Today sees the official release of GWI Social, a brand new report offering a comprehensive overview of the latest global trends in social media usage (download a free summary version here).
So, what are the key headlines? Well, despite claims made in some recent reports, it’s clear that Facebook retains its position as the number one social platform.
Yes, Facebook lost users during 2013. And yes, the numbers for the teen audience continue to trend downwards. But a bit of perspective is essential here: China aside, it’s still the most popular network in all global regions, and by quite some way – it can boast the most members, the most active users and the most frequent visitors. The scale of its decline has also slowed in the last six months; following a heavier fall at the start of 2013, its estimated audience size between Q2 and Q4 dipped by 3%.
It’s something that needs to be kept under watch, obviously, but these trends are hardly reflective of a social network that’s “dead and buried” or suffering widespread desertion. Facebook is just too ingrained within the fabric of the internet (single sign-ons, like buttons, mobile OS) to become irrelevant any time soon.
That said, the site does have some challenges to face. GWI Social shows that it’s now 25-34s – rather than the coveted 16-24s – who form the greatest share of active users. Yet Facebook is not alone here: the age profile of users on most of the major social platforms is shifting upwards and 16-24s lead only on Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube.
Clearly, then, some of the biggest players no longer command the type of automatic interest and appeal that they once enjoyed among young networkers. It’s not that they’ve fallen completely from favor – their estimated teen audience sizes are still impressive, after all – but they’re not quite as irresistibly zeitgeisty and trendy as they once were.
In fact, one of the biggest trends emerging in GWI Social is the strong levels of growth enjoyed by some of the less-established names. Across online platforms, this was led by Instagram (+23% in active users) and Reddit (+13%).
But it’s in the app space that the figures become most impressive: Vine shot up by 105%, while all of the messenger apps we track recorded increases – some of them explosive in scale. Facebook Messenger’s global increase of 13% sees it remain the most popular social tool competing in this area, but there were much more dramatic rises in estimated user numbers for WhatsApp (+35%), Snapchat (+54%) and, most significantly, WeChat (+379% - and now only just behind Facebook Messenger). Tellingly, 16-24s are heavy users across all of these platforms.
Mobile is driving growth elsewhere, too. Mobile users are some of the most frequent and active networkers, while a wide range of behaviors are experiencing growth via mobile devices (at the same time as decreases on PCs and laptops). All this surely indicates that Facebook and the major networks will need to work hard to maintain the interest of their increasingly mobile-first audiences – especially as the social media landscape continues to grow more diverse and competitive than ever before.