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Time spent online falls to pre-pandemic levels, while social media use grows

Globally, internet users have reduced their average daily internet use by 20 minutes over the past 12 months to 6 hours 37 minutes, equating to a year-on-year reduction of almost 5%. However, time spent on social platforms has increased to more than 2½ hours per day — 40 minutes more than time spent watching broadcast and cable TV.  

So finds Meltwater, a global leader in social and media intelligence, and We Are Social, the socially-led creative agency, in the Digital 2023 report, the latest annual report on social media and digital trends worldwide.

Analysis of the data suggests that people are looking for more purposeful internet use, with a focus on quality over quantity. The daily usage rate is a return to 2019 levels, before the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the world’s digital behaviours.

The report also shows that social platforms are claiming an ever-greater share of the world’s search activity. 16 to 34-year-olds are now more likely to visit a social network when looking for information about brands than they are to use a search engine (48% versus 45%), and half of the world’s social media users say that they actively visit social platforms to learn more about brands and see their content. While the rise of TikTok search has already caught the attention of the media, the latest data suggest that Instagram is social media users’ preferred destination when researching things.

Jess Smith, Marketing Manager at Meltwater UKI comments: “The past year has seen massive increases in social media as a marketing tool. Considering the trends we have seen across social media usage and both mobile and computer usage, it’s integral for marketers to use these platforms to increase brand awareness while building trust and credibility online. Delivering impactful and purposeful content using increasingly popular channels such as TikTok and Instagram can make or break your marketing strategies.”

Nathan McDonald, Group CEO and co-founder at We Are Social adds: “Social media’s influence on how we live our lives continues to grow. From shopping to connecting, entertaining to searching, it’s inextricably linked to our habits both on and offline. It’s interesting to see internet use becoming more discerning – while being online is still incredibly important in our everyday lives, people rightly want to make sure it’s time well spent. Marketers and creators will have to work even harder to attract and retain people’s attention in 2023 – it’s never been more important to understand online culture in order to reach people in a relevant way.”

The growing importance of social media is reflected in global advertising spend, with investment in social media ads more than doubling since the outbreak of COVID-19,  to reach an estimated US $226 billion in 2022.

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