Our world has never been more connected than it is today.
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is plugged into the matrix, with over 4.4 billion internet users across multiple device types. We use these devices for work and for play—and social media has altered the way we interact both online and offline.
Today’s infographic from Global Web Index compares key generational and regional differences of social media use based on data from nearly 114,000 internet users, highlighting how pervasive social media has become in our lives.
Note: China is excluded from the usage data regarding specific social networks and apps.
From age to age: social media by generation
How does the use of social media vary by generation?
Boomers currently rank last in nearly every category and metric when it comes to technology and social media use. This generation didn’t grow up inundated with technology in the way today’s youth are.
However, Boomers are showing the greatest increase in activity on social media platforms. For example, usage of Instagram and WhatsApp is up 59% and 44% respectively for this group since 2016, which is more than double the global average.
Also known as the ‘MTV Generation’, the Gen X group was the last generation to grow up before the Internet truly took off. The early years of this group were marked by a burst of new technologies, from wireless phones to personal computers.
On average, Gen Xers spend nearly two hours on social media per day—less than Millennials and Gen Z, but more than Boomers.
Perhaps surprisingly, Millennials show a slow down in the time spent on social media. From 2017-2018, screen time for Millennials on social media decreased by one minute, to 2 hours 38 minutes per day. This trend points to Millennials seeking real-life experiences and better engagement from the brands they interact with online, rather than passive scrolling.
Other factors also play a role in this evolution─nearly 50% of Millennials admit that their activity on social media has caused them to overspend to impress their networks.
Gen Z is the first group in history that has never known a world without the Internet. Immersed in the online world since birth, Gen Z surpasses Millennials in daily activity on social media with 2 hours 55 minutes spent per day.
North American, Latin American, and European Generation Z-ers lead in the number of social accounts they’re actively using. Many are also moving away from platforms like Facebook in favor of multimedia-heavy sites such as YouTube and Instagram.
Social media by the numbers
Social media sites measure the number of unique users on the platform each month as a metric of success. Below is a snapshot of the five major social media sites shown in today’s graphic and their active user count.
Monthly Active Users (MAU) as of July 2019
Facebook: 2.4 billion
YouTube: 2 billion
WhatsApp: 1.6 billion
Instagram: 1 billion
Twitter: 330 million
Even more striking is what happens in a social media minute:
41.6 million messages sent over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
347,222 people are scrolling Instagram
87,500 people posting to Twitter
4.5 million videos on YouTube being watched
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Social media’s role in retail
Social media has evolved from simply keeping us connected to our friends. Users can now access career tools, engage with their favorite companies, stay current with global events, and find love.
Across all regions and generations, social media has propelled e-commerce into the limelight. More than ever before, social media sites are being used for product research, brand engagement, and online purchases. For example, Instagram now offers one-click shop features that allow users to buy what they see immediately, with a simple tap on their screens.
The greatest growth in e-commerce, however, has been the influencer industry. These star-studded internet personalities boast massive online followings from a wide range of demographics—and companies are taking notice.
In 2018, 72% of major brands stated that they were outsourcing a significant portion of their marketing resources to online influencers. Followers feel as though they’re getting a product recommendation from a friend, making them more likely to buy quickly.
Social media growth
Despite the rate of social media growth slowing down, social media use is still growing. From 2017 to 2018, the average person increased usage by three minutes per day, while becoming a new user of 0.8 social media accounts.
Social media is a broad, multi-faceted, and complex industry that appeals to a wide range of cultures, age groups, and personalities. While growth in social media activity may be slowing down, a growing global population may mean we’ll see more opportunities to stay connected.