5 Major Differences in Social Media Usage This Year

Every year we see new trends in social media behaviors emerge, but this past year has been a unique experience for all of us. As lockdowns went into effect nationwide in March, consumers began reaching for their phones more and more, searching for a link to the outside world.

This past April, our team at Ignite Social Media conducted a survey of over 600 consumers to gauge their opinions on social media marketing tactics and how their behaviors had recently changed in reaction to the pandemic. Now, as we close in on the end of the year our team took a larger step back and dug into what differences have occurred from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. Leveraging research from our partner GlobalWebIndex, here are several important insights your brand should consider as you finalize your 2021 social media strategy.

Who’s Using Which Social Networks?

Here at Ignite, we always apply Forrester’s POST methodology to our social media strategies. It starts with People first, understanding who the brand’s audience is and where they are on social media. Looking at 10 of the major social media networks, the chart below breaks down the audience makeup of each channel and how active users compare in age. Look at the chart and ask yourself, are you where your audience most frequently is?

GWI Chart: Social Channels Actively Used (Past Month)

As Generation Z (ages 16-24) begins to gain more and more buying power in the world, they become a more significant audience for brands to consider. While Gen Z users are somewhat active on every major network represented above, they continue to dominate networks such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok (which shouldn’t surprise anyone). All three of these networks have made moves within the past year to roll out new shoppable features, which brands may want to consider testing in 2021.

The Rise of TikTok vs Instagram

Ages aside, we next looked at total social channel activity and how consumer behaviors shifted from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. While nearly every network saw some increase in usage in 2020, TikTok (unsurprisingly) stood out the most with a 14% increase in active users. Now, we’ve seen how other networks have made moves to compete with TikTok this year, most notably Instagram with their addition of Reels, and it seems to have worked. Q3 2020 data shows that Instagram usage increased 5% compared to the prior year, which is made even more interesting by the slight decrease in the parent company, Facebook.

GWI Chart: Social Channels Channels Actively Used (Past Month)

Let’s also take a moment to dive into Instagram itself and see what actions audiences are taking on this channel most often. Unfortunately, because Reels are fairly new there’s limited data to be shared on this content type, but in 2020 we’re seeing more and more IG users leveraging the popular Stories feature, both creating and consuming content. What’s even more surprising, IGTV video usage has drastically increased this year – likely because the network now forces users to watch videos via IGTV if they want to “watch more”.

GWI Chart: Instagram Actions (Past Month)

More People Are on Social Media Than Ever Before

Recent studies revealed that over half [51%] of the world’s population uses social media today, and 79% of the U.S. population uses social media, but is that a drastic increase compared to last year? We looked at average time spent on social media, and across the board, most people are spending 30 minutes to 2 hours on social media, daily. However, for Q3 2020, there’s a 4% decrease in respondents who answered, “Do Not Use”, meaning that this past year more people created and began actively using social media than in 2019.

GWI Chart: Time Spent Using Social Media (Average Day)

Diversification of Social Media Activities in 2020

Before this year, there wasn’t really much reason to change how you were using social media, but as people began spending more time on the networks, their activities began to diversify. The chart below looks into how respondents answered various questions about their social media usage and then buckets them into specific segments based on those answers. Across the board you can see that the 2020 results show more people taking more actions, most notably, users are more likely to have engaged with brands on social media (Brand Followers and Brand Interactors) and are using social media for entertainment purposes (Content Networkers). Again, the only decrease we see are those “non-networkers”.

GWI Chart: Social Media Segmentation

Incentives for Using Social Media Shift in 2020

The final item we looked into is one of the most popular questions on everyone’s mind – why. We looked into the different reasons that consumers are using social media. The most popular answer both last year and this year was “to stay in touch with what my friends are doing.” – but this did increase going into 2020. We also saw an uptick in users who are using social media for news, entertainment, and the largest jump from 2019 to 2020 – to fill up spare time. We’re locked inside and we’re BORED!

GWI Chart: Reasons for Using Social Media

Brand Takeaways

So, what takeaways should your brand be mindful of and ensure is included in your 2021 strategy (since we know the world isn’t going back to normal overnight)?

  • Make sure you’re present on social media where your audience is. You don’t need to have a profile on every single major network – just focus on the ones that are important and perfect those strategies and tactics.
  • Consider testing new platforms and content types. TikTok is booming, and it’s a new type of content that not everyone is used to creating. IF your audience is there and your brand can create meaningful content within this channel, take the time to do your research and start testing. The same goes for Instagram Reels (which may be a better place to start your testing if you already have an IG presence).
  • Make sure your content is bucketed into informative OR entertaining. More people than ever are on social media, and they’re engaging with brands more than they used to be. Think about ways that you can help keep them informed or ways you can provide them with some entertainment.

If you’re looking for any additional assistance with your social media strategy, or even an audit of your current social channels, contact our team of experts today. Also, keep yourself updated on the latest trends and news on social media by subscribing to our newsletter below.

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