Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Social Media Trends market, including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Nevertheless, with consumer confidence again trending upwards, the market is expected to recover relatively quickly and is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by early 2023. Pent up demand for “revenge spending” could drive shoppers to treat themselves to high-end luxury purchases, and the return of international travelers to the US will boost bottom lines on Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive.

The impact of COVID-19 on social media use is undeniable, as 36% of users say they use social media more than they did one year ago. In lieu of in-person interactions, people took to social media to stay informed and connected. However, COVID-19 impacted business use of social media in a different way; brands needed to pause digital advertising efforts to reduce costs and reconsider their messaging strategies in light of how COVID-19 affected people’s lives. Suddenly, social media marketing tactics of exotic imagery and socializing with others not only felt tone deaf, but unattainable and irresponsible. The unpausing started to happen around the election and holiday season as consumers engaged in online events.

Digital live events will continue to be relevant in 2021 as in-person gatherings remain difficult to organize. Beyond 2021, brands and users alike will look for ways to connect and create content through a steady stream of updates and new features.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our Technology and Telecoms market research.

Quickly understand

  • How social media platforms cultivate their user base to grow influence.
  • What brands can do to turn passing interest into purchase through social media.
  • What role users expect social media companies to have in the free exchange of ideas, along with the pitfalls of that promise.
  • How influencer culture is shifting in light of the pandemic.

Covered in this report

Brands: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Reddit, TikTok, Twitch.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by John Poelking, a leading analyst in the Technology sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

In spite of the occasional confrontation, social media is largely seen as a positive experience for users looking for a place to connect with like-minded individuals through compassion and kindness. Brands will need to navigate a new era of entertainment and information that places a greater emphasis on accountability and trust in social media communications.

John Poelking
Senior Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Daily users of social media platforms, 2019-21
    • Impact of COVID-19 on social media
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on social media, May 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Users are spreading their interests across platforms
      • Figure 3: Daily use of social media platforms and social media platforms used most frequently, February 2021
    • Spreading the word is an important part of social media use
      • Figure 4: Social media interactions, February 2021
    • Social media is the marketplace
      • Figure 5: Brand interactions on social media, February 2021
    • A more active role for platforms is necessary to connect people
      • Figure 6: Attitudes toward the role of social media companies, February 2021
    • Authenticity may turn some fans away
      • Figure 7: Cancel culture behaviors, by age, February 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Social media advertising weathered the pandemic
    • Most platforms saw audience growth in 2020
    • A new generation of social media users takes hold
  4. Market Size

    • Advertising in 2020 started as a bust but ended with a bang
      • Figure 8: Social media advertising revenue, 2019-20
    • Sponsored posts take a hit
      • Figure 9: Number of sponsored posts, 2016-20
    • Impact of COVID-19 on social media
    • Immediate impacts (2020)
    • Short term (2021)
    • Recovery (2022-25)
    • Learnings from the Great Recession
    • The death of MySpace and blogging
    • Facebook, Twitter took off during economic downturn
  5. Platform Use

    • Most platforms are either growing or stable
      • Figure 10: Daily users of social media platforms, 2019-21
    • Highlights for growing platforms
    • Facebook
    • YouTube
    • Instagram
    • TikTok
  6. Market Factors

    • Young population firmly establishes social media as standard
      • Figure 11: Population by age, 2016-26
      • Figure 12: Use of social media compared to previous year, by age, February 2021
    • Teens bring social media into their lives
      • Figure 13: Social media activities of teens, February 2020
    • 5G will strengthen live video quality
      • Figure 14: Interest in 5G smartphones and networks, December 2020
    • Social media companies take stronger stance on content moderation
    • Organizing activists is tied to social media
  7. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Platforms find ways make users and creators happy
    • Building out new content features is important
  8. Competitive Strategies

    • Supporting creators on platforms
    • Tying in other products to create an ecosystem
    • Implementing watchdogs for content moderation
    • Social networks take a stand
    • Emphasizing positive communication to bring in exhausted users
  9. Market Opportunities

    • Clubhouse opens up future opportunities for live audio
    • Building out interactive live entertainment
    • A new focus on short content
    • Improving shoppable features to direct consumers
    • Partnering with brands to give back
  10. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Preferred platforms are also the most popular
    • Users look favorably on platforms they understand
    • Likes are just as likely as looks
    • Toxic interactions can be loud, but encouragement quiets them
    • Social media has become an effective marketplace
    • Users are willing to cut accounts that don’t align with their values
    • People still connect to influencers, but maybe not as much
    • Social media companies will need to take an active role in what’s on their sites to build trust
  11. Preferred Social Media Platforms

    • Nearly half of adults visit at least three social media sites daily
      • Figure 15: Repertoire of daily social media users, February 2021
    • Facebook is the most frequent stop for many of its users
      • Figure 16: Daily use of social media platforms and social media platforms used most frequently, February 2021
    • Women frequent discovery sites, while men look for entertainment
      • Figure 17: Social media platforms used most frequently – Any rank, by gender, February 2021
    • Older adults frequent sites for connection and inspiration…
      • Figure 18: Informative social media platforms used most frequently – Any rank, by age, February 2021
    • …while younger users are inspired by influencer culture
      • Figure 19: Entertainment social media platforms used most frequently – Any rank, by age, February 2021
  12. Perceptions of Social Media Platforms

    • The positive
    • The negative
    • The confusing
      • Figure 20: Correspondence analysis – Symmetrical map – Perceptions of platforms, February 2021
  13. How People Use Social Media

    • Users are more likely to make their voices heard than be passive observers
      • Figure 21: Social media interactions, February 2021
    • Women encourage others through social media interactions
      • Figure 22: Social media interactions, by gender, February 2021
    • Young adults seek new ways to view content
      • Figure 23: Social media viewing, by age, February 2021
    • Parents of young children gravitate toward online communities
      • Figure 24: Social media interactions and viewing, by age of children in the household, February 2021
  14. Reasons to Interact on Social Media

    • Connection and compassion outweigh confrontation
      • Figure 25: Reasons to interact on social media, February 2021
    • Men drive confrontations
      • Figure 26: Reasons to interact on social media, by gender, February 2021
    • Conversation-driven apps breed negativity
      • Figure 27: Reasons to interact on social media, by daily users of select social media platforms, February 2021
  15. Brand Interactions

    • Social media ads inspire purchases
      • Figure 28: Brand interactions on social media, February 2021
    • Young adults are curious, but older adults share and purchase
      • Figure 29: Brand interactions on social media, by age, February 2021
  16. Cancel Culture

    • One third of social media users unfollowed accounts
      • Figure 30: Cancel culture behaviors, February 2021
    • Confrontational men more likely to dismiss social media
      • Figure 31: Cancel culture behaviors, by gender, February 2021
    • Young users churn through accounts, followers
      • Figure 32: Cancel culture behaviors, by age, February 2021
  17. Influencer Culture

    • Influencer followers shrunk slightly from 2020
      • Figure 33: Share of people who follow influencers, December 2018, December 2019 and February 2021
    • Users want influencers to be real enough to say it’s time to take a break
      • Figure 34: Attitudes toward connection to influencers, February 2021
    • Young men are on social media for their own brand
      • Figure 35: Attitudes toward self-promotion on social media, by gender and age, February 2021
  18. The Role of Social Media Companies

    • Users want platforms to intervene, but not too much
      • Figure 36: Attitudes toward the role of social media companies, February 2021
    • Harm and help go hand in hand on social media
      • Figure 37: Attitudes toward the benefits and pitfalls of social media, February 2021
    • Select voices can elevate low trust in social media
      • Figure 38: Attitudes toward trust and community on social media, February 2021
    • Influencers bring community to social media
      • Figure 39: Attitudes toward trust and community on social media, by influencer followers, February 2021
  19. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  20. Appendix – Correspondence Analysis

    • Methodology
      • Figure 40: Perceptions of platforms, February 2021
      • Figure 41: Correspondence analysis – Principal map – Perceptions of platforms, February 2021

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