Get with the Social Times

This week we got even more evidence of how much the social (and digital for that matter) landscape is changing. eMarketer released their predictions for time spent by users across Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. The findings aren’t all that surprising given the latest trends, but the implications could be interesting.

  • Facebook time spent is flat over last year at 38 minutes per day for US users, but that time es expected to decline next year.

  • Snapchat time spent has plateaued staying steady at 26 minutes for two years. That number is expected to remain constant for the foreseeable future.

  • Instagram is on the rise. It’s increased one second per year since 2017. That trend is expected to continue up through 2021 when time spent is projected to be 29 minutes.

Facebook’s Decline

Over the past 18 months Facebook’s been forced to place limitations on itself. Some of the stickiest components (e.g., clickbait) are no more as Facebook pursues a mantra of “time well spent” for users. That approach, while probably beneficial to society, appears to be to the detriment of Facebook’s engagement numbers. That factor paired with Facebook’s declining number of younger users is compounding into a situation where users spend less time on the platform.

Obviously, Facebook can’t be counted out. Instagram, which is on the rise, is owned by Facebook. Plus, Facebook is shifting to a privacy-focused social network, one that emphasizes interpersonal messaging and groups over News Feed broadcasts. As Facebook continues to ramp up efforts here, Facebook may be fine seeing engagement with Facebook-as-we-know-it declining, especially if numbers for Messenger and WhatsApp increase.

This is About More than Social

This analysis and analyses like it point to shifting sands in how people choose to spend their time online. We’ve seen a rising influx of platforms increasingly demanding user attention in the last two years. Social phenomenon like Fortnite and messaging services like WhatsApp are giving users other avenues to connect outside of traditional social networks.  Despite all of this though, total time spent with these social networks is projected to be at 92 minutes in 2021, up from 86 minutes in 2016. We have more choices and more places to spend time, but social continues to play an increasingly dominant role in terms of time spent.

This report can be used by marketers as a compass for which social networks users are paying attention to, but it’s important to remember the broader ecosystem surrounding these numbers. People crave connecting with others online, but the means by which they connect is changing. Look beyond major social networks and dive into their substitutes as well.