The new 2020 2020 Global Statshot report from Hootsuite and We Are Social shows that for the first time, more than half of the world's population is using social media.

DataReportal's analysis shows that 3.96 billion people use social media today, which is around 51% of the world's population.

Download the full Digital 2020 report Learn where to focus your social marketing efforts and how to better target your target audience. The full study also includes easy-to-understand data visualizations and shareable graphs.

Social media usage statistics July

Put simply, it means that more people use social media today than they don't.

This milestone is all the more impressive when we consider that most social media companies limit the use of their platforms to people aged 13 and over. In fact, the latest figures show that nearly two-thirds (65%) of the world's “eligible” population now use social media.

And acceptance is still growing rapidly. The number of users worldwide has increased by more than 10% in the past 12 months. Since that time last year, an average of more than 1 million people have used social media for the first time every day.

With more than 376 million new users as of July 2019, that translates to almost 12 new users per second, which suggests that user numbers are growing even faster today than it was in early 2020.

Global digital growth July

The future is still not evenly distributed

However, the story varies significantly depending on geography. Almost 70% of the total population in North America now uses social media, compared to just 7% in Central Africa.

That figure for Central Africa rises to 12% if we focus on populations aged 13 and over. However, this means that today only 1 in 8 people in the region who are allowed to use social media do so.

Social media users versus pop ages 13 and up

Usage also differs by gender. The data suggests that there are nearly 1.2 men worldwide for every woman who uses social media today.

This “gender gap” reflects a wider pattern in both mobile and internet use. However, it is important to emphasize that the picture varies significantly depending on the country and region.

For example, women make up more than half (55%) of all social media users in North America, but barely a quarter (25%) of users in all of South Asia.

Women are also underrepresented across Africa, where they make up less than 2 in 5 of the region's social media users.

However, there is encouraging evidence that this gender gap is closing. Our analysis shows that the global ratio of social media has decreased from 45:55 (women to men) at the beginning of 2020 to 46:54 today.

Share of social media users by gender

A vibrant social life

People are also using a wider variety of social media platforms than ever before. The latest data from GlobalWebIndex shows that the typical social media user is now a member of almost 9 different platforms.

As we'll explore in more detail below, that number is likely to have been bolstered by people's activity during the recent wave of coronavirus bans, when people spent a lot of time using social media and trying out new apps.

Social media behavior July

Facebook continues to dominate our ranking of the world's most popular social media platforms. The company's "core" platform now has more than 2.6 billion active users per month, while 2 billion people use the top messenger platform WhatsApp.

Instagram has also seen impressive growth in the past few weeks. The latest data from the company's advertising audience shows that more than 1.08 billion people are using the platform every month.

This means that Instagram is still way ahead of TikTok in terms of monthly active users. However, our analysis of various data points shows that ByteDance's short-form video sensation is still growing rapidly (note that the 800 million figure we report for TikTok this quarter no longer includes Douyin).

However, the Indian government's recent move to block TikTok in the country could slow the platform's growth. DataReportal analysis shows that India may be home to up to a quarter of TikTok's total global user base.

However, TikTok wasn't the only beneficiary of people's increasing interest in "social video". The short-form video market is also growing in China, where Douyin (抖 音) – TikTok's incarnation in mainland China – and compatriot Kuaishou (快手) now have 400 million monthly active users.

Beyond video platforms, Sina Weibo has also grown rapidly, and China's largest microblogging platform now has 550 million monthly active users, an increase of 18% (74 million users) over the past 12 months.

The most widely used social platforms in the world

Not exclusive relationships

However, it should be emphasized that many of the target groups of these platforms overlap.

Data from GlobalWebIndex suggests that only a small fraction of each platform's user base is unique. More than 95% of Facebook users between the ages of 16 and 64 say they use at least one other social platform.

This number is even higher for smaller platforms. The latest data shows that marketers can now reach more than 99% of Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok users through other platforms.

Given these high usage rates, we should encourage marketers to focus more on the creative and contextual opportunities that each of these platforms offer and avoid being distracted by the ever-changing number of users.

User overlap between social platforms

Go beyond the numbers

It should also be emphasized that monthly active user numbers do not always tell the full story when it comes to the role of social platforms in our lives.

For example, the 2 billion figure we use for YouTube is based on Google's reports of how many people are using the platform while signed in. However, our analysis of broader data suggests that the number of unique people watching a YouTube video each month is likely to be significantly higher.

While the latest data from Twitter's advertising audience suggests around 326 million people signed up on the platform in the last 30 days, data from SimilarWeb suggests that twice as many people can visit Twitter in any given month.

The most visited websites in the world

This shows the important role Twitter plays as a news source, even for people who have not actively signed up for an account.

The latest research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism supports this theory. The organization's new 2020 Digital News Report notes that Twitter remains a popular news source, especially for people in English-speaking countries.

Use of social platforms as news

One of our favorite online activities

Given all of the above, it may not come as a surprise that the latest research also suggests that people are spending more time using social media.

In their comprehensive study of how the coronavirus pandemic affected people's digital behavior, GlobalWebIndex found that more than 40% of internet users have spent more time using social media in the past few months, with that number in the US The Philippines has risen to over 60%.

The company also reports that social media users now spend an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes a day on social media.

However, these data are based on surveys conducted between January and March of this year. As such, there's a good chance the recent spate of COVID-19 lockdowns has resulted in people spending even more time using social media every day.

Even based on these numbers for the first quarter, the combined time the world spends using social media adds up to more than 1 million years per day.

Daily time on social media

More speeches and more action

People's social media behavior has also increased. GlobalWebIndex data shows that staying with friends and family is still a major motivation for using social media, but that we are increasingly turning to social platforms to help with other activities as well.

More than half of respondents in the Reuters Institute's 2020 Digital News Report survey say they use social media to access news. This is twice as much as the number of respondents who say they read newspapers.

Indeed, GlobalWebIndex reports that "keeping abreast of the latest news and current affairs" is the greatest motivator for using social media on a global scale.

As you'd expect, socializing is another major driver of social media usage, but so is entertainment. "Fill free time" and "find fun and entertaining content" are the second and third most common reasons for using social media.

However, people are also increasingly turning to social platforms when they want to learn more about the products and services they want to buy.

Globally, social networks are now the second most popular destination for internet users looking for information about brands. Only search engines are used by a large number of people.

However, social networks have already overtaken search engines for younger target groups. More than half of female internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 state that they use social networks to research products and services. This corresponds to 46% who say they use search engines.

Given the increasing role social media plays in people's lives, it's important that marketers and communicators think more fully about where social media fits into their plans.

Crucially, social media is increasingly becoming a “layer” that pervades almost every aspect of our audience's daily life, rather than being a separate “target” with a more isolated sphere of influence.

The trick to getting the most out of social media today is to understand how these platforms can complement and expand on all of our marketing and communications activities.

My advice would be to think less about populating a content calendar and focus more on identifying and initiating the conversations that matter most to you and the audiences you care about.

Social media use in context

Despite all of these impressive numbers, social media still only accounts for about a third of the time people spend on the internet every day.

What else is the world doing online?

If you want to dig deeper into our full social media numbers, please see the full report.

Download the full Digital 2020 report Learn where to focus your social marketing efforts and how to better target your target audience. The full study also includes easy-to-understand data visualizations and shareable graphs.

This is an edited version of Simon's full Digital 2020 analysis, which you can read in full in DataReportal.

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