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).
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.
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.
The new Global Digital Statshot report from Hootsuite and We Are Social is packed with all the latest data you need to understand how people are using the internet in July 2019. You’ll find the complete report in the SlideShare embed below, but read on for my summary of this quarter’s essential headlines.
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The number of people around the world using social media has just passed the 3.5 billion mark, less than two years after we reported that the number had reached 3 billion. The number of social media users has grown by more than a quarter of a billion over the past twelve months, with 46 percent of the world’s total population using social media in July 2019.
What’s more, if we focus on ‘eligible audiences’ – people aged 13 and above – the social media penetration figure increases to 59 percent, with the latest trends indicating that it should pass 60 percent within the next few months.
The latest data from GlobalWebIndex shows that more than 4 billion people around the world now watch online video content each month, equating to more than half of the world’s total population. Vlogs are particularly popular, with more than 2 billion people tuning in to watch their favourite influencers over the past 30 days.
Data published in Snapchat’s self-serve tools show that the platform’s advertising audience jumped by a massive 19 percent in the past three months, reaching a total of 369 million users by July 2019. That translates to an increase of almost 60 million users since April, with growth rates consistent across all age groups.
It’s not just Snapchat’s data that shows the platform is growing, either. The latest data from App Annie shows a spike in downloads of the Snapchat app over the past three months, with App Annie’s analysts attributing the platform’s renewed success to the launch of new A.R. filters, and improvements to its Android app.
Despite Snapchat’s impressive growth, the platform still can’t claim to be the kids’ favourite. That honour doesn’t belong to Instagram or TikTok, either.
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s Facebook that boasts the largest number of global users aged 13 to 17, and if we extend the age range to include all teenagers, Facebook now has almost as many users as Snapchat and Instagram combined.
Facebook’s youth audience actually increased over the past three months, with the number of 13 to 17-year-olds using the platform up by almost 5 million since April.
The key take-away here is that we need to be more wary of clickbait and received wisdom. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that ‘the kids’ have given up on Facebook, but the cold, hard facts tell a different story.
There are even more surprises for brands marketing to teens when it comes to sports. The latest data from GlobalWebIndex suggest that esports may have reached a tipping point amongst internet users aged 16 to 24, with 32 percent saying they’ve recently watched an esports tournament, compared to 31 percent who say they’re interested in watching more ‘conventional’ sports like football, cricket, or motor racing.
Almost 1 billion people around the world have watched an esports tournament in recent months, with interest particularly high in Asian countries.
‘Game spectating’ is gaining broader momentum, too. Roughly 3 in 10 internet users say that they recently watched a live stream of someone else playing video games, equating to a global audience of 1.25 billion people.
100 million people started using voice search and voice commands since April, with more than 43 percent of internet users now using voice tech every month. More than 1.88 billion people around the world now use voice to control their devices, with half of all internet users below the age of 35 already converted.
It’s also important to stress that most voice activity takes place on smartphones, so you don’t need to wait for everyone to have a ‘smart speaker’ before you take voice seriously. Now is the time to start making sense of what voice means for your business – before you need to play catch-up.
Despite the fact that more than half of the world’s internet users say they’re worried about ‘fake news’ online, it turns out that we’re four times more likely to use an ad-blocker than we are to pay for digital news content.
However, the excellent new Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019 finds that people are starting to realise the potential value of paying for quality news content, although they’re much more likely to pay for a video streaming service like Netflix than they are to pay for news.
These findings are supported by the latest data from GlobalWebIndex, who report that roughly two-thirds of all internet users paid for some form of digital content in the past 30 days. Once again, video streaming platforms were the top choice.
That’s all for this summary, but I’ll be digging deeper into all of these stories – together with the rest of this quarter’s key findings – in a series of additional articles over the next few days, so be sure to check back for those.
It’s only been three months since We Are Social published our first round of Digital 2019 reports, but our new Q2 Global Digital Statshot shows that the connected world has already changed considerably during that time.
For regional insights, see our analysis of Digital In Saudi Arabia.
The latest reported figures suggest that an average of almost 1 million people came online for the first time each day over the past year, continuing the strong growth that we saw in our recent Digital 2019 reports.
India accounted for the greatest share of growth in internet users in the first quarter of 2019, with data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India showing that the country added more than 44 million new internet subscribers in the first three months of the year.
CNNIC’s February 2019 report (in Mandarin) also shows meaningful growth in the number of internet users in China, with the total increasing by 29 million new users since the organisation’s previous report in August 2018.
GlobalWebIndex’s latest data show that more than 4 in 10 internet users made use of voice commands and voice search in the past 30 days, but that adoption of these tools varies considerably around the world.
Perhaps most tellingly, the use of voice is most common in India, China, and Indonesia – countries that already have some of the world’s largest internet populations, but that are also experiencing some of the greatest increases in new internet users.
What’s more, despite Western media’s fixation on smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo devices, it’s important to stress that the majority of voice users are making use of voice functionality for everyday activities on their mobile phones.
This is particularly true of younger users, many of whom have not yet developed ‘fixed’ habits when it comes to using digital devices and services. Indeed, the latest data from GlobalWebIndex shows that almost half of all internet users aged 16 to 24 already use voice, compared to less than 30 percent of users aged 45 and above.
Almost 3.5 billion people around the world now use social media, with roughly 98 percent of them accessing social platforms via mobile devices.
Overall, Facebook Inc.’s portfolio of services continues to dominate the global social landscape, while Tencent has further consolidated its lead position in Mainland China.
Exploring each platform’s latest advertising audience numbers offers another valuable perspective on social media use though, so let’s take a closer look at the key developments and trends in those numbers over the past three months.
Facebook recently made some fundamental changes to the ways in which it reports advertising audience numbers across its various platforms so we can’t compare like-for-like growth trends this quarter. But the good news is that these changes let advertisers to build a clearer picture of the number of people they’re able to reach with ads on each of Facebook’s platforms.
However, changes in audience definitions and reporting methodology mean that these figures can’t be compared on a like-for-like basis to previous reports, so these healthier figures do not necessarily mean that people have actually been clicking on more ads, nor can we be sure whether people have been sharing or commenting on Facebook posts more frequently.
Indeed, the latest insights from Locowise reveal that engagement with Facebook Page posts continues to decline, with the average post now garnering a response rate of just 3.6 percent – a relative drop of 3.4 percent in just the past three months.
Meanwhile, organic reach for Facebook Page posts also continues its relentless downward trajectory, with Locowise reporting that barely 1 in 18 of a Page’s fans now see posts without paid media support – a relative decline of almost six percent in just the past three months.
Facebook has made the same definition changes in its reporting of Instagram audiences, and – interestingly – this has resulted in similar patterns to those we saw above for Facebook.
Instagram announced that it had passed the billion active accounts milestone back in June 2018, but the latest figures in Facebook’s self-serve advertising tools suggest that the company only showed adverts to 802 million Instagram users in March 2019.
The advertising audience data that we collected prior to the recent change in Facebook’s audience definitions show that the number of Instagram users aged 13 to 17 fell by more than 3 percent between October 2018 to January 2019. All other age groups showed very healthy growth, and overall, the size of Instagram’s advertising audience actually increased by more than 4 percent during the same period (October 2018 to January 2019).
If Instagram is losing younger audiences, the big question is: where are they going? As usual, there’s plenty of speculation here, so let’s look at what the data tells us…
In my recent conversations with senior marketers, journalists, and even the world’s biggest investors, it’s clear that many people believe TikTok is “the next big thing” in the world of social. And with the company already claiming more than 500 million active users – and more than a billion downloads – it’s easy to see why.
TikTok doesn’t publish audience figures to the same level as peers like Snapchat and Instagram though, so we need to look at some different data sources to get a sense of TikTok’s current status and growth.
A good place to start is Google Trends, which shows that worldwide interest in TikTok has grown significantly over the past year.
Google Trends data shows that worldwide interest in TikTok is already on a par with Snapchat (note that the TikTok trendline in the chart below also includes searches for “Tik Tok” – i.e. with a space – which appears to be a common variation in spelling for searches relating to the platform).
SensorTower reports that TikTok added 188 million new users in the first three months of this year, and the company ranks the app as the number one top performer in Apple’s iOS app stores for Q1 2019.
Meanwhile, App Annie reports that TikTok ranked fourth overall in the world’s most downloaded apps across iOS and Google Play stores for the whole of Q1.
That puts TikTok behind Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp, but ahead of Instagram:
After a worrying start to the year, Snapchat saw some more reassuring trends in its advertising audience numbers this quarter, with the platform’s total addressable audience growing by 1.2 percent since January.
India accounted for almost a quarter of the growth in Snapchat’s audience over the past three months, and it also saw disproportionate growth in Russia this quarter, with the platform’s audience in the country up by almost eight percent in the past three months.
Interestingly, Snapchat’s self-serve advertising tools also report a slight increase in the size of the platform’s audience in the United States – a finding which seems to go against media speculation that the platform would see declines in its US user base this year.
The data alone don’t reveal the cause of this reversal in Snapchat’s fortunes, but there’s a possibility that recent improvements to the platform’s Android app have revived interest amongst previously frustrated users.
The figures that Twitter publishes in its self-serve advertising tools tend to fluctuate significantly – even over short periods of time – which can make it trickier to identify precise trends for the platform.
However, the latest data suggest that Twitter also saw overall growth in its advertising audience in the first three months of 2019, with the global addressable audience up by 4.5 percent since January.
Twitter’s largest reported gains were in Russia, where the platform’s advertising audience grew by almost five times over the past three months, up from just over two million in January to almost 10 million at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s self-serve advertising tools also show an audience increase of almost 2.5 million in the United States, equating to quarter-on-quarter growth of more than five percent.
The world’s most active professional social network saw good growth again in the first quarter of 2019, with the platform’s self-serve advertising tools reporting an increase of 1.7 percent in its total addressable audience.
Advertisers can now reach almost 615 million people on LinkedIn, although it’s worth highlighting that these figures are based on registered users, rather than the monthly active user figures reported by most other platforms.
Interestingly, the quarter-on-quarter trends suggest that LinkedIn is growing fastest amongst the 18 to 24-year-old group, who now account for roughly 25 percent of the platform’s total advertising audience.
Discord is a new entrant to our ranking of the world’s most active social platforms, having recently exceeded a quarter of a billion active users.
Discord is a messaging platform that’s hugely popular with the world’s billion-plus online gamers, which should be more than enough reason for marketers need to add it to their list of potential opportunities.
However, it’s Discord’s focus on communities that makes it particularly interesting as a platform, especially in a world where privacy concerns are increasingly important drivers of people’s social media preferences and behaviour.
If you’re new to Discord, or if you’d like a handy explainer, check out this great overview video from CNBC, complete with excellent stats and founder interviews:
Our partners at GSMA Intelligence have revised their historical data for unique mobile users since January, but the worldwide total has since returned to the figure of 5.11 billion that we reported in our Digital 2019 report.
After the revisions, GSMA Intelligence reports that unique mobile users have grown by roughly 2.6 percent over the past twelve months, equating to an additional 130 million new mobile users since this time last year.
Note that we’ve changed the way we report mobile subscriptions too, and the 7.787 billion figure we’re quoting in this quarter’s report no longer includes IoT connections.
The latest data from Ericsson shows that smartphones now account for 68 percent of mobile connections, with feature phones’ share of connections dropping below 30 percent for the first time.
Meanwhile, Android has strengthened its control of the mobile market, with the latest data from Statcounter showing that the Alphabet-owned operating system accounted for more than three-quarters of all mobile handsets that access the web in March 2019.
Our addiction to mobile data shows no signs of slowing either, with Ericsson reporting that monthly data consumption grew by an average of more than 4 billion gigabytes over the last quarter of 2018, to reach 25 exabytes per month.