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The Proof is in the Data: The Social Media Evolution

By Ideas Collide

The social media landscape has always been rapidly evolving. Still, there’s never been a more significant shift than the present – now more than ever before, social media is used for entertainment rather than a way to connect with friends and family. In addition, with increasing segmentation in social channels, we’re seeing a rise in social media apps used strictly for entertainment versus others that promote genuine connection with others.

To help break down the latest and greatest in social media, here are some current stats, trends and social media darlings to keep on your radar in 2023.

The Proof is in the Data

Before diving into specifics, let’s look at some important statistics to see how and why people use social media today.

The ‘Why’

So, why do people continue to use social media? The answer is simple: to connect and entertain. Recent surveys show the top three reasons people claim to still use social media include:

  1. Keeping in contact with friends and family (47.1%)
  2. Entertainment in spare time (36.2%)
  3. To stay up to date with current events (34.2%)

People continue to use social media to feel more connected to friends and family. However, there’s been a dramatic shift towards easy-access entertainment that social media provides. With platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat offering quick connections and updates to those we might not see every day combined with the rise of seemingly endless, highly entertaining visual content tailored to the user’s likes and dislikes, social media is palatable for a wide variety of users looking for entertainment and connection.

The entertainment value of social media is higher than ever before with a major focus on video content. While people continue to use social media for entertainment and increased connection to their social circles, a huge percentage of social users are flocking to platforms to stay updated on current events. With algorithms typically giving users what they want to see and hear, they don’t have to look far for the breaking news they desire.

Social’s Wide Reach

Let’s take a moment to look at just how widely used social media has become over the past decade or so. Across the globe, approximately 4.74 billion people use at least one form of social media, a whopping 4.2% increase in 2022. Regarding demographics, men aged 55-64 are least likely to use social media, while women aged 16-24 use social media for about 3 hours and 10 minutes daily. As a result, platform usage variations can create a wealth of content tailored to a specific demographic and determine how the platform will likely be used.

Over 90% of people who use the internet also use social media, meaning that if you’re online, you’re probably predisposed to hopping on the occasional social channel for entertainment, connection, news and more. The average social media user will visit approximately 7.2 sites every month. That’s a lot of people congregating and absorbing information off social!

Data representing Instagram audience data.

What the Data Says About Users

  • Instagram – With over one billion active monthly users, Instagram is the fourth most popular networking site in the world.

With half of Instagram users saying they are more likely to visit a brand’s website after viewing their stories and half interacting with reels at least once per week, brands can’t afford to miss out on a lackluster Instagram presence (or no presence at all!). Additionally, high levels of usage and cult followings for businesses make Instagram essential for companies looking to reach the demographics that use the platform most.

Audience data around Facebook users.
  • Facebook – With people spending around 19.7 hours a month and 2.93 billion users (36.7% of the world’s population) on the social networking site, Facebook is the most used social media platform in the world.

With an undeniably huge following and stats that prove over half of the users keep up with local business pages and actively use the platform for buying research, Facebook is a critical platform for brands and businesses to leverage.

Audience user data on TikTok
  • TikTok – Since its launch in 2018, TikTok has been taking the world by storm. Now the 6th most used social media, TikTok is still a young platform with many still finding new ways to define how the platform is used.

Still a rapidly growing social media platform, businesses must learn how to leverage TikTok if they want their products and services to resonate with those who use the platform – and the sooner they figure out how to fit their audience’s content needs, the better!

  • Twitter – With 238 million active users, Twitter is the 7th most popular social media app. With most using Twitter to express their thoughts and opinions as well as to keep up with current events, Twitter is a very versatile platform that has become a staple in both the U.S. and Japan.

While Twitter has long established itself as a mainstream platform used by millions worldwide, Twitter has seen a decline in popularity with Twitter users worldwide expected to decrease by 5.1% by 2024. Likely due to the shift in preference to video and photo content (Twitter is primarily text-based), brands would still do well to utilize the platform with so many users and its ability to reach people far and wide.

  • YouTube – Who can forget about the most popular social media platform with the elusive Gen Z? Not only is YouTube popular with Gen Z, it’s also the second most visited website apart from Google with thousands of hours of content, information and entertainment all wrapped up in one.

YouTube videos can reach around 2.51 billion users with approximately 66 billion visits per month, making YouTube a platform with enormous reach – with video content more popular than ever before, YouTube is in the perfect position to grow over the next few years. Now with YouTube shorts, the platform is poised to compete with both Instagram and TikTok’s content. Millions of people often turn to YouTube before making purchasing decisions (big and small!), making it a must-have for brands and businesses everywhere.

  • LinkedIn – Built specifically for facilitating business-employee-consumer contact, LinkedIn is a platform for businesses to connect with employees and potential consumers.

One of the ideal platforms for businesses to share their core values, mission, and current ventures, LinkedIn boasts over 875 million users worldwide, with over 58 million companies listed on the site. Businesses shouldn’t miss out on their opportunity to connect with an audience specifically looking to learn more about their platform and goals.

Turning to Social for Research, Content and Loyalty

With more people resorting to social media for insight into a brand’s products and services, brands must establish a strong platform presence to reach current and potential followers. In fact, more people than ever before are turning to these platforms for research.

Most recently, Gen Z has been notorious for using social media over traditional search engines like Google. Instead of ‘just googling it,’ younger audiences are moving to TikTok instead of Google, using the platform for advice, product research, and general information from creators. But why are social channels so enticing to younger audiences? Simply put, these platforms are consistently updated with the latest and most significant trends from people and influencers they trust. Conversely, Google provides solutions from sites most Gen Z has never heard of before or rarely frequent.

"Moreover, older generations, like Millennials and Boomers, are turning to social media for research."

As previously shown, over half of those on YouTube actively use the platform to make purchasing decisions. On Facebook, more than half of the meta users will make a purchase once they see content personalized to their wants and needs. On Instagram, over half of users will research brands and products to make more informed choices before spending money.

It’s safe to assume that people often flock to the platforms they trust most regarding user-generated content (UGC) and influencer content. People are loyal to the media they know and love, and when it comes to honest reviews, they’ll look to others for insight into products, services, or even general advice. So, what does this mean for brands? In a nutshell, brands not only must push out content on platforms where current and potential markets lie, but they also need to make sure they’re utilizing ‘social search optimization‘ in combination with SEO to improve their search rankings and appear at the top of their target consumers’ feed. Overall, well-made, optimized content delights, informs, and, above all, drives customer loyalty.

Looking forward

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Building a presence across social media is critical to boosting awareness, increasing engagement, and gaining credibility, and it can even help brands understand more about their audience’s likes and dislikes. Social media is, well…social! Without maintaining an online presence, your brand could be swept into anonymity and even create mistrust among current consumers. So, do your research, meet your audience where they’re at and be sure to keep up with the shifting social landscape – the future of your brands depends on it.