- Instagram and Snapchat this year will see higher growth than Facebook as the coronavirus pandemic leads social media users to increase engagement for the first time since 2017. U.S. adult users of social media this year will spend an average of 1 hour and 22 minutes a day on the apps — seven minutes more than they did in 2019 — per a forecast that researcher eMarketer shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Facebook-owned Instagram will grow the fastest with a nearly 14% jump from last year to an average of 30 minutes a day. That growth is significantly higher than eMarketer's estimate from November, when it forecast that Instagram's usage this year would edge upward just 24 seconds a day.
- Snapchat's usage is forecast to rise 12% to an average of 29.5 minutes daily. EMarketer previously forecast a small gain of 30 seconds a day among adult users of the image-messaging app. Facebook will see a 4.3% lift to about 34 minutes a day, a reversal from EMarketer's prior estimate that predicted the social network's usage would fall 42 seconds.
EMarketer's revised estimates for social media usage indicate how the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a significant shift in consumer habits, a change that has major implications for mobile marketers that seek to reach U.S. audiences. With many advertisers scaling back or delaying their media spending amid a slump in consumer demand, they face increased the pressure to make their more limited ad dollars work as much as possible. Marketers need to be where their audiences are, and eMarketer's forecast suggests that advertisers are more likely to connect with those U.S. consumers who have dramatically increased their time spent on social media.
EMarketer predicts that Instagram and Snapchat this year will see higher usage growth than Facebook, which isn't a surprise considering the social network is a more mature company with established usage patterns. However, Instagram and Snapchat have added many new features in recent months to broaden their functionality and keep people engaged.
"Instagram has seen increased engagement recently through features such as Instagram Live and Stories," eMarketer Principal Analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in a statement. "Creators, celebrities and publishers have all used Instagram to demonstrate how they are dealing with stay-at-home orders." Instagram Live is the app's livestreaming feature, while Stories are user posts that disappear after 24 hours, giving people a reason to check in continually with the app.
"For Snapchat, the increased time spent comes not only from users who are spending more time on the app communicating with friends, but also from rising viewership of Snapchat's original shows and increases in video calling on the app," Williamson said. Parent company Snap last month said that more than 60 of its original shows had a monthly audience of at least 10 million viewers in Q1, a sign of their ability to reach a mass audience.
Looking ahead, eMarketer predicts Facebook's small lift in usage may be short-lived as lockdowns relax and people revert to their prior usage patterns. By next year, the total time spent on social media is likely to slip but remain above 2019 levels, per eMarketer. The researcher forecasts that Instagram Live, Snap Originals and other Discover content, and the soaring popularity of TikTok will help to sustain total usage levels.