Social media has taken over much of the internet and our lives, yet how much do we know about how it works? Just how popular is it? How is it changing over time to meet the needs of our social lives? There is so much to learn and to potentially find out, and yet so little time to do so for most people. We were interested ourselves and knew our readers would be as well, so we looked into the topic and found some key points and facets to talk about. As one would expect, social media is changing rapidly, and in important ways.
Data and careful study has provided us with most of the answers to the questions above, and an educated guess on the rest. Therefore, let’s start with those points. Here are 10 social media statistics that will give you an overview of the industry landscape in 2023:
1. There are 4.55 Billion Global Social Media Users
As of October of 2021, there are 4.55 billion users of social media across the world, and that has only grown since we reached 2022. This totals about 57.6 percent of the world’s population. It is clearly a huge market, but it also shows some room for growth. There will be people who will never adopt social media for one reason or another (and for better or for worse), but there will always be such cases when it comes to technology.
What is interesting, though, is that the market so far is mostly saturated as far as internet users are concerned. From the same source, there are 4.88 billion internet users in one form or another. Realistically, a third of a billion people do not use social media of any form who could. And that isn’t a huge number, all things considered. For the market to grow further, social media companies will need to wait for population growth, internet infrastructure to expand, or somehow capture those remaining people who don’t use social media (and they likely do so by choice at this point).
Nonetheless, 4.55 billion people is a lot to consider. That’s a lot of people to advertise to, influence, or potentially communicate with. It is more than any one company or person could hope to work with, and so companies have to rely on structures and algorithms to do so. And as the number of people on social media grows further, they’ll have to learn more about these practices.
Of course, when it comes to individual companies, the adoption rates are not nearly so high (more on the specifics of those later). They will compete with each other and other apps for user attention, and there is much room left for expansion. But the idea of social media itself has been baked into the cultural consciousness, and there is no way around it. What will be interesting is how consumers, companies, and the social media platforms themselves handle this truth. There’s a social media page for every site and entity. Will people pay attention?
A few things to note here are that the population of people aged 13 and under cannot be counted as users in most instances, as platforms restrict usage. Conversely, there may be people with multiple accounts on the same platform, which depending on the data collection method can be falsely seen as two different people. It might not be an exact number, but it gets the point across well.
2. People Spend an Average of 2 Hours, 25 Minutes on Social Media Each Day
People use social media a lot more than they might admit. In fact, people spend nearly 2.5 hours every single day on social media. That’s about 17.5 hours a week for a quick calculation.
In terms of a day where someone is awake for 16 hours, that means that someone is spending a bit more than one day out of each week on social media, either fully involved or at least partially distracted from the day’s events. That is a lot of time and a lot of attention going into these apps, and unless people can do more on the apps, something else has to get cut. And while everyone needs a break, social media is often just as likely to stress people out or make them emotional. Experts fear people aren’t prioritizing the right thing.
The previously upward trend is stabilizing to some degree. If you look at the below chart of how long people are spending on social networking sites each day, you’ll see what we mean:
And it is important to note that this is an average. Some people use social media far, far more than the average person. Some people might check one account once a month for messages from family, and not engage with the platform otherwise. Some people do so for their jobs, but others do it just because it is there or they are trying (hopelessly) to become influencers in a highly competitive market. Depending on your view of the matter, you might consider some people addicted, and they have a problem regardless.
Will we see a downward trend in the future as a backlash against social media? It is possible, though unlikely as a result of action from social media companies. They are incentivized, after all, to keep their eyeballs to the screens. It would take action from a larger entity or a major scandal involving more than one company.
3. The Average Person Uses 6.7 Different Social Media Platforms Each Month
Take a moment to check your phone’s home screen, we permit you to waste time this way. How many social media apps do you see and how many do you regularly use? While you have your favorites, for sure, there is likely a good number of them installed on your phone or in your browser history. You might use them without realizing it, or default to one of them when you aren’t sure where else to go online. And there are plenty of links to lead you to the sites, and you’re more likely to click on them if you have an account there already.
The average person uses 6.7 platforms in total each month. That can be a lot to keep track of, and you already know you probably have your favorites and your secondary options.
Another part of this might be people trying out new social media apps. While there aren’t a huge number of social media apps that make it big, there is certainly a lot that try. If someone is active for a short time on several different apps over the year, that adds up. And with some companies opening more than a few social media outlets, having integration helps and boosts this number as well.
Also, what is defined as a social media app can vary from study to study and from person to person. Technically Youtube has some social media elements to it, and Reddit is a social media site, albeit one of a different nature than most. There is a social component to a large number of apps you have on your phone, albeit rarely used, and we may one day have to have a more careful definition as to what is a social media app, for both research and legal purposes.
So, will people cut down? Probably not in total, unless there is a huge societal backlash against social media or regulations that make the platforms less useful or entertaining to people.
4. Facebook Is Still the Most Used Social Media Platform
Facebook might have been the first huge social media platform, depending on how you define it. While Myspace was popular, its usage was still limited to younger demographics. Facebook has only grown since its inception, at least in its size as a company and its influence over people. And if you’re counting the total number of users, shown below, it’s still on top with 2.895 billion users.
And while Facebook is still on top, that is not to discredit the efforts of other platforms. A fair number of them now (seven, with TikTok on the border) have more than one billion users, which is a significant portion of the user base, especially on a global scale where some countries might not allow or popularize some platforms. TikTok is still growing into 2022, and we can expect that there will be more platforms launching and making waves this year as well.
Going off of the previous information on penetration rates of the internet in general, it does raise the question of how social media platforms are going to bring in new users. And often that means taking time and attention away from other platforms, which is not so easy to do. There does need to be a critical mass of users now (no one is going to use a social media platform no one is using), and there is less experimentation allowed in a market where any competition will be crushed.
However, Facebook might have some reason to be concerned. Its user base is growing older, and the only demographic that it is growing with is people over the age of 55. This isn’t great for their advertising hopes, and they will need to take action to reverse the decline of their user base in other demographics.
5. In the United States, Overall Growth Isn’t So Certain
While social media is predicted to grow as more people get access to smartphones, the market is saturated in the United States. Everyone can get online, and everyone can get a smartphone, computer, and several social media accounts in the process (often the apps come pre-installed on smartphones and cannot be uninstalled).
If you look back over the last few years, there was a bit of growth in social media usage due to the pandemic, but previously to this, there was actually a dip. A lot of people were fed up with social media, and people were disabling their accounts and sometimes deleting them. Many moved over to another social media outlet, but some did not and others used social media less. They saw something wrong with social media, and social media did not implement a worthwhile solution for them.
And therefore, the level of competition increases for social media companies, which no longer have so many new people to capture as they grow older. Children are exposed to social media earlier and earlier, but parents are more privy to how it works and the damages it can cause. Yet social media is here to stay, and there may be a new reason why people pick it back up in the future. Also, it is worth noting that it is not a huge loss of people, merely some stagnation or slowing of previous growth.
6. There Are Huge Demographic Differences in Platform Usage
Like many services, websites, and media outlets, different demographic groups tend to have different preferences in social media platforms. Some might be a bit more universal (such as Facebook and Twitter), but others are far more skewed.
Women are far, far more likely to use Pinterest regularly, with only 12 percent of men using the platform regularly. Men are a bit more likely to use Reddit and LinkedIn. Interestingly, there are also large gaps depending on ethnicity and age as well, Older Americans are flocking overwhelmingly to Facebook and younger ones to TikTok and Snapchat. For more data on the differences, we recommend you check out the full set of information from Pew Research.
And while we would like to look deeper into the data beyond what we have, unfortunately, our sources are limited, and more demographic data is likely only held by the social media platforms themselves (and they aren’t so likely to share). It might be several years until we know exactly what is going on today.
7. Social Media Is Vital to BTB Interactions and Sales
Social media might be a huge industry, but it is hard to understate its effects on every online business. A strong page on sites is needed to run a business, and networking is often done online as opposed to over the phone or in person these days.
And as one might expect LinkedIn is king here, with B2B marketers saying that 80 percent of their social media leads come from the platform. About 46 percent of B2B marketers have Facebook as a key part of their plan.
And interestingly, more is done on social media when it comes to B2B sales than you might think. People will need to find each other and communicate for these sales, and so it stands to reason that outside of existing contacts social media still has its place. And it's still also sometimes easier to communicate on social media than on traditional channels. And perhaps most important, customers of all types (including businesses) turn to businesses for reviews. With over 90 percent of B2B purchasers feeling better after reading good reviews, B2B sellers have to have a good online presence.
8. Social Media AD Revenues in 2021 Are Estimated to Total $50.89 Billion
Social Media is big business, as it would have to be to support such large platforms. All you need to do is look at the revenue coming in and some of the revenue streams, particularly advertising:
Therefore, it might not come as a surprise to anyone that revenues are estimated to total more than $50 Billion, which is more than several industries combined. And while we’re still looking for definitive data on the years 2020 and 2021, it is projected to increase each year for the foreseeable future as advertisers become more aware of the potential of social media advertising and it becomes easier to do so. 2022 will be a year where we might even see more sub-trends within the space.
It is also good to know that at this point the potential earnings from social media are even higher. While advertisements make up the lion’s share of the revenue for most social media outlets, other revenue streams such as premium subscriptions and additional products and services have been added.
The economic impact of social media is so much more than just advertising as well. People and companies showcase themselves, their skills, and their products organically on platforms. It is an economic driver, allowing for more “word-of-mouth” advertising that people trust the most.
9. TikTok is Gaining Traction
TikTok certainly has had an interesting story over the last few years. The short video app has taken the world (especially the young world) by storm and has launched an endless stream of memes and trends, for better and for worse. TikTok has been the torment of teachers, the endless entertainment of teens, and the birth of many a controversy. There was even a time that we were wondering if the app would be banned in the United States, which would likely meet a lot of court action and partially spell doom for the platform (at least in English-speaking countries). Yet this did not occur, and TikTok is more popular than ever.
If you look at the number of users each year. The usage of TikTok went from 25 percent of people from ages 12-34 to 44 percent in 2021. And while there are data points on the other social media networks, TikTok wasn’t really a thing in 2019. To compare it to the other social media apps, there was not a change (upward or downward) that was more than 6 percent for any other social media network. So even in this extremely volatile world of social media, this is an outlier and worthy of attention.
And there is still growth yet for the platform. Trends on TikTok haven’t solidified and might never solidify, and new creators are constantly trying to become big. It has become huge for the younger market, but efforts to expand further can still prove successful.
Yet why is it becoming popular? What is making it so popular with kids and young adults as opposed to older ones, who prefer Facebook? Part of it is the bite-size format of the platform and use of video, and many creators cater to the younger crowd on it. And the attention it has been getting in the media and beyond has helped it grow as well. There is no bad publicity with TikTok, and more people are checking it out to see what the app is about.
10. And Snapchat Is on the Decline
For whatever reason, while TikTok is growing in the 12-34 demographic, Snapchat is not doing so well. While 31 percent of people in the group used Snapchat in 2020, in 2021 only 28 percent of the group did. While this isn’t so huge a jump, we also have to consider how much usage there is and whether there is a market in the future for the app. Social media and major apps have fallen out of grace before (remember Tumblr?) and another bad step for Snapchat can relegate it to the history books or back pages of social media apps.
Why might this be the case? It could be that other apps are effectively doing the same thing now, with WhatsApp providing some degree of privacy and other apps providing the short, ephemeral content style. And if someone only needs to use one app for everything, they will probably do so. And Snapchat is rarely people’s main social platform.
Snapchat will likely be a mainstay of social media and communications apps for years to come, but its prominence as a relevant household name might not be so assured. It will need to reinvent itself to compete with the alternatives.
On the Future of Social Media
We touched a lot on the future of the industry in each section, but what can we summarize?
- The one thing that we can say with absolute certainty is that social media changes faster than practically any other industry. To stay competitive, companies need to create apps that utilize the latest tech, update their algorithms regularly, and meet their infrastructure needs, often in growing international markets.
- Sooner or later there will be another major social media giant to come onto the scene and shake things up. Maybe it's out already and hasn’t hit critical mass yet. Much like how TikTok became popular very quickly, something new will come in once there’s a gap. Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere, but they may have company.
- It’s also obvious to say that social media is going to cause more controversy down the line. There’s a problem or a scandal every other week, along with more ongoing stories and threads than anyone but a professional journalist could keep up with. Whether this will lead to government sanctions or regulation on a company or the industry in general remains to be seen. It may also lead to stricter internal policies regarding personal data usage and tracking.
- Social media might become more local. As ads can become hyperlocalized and people are part of local communities, some social media networks might try to cater to those communities. Networks such as Nextdoor already exist, and it only stands to reason that we will find better ways to use them.
- Social media may come, in one way or another, to more of our devices. As our cars, televisions, and other devices become connected, it only stands to reason that social networks will integrate themselves better into those products. People may choose to ignore such features as they have in the past, but some will be successful and will make up a larger part of our lives.
- In some ways, we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic on social media. There was a change in how and how often we used it, of course, but people relied on it more for information (for good and ill). It’s fundamentally changed how we look at these apps, and that’s hard to quantify so soon. It will in part depend on how the social media apps themselves respond, both as a result of competition and potential fear of government intervention.
There is so much more to social media than what we see on our screens every day. Whether is usage rates, revenue, or something else, there are statistics we can use to not only understand the present but have a better idea of where the industry is going. We hope that the above facts have helped give you a better idea of social media, and may you enjoy social media with a better understanding moving forward.