result of the new habits that people adopted during COVID-19 lockdowns. However, despite the extraordinary circumstances, we don’t expect overall user figures to fall back again once people return to more ‘normal’ routines, although we can expect some volatility in the user numbers of individual platforms over the coming months. In particular, some platforms that enjoyed a surge in use during lockdown may see their monthly active user figures drop down again once people are able to participate in a wider variety of everyday activities. As we’ll see later in this analysis, however, any potential reduction in individual platform audiences may still be some way off. Screen time increases As we forecast in our April and July Statshot reports, the amount of time that people spend on the internet has increased significantly during 2020, in part because of the new behaviours that people adopted during coronavirus lockdowns. The latest data from GlobalWebIndex shows that the typical internet user spent almost 7 hours per day using connected devices between April and June 2020, up by almost a quarter of an hour per day compared to the figures we reported last quarter. Social media accounts for more than one-third of our connected time, with people now spending an average of almost 2½ hours per day on social platforms. Added together, this means that the world now spends more than 10 billion hours per day using social media, which equates to more than 1 million years of human existence. We’ve also been spending more time watching television, and the world’s internet users now watch a combined average of 3½ hours of TV content per day across broadcast stations, cable channels, and internet-powered streaming platforms. Our TV behaviours are changing though, with streaming services accounting for an increasingly important share of total TV time. GlobalWebIndex’s latest data reveal that the world’s internet users now spend an average of 1½ hours per day watching platforms like Netflix and Disney+, compared to the 2 hours per day that they spend watching broadcast and cable channels. Social platforms see strong growth Almost all of the world’s top social platforms saw strong audience growth over the past three months. Instagram added the greatest number of new users between July and September 2020, posting even stronger growth figures than Facebook. The company’s own tools show that Instagram’s advertising audience has grown by more than 76 million over the past three months, reaching a total of 1.16 billion people by the start of October 2020. That equates to quarter-on-quarter growth of more than 7 percent, and extends the impressive 11 percent jump that we reported for the platform in our July report. For context, Facebook’s global advertising audience grew by just 45 million during the same period, although its total advertising audience of 2.14 billion is still almost twice the size of Instagram’s. However, if Instagram can maintain similar momentum over the coming weeks, there’s a good chance that the platform will overtake WeChat to host the world’s fifth-largest social media audience sometime in 2021. Tencent reported quarterly growth of just 0.3 percent across the combined audiences of WeChat and Weixin in its latest earnings announcement, which means that Instagram is currently growing around 20 times faster than China’s top platform. But Instagram isn’t the only platform enjoying rapid growth. Snapchat posted the largest relative gains this quarter, with advertisers now able to reach over 9 percent more people via the platform than they could just three months ago. The addition of 36 million new users between July and September takes Snapchat’s global advertising audience to 433 million, which is 20 percent larger than the audience the company’s tools were reporting this time last year. With 16 million new users, India accounted for almost half of Snapchat’s global growth this quarter, perhaps as a result of the Indian government’s recent TikTok ban. Snapchat has also seen an interesting shift in the demographics of its global user base over the past few months. Young women between the ages of 13 and 17 now account for the largest share of the platform’s advertising audience, whereas women aged 25 to 34 were the largest demographic this time three months ago. Twitter’s tools also reported impressive audience growth over the three months to October, but the addition of 27 million users doesn’t even recover half of the 61 million users that the platform lost during the previous quarter. The story for TikTok is a little more complicated. As we noted in our July Statshot Report, the Indian government banned the platform at the end of June, and as a result, more than 200 million users have been wiped from the platform’s audience. However, despite this significant roadbump – and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding its prospects in the United States – TikTok still managed to add more than 80 million new users outside of India between July and September 2020. The latest ‘official’ numbers put TikTok’s worldwide audience at 689 million, but recent growth trends suggest that this figure may have already passed the 700 million mark. If you’d like to dig deeper into the demographics of each of these audiences, and find fresh figures for Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and various other platforms, you’ll find plenty more platform data in our full report. Special focus: digital in the workplace GlobalWebIndex has just released an update to its hugely valuable Work research, and they’ve generously allowed us to share some highlights from that in this quarter’s report. One of the most important findings in this dataset is that age plays a critical role in determining how people like to communicate in the workplace, whether that’s with their colleagues, with partners and suppliers, or with customers and the outside world. Email remains one of the most widely used channels for communication at work, but even here, age plays a primary role in both adoption and use. More than 90 percent of respondents below the age of 45 use email each week, but almost 1 in 5 respondents aged between 55 and 64 say that they use email less than once per week. But this ‘age gap’ is even more apparent when we look at more recent additions to the communications mix. Roughly 9 in 10 Gen Z respondents say that they use messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Slack to communicate with their colleagues each week, but barely half of respondents aged 55 to 64 have integrated these platforms into their regular repertoires. Interestingly, some of the biggest disparities relate to the use of social media. More than 4 in 5 workers aged 16 to 24 say that they connect with colleagues via social media platforms each week, but that figure drops to less than 1 in 3 amongst Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, despite accounting for the largest group of social media users when it comes to their personal lives, people aged 25 to 34 are actually less likely to use social media to communicate with their colleagues than people aged 16 to 24. These findings have critical implications for organisations everywhere, because they highlight important differences in the ways that people of different ages – and at different levels of the organisation – communicate. Without careful management, these varying preferences could lead to ‘siloed’ communication, resulting in knowledge gaps and cultural divides across different parts of the organisation. Reach in context: ‘users’ versus ‘visitors’ Data from our new partners SEMrush offers valuable new insights into the audiences of some of the world’s top websites and social platforms. One of the most interesting take-aways from this data is that platforms like YouTube and Twitter continue to attract significant numbers of visitors who don’t log in in order to use each service. For example, YouTube reports a logged in audience of 2 billion users each month, but the ‘unique visits’ column in the table below indicates that the platform’s total monthly user base is likely to be significantly higher than that. It’s worth noting that there may be some duplication even in these ‘unique visits’ figures, because there’s no practical way to account for people who access each platform via different devices or browsers, unless they log in. However, these figures echo analysis we’ve conducted using other datasets, and they reinforce our hypothesis that YouTube’s monthly audience is actually closer to 3 billion – or perhaps even higher. That would mean YouTube’s audience is potentially 50 percent larger than its logged-in figures suggest. But the ‘signed in gap’ may be even greater for Twitter. The company’s latest advertising audience data suggest that around 350 million people use Twitter while logged in each month. However, the latest data from SEMrush indicates that nearly three times as many people visit Twitter’s website each month. While that might sound surprising, our hypothesis is that a significant proportion of these ‘anonymous’ visitors treat Twitter like a news website. Because most tweets are accessible to people even without them logging in, there’s perhaps less incentive for more ‘passive’ visitors to create a Twitter account, or to sign in even if they have one. However, this raises important questions about Twitter’s role and positioning, both as a company, and within the marketing mix. Overall, my sense is that the media – and perhaps even investors – continue to underestimate Twitter’s value as a communications channel, and we may need to rethink where Twitter fits in our plans in order to appreciate its full potential. But it’s not just Twitter that we may be underestimating. SEMrush’s figures also reinforce a finding that we’ve highlighted in previous reports: Yahoo! is still one of the web’s top properties. Indeed, the latest data show that Yahoo! still attracts roughly 1 billion unique visits across its .com and .co.jp domains each month, with these visitors engaging in roughly 100 billion ‘sessions’ each year. Reach isn’t the only factor that marketers should consider when building their plans of course, but with these numbers suggesting that Yahoo! still attracts a larger audience than TikTok, perhaps it’s one to add back onto your list – especially if you’re hoping to reach older audiences. Once again though, Yahoo! and Twitter may not be the only things we’re underestimating. Video games: marketing’s biggest missed opportunity? Video games are one of the world’s favourite pastimes, but – for some inexplicable reason – they remain one of the most under-appreciated opportunities in marketing. For context, GlobalWebIndex reports that roughly 7 in 8 internet users around the world play games. These findings suggest that around 3½ billion people around the world play video games today, with three-quarters of these people playing games on their smartphones. What’s more, gaming’s popularity is consistently high across all countries, and across age groups. More than two-thirds of connected Baby Boomers play video games, with women aged 55 to 64 even more likely to be gamers than their male peers. And while men slightly outnumber women in other age groups, the latest data clearly burst the stereotype of gaming being a male-dominated activity. Indeed, video game adoption amongst women only trails men by a couple of percentage points, and these gender ratios are broadly the same as the ones we see in social media use. However, it is interesting to note that Europe and the USA see lower levels of video game adoption compared to the rest of the world. Moreover – and perhaps surprisingly – Japan sees the lowest levels of video gaming of any country in GlobalWebIndex’s survey, but even here, more than two-thirds of internet users report playing games. So how can brands take advantage of these opportunities? Online gaming options may be more fragmented than ‘super platforms’ like YouTube or Facebook, but various ad platforms already enable marketers to reach and engage huge audiences across a variety of gaming titles at once. Furthermore, with the sophistication of video games continuing to advance and people spending ever more time watching others play games, marketing opportunities aren’t limited to interruptive ads. So, if you’re looking for new opportunities in 2021, I’d strongly encourage you to spend some time exploring what video games have to offer. Digital ads: still a bargain? The latest Kenshoo Quarterly Trends Report shows that digital ad spend took another knock in Q2, with both search and social media spend seeing year-on-year declines. Global spend on online search advertising was down by 9 percent compared to the same period last year, while social media ad spend was down by 13 percent. However, Kenshoo reports that there were already signs of a recovery in ad spend by the end of Q2. Moreover, people clicked on a significantly greater number of ads between April and July 2020 than they did in the same period a year before. The total number of clicks on social media ads in the second quarter of this year was 33 percent higher than Q2 2019 levels, while clicks on search ads increased by 28 percent. And what’s more, the cost of individual ad units actually decreased significantly during the same period. The average cost to reach 1,000 people (CPM) via social media ads fell by 30 percent between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020, while the average cost-per-click (CPC) on search engines fell by 29 percent. But these ‘bargain prices’ may not last. With many companies now significantly more dependent on ecommerce than they were this time last year, brands should expect higher prices and greater competition as we approach Single’s Day and ‘BFCM’ sales, as well as the all-important holiday season. But what about next year? Looking ahead: 5 trends for 2021 This is our last Statshot report for 2020, so let’s wrap things up by looking ahead to next year. What can marketers expect in 2021? Here are some of the trends we’re watching:
Don’t forget that you can find all of our previous reports in our free DataReportal library, which also includes local reports for more than 230 countries and territories. That’s all for this quarter though; we’ll be back with our annual flagship Global Digital report in late January, and our Digital 2021 local country reports starting in mid-February.
The new Digital 2020 July Global Statshot report from We Are Social and Hootsuite reveals that – for the first time – more than half of the world’s total population now uses social media.
DataReportal analysis shows that 3.96 billion people use social media today, accounting for roughly 51 percent of the global population.
Put simply, this means that more people now use social media than do not.
This milestone is all the more impressive when we consider that most social media companies restrict the use of their platforms to people aged 13 and above. In fact, the latest numbers indicate that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the world’s total ‘eligible’ population now uses social media.
And adoption is still growing rapidly. Worldwide user numbers have surged by more than 10 percent over the past 12 months, with an average of more than 1 million people starting to use social media for the first time every single day since this time last year.
With more than 376 million new users since July 2019, that translates to almost 12 new users every second, suggesting that user numbers are growing even faster today than they were at the start of 2020.
The future still isn’t evenly distributed
The story varies considerably by geography, however. Nearly 70 percent of the total population in Northern America uses social media today, compared to just 7 percent in Middle Africa.
That figure for Middle Africa rises to 12 percent if we focus on populations aged 13 and above, but that still means only 1 in 8 people across the region who are eligible to use social media do so today.
Use also differs by gender, with the data suggesting that there are almost 1.2 men for every woman using social media around the world today.
For example, women account for more than half (55 percent) of all social media users in Northern America, but barely one quarter (25 percent) of users across Southern Asia.
Women are also under-represented across Africa, where they account for less than 2 in 5 of the region’s social media users.
However, there are encouraging signs that this gender divide is closing, with our analysis indicating that the global social media ratio has narrowed from a 45:55 split (women to men) at the start of 2020, to 46:54 today.
A vibrant social life
People are also using a wider variety of social media platforms than ever before, with the latest data from GlobalWebIndex showing that the typical social media user is now a member of almost 9 different platforms.
As we’ll explore in more detail below, this number will likely have been buoyed by people’s activities during the recent wave of Coronavirus lockdowns, when people spent a considerable amount of time using social media and trying out new apps.
Facebook continues to dominate our ranking of the world’s most popular social media platforms. The company’s ‘core’ platform now claims more than 2.6 billion monthly active users, while 2 billion people use its top messenger platform, WhatsApp.
Instagram has also seen impressive growth over recent weeks, with the company’s latest advertising audience data indicating that more than 1.08 billion people now use the platform each month.
This means that Instagram is still comfortably ahead of TikTok when it comes to monthly active users, but our analysis of various data points indicates that ByteDance’s short-form video sensation is still growing rapidly (note that the 800 million figure that we report for TikTok this quarter no longer includes Douyin).
The Indian government’s recent move to block TikTok in the country may slow the platform’s growth, however, with DataReportal analysis indicating that India may be home to as much as a quarter of TikTok’s total global user base.
TikTok hasn’t been the only beneficiary of people’s increasing interest in ‘social video’ though. The short-form video market is also hotting up in China, where Douyin (抖音) – TikTok’s mainland-Chinese incarnation – and compatriot Kuaishou (快手) are now tied at 400 million monthly active users.
Beyond video platforms, Sina Weibo has also been growing rapidly, and China’s largest microblogging platform now claims 550 million monthly active users, up by 18 percent (74 million users) over the past 12 months.
It is worth stressing, however, that many of these platforms’ audiences overlap.
Data from GlobalWebIndex suggests that only a small fraction of each platform’s user base is unique, with more than 95 percent of Facebook’s users aged 16 to 64 reporting that they use at least one other social platform.
That figure is even higher for smaller platforms, with the latest data indicating that marketers can now reach more than 99 percent of the users of Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok via other platforms.
Given these high rates of overlapping use, our advice to marketers would be to focus more on the creative and contextual opportunities offered by each of these platforms, and try to avoid getting distracted by the constantly changing user numbers.
Going beyond the numbers
It’s also worth highlighting that monthly active user figures don’t always tell the full story when it comes to social platforms’ roles in our lives.
For example, the 2 billion figure we use for YouTube is based on Google’s reports of how many people use the platform while logged in, but our analysis of broader data suggests that the number of unique individuals who watch a YouTube video each month is likely to be significantly higher.
Similarly, while Twitter’s latest advertising audience data suggest that roughly 326 million people logged in to the platform over the past 30 days, data from SimilarWeb indicates that twice as many people may visit Twitter.com in any given month.
This demonstrates the important role that Twitter plays as a source of news, even for people who haven’t actively signed up for an account.
The latest research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism supports this theory, with the organisation’s new Digital News Report 2020 finding that Twitter remains a popular source of news, especially for people in English-speaking countries.
One of our favourite online activities
Perhaps unsurprisingly given all of the above, the latest research also indicates that people are spending more time using social media.
In their huge study of how the Coronavirus pandemic has been influencing people’s digital behaviours, GlobalWebIndex has found that more than 40 percent of internet users have been spending more time using social media in recent months, with that figure rising to more than 60 percent in the Philippines.
The company also reports that social media users now spend an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes per day using social media.
However, this data is based on surveys conducted between January and March this year, so there’s a good chance that the recent spate of COVID-19-related lockdowns will have resulted in people spending even more time using social media each day.
Even based on those Q1 figures though, the combined time that the world spends using social media now adds up to more than 1 million years every day.
More talk and more action
People’s social media behaviours have been expanding too. Data from GlobalWebIndex show that staying in touch with friends and family is still a primary motivator for social media use, but that we’re increasingly turning to social platforms to help with other kinds of activity as well.
More than half of the respondents in the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2020 survey say that they use social media to access news, which is double the number of respondents who say that they read newspapers.
Indeed, GlobalWebIndex reports that “staying up to date with news and current affairs” is the single greatest motivator for social media use at a global level.
As you might expect, socialising is another top driver for social media use, but so is entertainment. “Filling up spare time” and “finding funny and entertaining content” are the second and third most frequently cited reasons for using social media.
However, people are also increasingly turning to social platforms when they want to learn more about products and services that they want to buy.
Globally, social networks are now the second most popular destination for internet users looking for information about brands, with only search engines used by a greater number of people.
However, social networks have already overtaken search engines amongst younger audiences, with more than half of female internet users aged between 16 and 24 saying that they use social networks when researching products and services. This compares to 46 percent who say that they use search engines.
Given the broadening role of social media in people’s lives, it’s important that marketers and communicators think more broadly about where social media fits in their plans.
Critically, social media is increasingly a ‘layer’ that permeates almost every aspect of our audiences’ daily lives, rather than being a distinct ‘destination’ with a more siloed sphere of influence.
The trick to making the most of social media today is to understand how these platforms can complement and augment all of our marketing and communication activities.
My advice would be to think less about populating a content calendar, and focus more on identifying and initiating the conversations that matter most to you and the audiences that you care about.
Despite all of these impressive figures, however, social media still only accounts for about one-third of the time that people spend using the internet each day.
So what else is the world doing online?
We explore that question in this article, where we analyse all of the other essential headlines from our new Digital 2020 July Global Statshot report.
And if you want to dig deeper into our complete set of social media numbers, you’ll find them all in the SlideShare embed of the full report below (click here if that’s not working for you).
There was no one in the office. It was my first day out of a 14-day quarantine period, and I was eager to see my colleagues in person, IRL. But there was no one around. The door was unlocked. There was a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchenette. Hashtag, the office cat, was meandering through a row of empty seats.
“Hey boss! Good to see you back!” The cleaning lady said, poking her head into my office. “I’ve made a fresh pot of coffee.” Seeing our cleaning lady all of a sudden jarred my memory. This was the norm. This was my usual morning routine. I would always be the second person in the office, after the cleaning lady. She would always have had a fresh pot of coffee made, waiting for me.
Soon, my colleagues started arriving, one after another. Chatter began, and Hashtag went about his daily routine, randomly chasing after people. Someone stepped into my office for a chat. It felt like a typical workday had started.
This is post-lockdown reality. We’re back in the office, but still adjusting. And of course, the impact has been bigger than my morning twilight zone experiences. It’s been tough, but we are now seeing more positivity, and more hope. For those at different stages of lockdown, here’s a brief rundown of what might be lying ahead of you.
New kind of office environment
We’ve had to adjust the way we gather; our main meeting room isn’t large and squeezing more than a couple of people in violates social distancing rules. So, even though we’re in the office, we still do some internal meetings via video calls. Online work collaboration, remote and in the office, has become more familiar to people and is becoming a regular part of our work habits.
Mask use is also mandatory when you’re close to other people. We’re more comfortable with wearing masks in China than many other countries, but it’s still taking some getting used to. It’s strange not being able to rely on reading other people’s expressions to judge what they’re feeling, especially if you crack a joke and can’t be sure if anyone actually liked it.
Cautious return of client confidence
When the pandemic first hit, many clients pulled campaigns or changed direction. This has been true world over. We were also hit by the postponement of the Olympics. However, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a cautious but positive move towards the return of client confidence. We’ve won five pitches since the end of the lockdown, three over Tencent Video Conference and two in person. The briefs are noticeably coming back across the industry and as a social agency, we’re fortunately well placed to pick up the type of work that’s currently in demand.
Different consumer landscape
It’s fair to say that we’ve had to tear up the rule book when it comes to ‘usual’ consumer behaviours. Many of the behaviours that emerged in lockdown are still with us, whether out of necessity or choice. People’s activities, from shopping to entertainment or work, have mostly moved online and at the moment, the majority of them remain there. The frequency of occurrence for things that people used to do, such as hailing a ride-share from Didi or flying to other cities for business, are still reduced to the bare minimum. Therefore, many sectors of the Chinese economy are still waiting for consumer behaviours to return to their pre-coronavirus normality. But we are all doing the best with what we have regained thus far, and all the while trying to stay healthy and stay safe.
It’s been energising and inspiring to be physically near my colleagues after weeks of seeing them only through video conference, or, worse yet, audio-only conference calls. I look forward to seeing more moments of hope and positivity in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Research shows we’re still able to laugh under lockdown as emoji use surges on Twitter.
New research from global socially-led creative agency We Are Social examines global emoji use on Twitter to show how the ways we express our emotions via the visual icons is changing both year-on-year, and during lockdown.
Top 10: ‘Pleading’ climbs up the charts
The use of emoji has increased 36% in April 2020 vs April 2019. Overall, it remains the case year-on-year that laughing emoji are still consistently the most used on Twitter. However, the ‘pleading face’ has shot up the charts over the last year, and now sits in 3rd place in April 2020 vs 10th in April 2020. The pleading face was introduced in 2018 and, along with its intended use, it may also “represent adoration or feeling touched by a loving gesture” according to Emojipedia. The ‘thinking face’ emoji also features in April 2020’s top 10. The growth in use of these symbols represents an appetite for more nuanced ways to express ourselves online.
Year-on-Year Trends April ‘19 – April ‘20
In lockdown: Emoji use up 15%, sadness and anger see biggest increases (but we’re still a joyful bunch)
With We Are Social’s Digital 2020 April Report showing that 76% of internet users aged 16- to 64 say they have been spending more time on their smartphones since lockdown started, it’s no surprise that emoji usage is also skyrocketing. There has been a 15% increase in emoji use since most countries entered and remained in lockdown in mid-March up until the end of April, compared to February to mid-March.
While the top emoji feature tears of laughter, those of sadness have also appeared more frequently in recent weeks. Sadness saw the biggest percentage increase in lockdown (28%), followed by anger (26%), disgust (23%) and fear (19%). There is still room for happiness though; ‘joy’ emojis are still by far the most commonly used on Twitter, and these have increased 17% from pre to post lockdown.
Pre and post lockdown change in emoji use*
*Data shows the change from 1 Feb-15 March vs 16 March to 30 April
Use of virus and warning emojis increase
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most popular emoji used in discussions related to Covid-19 were 🦠 (+42%) and 😷 (+36%).
There is also some evidence to suggest people are using emoji as a means of warning others: relative increase of lesser-used ‘warning’ emojis in recent weeks such as the 🔴, 🚨 and ⚠️
Lore Oxford, global head of cultural insights at We Are Social commented: “People are communicating more online, and given that the physical cues we’d get from IRL hangs are currently few and far between, the emotional aspect of online communication is more important than ever.
“The continued reign of the ‘crying laughing’ emoji is particularly notable amid this spike. Numerous studies have proven the importance of laughter and comic relief during times of crisis. According to research conducted by Robert R. Provine, a professor at the University of Maryland who was broadly recognised as a global authority on laughter, laughing with others can not only help us feel connected, it can also make us feel in control when times are tough. Connection and control are two things that are in short supply during a pandemic.
“The rising use of the ‘pleading’ emoji is also especially interesting, having replaced heart eyes at number 3. This is an emoji that’s used with sincerity. While it’s one of the more complex emojis in this grid – it can be used to express that you’re feeling imploring, humble, grateful, worried, deflated, etc. – it’s rarely combined with irony or sarcasm, but instead signifies genuine emotion. At a time when anxiety is high, perhaps it’s not so surprising that people are seeking ways to communicate with sincerity.”
Fact-checking chatbot comes to WhatsApp
The International Fact-Checking Network last week rolled out a chatbot on WhatsApp to help connect the app’s 2 billion+ users with fact-checking organisations around the world. It aims to help users to determine whether content related to Covid-19 has been rated as false by enabling them to submit information to local fact-checkers for review. The bot also offers a global directory of fact-checking organisations and is currently available in English, with plans to add Hindi and Spanish in the near future.
Snapchat launches new AR Lenses for #BeatTheVirus
Snapchat has become the first official partner of #BeatTheVirus, a platform dedicated to stressing the importance of the key messages around combatting the spread of Covid-19. As part of the partnership, the platform has released four augmented reality Lenses, including a Coronavirus Quiz Lens to help slow the spread of misinformation.
Twitter rolls out changes to threaded conversations
Twitter has released a new layout for replies on the platform that will use lines and indentations to make it easier to understand who you’re replying to and how the conversation is flowing. It is also testing putting engagement actions — such as the like, retweet and reply icons — behind an extra tap to make replies to conversations easier to follow. The features are initially rolling out to a portion of Twitter users on iOS and the web.
Your conversations are the 💙 of Twitter, so we’re testing ways to make them easier to read and follow.
Some of you on iOS and web will see a new layout for replies with lines and indentations that make it clearer who is talking to whom and to fit more of the convo in one view. pic.twitter.com/sB2y09fG9t
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) May 5, 2020
Pinterest reported strong first quarter earnings last week, with revenue up 35% year-on-year to $272 million, beating analyst expectations. The platform’s global monthly active user base also increased by 26% year-on-year to 367 million. However, the company also reported a net loss of $141 million for the quarter (up 241% from the same time last year) and warned that its overall outlook “might be rocky” in the months ahead, due to the Covid-19 crisis. Pinterest shares fell 18% in after-hours trading, following the release of the report.
Pinterest releases several new updates for boards
Last week, Pinterest globally rolled out several updates to its boards on the web, iOS and Android, after the platform saw a 60% increase in total boards created globally in April compared with the same month last year. Among the new features is a board notes update, which enables Pinners to add details to their boards – such as necessary ingredients for a recipe or a to-do list. Pins can be added as notes. Other updates include being able to add dates to a board to help track projects, automatic grouping of Pins on boards into sections, and more.
Pinterest teams up with Shopify to support merchants
Pinterest and Shopify have teamed up to launch a new application on Shopify’s platform which will allow retailers to upload their catalogues to Pinterest and turn products into Shoppable Product Pins. The app offers merchants easy setup and access to distribution across Pinterest and adds a shop tab to a merchant’s profile. The feature is currently available to merchants in the US and Canada, with the integration becoming available to merchants globally in the coming weeks.
Tumblr re-evaluates of how it deals with hate speech
As part of ongoing efforts to tackle hate speech on its platforms, Tumblr has announced that it will now evaluate all blogs that have been removed for hate speech and consider mass deletion of reblogs when appropriate. The move comes following recent research conducted by the platform, along with user reports, which showed that much of the existing hate speech was in the form of reblogs from blogs that had already been removed.
MLB The Show Players League receives over 32 million views
With all real-world games currently on hold, MLB fans have flocked to the MLB The Show Players League – an online gaming round-robin which saw 30 players (one from each club in the League) go head-to-head in 29 three-inning games. Each of the games was livestreamed on Twitch and YouTube, with a variety of additional content available on MLB’s Facebook and Twitter, generating a collective 32 million+ video views. Participating players saw bumps on Instagram, with Champion Blake Snell growing his Instagram following by 12%.
Ones to watch
Facebook has launched a new connectivity app in Peru, called Discover, to help those who can’t afford to get online access information on the web; and Twitter is testing a new feature that will prompt users including “harmful” language to self-edit before posting a reply.
China has experienced around two and a half months’ national lockdown since the end of January 2020. Confidence is high that the worst is behind us; according to GWI’s multinational study, over 85% Chinese respondents expected the outbreak to be over in three months nationally (this figure is 35% in the UK and 50% in the US).
As I write this, back at my desk in We Are Social’s office in Shanghai, it’s important to note that while we may not be in full lockdown, we are still far from ‘back to normal’. Many of the behaviours that emerged in lockdown are still with us, whether out of necessity or choice. So here, we look at the current situation in China, and what lessons can be learned for those at different stages of the pandemic.
Growing National Pride for Chinese Domestic Brands
China’s domestic brands have been supporting initiatives by the government and other organisations by pouring huge amounts of money and resources into this fight. This is despite their own dramatic losses, and as such, this led to a wave of favourable discussion online. Some headlines like “After The Outbreak, Let’s Shop Crazily for These Domestic Brands” showcased Chinese consumers’ recognition and pride for these home-grown companies. And we have seen this behaviour in other markets too – shift to buying local in Italy and France as well.
Some notable domestic brands such as Mengniu and Yili have donated millions, or even hundreds of millions, to the frontline. By making donations, some previously low-profile local brands have suddenly caught people’s attention. For example, the skincare brand DR PLANT has donated over twenty million to fight the virus; this has been widely noticed and recognized by consumers after popular celebrity William Chan shared the news on his Weibo account. As people rally around domestic brands, any support from global brands has been overshadowed. Chinese consumers’ boosted confidence and pride for domestic brands through the epidemic has paved the way for more ‘new Chinese brands’ to prosper in the future.
During the outbreak, brands’ social responsibility has been examined closely by Chinese consumers, and this appears to have influenced their consideration in the long term. Alibaba’s new retail store Hema has rolled out a shared-employee initiative in cooperation with a couple of restaurant brands, which has creatively solved the increasing demand for online food delivery while easing the payroll pressure of the highly affected industries. Some well-known Chinese automotive brands such as BYD and WULIN have temporarily transitioned their businesses into mask making so as to support the national urgency.
Increased Online Consumption Accelerated Brands’ Digitalization
Moving to the lives of people, the impact of the national lockdown is even clearer. The most dramatic change, as expected, is increasing digital behaviours and the spike of online consumption. 86% of Chinese respondents said they’re spending more time on their smartphones since the start of the outbreak, the highest among other affected countries such as the US, Italy and Spain. People’s activities, from shopping to entertainment to work, have all moved online.
According to data, e-sales on Jingdong to Home jumped by 470% YoY during the Lunar New Year week (24th Jan -30th Jan). China will see even more online shopping after the epidemic has subsided; for example, iiMedia Research states that China’s online grocery market is now expected to grow 62.9% in 2020 to 264 billion yuan compared to a 29.2% growth in 2019.
To keep up with this increase in online shopping, brands have looked to collaborate with ecommerce platforms to drive sales. The likes of Calvin Klein, Make Up For Ever and LorealPro have partnered with Tmall Club (a shopping festival hosted by the biggest online shopping site) in creating new “cloud shopping” experiences for consumers. For example, Calvin Klein launched an online pop-up store with the first-ever immersive 3D interaction experience on Tmall.
Calvin Klein’s online pop-up store on Tmall.
‘Cloud’, or online, entertainment is on the rise, with variety and fitness using creative methods to produce content. “Tian Tian Xiang Shang,” one of China’s hottest variety shows, has introduced a brand new way to make programs: Cloud shooting. It invites celebrities to record their sections at home, which are then broadcast on the show. Some major sports brands also started to launch cloud fitness programs. For example, Under Armour invited fitness experts to teach audiences how to exercise at home through TikTok and other live streaming platforms. Most consumers will get used to this kind of engagement and keep leveraging this interaction even after lockdown.
Online classes & meetings
With around 200 million people and students resuming their work and study through the internet, the usage of online office apps has sharply increased. Microsoft Teams saw a 500% increase in meetings, calls, and conference usage in China since the end of January.
People’s instant shift to online consumption has pushed the rapid digitalization of brands. The integration of social, e-commerce and O2O (online to offline) has become more important than ever and some brands have reacted quickly to this. For instance, the digital-savvy beauty brand Perfect Diary rapidly moved its offline makeup experts online and leveraged more than 10,000 WeChat groups for private-domain social engagement and commerce. The brand’s sales even grew by 250% in both January and February compared to sales a year ago.
While China is out of lockdown, these behaviours have given new momentum to China’s digital economy. It has grown at an annual rate of more than 20% in recent years and accounts for about a third of gross domestic product and quarter of the national workforce. And it seems as though now, it will only grow faster.
The Rising Trends of Post-Epidemic China
The epidemic has significantly shaped China’s industrial environment. Its instant impact on people’s lives has accelerated transformation and innovation in many sectors. Some new lifestyles and consumption demands are rising, which are leading the new trends for the future. In post-epidemic times, understanding these trends will help businesses grow more steadily and sustainably.
1. People will pay greater attention to health management
From food and fitness to home environment and medical services, people are pursuing higher health standards and experiences.
Food safety: Consumer attitudes toward increased health and wellness are set to remain heightened well after the pandemic ends. In fact, 80% of respondents said they will pay attention to eating healthily after the epidemic is over, according to Nielsen research. Brands that focus on health and safety concepts in the future are likely to see strong demand from consumers who see a renewed sense of importance in staying healthy. For example, Yimishiji, an online food market brand that promotes organic food and mindful eating has gained increasing attention from consumers seeking a healthy diet.
Fitness & Sports: Home exercise programs and the fitness equipment industry are well positioned to grow. Live broadcasts of fitness classes have surged by 513% on online sports platform PP Sport since the company launched its courses in late January. This looks to continue: 75% of the respondents from a recent Nielsen study said they would spend more on sports and fitness in the future.
Smart home & IoT: People care more about the internal environment of their homes. Contactless smart home appliances provide a more convenient, healthier and safer home experience. The Nielsen study found that during the epidemic, contactless services were top of mind for Chinese consumers. Consumers who previously were more conscious about traditional areas like safe hygiene and healthy eating, are now further adopting technology-enabled smart health. Smart homes, empowered by IoT technology, will further meet people’s increasing desire for a more interconnected tech-enabled lifestyle.
Online medical services: The limited medical resources during the outbreak and people’s need for instant health check and treatment have accelerated the development of online medical services. Ping An Good Doctor, a healthcare services platform, had a nearly 900% increase in new users from December 2019 to January 2020. The number of online users and visits also has surged at Ding Xiang Yuan, an online community for healthcare professionals, and Chunyu Doctor, a telemedicine platform. It is likely that even after the outbreak, people will show a greater willingness to try digital health services.
2. Online, remote work collaboration becomes more familiar to people and will become a part of future work habits
Since the lockdown, many Chinese companies have rapidly adopted local productivity solutions such as Alibaba’s DingTalk or WeChat Work to communicate and deliver weekly meetings, training, and lectures. Remote work has never been so familiar in people’s lives.
The global market for video conferencing alone is estimated to reach US$6.7 billion by 2025, according to a separate report by US consulting firm Grand View Research. The rapid transition between online and offline work, the increasingly blurred boundaries between work and life, and more flexible professions derived from the Internet have all provided a strong foundation for the development of online remote work and its integration, which has led the rise of a new working culture.
3. People are more likely to enhance their financial management due to the financial challenges brought by the epidemic
Financial management tools, such as Daodao pocketbook, have seen sharp user growth since the outbreak.
Moreover, research showed that during the outbreak, people planned to adjust their living conditions and invested more in finance and real estate.
Precious lessons have been learned in lockdown, but people are now happy to start getting their lives back. The brands and corporations that have weathered through and won the hearts of people will expect to grow. The turbulence tested brands’ agility to transform and innovate, and many are now better set up to succeed in the longer-term.
While China is out of lockdown, the pandemic is yet to come to an end. It will still take some time for society to get back to normal, especially for industries like tourism, hospitality, entertainment and retail that are still struggling. But for now, we’re grateful for the small things and are looking to the moments of hope for the future.
The world has changed dramatically over the first three months of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting almost every aspect of our lives. These changes have been clearly evident in the world’s digital behaviours too, especially as billions of people turn to connected devices to help them cope with life and work under lockdown.
We’ve dedicated a significant portion of our Digital 2020 April Global Statshot Report to exploring these extraordinary trends, but this update also includes all of the usual data points that we cover in our ongoing series of Global Digital Reports too, including detailed analysis of how people around the world are using the internet, social media, mobile devices, and ecommerce.
Key headlines in this quarter’s report include:
You’ll find my comprehensive analysis of all these stories and more in the article below, but be warned: at roughly 7,000 words, it’s a bit of a monster, so you may want to grab a coffee and get comfortable before digging in.
Just before we begin, our teams at We Are Social, Hootsuite and Kepios would like to extend a very special thank you to all of the partners who made this report possible, especially under the challenging circumstances. In particular, we’d like to thank the team at GlobalWebIndex for being so generous with the data from their ongoing – and exceptionally insightful – Coronavirus Multi-Market Study.
OK, sitting comfortably? Then let’s dive in…
Stats for starters
You’ll find all of the charts in our April Statshot Report in the SlideShare embed below (click here if that’s not working for you), but keep reading after the embed, because the rest of this article will help you to make sense of what all these numbers mean.
Key headlines: global digital adoption still growing
The latest data show that the number of internet users and social media users around the world have both increased by more than 300 million over the past twelve months, despite delays in reporting in some key countries due to the coronavirus outbreak.
DataReportal analysis indicates that 4.57 billion people now use the internet, an increase of more than 7 percent since this time last year. Social media users are growing even faster, up by more than 8 percent since April 2019 to reach 3.81 billion today.
Global social media use hasn’t quite reached the 50 percent penetration mark yet, but the latest trends suggest that we should pass this key milestone before the end of 2020.
The number of people using mobile phones has also increased, with global user numbers up by 128 million over the past twelve months. GSMA Intelligence reported 5.16 billion unique mobile users at the start of April 2020, meaning that roughly two-thirds of the world’s total population uses a mobile phone today.
Use of connected devices jumps
Detailed research from GlobalWebIndex reveals that people all over the world have been spending considerably more time on their digital devices as a result of coronavirus lockdowns.
More than three-quarters (76 percent) of internet users aged between 16 and 64 in surveyed countries say they’ve been spending more time using their smartphones in recent weeks compared to their pre-lockdown behaviours, with almost 4 in 5 women reporting an increase in mobile use.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people report that they’ve been spending longer watching television too, with more than a third (34 percent) of internet users across the 17 countries in GlobalWebIndex’s special coronavirus study saying that they’ve been spending more time using smart TVs and dedicated streaming devices such as Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire Stick.
Other data supports this finding too, with American network AT&T reporting that Netflix traffic has reached all-time highs during the US coronavirus lockdown.
More people have been signing up for streaming services too, with Disney Plus in particular posting impressive growth during the first three months of 2020. The platform’s recent launch in Europe and India has helped to boost subscribers to more than 50 million in just five months since its launch, while the platform has almost doubled its subscriber base since the start of 2020.
Netflix has also seen its user base grow since the start of the year. The company announced that it attracted 16 million new paying subscribers to its service in the first three months of 2020, equating to quarter-on-quarter growth of 9 percent.
COVID-19 lockdowns have a profound impact on digital habits
Beyond increases in device usage, GlobalWebIndex’s data reveals that people’s digital behaviours are also changing dramatically as a result of coronavirus-related lockdowns. We’ll cover many of the individual changes in detail throughout the rest of this article, but the chart below contains the headline numbers.
Many people say that they expect their new habits to continue after the COVID-19 outbreak passes too. One in five internet users say they expect to continue watching more content on streaming services, and one in seven (15 percent) say they expect to continue spending more time using social media.
However, it’s worth remembering that some of these ‘new habits’ are purely the result of a sudden increase in spare time, and there’s a good chance that activity levels will quickly return to pre-lockdown levels once people are able to return to work, and are once again able to socialise with friends and family in the physical world.
Use of social media surges
One of the clearest trends in recent weeks has been a dramatic increase in socialising via digital platforms, whether that’s with family, friends, or colleagues and commercial partners.
This isn’t surprising of course; with so many people struggling with social isolation measures or a complete lockdown, digital platforms are increasingly our only opportunity to communicate with the outside world.
Almost half of internet users (47 percent) in surveyed countries say they’ve been spending longer using social media, while roughly half of these users (23 percent) say they’ve been spending “significantly” more time using social media compared to their pre-lockdown behaviours.
Increased usage has been most pronounced across younger age groups, but a third of internet users aged 45 to 64 also told GlobalWebIndex that they’re spending more time using social media as a result of coronavirus lockdowns.
Women are more likely to have increased their social media activities compared to men, with almost two-thirds of women aged 16 to 24 saying they’re spending more time using social media in recent weeks.
Despite already spending more time on social media than any other country, the Philippines has seen the greatest number of people reporting an increase in the amount of time they’re spending on social platforms.
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the Filipinos in GlobalWebIndex’s survey said their ‘social time’ has increased, compared to a global average of 47 percent. More than half of respondents in Brazil, India, and South Africa also report increases in social media activity, compared to less than one-quarter of respondents in Japan, and 26 percent in Germany.
Social media apps already accounted for half of the time that we spent on our mobile phones in 2019, but these ‘old favourites’ have seen considerable increases in use over recent weeks.
In a press call with journalists as early as 18 March, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had already witnessed twice the usual level of calls made via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in the days since European countries began their lockdowns.
Meanwhile, some countries have seen even greater jumps in use. In Italy – one of the first Western countries to experience a complete lockdown – the number of group calls on Facebook Messenger involving three or more users increased by more than 1,000 percent in March alone, while people across the country have also increased the time they spend using Facebook-owned apps by more than 70 percent since the lockdown began.
App Annie also reports that the amount of time people spend using Snapchat and TikTok has grown considerably over recent weeks, while Reddit has also reported increases of 20-50% in traffic to subreddits related to business, finance, news, education, travel, and sports.
Social media platforms see solid growth in active users
In addition to these increases in time spent, the latest data suggest that all of the key social platforms that we track in our ongoing Global Digital Reports grew their active user bases over the first three months of 2020 as well.
Twitter saw the biggest quarterly jump amongst these platforms. Numbers published in the company’s self-service advertising tools show that advertisers can now reach 47 million more people on Twitter compared to January 2020, equating to a quarter-on-quarter increase of 14 percent.
Interestingly, Russia accounted for roughly 30 percent of Twitter’s global growth this quarter. The company’s data show that the number of people in the country that advertisers can reach using Twitter ads increased by 149 percent over the past three months, from 9.5 million in January 2020, to more than 23.5 million by the start of April.
Facebook’s advertising audience also grew in the first three months of 2020, and is up by almost 4 percent since January (more on this below). Instagram’s audience is growing even faster, registering an uplift of 4.5 percent since the start of the year, while Snapchat’s tools indicate that the platforms’ advertising audience grew by 4.2 percent during the same period.
Sadly, TikTok remains tight-lipped on active user numbers, so we’re unable to provide any new insights that would enable us to compare the platform’s growth directly to other platforms. However, the latest data from App Annie show that TikTok still trails Instagram when it comes to monthly active users of each platform’s mobile app.
Is video calling the future of social media?
In addition to their usual ‘portfolio’ of social apps, people have also been turning to new platforms and solutions to help with the unique challenges that the pandemic has created. In particular, video conferencing apps have quickly moved to the centre of many people’s work lives, and many users have been using these platforms to stay in touch with friends and family too.
Despite lingering concerns about privacy, teleconferencing service Zoom has been a clear winner, with the company revealing that it’s had as many as 200 million daily active users in recent weeks – 20 times more than pre-pandemic levels.
The latest reports from App Annie also reveal that Zoom was one of the ten most-downloaded apps around the world in March 2020, with the app generating a greater number of downloads than Netflix.
Zoom isn’t the only video calling app that’s seen adoption accelerate in recent weeks though. App Annie reports that Google’s Meet app (until recently known as Hangouts Meet) saw 30 times as many downloads in the USA in the week of March 15th to 21st compared to pre-pandemic levels. Downloads of the app also increased dramatically in Europe, with Italy registering 140 times as many downloads, Spain 64 times as many, and the UK 24 times as many.
Houseparty has been another big winner, especially amongst younger users who’ve been unable to meet up with friends during the lockdown. App Annie reports that downloads of the Houseparty app in Spain jumped by a factor of 2,360x in the week of March 15th to 21st. Italy saw an increase of 423x, while the UK, which started from a higher base of existing users, still saw downloads jump by 17x.
It’s unclear to what extent these new behaviours will continue once lockdowns have been lifted and people are able to socialise in person again, but with many people now using these platforms multiple times each day, it’s likely that significant numbers of people have already overcome key barriers to trial and adoption.
As a result, there’s a real likelihood that many of the social media habits that people have formed in recent weeks will outlast the pandemic, and a move to more ‘face-to-face’ digital interactions may be an important legacy of coronavirus lockdowns on the world’s social media behaviours.
Advertisers can now reach more than 2 billion people on Facebook
The latest numbers published in Facebook’s self-service advertising tools reveal that advertisers can now reach more than 2 billion people around the world on the company’s core platform – the first time we’ve seen audience numbers reach this milestone during our ongoing tracking.
If we assume that all of these users are at least 13 years old – as required by the platform’s terms of service – these figures would mean that advertisers can now reach more than one-third of the world’s total population aged 13 and above using adverts on Facebook.
Compared to the advertising audience numbers that we reported in our Digital 2020 Global Digital Overview report in January, an additional 76 million people saw adverts on Facebook in March 2020 compared to December 2019.
Much of this growth was fuelled by strong gains in the platform’s two largest countries. Advertisers can now reach 280 million people on Facebook in India, up by 20 million since January this year. The platforms’ US audience also grew by 10 million over the past three months, reaching a total addressable audience of 190 million people.
It’s not just the platform’s audience numbers that have grown either; as we’ll explore in more detail in the next sections, the platform’s users are clicking on a greater number of adverts too.
However, the latest numbers also suggest that just 80 percent of Facebook’s active users saw an advert in the past 30 days, which means that the platform was unable to monetise roughly 500 million of its 2.5 billion monthly active users during that time.
There may be many reasons for a disparity between advertising audience numbers and total monthly active users. One important consideration is the impact of American sanctions on countries such as Iran, Cuba, and Sudan, which prevents US companies from selling advertising in these locations.
However, user behaviours may also play a role, especially if people bypass the platform’s main feed by only checking their notifications, or heading straight to Groups.
Advertising’s perplexing paradox
Various reports over recent weeks have highlighted significant downward pressure on the cost of digital advertising as economies struggle.
Both the Wall Street Journal and Digiday cite various sources who report that the cost of advertising impressions on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have all declined by 15 to 20 percent between February and March 2020. Meanwhile, an article in the New York Times suggests that drops may have been even more precipitous, with one source reporting a fall of between 35 and 50 percent in the cost of Facebook ad impressions.
Facebook itself has already announced that its business will be adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic too. In particular, the company advised investors that recent increases in user activity may not translate into equivalent increases in ad revenue, stating:
“Facebook doesn’t monetize many of the services where we’re seeing increased engagement, and we’ve seen a weakening in our ads business in countries taking aggressive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Analysts Cowen & Co have offered their analysis on this “weakening”, forecasting Facebook ad revenue for 2020 to be US$68 billion – almost US$16 billion (19 percent) lower than their previous forecast. They offered similarly pessimistic changes to their forecasts for Google’s performance too, predicting that the company’s net revenues in 2020 will be US$127.5 billion – 18 percent lower than their previous estimate.
However, other data tells a different story.
Facebook’s ad planning tools indicate that users have been clicking on more adverts on the platform in recent weeks compared to the end of 2019, both relatively and absolutely. The platform’s latest data show that the typical global Facebook user clicked on a median of 13 adverts in March 2020, up from December 2019’s median of 12.
While that may not sound like much of an increase, our analysis of country-level data suggests that this may have translated into more than 3.5 billion additional clicks on Facebook ads in March 2020 compared to December 2019 activity. Furthermore, because this calculation is based on medians (as opposed to averages), the actual increase may be even higher.
Overall, women are significantly more likely to click or tap on Facebook adverts compared to men, while people between the ages of 35 and 65 also show greater propensity to engage with commercial messages on the platform.
Younger users are the least likely to interact with ads, with Facebook’s own data showing that users aged 18 to 24 click or tap on a median of just 10 adverts per month, compared to an overall median of 13 ad clicks per month across the platform’s total user base.
However, the latest data suggest that – across all age groups – ad engagement has increased in recent weeks, potentially because people have been spending longer using social media. Data published in Facebook’s ad planning tools show that the median number of monthly ad clicks has increased in 194 countries out of 219 countries we’ve been able to analyse.
Furthermore, the latest data from Locowise show that overall engagement levels for posts made by Pages on Facebook have increased over the past three months, although this is not true of all post format types. Critically, photo and video posts – formats that are particularly popular for paid media campaigns on Facebook – have seen average engagement rates increase by at least 1 percent over the past three months.
So, while most marketers are likely battling with downward pressure on their ad budgets as a result of ongoing economic woes, the good news is that the cost of digital advertising appears to have gone down, while the likelihood that audiences will engage with those adverts has simultaneously gone up.
These trends suggest that – if you’re able to secure budget – the current opportunities offered by digital advertising may be particularly compelling, especially compared to pre-pandemic performance.
But should brands even be thinking about advertising at this time?
People don’t expect brands to stop advertising
Research from GlobalWebIndex shows that more than half of internet users (51 percent) approve of brands continuing to advertise as normal despite the Coronavirus outbreak, compared to less than one in five (18 percent) who say they disapprove. Just under a third (31 percent) say they neither approve nor disapprove.
These findings are supported by research from Kantar, which found that only 8 percent of people believe that companies should stop advertising, compared to 64 percent of respondents who said they think it’s acceptable for brands to continue with commercial messaging.
GlobalWebIndex’s data suggests that men have a more favourable attitude towards companies continuing to advertise as normal, but men and women in older age groups are more likely to disapprove.
Perceptions also vary considerably by country, although it’s interesting to note that respondents in Italy and Spain – two countries that have been particularly hard-hit by the current crisis – appear to be more supportive of brands continuing to advertise.
However, brands need to be careful how they approach advertising during the crisis, and research from Edelman found that one in three consumers have already “punished” brands that they perceived to have responded badly.
Above all, brands need to demonstrate empathy, compassion, and sensitivity. This is a time to think about how your company and its products can genuinely help others in their time of need. The emphasis should be solving problems, not selling products.
This could be about producing products and services that actively help to address current issues, such as Burberry making personal protective equipment for frontline medical practitioners, or LVMH converting its fragrance factories to produce hand sanitiser for French hospitals.
However, something as simple as creating content that helps everyday people to achieve their own objectives can also add meaningful value. Indeed, GlobalWebIndex finds that tutorials and how-to videos are amongst the top kinds of content that consumers want more of during the COVID-19 crisis, and these may represent a particularly compelling opportunity for B2B brands.
However, brands should be very careful when it comes to the use of humour. While GlobalWebIndex finds that people are craving more ‘funny’ content, this finding likely focuses on dedicated entertainment formats such as TV shows, and Edelman finds that 57 percent of consumers think brands should stop marketing activities that might be considered as “humorous or too lighthearted in tone” while the pandemic continues.
Organic social increases too
Paid media don’t represent the only opportunities for brands, however, and the latest data offer a selection of good news for marketers who have seen budgets slashed in recent weeks.
For starters, new numbers from Locowise show that organic reach on Facebook has actually increased over the past 3 months – the first time we’ve seen this metric improve in the time that we’ve been tracking it. The increase was admittedly quite modest (just 0.5 percent), but – as the saying goes – every little helps.
Facebook’s own data also suggests that people have been more active on its core platform in recent weeks. One of the key changes has come in Page Likes, which have remained stubbornly low for most users since the platform’s inception.
For context, Facebook’s self-service advertising tools have long reported that the typical user around the world has only ever ‘Liked’ one page on Facebook. As you might expect, this median varies from country to country, but no country registers more than 3 median Page Likes per users, and just 10 countries around the world have reached this level [for reference, these countries include Botswana, Tunisia, and Mongolia; you can find the full local story in our individual country reports].
However, data published in these tools over recent weeks have shown a sudden increase in the number of countries in which users have liked a median of 2 or more pages – up from 41 countries in January, to 91 countries today. It’s unclear from the data which kinds of pages have benefited from this increase, but there is a chance that at least some of these pages will be related to the coronavirus pandemic, rather than being brand pages.
Interestingly though, the number of post likes appears to have fallen during the same period, down from a median of 13 post likes per month in December 2019, to a median of 12 per month in March 2020. The picture varies by age and gender though, with women in their 30s and 40s more likely to click ‘like’ compared to users in other groups.
But – in contrast to declining post likes – commenting activity appears to have increased over recent weeks, with Facebook’s tools reporting that the typical global user made a median of 6 comments during March 2020, compared to a median of 5 in December 2019.
Once again, the level of comments varies meaningfully by age and gender, and women between the ages of 35 and 64 are considerably more likely to post a comment than users in any other demographic group.
And while we’re on the subject of organic content, it’s worth noting that email marketing also appears to be enjoying improved performance in recent weeks.
Data from BounceX shows that global email open rates have increased by roughly 30 percent since the start of March, while email click rates have also seen increases of between 5 and 10 percent (albeit with meaningful daily fluctuations).
Marketing mix considerations: social platform overlaps
Updates to platform user numbers seem to be a constant source of anxiety for marketers, who worry that they need to jump on every new platform in order to remain relevant.
Admittedly, new platforms can offer a wealth of new opportunities, from exciting content formats, to reduced cost per impression, or even a ‘halo effect’ of being the first to try something new.
However, if reach is one of your key considerations, the chart below should help you to make some more informed decisions when it comes to your channel mix, by helping you to identify what proportion of each social media platform’s users are ‘unique’.
First, a bit of guidance on how to read the chart. The percentages in the table identify the share of users of each platform in the left-hand column that are also users of each platform in the top row.
For example, 35 percent of Instagram users also use Snapchat, while 86 percent of Snapchat users also use Instagram [note that this disparity is partly due to the fact that Instagram has roughly 3 times as many total users as Snapchat].
But what does this great data from GlobalWebIndex actually tell us?
The key takeaway is that very few social media users are ‘unique’ to just one platform. Being the largest platforms, Facebook and YouTube have the largest unique audiences, but even these platforms’ unique audiences only represent 6 percent and 7 percent (respectively) of their total user bases.
More importantly, just 1 percent of the users of TikTok and Snapchat say they don’t use any other social platforms. Critically, this means that marketers can reach 99 percent of these platforms’ users via other social channels.
Reach isn’t the only consideration when it comes to channel choices of course, but if big headlines about growing user bases have made you question whether you’ve adopted the right channel mix, these figures should help to allay many of your fears.
My advice: fewer, bigger, better is still the simplest path to success when it comes to a social platform portfolio. Trying to manage presences on multiple platforms will likely stretch your resources, and you’ll quickly reach diminishing returns – especially if you’re not creating unique content for each platform.
Games are a top choice for a world on lockdown
Video games have been a popular choice amongst people confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Data from GlobalWebIndex shows that – even before the current wave of lockdowns – 4 in 5 of the world’s internet users already played video games.
However, new data from App Annie shows that weekly downloads of mobile games in March 2020 jumped by 30 percent compared to weekly averages for the final quarter of 2019, with people around the world downloading more than a billion games each week.
In total, mobile users downloaded more than 13 billion games during the first three months of this year, and spent close to US$17 billion dollars on mobile games and in-game purchases during the same period – a 5 percent increase on spends in the last three months of 2019.
GlobalWebIndex also finds that more than a third of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 have been spending more time playing video games in recent weeks. This trend is particularly evident amongst younger users, with 43 percent of male internet users aged 16 to 24 saying they’re spending more time gaming.
These evolving behaviours are visible in other kinds of data too. AT&T reports that gaming-related traffic in April 2020 was 50 percent higher than pre-lockdown levels.
We’re not just spending more time playing games either; GlobalWebIndex’s research also finds that 10 percent of internet users around the world have been spending more time watching esports.
Critically, however, this figure rises to more than 20 percent for internet users in India, which could point to a huge opportunity in one of the world’s biggest internet markets if this increased interest in esports continues in a post-lockdown world.
Mobile’s growing influence
The latest data from GlobalWebIndex show that mobile’s share of total internet time increased again in Q4 2019, and mobile devices now account for more than 51 percent of our connected lives. However, this data was collected prior to the current coronavirus outbreak, and the company’s more recent (unpublished) data indicate that people’s habits under lockdown will serve to extend mobile’s lead even further.
This finding is supported by data from App Annie, which shows that the amount of time people spent using mobile devices during the first three months of 2020 increased by 20 percent compared to the same period last year.
The company also reports that in China – the first country to impose a mass lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus – mobile users spent an average of 5 hours per day using apps across the first three months of 2020, representing an increase of 30 percent compared to the levels seen at the start of 2019. Italy saw a similar pattern, with users spending more than 10 percent more time in apps across the whole of the first quarter.
Meanwhile, data from Statcounter shows that mobile devices accounted for a greater share of global web traffic in March 2020 compared to the same time last year. The company’s latest data reveal that 52 percent of web page requests in March 2020 originated from mobile devices, representing a relative increase of more than 6 percent compared to the 48.9 percent that the company reported in March 2019.
Computers’ share of web traffic dropped from 47 percent in March 2019 to 45.3 percent in March 2020, representing a relative drop of almost 4 percent, while tablets’ share of total traffic dropped by a third, from 4 percent in March 2019 to 2.7 percent in March 2020.
These latest global figures are comparable with each device’s relative share throughout the second half of 2019 though, and early lockdown measures don’t appear to have had a dramatic impact on device preferences when it comes to the world’s web browsing activities.
However, this may be because many countries only started lockdowns towards the end of March, so there’s a chance that the data for April will tell a different story. For example, Spain and South Korea – which both started lockdowns earlier in March – have seen a significant uptick in web traffic from laptops and desktops over recent weeks.
Another interesting trend in mobile has been a marked increase in web traffic associated with iPhone devices. Data from Statcounter show that handsets powered by Apple’s iOS have steadily been gaining web traffic share over the past 6 months, up from 22 percent in October 2019, to 27 percent in March 2020.
During the same period, the traffic shares attributable to handsets running operating systems other than Android or iOS have fallen considerably, highlighting the ongoing consolidation in the industry.
However, it’s worth noting that people have also been spending more time using laptops and desktops as they find ways of dealing with life under lockdown, and people haven’t suddenly abandoned their computers.
My sense is that we’ll also see device shares return to levels similar to those we saw before the pandemic once people are able to return to something resembling normal life.
Internet speeds slow due to increased demand
COVID-19 lockdowns have also had a clear impact on internet connection speeds. The latest data from Ookla shows that many countries saw meaningful drops in average download speeds for both mobile and fixed internet connections between February and March 2020.
However, most countries still registered year-on-year increases in average connection speeds, so it’s likely that these month-on-month drops are a direct result of the increased network demands of people’s lockdown-specific behaviours.
For example, the sudden increase in video streaming – both for video conferencing apps like Zoom, and content streaming services like Netflix – will have resulted in a significant increase in demand for bandwidth, and given the unexpected nature of these increases, it’s little surprise that networks have been affected.
However, some of the larger streaming platforms have taken active measures to reduce the load that their services impose on networks, with Netflix being one of the first to publicly announce temporary reductions in streaming rates in order to reduce bandwidth demands.
The latest data from Ericsson show that the world’s mobile users already consumed almost 40 billion gigabytes of mobile data every month during Q4 2019, but all the evidence suggests that this figure will jump considerably in Q1 2020.
However – despite a slew of lurid headlines – it doesn’t appear that adult content has contributed to increased bandwidth consumption, at least at a global level. The latest data from SimilarWeb suggest that there hasn’t been a significant change in traffic to the world’s most popular adult content websites in recent weeks, nor have visitors been spending any longer on these sites than they did prior to coronavirus lockdowns.
The world turns to ecommerce during lockdowns
Nearly half of the internet users surveyed by GlobalWebIndex at the start of April said that they’ve been spending more time shopping online in recent weeks, but there are some interesting differences between the behaviours of different genders and age groups.
More than half of internet users aged 25 to 44 in the 17 countries covered in the survey say they have been spending more time shopping online in recent weeks, with men in particular saying that they’ve increased the amount of time they’re spending on ecommerce activities.
At a country level, China has seen the greatest increase in the amount of time that people have been spending shopping online, which is all the more impressive when we consider that China already has some of the highest rates of ecommerce adoption in the world.
The Food & Grocery category has seen the greatest increases in ecommerce interest, with GlobalWebIndex finding that a third of internet users have been shopping more for these items online as a result of their country’s COVID-19 lockdowns.
This has translated into a significant increase in traffic to supermarket websites too. ContentSquare reported a 251 percent increase in visits to supermarket websites in the seven days from April 8th to April 15th, compared to average weekly traffic at the start of 2020. The company also reported a 76 percent rise in transactions on supermarket websites during the same period, compared to pre-lockdown levels.
These findings are echoed by Alexa’s latest ranking of the world’s top websites, which shows that ecommerce websites currently account for 6 out of the top 20 places. Interestingly, 5 of these are Chinese ecommerce sites, with Alibaba’s Tmall accounting for two distinct domains in the top 10.
While this is perhaps unsurprising given the extent of China’s coronavirus lockdown, it suggests that the shift in the internet’s centre of gravity that we covered in our October 2019 and January 2020 reports continues, and that trend may even be accelerating.
Sadly, a very different story has been unfolding in the travel category. ContentSquare reports that traffic to tourism-related websites is down by 72 percent in recent weeks compared to pre-COVID levels. Worse still, the company reports that transactions on tourism-related websites have almost completely dried up, registering a 92 percent drop in the week to April 15th compared to the weekly average at the start of 2020.
However, despite these grim statistics, GlobalWebIndex’s research offers a small ray of hope: some people have been using their lockdown time to explore and plan vacations – albeit ones to take in the future.
As a result, travel marketers who have any remaining marketing budget may want to shift their focus from the usual short-term focus of direct-response advertising, to activities designed for longer-term inspiration and branding.
Key considerations here will be platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which travellers often turn to when they’re in the ‘dreaming’ phase of planning. A return to normality may still seem like a dream for travel brands, but where resources permit, now is an ideal time to start planting seeds for the future.
It will also be interesting to see how many of these ecommerce trends will continue in the post-COVID world. While it’s almost certain that people will return to physical stores once the current phase of lockdowns comes to an end, there’s also a good chance that some of our new behaviours will endure.
In particular, in countries that experience lockdowns lasting longer than a month, there’s a real chance that new behaviours will start to become actual habits. Research suggests that it takes roughly two months for a new behaviour to become an ‘automatic’ habit, although the frequency of action is also an important consideration. As a result, regular activities such as grocery shopping are more likely to see enduring changes in behaviour, compared to categories that have enjoyed a spike in one-off purchases over recent weeks.
Consumers also seem open to continuing with some of their new habits. Research from Kantar found that 42 percent of people in China who started shopping online for the first time during the country’s recent lockdown expected to continue with a combination of online and offline shopping once the lockdown had been lifted.
What the world has been searching for on lockdown
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google has seen a huge increase in coronavirus-related searches in recent weeks. “Coronavirus” was the third most frequently entered search query across the whole of Q1, but the query topped the rankings in March, generating more than twice as many searches as the perennial top term, “Google.”
[For context, “Google” is usually the top search query because people type the word into the address bar of their browser, but then fail to complete the URL with the subsequent “.com”, so when they hit enter, Google treats the word as a search term instead of as a web address].
Meanwhile, searches for “corona” placed third in March’s top search rankings – ahead of Facebook – while a total of four coronavirus-related queries appeared in the top 20.
The ranking of queries by their month-on-month increases in search volume is even more telling, with 16 of the top 20 ‘rising’ terms in March 2020 directly related to coronavirus, and another three closely linked to the pandemic and its consequences.
The only term in Google’s ‘rising’ list for March that is not associated with the COVID-19 outbreak is “hantavirus”. It seems that searches for this query surged in recent weeks after a man in China died after being infected with the virus, but – despite an ensuing social media panic – guidance from America’s CDC suggests that the disease is likely to remain rare amongst humans.
If it hadn’t been for COVID…
The trends we’ve identified in this quarter’s report have clearly been dominated by changes in behaviour that can be directly attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are some other stories we’ve been tracking that – under other circumstances – would have gained a lot more of our attention.
I’m guessing you’re probably suffering from a bit of data overload by now though, so I’ve distilled these stories down into the essential headlines.
The use of voice interfaces continues to grow, especially on mobile devices. 45 percent of internet users now say they use voice search and voice commands each month, compared to the 43 percent that we reported in January. Furthermore, voice interface use now extends to more than half of internet users in India, China, Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey. For context, these five countries represent some of the largest internet populations in the world, accounting for more than 40 percent of total global users.
Despite a persistent myth that Millennials and Gen Z don’t use email, the latest data from GlobalWebIndex shows that email use remains consistently high across all age groups. Critically, roughly three-quarters of internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 say they used a webmail service to read or send emails in the past month.
Concerns about misuse of data continue to rise around the world. 65 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 surveyed by GlobalWebIndex say they worry about how companies use their personal data, up from the 64 percent figure that we reported in January.
Younger users are the biggest users of ad-blocking tools, although men are considerably more likely to use these tools than women.
What happens next?
No one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our lives, so it’s difficult to offer advice on next steps. However, here are some of the things I’d expect to see:
Amongst all the other growth trends we’ve been tracking over the past few weeks, there’s one that we can’t seem to escape. Specifically, an unprecedented increase in journalists’ use of the word “unprecedented” has led to unprecedented growth in the number of people searching for the word “unprecedented.” Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.
Tuesday, April 7th: We Are Social, the global socially-led creative agency network, has launched Do The Right Thing: The Role of Social In COVID-19 – a report examining best practices for brands on social media during this global crisis.
The report, available to download here, looks at how consumer needs and behaviours are changing due to the impact of the coronavirus and resulting lockdown, and explores social media’s role to play in helping brands to stay relevant and present in the lives of their consumers. It will share how brands can act now as well as plan for the future.
The agency has gathered insights from its teams in multiple markets all over the globe to share how brands can best communicate during different phases of the pandemic.
Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer, We Are Social, said: “Social media’s role in people’s lives has changed hugely in the last few weeks, with the coronavirus forcing a significant proportion of the world into lockdown. People are reaching out through social media for guidance, ideas, distraction and comfort, and brands can have a role in providing these.
“With this report, we wanted to not only talk about the changing landscape, but also the practical ways that brands can engage with their communities. From content creation, working with influencers to paid media and more, the report demonstrates how to serve and support communities, through advice and best practice examples. Brands now need to do that thing all content strategies say we should do – to be human.”
The report covers aspects such as the role of community management during the crisis, how brands can best work with influencers and content creators, and more. Click here to download the full report.
KSA in 2020: A Year of Digital Growth
Socialize, in conjunction with We Are Social and Hootsuite, the world’s leader in social media management, today released their Digital 2020 report, examining social media and digital trends around the world.
Here is a look at the most significant data coming out of KSA, giving us a first understanding at the possible trends, changes and behaviors that could shape the year ahead.
Facebook is still growing
Instagram’s advertising audience has stalled with 0% growth in the region. Facebook was the stand-out performer with an increase of +8.3%, Linkedin +5.1% and Snapchat +2.9%.
Again, it was bad news for Twitter with a -2.6% fall.
1 in 3 Saudi is active on TikTok
In Saudi Arabia, TikTok use rates are slightly higher than in the UAE, at 31%, though the platform still trails the likes of Snapchat (45%).
Saudi social media users leave on average 4 comments per month on Facebook posts (behind the global average of 5), and click on average 8 times per month on Facebook posts (behind the global average of 12).
UAE in 2020: A Year of Digital Growth
Socialize, in conjunction with We Are Social and Hootsuite, the world’s leader in social media management, today released their Digital 2020 report, examining social media and digital trends around the world.
Here is a look at the most significant data coming out of the UAE, giving us a first understanding at the possible trends, changes and behaviors that could shape the year ahead.
1 in 4 UAE resident is active on TikTok
Short form video app TikTok hit the global and regional press headlines this year, and has built a strong base of active users in the UAE, with 29% of internet users aged 16 to 64 in UAE stating they had used the platform in the last month.
Instagram is still the fastest growing platform in the UAE
Instagram saw the biggest growth in its advertising audience of the major social media platforms with +12%.
Snapchat also saw strong growth with +9.3%, and Facebook’s ad audience increased by +5.2%. However, not all platforms performed so well; LinkedIn saw a drop of -2.3% and Twitter was down by -0.5%.
The most widely used social platform is YouTube
Amongst internet users aged 16 to 64, more people in UAE report using YouTube than any other platform, with 88% of internet users aged 16 to 64 stating the used it in the last month. Facebook and WhatsApp follow with 79% each.
We Are Social’s new Digital 2020 reports – published in partnership with Hootsuite – show that digital, mobile, and social media have become an indispensable part of everyday life for people all over the world.
More than 4.5 billion people now use the internet, while social media users have passed the 3.8 billion mark. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online, and the latest trends suggest that more than half of the world’s total population will use social media by the middle of this year.
Some important challenges remain, however, and there’s still work to do to ensure that everyone around the world has fair and equal access to life-changing digital connectivity.
You’ll find We Are Social’s full Digital 2020 Global Overview Report in the SlideShare embed below, but read on to find our summary of this year’s key headlines, numbers, and trends.
Just before we dig into our analysis, we’d like to say a huge thank you to our data partners, without whom many of the best slides in this year’s reports wouldn’t be possible:
Please also note that some of the underlying sources and reporting methodologies for some of our core data points have changed since last year, so various numbers in our Digital 2020 collection will not be comparable to similar data points in previous reports. See individual report slides for more details.
Digital in 2020: the essential headline numbers
Digital’s role in our lives has reached new heights, with more people spending more time doing more things online than ever before:
You’ll probably spend more than 100 days online this year
The average internet user now spends 6 hours and 43 minutes online each day. That’s 3 minutes less than this time last year, but still equates to more than 100 days of connected time per internet user, per year. If we allow roughly 8 hours a day for sleep, that means we currently spend more than 40 percent of our waking lives using the internet.
What’s more, the world’s internet users will spend a cumulative 1.25 billion years online in 2020, with more than one-third of that time spent using social media. However, the amount of time that people spend online varies from country to country, with internet users in the Philippines spending an average of 9 hours and 45 minutes per day online, compared to just 4 hours and 22 minutes per day in Japan.
Getting to full access: connecting the unconnected
More than 2 billion people have come online since the first mention of ‘The Next Billion’, but just over 40 percent of the world’s total population – roughly 3.2 billion people – remains unconnected to the internet.
More than 1 billion of these ‘unconnected’ people live in Southern Asia (31 percent of the total). Countries in Africa account for 27 percent of the total, with 870 million people yet to come online across the continent as a whole.
Age plays a significant role in determining levels of internet access across these regions: more than half of Africa’s total population is below the age of 20, and there are more than 460 million people below the age of 13 across Southern Asia.
However, gender is also a critical factor, with data from the ITU showing that women are more likely to be ‘unconnected’ compared to men. The digital gender gap is also apparent in our latest social media data. In particular, women in Southern Asia are three times less likely to use social media today compared to men, offering meaningful insight into broader internet connectivity in the region.
Even more worryingly, research from GSMA Intelligence suggests that more than half of all women living in India today are unaware of the existence of mobile internet.
The United Nations reports that much of this imbalance stems from “deeply ingrained social norms and practices.” Regardless of the cause, however, connecting the unconnected will depend heavily on improving digital accessibility for women, especially in developing economies.
There’s lots of work to do here, and it’s work that brands can help with. If you’d like to learn more about this important topic, GSMA Intelligence’s comprehensive Mobile Gender Gap Report explores many of the underlying issues and challenges in detail, while their excellent Mobile Connectivity Index offers richer perspectives at a local country level.
Mobile now accounts for half of internet use
GlobalWebIndex finds that mobile phones now account for more than half of all the time we spend online, with the company’s data putting mobile’s share of internet time at 50.1 percent.
With 92 percent of the world’s internet users now connecting via mobile devices, this figure may be lower than some might expect, but various data points confirm that computers continue to play an important role in our connected lives.
Despite mobile’s ubiquity, three-quarters of internet users aged 16 to 64 still go online via laptop and desktop computers. Furthermore, data from Statcounter reveal that roughly 53 percent of all web page requests now come from mobile phones, but that computers still account for 44 percent of the total.
All of this data points to the fact that most people still use a variety of different devices to go online. As a result, a balanced device strategy is still essential. Moreover, people use different devices at different times and for different needs, so marketers must go beyond technical considerations to understand the various use cases and contexts for each device when building their plans.
Apps are where it’s at
Data shared with us by App Annie reveal that mobile apps now account for 10 out of every 11 minutes we spend using mobile devices, with web browsing only responsible for 9 percent of our mobile time.
However, when we consider the extent of app offerings available to today’s mobile users, this is perhaps unsurprising. Data from GlobalWebIndex show that we’re using apps in almost every aspect of our lives, whether it’s staying in touch with family and friends, relaxing on the couch, managing our finances, getting fit, or even finding love.
It’s worth noting that helping people find love is big business too. Tinder generated more revenue than any other non-game app in 2019, while the world’s lonely hearts spent a total of US$2.2 billion on all dating apps during the course of 2019 – twice as much as they spent in the same category two years ago.
Our love affair with apps shows little sign of slowing either, despite the rise of ‘progressive web apps’. App Annie reports that the world’s smartphone users downloaded more than 200 billion mobile apps in 2019, spending a total US$120 billion on apps and app-related purchases over the past 12 months. Combined with recent data from Ericsson, these figures suggest that the average user now spends an annual average of more than US$21 per connected smartphone.
App Annie’s new State of Mobile 2020 report also reveals that games account for the greatest share of mobile app downloads – more than 1 in 5 of the total – and drive 70 percent of worldwide consumer spend on mobile apps. However, games are not the biggest category when it comes to the share of total time spent using mobiles, as we’ll explore in the next section.
We really are social animals
Roughly half of the 3.7 hours that people spend using mobile phones each day is spent using social and communications apps, meaning that these platforms account for the same share of our mobile time as all of our other mobile activities put together.
Across mobile devices and computers, GlobalWebIndex reports that we now spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per person, per day using social media, up by 2 minutes per day since this time last year.
Once again, the story varies by country. Filipinos are still the world’s most ‘social’ people, with the average internet user aged 16 to 64 spending almost 4 hours per day on social platforms. It’s a very different picture at the other end of the scale though, with internet users in Japan spending an average of just 45 minutes per day using social media.
But where exactly are we spending all of that social time – and just how big is TikTok? All will be revealed below…
Facebook still dominates
Despite various challenges over the past few years, Facebook is still top of the pops when it comes to social. Trends in user numbers reported in the company’s earnings announcements suggest that the platform should have already passed the historic 2.5 billion monthly active users (MAU) mark, and user numbers continued to grow steadily across most countries during 2019.
However, for various reasons, marketers can’t reach all of these users using Facebook advertising, and the platform’s own self-service advertising tools indicate that the total addressable Facebook audience now stands at 1.95 billion, or roughly 80 percent of total MAUs.
Facebook has seen a few audience declines over the past year too. Its self-service advertising tools reported notably lower reach figures for India, Spain, and South Korea at the start of 2020 compared to just a few months earlier. However, overall, Facebook’s audience reach has grown by 1 percent in the past 3 months alone.
Critically, marketers can now use Facebook to reach one-third of all the world’s adults aged 18 and above, and more than half of all the world’s adults aged 18 to 34.
Time for TikTok
TikTok was probably the media’s top social story in 2019, with some huge – and often misrepresented – numbers hitting the headlines. However, a TikTok advertising sales deck leaked by AdAge a couple of months ago offers more clarity on what’s been going on.
First up, there’s no denying it: TikTok is big. 800 million monthly active users big.
However, 500 million of these active users – more than 60 percent of the total – live in China. That means that the platform has roughly 300 million monthly active users outside of China.
Furthermore, the latest data from App Annie suggest that Chinese users account for 80 percent of the total time spent using TikTok in 2019, while users in India account for a further 10 percent of the total. That means that users in China and India are responsible for roughly 9 in every 10 minutes spent using TikTok around the world.
Regardless of country differences, however, TikTok climbed to sixth place in the global mobile app rankings by monthly active users for 2019. For context, TikTok is still behind WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat and Instagram, but it’s already ahead of all the other social platforms.
However, it’s important to stress that the data do not indicate that TikTok’s success has come at the expense of any of the Western social networks. In fact, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have all reported increases in their advertising audience reach over the past few months, even amongst users aged 13 to 17.
Strong growth isn’t limited to TikTok
While the media has been distracted with all the hype surrounding TikTok, some other social platforms have been posting some impressive numbers that seem to have slipped under the radar.
Top of the growth charts is Reddit, whose reported monthly active user numbers have surged by 30 percent (100 million new users) since this time last year, with the company’s latest reports revealing that the platform now attracts 430 million users each month.
Meanwhile, Pinterest has enjoyed similar success, growing its total active user base by 29 percent over the past year. The platform has attracted more than 70 million new monthly active users (MAUs) over the past 12 months, to reach a total MAU figure of 322 million at the start of 2020.
The company has also added a number of new countries to its advertising targeting options, resulting in a quarter-on-quarter increase in reported potential advertising reach of 12 percent between October 2019 and January 2020.
Sina Weibo has also been enjoying impressive growth, with recent trends suggesting that the platform’s MAU numbers should pass the half-billion mark within the next few months. The 497 million MAUs that the platform reported in November was buoyed by an annual increase of 51 million new users, equating to year-on-year growth of 11 percent.
The influence of the East
Mirroring a trend that we highlighted in our Digital 2019 Q4 Digital Statshot report, various data points in our Digital 2020 reports show that the internet’s centre of gravity is moving progressively eastward. This trend is even more visible in the latest data, with Asian apps and websites commanding an ever-increasing share of global activity.
In particular, the latest rankings of the world’s top websites illustrate the dramatic rise of Asia’s ecommerce platforms. In its latest list, Alexa [note: not the voice assistant] places China’s Tmall in third place in the global website rankings – that’s ahead of both Facebook and Baidu, and 10 place higher than its top Western competitor, Amazon. Across the full top 20 sites, Alexa includes 5 Chinese ecommerce sites, 4 of which belong to Alibaba.
It’s worth noting that Alexa uses a 3-month rolling average of monthly website traffic to determine its rankings, and the latest data include activity around Singles’ Day. This huge online shopping festival – the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday or Cyber Monday – is increasingly popular throughout Asia, so it’s perhaps not surprising that China’s ecommerce giants are becoming much more visible at a global level.
However, it’s not just China’s ecommerce sites that are breaking through at a global level:
Asia’s rising influence is also evident in the latest rankings of mobile apps. App Annie reports that 6 of the world’s 10-most used non-game apps in 2019 belong to Chinese companies, while 4 of 2019’s top 10 games by monthly active users were developed by Chinese companies.
For context, Eastern and Southeastern Asia account for roughly one-third of the world’s total internet user population at the start of 2020 (1.5 vs 4.5 billion). What’s more, with more than 50 million new users coming online for the first time in the region over the past 12 months, these audiences will play an increasingly influential role in shaping the next phase of the internet’s growth – in Asia and beyond.
Voice continues to grow
The latest data from GlobalWebIndex show that use of voice interfaces has grown by more than 9 percent over the past year, with 43 percent of the world’s internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 now using voice search and voice commands on any device each month. For context, if that figure were applicable to the entire global internet users base, it would equate to almost 2 billion monthly active users.
However, it’s important to stress that the rise of voice isn’t only about the use of smart speaker devices. One in three global internet users now use voice interfaces on their mobile phones each month, but these figures are even higher in Asia: 40 percent of Indian internet users say they used a voice interface on their phone in the past month, compared to 42 percent in China, and an impressive 48 percent in Indonesia.
With these countries home to some of the world’s largest internet populations, expect voice control to find its way into an increasing number of mobile apps over the coming months, especially because people around the world are increasingly using voice search as part of their shopping journey.
The worried wide web
Privacy remains an important issue for internet users around the world, and the latest research finds that we’re more concerned today than we were this time last year. GlobalWebIndex reports that 64 percent of internet users are worried about how companies use their data, up from 63 percent at the start of 2019.
People are also increasingly distrustful of the things that they see and hear on the internet. 56 percent of adults aged 18+ around the world surveyed by The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said that they were “concerned” about what is real or fake on the internet, up from 54 percent in the previous year’s study.
Meanwhile, the number of people around the world aged 16 to 64 who use tools to block ads each month has also increased since our Digital 2019 reports. GlobalWebIndex reports that nearly half of all internet users aged 16 to 64 used an ad blocker in the past month, up from the 47 percent that they reported this time 12 months ago.
However, it’s worth highlighting that GlobalWebIndex’s survey respondents cite frustrations with the sheer number of adverts on the internet as their primary motivation for using ad blocking tools, ahead of motivations related to privacy concerns.
Moreover, various data points in this year’s reports highlight what we might call a ‘digital privacy paradox’. There’s little doubt that many of us really are increasingly concerned about our digital privacy, but we’re also increasingly likely to adopt devices and technologies that are specifically designed to create and share even more intimate data about our lives.
For example, Statista reports that the number of homes around the world with at least one smart home device increased by a third over the past year, indicating that tens of millions of people have consciously decided to spend an average of US$550 a year on devices that actively listen to and track the things that they do in the privacy of their own homes.
Games are a serious business
More than 4 in 5 internet users aged 16 to 64 around the world play video games every month, which would equate to a total global gaming community of more than 3.5 billion people if we applied that figure to the total internet user population. The majority of gamers play games on their smartphones (69 percent of all internet users), but 25 percent of internet users also report playing games on dedicated gaming consoles.
These more ‘dedicated’ gamers spend an average of 70 minutes per day playing console games, but this rises to more than 90 minutes per day for console gamers in Thailand, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.
People are increasingly willing to spend money on games, too. NewZoo reports that gamers spent more than US$150 billion on games in 2019, an increase of almost 10 percent compared to the previous year. Similarly, Statista reports that internet users spent more than US$83 billion on online game purchases in 2019, up by roughly 5 percent year-on-year.
Mobile games are also big business, with App Annie reporting that the world’s mobile users spent more than US$65 billion on game apps and game-related in-app purchases in 2019, accounting for more than 70 percent of total consumer spend on mobile apps in the past 12 months.
It’s worth noting that in-app purchases are an increasingly important part of the gaming industry, with GlobalWebIndex reporting that 8 percent of all internet users aged 16 to 64 purchased some form of game-related “DLC” (downloadable content) in the past month alone.
People are also spending more time watching other people playing games. 1 in 5 internet users aged 16 to 64 watched a live-stream of someone else’s gameplay during the past 30 days, while 1 in 7 watched an esports tournament.
Many marketers in the West remain skeptical of esports, perhaps because they see little evidence of their popularity in their own lives. However, the data offer irrefutable evidence that hundreds of millions of people around the world already watch other people playing games every month.
Video is still the one to watch
The latest data from Ericsson suggest that the world’s mobile internet users will consume more than half a trillion gigabytes of mobile data during 2020, with roughly two-thirds of that total being used to stream and download video content. Fun fact: if you tried to store all of that data on 3½” floppy disks, you’d need a stack of disks that stretched from the Sun to somewhere beyond Jupiter.
Video’s scale isn’t just about data consumption, either. GlobalWebIndex reports that 90 percent of internet users aged 16 to 64 now watch online videos each month, which would translate to more than half of the world’s total population if we applied that figures across all of the world’s internet users.
YouTube still commands the greatest share of the world’s online video viewers, and our calculations indicate that roughly 3 billion people watch at least one YouTube video each month [note: YouTube itself reports 2 billion signed-in viewers each month].
However, the number of people streaming TV content via the internet also continues to rise. GlobalWebIndex’s latest data show that two-thirds of internet users aged 16 to 64 now watch TV content via some form of subscription service (e.g. Netflix).
Paid video subscription services are popular with mobile users too. App Annie reports that video apps accounted for 5 of the world’s top 10 non-game apps ranked by consumer spend in 2019. Three of these apps – Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku – cater primarily to internet users in China, reinforcing a finding from Statista that the country’s internet users are the most willing to pay for digital content.
No stopping shopping
Roughly three-quarters of the world’s internet users aged 16 to 64 buy something online each month, with GlobalWebIndex finding that ecommerce adoption rates are highest amongst internet users in Indonesia, Thailand, and Poland.
The distribution of adoption across geographies suggests that economic development is not the primary determinant of ecommerce use, and that other factors are more important, such as sites that cater to the language needs and cultural preferences of local shoppers.
Worldwide, ecommerce consumers are more likely to purchase through a mobile device than through a laptop, although the data reveal that most people use both devices for their online shopping, depending on the type of product they’re buying and the context of their shopping activities.
Meanwhile, the latest data from Statista shows that worldwide ecommerce spend grew significantly during 2019, although – as one might expect – growth rates varied by category. Travel, the largest category by online consumer spend, saw the slowest year-on-year growth amongst the categories that Statista tracks, with global annual revenues up by roughly 8 percent to reach US$1.19 trillion.
Online purchases of Furniture & Appliances saw the fastest year-on-year growth, with 2019 worldwide consumer revenues of US$316.7 billion marking a 19 percent jump compared to 2018 spend. The Fashion & Beauty and Electronics & Physical Media categories also saw impressive gains, with consumer ecommerce revenues in both categories increasing by 18 percent between 2018 and 2019.
At a global level, the average ecommerce shopper now spends almost US$500 on online purchases of consumer goods each year, although Statista reports that this varies significantly by country, from an average of US$1,441 per person in South Korea, to just US$20 per person in the Philippines.
Average annual revenues per user (ARPU) grew by 9 percent over the past 12 months, but growth in Southern Asia was much faster. The latest data show that average ecommerce spend on consumer goods in India has increased by 43 percent compared to 2018 figures, but is still below US$50.
However, these figures are based on absolute spending, and don’t factor differences in average income or each country’s overall economic strength. By comparing ecommerce ARPU to GDP per capita, we get a more representative perspective of the countries in which ecommerce is gaining the greatest momentum.
As we detailed above, China’s ecommerce websites are already amongst the world’s most-visited online destinations, so it might not come as a surprise that China leads the way in GDP-adjusted ARPU rates. However, despite relatively low figures for absolute ecommerce ARPU, Egypt and Indonesia both rank highly for these GDP-adjusted averages, while Ghana, Kenya, and India also find themselves much higher up the rankings.
Shopping is a journey, not a destination
“Omnichannel” has become a buzzword in the retail industry, and rightly so: all the evidence indicates that the world’s shoppers are making less and less of a distinction between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ when it comes to their shopping. Blended behaviours such as ‘click and collect’ are on the rise, and showrooming – where consumers visit physical world stores before buying products online – is also an increasingly common practice.
Overall, GlobalWebIndex reports that search engines are the primary source of discovery for new brands and products for the world’s internet users, slightly ahead of television adverts.
Meanwhile, across all online shoppers aged 16 to 64, search engines are the first choice for people who are actively researching brands, products and services to buy, with more than half (53 percent) of GlobalWebIndex’s survey respondents saying that they use these tools.
However, the company also reports that younger users are more likely to turn to social media when they’re researching brands and products, finding that social networks have already overtaken search engines as the most popular method of online research for people aged 16 to 24.
Social media’s role in the purchase journey continues to expand, with 43 percent of internet users around the world aged 16 to 64 now saying that they use social networks when researching things to buy.
But social commerce hasn’t caught on to the extent that many marketers might have hoped. As GlobalWebIndex stated in their recent Commerce trends report,
“While social networks often play a central role in the initial steps on the path to purchase, only 12 percent of internet users say that a ‘buy’ button on a social network would drive them to check-out online.”
The authors go on to note that,
“At present, enthusiasm about buying ordinary goods and services via social networks is limited. However, this is something that robust branded content and inspiration can change.”
The key takeaway here is that there is no silver bullet when it comes to “closing a sale”, and marketers would do well to consider the full scope of the consumer purchase cycle – from initial discovery through to purchase, and even post-purchase activities – when devising their plans.
Moreover, marketers would do well to stop thinking in terms of ‘online’ and ‘offline’. With most shoppers demonstrating that they’re equally happy to engage with connected devices and physical-world properties in equal measure – often simultaneously – it’s increasingly clear that these ‘lines’ only exist in marketers’ heads and budgets.
Every year when we’re producing these reports, we spot something fun in the data. In previous editions that’s been which emoji people use most on Twitter (we’ve included that in this year’s report too), or the discovery that Yahoo! is still more popular than porn (spoiler alert: it still is).
However, this year’s fun fact goes to the very heart of why the internet exists, and marks a fundamental shift in the internet’s centre of gravity that’s arguably as radical as the rising influence of the East.
If you’ve been online since the 90s (ahem), you may know that the internet was in fact invented to share pictures of kittens. However, recent trends in some of our most cutting-edge data reveal that things may be changing.
Data from Google Trends reveals that people searched for dogs almost twice as frequently as they searched for cats in 2019. For reference, the average search index for ‘dog’ in 2019 was 90, compared to an average of 52 for ‘cat’.
Similarly, Twitter’s ad targeting tools report that more than 250 million of the platform’s users are “interested” in dogs, compared to just 250,000 who are interested in cats – that’s a thousand-fold difference.
Dogs even outperform cats on Instagram. A quick search reveals almost 250 million posts have been published to the platform using #dog, compared to just 200 million for #cat. Doug the Pug also has more followers than Grumpy Cat (RIP).
However, there’s still hope for cat lovers: a Google search for ‘dog’ at the start of 2020 delivered a total of 6.76 billion results, but a search for ‘cat’ returned a total of 6.82 billion.
We’ll share updates on this important story as and when we get them. Let the debates commence.
We’ll publish a few more articles that dig deeper into some of the more nuanced findings in this year’s reports over the coming weeks, and we’ll also share more detailed data for local countries starting in mid-February.
But how can we translate these findings into more efficient and effective plans? Let’s finish with three top tips.
Go beyond your bubble
Internet behaviours are changing, with influences from around the world shaping the expectations and preferences of people in all corners of the globe. It’s no longer enough to watch what’s going on in your own backyard (or valley); global marketers who want to stay ahead of the curve need to broaden their horizons, and look to other parts of the world for insight and inspiration.
Our 240+ local country reports will be a good place to start, but you can also take simpler, more everyday steps to learn. Digital and social platforms make it easier than ever to connect with – and learn from – people all over the world, whether they’re domain experts on LinkedIn and Twitter, or everyday people on Instagram.
Top tip: Don’t just rely on research; go out onto the web and into social media and watch what’s happening for yourself.
Many of the marketers I speak with around the world ask me whether TikTok will overtake Facebook, whether VR will become “a thing”, or whether the data I see point to a “next big thing.”
We strive to offer insight on all of these issues through our regular Global Digital Reports, but my answer to all of these questions is the same: focus your attention on people, not technology.
Almost without exception, the companies and brands that succeed over the long-term are those that successfully satisfy people’s wants, needs and desires – not those who’ve jumped on a bandwagon, created an isolated ‘viral’ campaign, or jumped at every shiny new toy without a clear strategy.
Understanding people will serve you well regardless of the latest trends in technology, fashion, or business.
My advice here is similar to the advice I shared above: take a few minutes each day to go onto public social media platforms and learn about what your audience cares about. You don’t need creepy, invasive data for this – just search for a few relevant hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and you’ll quickly start to learn what really matters to your audience.
Don’t just search for product-related hashtags, though. Try exploring cultures too, by constantly asking yourself what’s different about what you’re seeing compared to what you expected.
Staying on top of the latest tech trends is one of the biggest causes of stress for marketers everywhere. Hopefully, our Global Digital Reports help, but maybe a better answer is less, not more.
Do you really need to try that niche new platform with a couple of million users, or might you be better focusing your efforts (and budgets) on one or two proven platforms with billions of active users?
Will that shiny new toy really propel your brand to perpetual success, or is it just a pleasant distraction from quarterly planning? More importantly, is it a sustainable solution that justifies a steep learning curve (VR, anyone?)
On the flip-side, can you really justify ignoring the big trends, just because they don’t appeal to you on a personal level? Gaming, voice interfaces, and esports are all hugely popular with global audiences, yet continue to be underrepresented in the media coverage, in marketing plans, and in brands’ budgets.
Top takeaway: In 2020, use data-driven insights to identify a handful of technologies and platforms that really matter to your brand’s success, and not simply to add the latest fads to your roadmap.
Do you remember a time when social media was a place where every piece of content matched the purpose of the platform…to be social? Well if you were born in the 2000’s then you must have no idea what I’m talking about. If this doesn’t apply to you, stick around. This is about to get violent, nostalgic and perhaps tad bit insightful about the rebirth of social media.
Even before Zuckerberg ripped off the Winklevoss twins and used his creation to spy on you, social media was already making a breakthrough into the era of the web 2.0. Possibly, some of you even remember MySpace or Friendster. When they first launched in early 2000’s (yup almost two decades ago, you’re not getting any younger amigo) the dynamic was the same as today’s social media platforms. Add your friends and family members and share content that opened a small window into your life. We’ll call SM just that, the window. Now, since we were the only authors within this space and no brands inhabit it yet, the content was considered to be more genuine. And of course, it was organically produced through the misfortunes and fortunes of our lives and cat pics.
Preferably the latter, if you dislike cats, you’re a bad person. The point is we focused on sharing more things about us, where every thought and image was just that, something real. And as we centered our time and energy migrating into this new, awesome, life changing, yet addictive, haven, safe from our grandparent’s Sunday visits and boring T.V ads, Brands…were losing what they value most. No. Think again Shannon, not our money. Our attention. Paper is not a currency they’re after. Attention and time are the most valuable assets they try to leverage in their favor. Began in print, hopped on radio when it came to be, and finally T.V The pattern is clear, brands must form part of the environment where the masses gather if they want to survive.
In mainstream media they harnessed all the power, yet their targeting was broad, relying on luck for someone of the desired demographic to see, hear or read their ad. As the years passed and Facebook became the epitome of web activity and user presence, brands have conquered their learning curve along with this medium. Though some cater their content better than others, and I am not talking about all the technicalities, rather the format. No one wants to see a brand shoving its product in their face, telling them how life changing it is or how much they need it to enrich their life.
The public knows this isn’t true. Through the window, us, the users, tell a story. The story of our lives, all the smiles, mile stones, the growth and the occasional sorrow. Brands with access to the window have identified that in the play of their target’s lives they can’t be the main character, nor the secondary or even a supporting actor. But rather take part in the stage directions and act as a symbolic piece for the main characters, us. Acting as a small part that reflects their target’s identity. Always present in moments that best define it. So to what extent does branding become invasive in the window? In my professional opinion as a fresher…it happens when they ignore that social media is a place where people gather to have fun, make Trump memes and share their stories. Brands shouldn’t jump in and scream “HEY LOOK AT ME, I AM ALSO ON TIK TOK, AREN’T I YOUNG AND HIP?” Their approach should be more “I was there with you”.
By: Jorge Barrigh
2.8 billion. That’s the amount of fake accounts Facebook took down by Sep. 30th, 2018. These are 7.7 million a day. Naturally, we cannot evaluate what the purpose of these fake accounts were but living in an age where Social Media has dominated the political discourse, assuming that dissemination of false information or “fake news” as their primary agenda is not far fetched.
With the birth of the Web 2.0 a powerful tool flourished from innovative minds such as Tom Anderson (founder of MySpace), Jonathan Abrams (Friendster) and Mark Zuckerberg (don’t think I need to specify this one). Yup, it’s social media. An ecosystem built to develop or sustain a relationship with friends, brag about our victories, go on rants as to why my coffee isn’t here yet, (seriously I ordered about 30 min ago) and share the occasional mirror selfie. And you thought instagram accounts solely dedicated to cat fails were cool, wait until you hear this. Through it we can communicate with our favourite movie stars, influencers, authors, writers (you can follow me at @jorgebarrigh on IG) including…world leaders.
Interactivity through these platforms has been a game changer as to how they address the public, but I am more interested on the threats this may pose to all of us who inhabit this medium and closely follow a political narrative. So let’s look at our all time favourite, American president, the champion of Twitter and political rhetoric (drum roll please), Mr. Barack Obama. I’ll address the child currently flailing around in the White House shortly.
Barack has been dubbed as the “first social media president”. Though to be fair, candidates and president elects who came before him had to conform with traditional media as their only outlet. Audience interaction was confined to rallies, interviews and the occasional talk show. However what made Barack so great was the way him (or his communications team) ran his social media accounts. They managed to engage users in political discussions, centralized political information and grow grassroots movements through it. Ultimately curtailing campaign costs and gaining support. However, this was done no different than how the Trump administration targeted American voters on the road to the 2016 election, micro-targeting through messages customised to users preferences, knowledge attained through their behaviour in social. Some could argue that this slanted the election in favour of Obama when McCain focused most of his attention on traditional media.
Yes, most of Barack’s policies were more favourable than Trump’s (depends if you lean towards the left or towards the right) but can we say the same as to how they ran their campaign through social media?It is scary to think how easily this tool can be used to intrude our decision making due to a rampant, ubiquitous amount of mis-information, possibly changing the course of an election, a nation and ultimately, affecting history itself.
Now, it’s important to note one thing. We know Facebook is in the spotlight of a mess they brought upon themselves. Be serious now, Zuckerberg…you didn’t know about Cambridge Analytica’s activity on your platform? Reagan claimed plausible deniability, why not you, right? Anyway…
Our focus should shift to the platform where most of the political narrative takes place, Twitter. The Trump card of every modern politician (pun intended). Why is it labeled as such? Because through it is simple to set an agenda for mainstream media. Often, it can come across as a tactic the cunning Niccolo Machiavelli would be proud of. Who knew The Prince could also be applied in 280 characters or less…
How about an example? If you remember back in 2018 when Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination came through, another sexual assault scandal arose and hopped into the #MeToo movement. The liberal media exploded with outcry. Whether or not this would affect his nomination was a question Americans pondered about. And in a short period of time the New York Time’s revealed how Trump’s family had circumvented millions of dollars in taxes. As the president entered the Twitterverse to exercise freedom of speech in his most complex 4th grader vocabulary, he shifted the media’s attention to Kavanaugh’s case. Stating that:
As a result? Outrage from the #MeToo survivors and sympathisers. Comments flooded his tweet accusing him of being a sexist and misogynistic president. Retweet after retweet populated Twitter, shifting the narrative back to Brett Kavanaugh. The tax evasion relevancy dissipated in only a matter of hours. You can call the Trump administration whatever you want, but they know how to work a PR smoke bomb.
Social media, like any other tool with the power to protect or defend, can also be used to damage and launch an attack. It all depends who is behind the screen and what the intentions are. It is hard to know which news are true, which have been slanted toward a specific point of view or another, and what can be trusted. We can only contribute to our own benefit and overflow our feeds with reputable news sources, expand our research and mitigate an attempted coercion from “alternative facts” to obscure those which are accurate.
By: Jorge Barrigh
The internet is full of content that can make us laugh, freak us out and fill us with hope for the human race. But it’s more than just trolls and lols. If you know what to look for, memes, tweets and everything in between can serve as an early warning system for cultural and behavioural shifts.
In 2019, there’s more evidence of the impact of social media on wider culture than ever. Mark Zuckerberg is seemingly permanently in court, following a series of events that suggest the platform he founded has altered the course of democracy. Greta Thunberg is leading a social media-based movement, calling for a change in how we treat our planet. Hong Kongers have led a revolution orchestrated almost entirely on social platforms.
It’s not just the big stuff, either. Google’s Year in Search shows us that the questions dominating the collective consciousness this year were also driven by social. In multiple markets, ‘What is Area 51?’, ‘What is a VSCO girl?’ and ‘What is momo?’ were among the most asked questions of 2019. Other phrases that made top searches across the world include ‘Baby Yoda’, ‘Baby Shark’, ‘Old Town Road’ and ‘Eboy outfit’.
In short, internet culture is important. In The Year in Culture 2019, we provide the cultural context on the best of the internet in 2019 – the most engaged-with posts on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit.
This year, the content that’s attracted the most engagement on these platforms tells a story of cultural rebellion.
Whether the blurring lines between celebrity and influencer, as demonstrated by the coverage of PewDiePie and Marzia Kjellberg’s wedding, or World Record Egg’s cross-platform omnipresence, many of the posts people are engaging with are breaking through old cultural boundaries to say something new.
Check out the full deck below.
Facebook updates its reporting tools with new features
Facebook has added new options to its reporting features to help advertisers better understand the performance of their ad campaigns. The new updates include cross-account reporting, which enables brands to see metrics across multiple ad accounts and a custom metric-building feature, allowing advertisers to tailor metrics within reports to match their business goals. These new tools build on Facebook’s Conversion Paths reporting feature, a publisher-level report in Facebook Attribution, which launched earlier this year.
Twitter unveils new Privacy Center, complete with privacy updates
Read more about it here: https://t.co/IykRanR61Q
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) December 2, 2019
YouTube culls ‘closed accounts’ and says brands may see a drop
In a Community Update last week, YouTube announced that it has removed a “higher than usual” number of closed accounts (accounts either closed by the user or by the platform for violating account policies) as part of routine maintenance. As a result, YouTube has warned brands and channel owners they may see a drop in subscriber numbers. However, as all of the accounts were inactive, the move shouldn’t affect metrics such as view time.
Reddit reports 30 per cent growth in monthly active users
As part of its year-end retrospective, Reddit announced last week that its user base grew to 430 million monthly active users, representing a 30 per cent growth this year to-date. Along with its user and community growth figures, the platform also shared that it’s seen monthly comments and views increase by 37 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively. However, while these numbers all spell a good year for Reddit, its key page views and revenue data were rather conspicuously absent from the report.
Ones to watch
Instagram has announced that it will begin asking new users for their date of birth, in an attempt to crack down on underage users and will use the data to educate people about settings and new privacy controls. However, this will not extend to users already on the platform.
Snapchat has confirmed that on 18th December, it will be rolling out Snapchat Cameos to iOS and Android users globally. The new feature will allow users to replace the faces of people in videos with selfies, which can then be shared on the platform.
And, finally, the platform has also announced it is exploring ways to make its limited-edition Spectacles x Gucci by Harmony Korine (an exclusive 50-pair run of Spectacles 3 camera sunglasses) more widely available in the future.
Facebook launches Viewpoints to gather user feedback
Facebook is looking to gather feedback from its users in the US with a new market research app. ‘Viewpoints’ gives people over 18 a financial incentive to share their views on Facebook’s suite of products, which includes Facebook (obvs), Instagram, and WhatsApp. The first survey looks at the effects of social media on well-being and, as the company says: “Information from this survey will help us build better products that aim to limit the negative impacts of social media and enhance the benefits.” While Facebook has clarified that the data won’t be sold on, many critics have pointed out that this is yet another way for Facebook to gather more data – even if this time, it is willing to pay for it.
Snapchat allows users to customise Bitmoji clothing
If it’s a regular frustration that your Snapchat Bitmoji is so last season, then I come bearing good news. The messaging app has debuted a ‘Mix and Match’ feature, which enables users to customise the outfits worn by their Bitmoji. There are billions of possible combinations of tops, bottoms, footwear, socks and outerwear. Custom outfits can be saved to Snapchatters’ closets so that they can be used again.
Twitter cracks down (then backtracks) on inactive accounts
Twitter caused a panic last week when it announced that it would be getting rid of inactive accounts. It’s part of a drive to “present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter”, said the platform, stating that it would send an email alert to those who hadn’t signed in for more than six months, prompting them to take action or get chopped. However, Twitter received a significant amount of negative feedback on this move, particularly in relation to maintaining Twitter accounts of the deceased. To its credit it quickly came up with a plan b: instead it’s now developing a way to “memorialise” user accounts for those who have passed away, before proceeding with the aforementioned de-activation plans.
Pinterest launches shopping profile, @PinterestShop
Pinterest is continuing its ecommerce drive with the launch of its shopping profile, @PinterestShop. The account offers hundreds of shoppable product Pins from 17 small businesses, and Pinterest will continue to update it with offerings from more small businesses. Adweek has a rundown here of all 17 currently featured, which range from a culinary design company to the producers of the first “endlessly reusable and radically functional silicone bag”. Apparently 83% of weekly Pinners have made a purchase based on content they saw from brands on Pinterest, so the more these companies – and the platform itself – can do to capture shoppers’ attention, the better.
Instagram releases behind the scenes insights into Explore tab
Ever wondered how Instagram determines its Explore content? The platform last week released a fascinating blog post that details the AI behind Explore. TechCrunch has published five key takeaways which digest the article, which range from the importance of accounts over posts when it comes to determining user preferences, to the way Instagram’s machine learning model works when paring down content (three passes with neural networks of increasing complexity). Check it out here.
Watch this space
Twitter is testing new conversation features from its twttr prototype, with rollout planned for 2020.
Facebook experiments with new meme creation app, Whale
Facebook has a new app – meme creation platform, Whale. Currently only available in Canada, Whale allows users to decorate photos with text and stickers in order to create memes that can be shared on social media or with friends via other channels. In addition to making memes, users can create their own image stickers using the crop and cut tools; and, for the more creative among us, there is also a freeform drawing tool to make and share unique creations.
The app has been created by Facebook’s ‘NPE Team’, a division inside the social network that builds experimental consumer-facing social apps. Canada is generally considered a suitable testing ground for this kind of thing, as it’s a good proxy for the US.
Snapchat extends its play commercials beyond six seconds
Following its initial announcement at Advertising Week in New York this September, Snapchat has now rolled out its extended play commercials in closed beta. From now on, whitelisted brands and advertisers will have the ability to extend their content up to three minutes via Ads Manager; while those who wish to get in on the action will be able to request to join. However, despite the new ad option giving the opportunity to extend content, Snapchatters will still be able to skip the ads at any time after the initial six seconds.
Snapchat splashes the cash on its AR future
At its annual Lens Fest conference last month, Snapchat promised a whopping $750,000 to its top augmented reality stars in 2020. The financial support, triple Snapchat’s commitment this year, will provide more opportunities for collaborative projects and support the development of innovative ideas. Coinciding with the event, Snapchat also announced that Spectacles 3 will now be open to Lens creators, allowing them to create content for the hardwear for the first time.
Twitter rolls out new tools to aid conversations on its platform
After months of testing with users in the US, Japan and Canada, Twitter has rolled out its ‘Hide Replies’ feature to all users globally. One of its most controversial features to date, it has a slight tweak to the earlier test version. Now, it not only lets users hide replies, but also gives them the option to block the replier.
Last week Twitter also announced that it has added a new ‘Conversation Insights’ element to its Media Studio tool, which provides account managers with more specific data around engagement they receive on the platform.
YouTube brings its Masthead TV ads out of beta
YouTube’s Masthead for TV ad option is now available to all advertisers on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis, following the completion of a beta test period which began in September of this year. According to the platform’s product manager, the ad format can now be purchased either as part of a cross-screen buy that runs on mobile, desktop and TV, or as part of a single-screen-only buy that runs just on TV.
Google takes a stronger stance on political advertising
Following Twitter’s recent decision to ban political advertising on its platform, Google has announced that it will be imposing a global ban on political campaigns matching their own databases of prospective voters against Google’s user base for the purposes of advertising. Previously, advertisers outside of the UK and EU have been able to use this data, along with assumptions about political views based on browsing habits, to target individuals across platforms such as YouTube and Google Search. This restriction will be imposed worldwide from January 6th, 2020.
Ones to watch
Facebook has begun rolling out the option for Facebook and Instagram Stories to be added to Facebook Dating and, by early 2020, will make it available in all 20 countries; Instagram has started working on a new format for IGTV content which will switch the main feed into a vertical scrolling list; audio-streaming app Tidal is now integrated with Snapchat, following similar partnerships with Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories back in August; and, finally, Twitter has announced that it’s experimenting with a new tweet scheduling feature for its web app.
Facebook Pay launches in the US
Facebook Pay has landed in the US! The social media giant’s new payments system will eventually be available across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It will support most debit and credit cards and PayPal, and people will be able to send money to friends, shop for stuff and donate to fundraisers. It’s separate to Facebook’s Calibra wallet and the Libra network, fortunately, as this project is facing some major hurdles in its path to release. Facebook hasn’t yet revealed when Facebook Pay will be available internationally, so watch this space.
Facebook improves dynamic ads with machine learning
Facebook is allowing brands to get a little more personal with their dynamic ads, with the help of machine learning. Its new dynamic formats and ad creative solution deliver a personalised version of an ad to everyone who sees it, based on formats people have respond to previously. In a blog post, Facebook said it’s tested the new options with 12 ecommerce and retail advertisers and found that they outperformed carousel-only ads in driving lift across content views, add-to-cart, purchases and sales, with a 34% improvement in incremental return on ad spend. Round of applause for the robots.
Instagram tests hiding likes globally
We all knew it was coming, but it still caused a furore… Instagram is now hiding likes globally. Influencers everywhere went into a state of shock as the platform expanded the hidden likes test to a subset of people around the world. Users can still see who liked their own posts and a total count, but viewers will only see a few names of mutual friends who liked it. If you had plenty of time on your hands, you could tap to view the list of ‘likers’ and manually count them. A study found that influencers lost 3% to 15% of their likes in countries where Instagram hid the counts – the platform said in response that it’s working on ways that influencers will be able to communicate their value to partners.
While the feedback from early testing in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand has been positive, this is a fundamental change to Instagram, and so we’re continuing our test to learn more from our global community.
— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019
Twitter releases draft policy to tackle deepfakes
Twitter has released its draft policy relating to deepfakes and other “manipulated media” on the platform. The policy includes points such as: the use of notices next to Tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media; warnings to people before they share or like Tweets with synthetic or manipulated media; or when the platform might feel it necessary to remove a deepfake. The policy is now open for public input before it goes live, either via a survey or on Twitter itself, using the #TwitterPolicyFeedback hashtag. If you’re a bit like ‘great but wtf is a deepfake’, check out our blog post here for the lowdown.
TikTok tests shoppable vidoes in-app
TikTok is testing in-app shoppable ads with a handful of US influencers. The move could give creators significant selling power on the platform, with the ability to turn their profiles into their own online store. With this in mind, it could also mark a shift in the relationship between the brands on TikTok and the creators they sponsor. A spokesperson for the company confirmed it’s testing the new format, but in typical TikTok fashion, didn’t give anything else away.
One logo to rule them all: Facebook’s rebrand
How does one solve a problem like Facebook? With a new ALL CAPS logo of course! The social media giant last week underwent a ‘rebrand’ to differentiate the parent company, FACEBOOK, from the app, Facebook (and its other products like WhatsApp, Instagram etc). Facebook (sorry, FACEBOOK) said the rebrand will bring greater transparency and cohesion to the company.
Facebook plans to limit the number of ads a Page can run at once
As part of its recent Graph and Marketing API update, Facebook has announced that from mid-2020 it will be limiting the number of ads a Page can run at a time. According to the social network, the more ads a Page runs simultaneously, the lower the overall performance of the ads. However, Facebook says the move will only impact a small number of brands and says more information will be released ahead of the rollout.
Twitter prepares to launch new follow option, Topics
After several months of testing, Twitter has announced that on November 13th it will be launching Topics – a new option that will enable users to follow a curated list of 300 areas of interest, including sports, entertainment and gaming; just as they are currently able to follow individual accounts. Once a user has selected a Topic, tweets from accounts they don’t currently follow – which have credibility in the chosen field – will begin to appear in their timeline.
YouTube brings shopping ads to mobile
Following a test period, Google has announced it is expanding its network of shopping ads to the YouTube mobile app. The move will see the clickable carousel ad format appear on the app’s mobile home screen and search results page, globally. According to YouTube’s director of product management, shopping ads could also be coming to the connected TV space – YouTube’s fastest growing medium – as early as next year.
YouTube rolls out Super Stickers globally
As part of its ongoing efforts to help content creators make money through its platform, YouTube has globally launched a new feature, Super Stickers. Similar to the platform’s Super Chat function, Super Sticker packs will be available for fans to purchase (with prices ranging from 99 cents to $50) and share into chats with their favourite creators.
The eight distinct Super Sticker packs – which span categories including gaming, fashion, beauty, sports, music and food – are currently available in English, French, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese to any eligible creators already using Super Chat across 60 countries.
YouTube launches new update for its desktop and tablet apps
YouTube is rolling out a new update for its desktop and tablet apps which will give users additional control options, as well as an updated presentation style. The updated format will give each preview panel more room, providing longer video titles and larger, richer thumbnails to give users more information at a glance.
Along with the new layout, YouTube is also introducing an ‘Add to Queue’ option, which will make it easier for users to quickly build video playlists and is bringing its ‘Don’t Recommend Channel’ option (available on mobile) to desktop.
TikTok opens up new Developers Program
TikTok has announced the launch of its new Developers program which will introduce tools for third-party app developers. The first of these tools is the new Share to TikTok SDK, which will let users edit videos in other apps – most notably, Adobe’s Premiere Rush – then publish them from that app to TikTok.
Along with the sharing feature, apps that integrate with the new SDK tool will gain access to a wider selection of creative tools. The Developers program also includes tools to embed videos on the web and a specified partner hashtag added to any piece of content shared via their platforms.
Tumblr adds group messaging to its platform
Tumblr has announced the launch of a new group messaging feature that it says will allow different fandoms to chat more easily, instead of replying on re-blogs. Unlike other platforms such as Facebook Messenger, the new ‘group chats’ are public spaces – searchable and visible to all users – though only approved members can send messages.
Messages sent within Tumblr’s group chats will also disappear after 24 hours and have a maximum occupancy of 100 people per chat. Users globally should now find a new group chat icon in the upper right-hand corner of Tumblr’s app.
Watch this space…
Despite criticism from various government groups, Facebook has detailed the next stage of its plans to add end-to-end encryption in all its messaging apps. Following initial tests in several countries around the world, Instagram will start trialling hiding Likes for some US users starting this week. Twitter is testing a new option that would enable users to switch accounts within the tweet reply process. And, finally, Twitter’s VP of Design and Research Dantley Davis has shared a list of five new features that he’s ‘looking forward to in 2020’.