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Social commerce: the other side of messaging

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Social media has slowly grown as a platform for sale through engagement. Akin to conversational commerce, it already has a big following and shows just what conversational commerce could become. Paul Skeldon compares and contrasts

Social networking has grown from a small niche product into a global phenomenon. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram play an increasingly large role in modern human experience – not least to now becoming a platform for turning engagement into commerce.

As consumers have flocked to social media, brands, merchants and retailers have too, seeking to tap into where shoppers are to sell.

Increasingly, sites such as Facebook, its sister company Instagram and the likes of SnapChat and TikTok have also started to look at how to sell from their platforms. And this changed everything, as we shall see.

But first, we need to take a look at just how powerful social media has become. For better or worse, social media is here to stay. But just how much of an effect is it having on our lives? What is the average time spent on social media platforms?

The answer may surprise you.

Globally, the average internet user uses social media for 144 minutes per day. That’s 2 hours and 24 minutes of social media time each and every day.

Let’s dive into the data and explore the increasingly large amount of time that we are spending on social platforms, and what kind of effects this time may be having on society as a whole.

This global average daily time on social media is 144 minutes, or 2 hours and 24 minutes. Of course, this figure varies by country, age group, with South American and Africa outstripping the global average, with 204 and 190 minutes respectively.

Social verses other activities

To gain some perspective of just how pervasive social media has become, it’s useful to compare the time we spend on social media to the time we spend on other activities.

For instance, on a typical day, the average American spends 1.18 hours eating and drinking, 1.78 hours doing household activities including cooking and cleaning, and about 2.81 hours watching television.

The average person (among US adults, but it serves as a useful generalisation) spends on average 1 hour and 57 minutes on social media each day. That means we spend more time on social platforms than we spend cooking, cleaning, eating, or doing yard work!

Globally, Facebook is the largest social network with over 2.6 billion active users. Given that the total world population is around 7.8 billion (including babies, toddlers, and millions without access to any sort of technology), this figure is truly staggering.

YouTube takes second place, with just over 2 billion users – however, YouTube is not thought of as a social network by many users.

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Instagram are the other most popular social media platforms. Each service boasts more than 1 billion active users.

Identifying the biggest social media services is a bit tricky, as the definition of “social media” differs. For instance, some people consider YouTube a social network, while others do not. Likewise, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and WhatsApp may or may not be considered true social media services.

The way popularity is measured also differs. Monthly active users are a common measurement, but often, measuring how much time people spend on these platforms is a better gauge.

Average time using social platforms

Most social networks are somewhat secretive about their internal data, so we do not have firm statistics to point to for the average time spent on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social media platform.

However, we do have data from some independent studies. An independent analysis by a company called SimilarWeb found the following data:

  • Average time per day on Facebook – 58.5 minutes
  • Average time per day on Instagram – 53.2 minutes
  • Average time per day on Snapchat – 49.5 minutes

This data was collected from the average time spent on social media apps via Android mobile devices (mostly smartphones). It’s not a complete dataset, but it gives us a glimpse into average social media usage on various platforms. Keep in mind that Facebook users may indeed spend more than the listed 58.5 minutes on the network, as this data did not capture cross-platform use. Many people use Facebook on both smartphones and on their home computers.

Time spent on professional platforms like LinkedIn (e.g., to find a job), and the now-defunct Google+, are very low compared to the mainstream social networks. Newer platforms, like TikTok, don’t have much data yet, but their average daily use is skyrocketing.

Social media companies also do whatever they can to increase user engagement. These businesses make money primarily from advertising revenues, so the more time people spend on the platforms, the more profitable the companies are. Social media firms regularly introduce new features, such as infinite scrolling, that make the platforms even more engaging.

Sports and social

Separate research by Safe Betting Sites indicates 53% of Americans prefer YouTube as the source of watching sports highlights. The data is as of September 2020.

Other preferred social media channels for watching sports highlights include Facebook which ranked second at 45%. Instagram is third with 30% preference.

Snapchat ranked fourth with 16% of Americans preferring it to watch highlights. Surprisingly, TikTok is fifth with 16%. Twitter ranked sixth at 14% while Reddit enjoys a 5% preference.

Most of the social media platforms usually have users with varied needs, a key point for creators to consider. According to the research report: “The data shows the need of building robust sport content highlights for social media platforms. The highlights should carry users’ needs for each social media platform. Content creators appear to be winning the battle considering that a new platform like TikTok is already rising as preferred sources of sports highlights.”

Social commerce

So, what does this all mean for social commerce in 2020 and beyond – and what can other players, such as those messaging companies going after conversational commerce – learn from this?

Social media is becoming all-powerful in terms of media, commerce and engagement. Consumers are flocking to these sites like never before and some are starting to see that not only is there money to be made in selling eyeballs for marketing, but that they can also act as sales platforms.

Facebook and its sister company Instagram have added ‘buy buttons’, so that, for a fee, brands, merchants and retailers can let shoppers buy what they see online. SnapChat and TikTok aren’t far behind.

Social is predominantly a marketing platform. Social media advertising is expected to account for 13% of total global ad spend and rank as the third-largest advertising channel, behind TV and paid search, according to analysis by Zenith, with eMarketer projectin Instagram earn $12.32 billion in ad revenue in 2020 and Facebook is expected $21.39 billion.

Pinterest generated more than $1 billion in ad revenue in 2019, finds Statista. Turning this in sales is the next logical step – and a step that could be very lucrative.

According to research by Blazeon, by 2021, the global social commerce market will increase by about 34%. Already, 30% of interviewed online buyers claim they would purchase directly from Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat and 70% of consumers search for products they need to buy on Instagram and Facebook already. More than 50% of Millennials would buy through social media.

When Nike and Snapchat partnered up to promote and sell Air Jordan III “Tinker” after the NBA All-Star game, they sold out in just 23 minutes.

Social commerce is in its infancy, but given the amount of time people are spending on social and just how rapidly sales have accrued through social or inspired by social it is easy to see that this is going to be very powerful place to sell.

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