According to the Pew Research Center, the share of U.S. adults using social media was mostly unchanged from 2018 to 2019. While this might seem like social media’s popularity is continuing, a broader perspective paints a slightly different picture. Social media has experienced a steady growth in adoption since it came to prominence — so the fact that growth is slowing is an interesting sign, one that could affect marketers and how they include these platforms in their strategies.
Even with the number of social media users maintaining, the average amount of time spent online per user is decreasing, and it is expected to continue decreasing in the coming years.
Such decreases are affecting companies too, with reports that average engagement rates for brands — particularly on Instagram, which is one of the most popular platforms — are on the decline. What could be some of the reasons for these slowdowns, and how do they affect marketers?
For one, current controversies are contributing to an increasing distrust of social media companies. Issues over security and privacy, alongside heated issues like fake news and censorship, are damaging the reputations of major social platforms and causing people to turn away.
Another reason for the slowdown is simply a general disinterest in certain social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter, for instance, are losing ground, while platforms like Instagram (even though it’s owned by Facebook) and Snapchat enjoy a greater share of success. This disinterest comes from younger consumers, such as in the 18-24 range, who are looking for platforms that cater more to the ways they communicate and share their lives.
Honing in specifically on decreasing brand engagement on social media, one major contributor could simply be the oversaturation of companies that are advertising on these platforms. In 2017, Instagram reported that over 25 million companies were active on the site, and it’s more than likely that number has increased exponentially since then. With more brands clamoring for consumer attention, the more overstimulated and burned out individuals can get.
In looking at the causes, it seems to me that a social media slowdown can be avoided if the companies at the helm take the right steps to address user concerns. But for marketers, there still remain some things to address. The oversaturation of brands means that businesses must be deliberate and meticulous in their marketing strategies — if you want to cut through the noise, you have to make sure that your brand is set apart from the rest.
For marketers, some of the underlying causes mean keeping an ear to the ground and being aware of the social media landscape, in order to understand the trends and shifts that extinguish old opportunities and spark new ones. While Snapchat and Instagram might reign right now, who’s to say that Twitter might not experience a resurgence? Or perhaps the rising TikTok may overtake one of the social media leaders. To make the most out of your marketing strategies, knowing which social media platforms are the most prominent and which are falling out of fashion can make the all the difference in your customer engagement and conversion.
Will social media as a whole remain relevant though? Almost certainly, in my opinion. Of course, the distinction to be made is: which platforms will be relevant? Social media is an industry in and of itself, and various companies will compete with each other to gather the biggest user base. So paying attention to that — and of course, focus on building brands that consumers love — are the fundamental keys to achieving marketing success on these platforms.