Consumer Online Habits and Behavior Trends

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Consumer Online Habits and Behavior Trends

Social media is on the rise in the United States as well as the rest of the world. While Facebook has maintained its lead overall for more than a decade, other platforms are gaining grounds, especially for younger population groups. Additionally, access to mobile devices has played an important role in fostering user engagement on social media. Below is a summary of key findings on social media usage and digital campaigns.

Social Media Usage

  • Facebook is the largest social media site with 2.4 billion users worldwide. Considering that there are 7.7 billion people in the world--at least 3.5 billion of whom use internet--the figure shows that the vast majority of internet users are on Facebook. Since its start in 2008, Facebook has seen a steady increase in number of users (see Figure 1 here).
  • The largest social media sites that have been around for ten years or more are Facebook, YouTube and Reddit. Although Facebook has dominated social media for over a decade, newer platforms are on the rise with increasing popularity among certain population groups.
  • While Facebook is the leading platform globally, it falls behind YouTube in the United States, with an average rate of usage of 69% of total population--compared to 73% for YouTube.
  • In general, social media usage in the United States has increased from 5% in 2005 to 79% in 2019.
  • YouTube is particularly the most popular among younger American population groups--90% of those aged 18-24, 93% of those aged 25-29 and 87% of those aged 30-49. See the graph below for details.
  • The age difference is more pronounced in platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, with huge gaps even between those under 25 and the next group age (25-29). See the graph below for details.
  • As for gender divide, Pinterest appears to be largely skewed by female users in the United States--with women (42%) accounting for more than twice the share of male users (15%). For more details on usage by gender in the United States, see Figure 2 here.
  • Overall, there has been a rise in digital consumption in the United States, with daily hours spent engaging with digital media steadily increasing from under 3 hours a day in 2008 to well over 6 hours a day in 2018.
  • This is primarily driven by the increase in mobile usage from just 0.3 hour a day in 2008 to 3.6 hours a day in 2018, accounting for more than half of all daily usage. This suggest that content must be mobile-friendly in order to reach a wider audience. See Figure 3 here for details on daily usage and types of devices used to access content digitally.
  • According to 2018 data by GlobalWebIndex, 54% of social browsers--defined as "internet users aged 16-64 who say they use social media to fill up spare time, and in the past month have logged in on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to see what’s going on without posting themselves"--use social media to research products.
  • About 37% of this group visit a brand's social media page and 36% like the page. See the graph below for details on how social browsers engage with brands on social media.
  • The analysis by GlobalWebIndex concludes that part of the reason "social engagement is shifting from personal sharing to more purposeful activities is because accessing social media is now more of a mobile app based activity"--further suggesting that mobile-friendly content is an important part of a digital strategy.

Case Studies of Digital Campaign

Starbucks: Unicorn Frappuccino
  • As Starbucks rolled out its Frappuccino happy hours, the company launched its Unicorn Frappuccino campaign on Instagram for one week in April 2017. It was a limited-time and limited-store offering.
  • A screenshot of the campaign on Instagram may be found in Figure 4 here.
  • Hootsuite describes the campaign as "everything that makes millennials tick" and older people sick. The campaign certainly understood the dominance of younger population on social media and Instagram in particular.
  • The campaign employed the strategy based on the understanding of the mentality of millennials, who are afraid of missing out, and leveraged on a key component of a successful Instagram post--colorful photos. Hootsuite describes it as "limited-time scarcity, a fear of missing out, and the sheer Instagrammability of the frozen, pastel-hued abomination."
  • According Hootsuite, manufacturing scarcity is not a new marketing strategy; however, using it on social media can create a viral sensation. "Starbucks knew the drivers that would trigger its young, social media–savvy audience—and pounced," it says.
  • For the short period that it ran, the campaign generated more than 155,000 Instagram posts with #UnicornFrappuccino.
Billie: Fighting Sexism in Shaving
  • Billie launched Project Body Hair in June 2018 in response to the outrage that women spend 10-15% more than men on everyday products, among which are shaving products. The campaign sends a clear message that "women have body hair in the first place—hair that can be shaved, or not."
  • The campaign has been run on its website, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Project Body Hair on YouTube may be found here.
  • Social media has been playing an increasing role in activism and social movements as Business Insider suggests that online activism went mainstream in the 2010s. Billie has capitalized on this to cultivate "brand awareness and loyalty among a subset of women and female-identifying consumers who may have felt alienated by campaigns that depict an 'ideal' that doesn’t represent them."
  • Because political awareness and wallet activism are very trendy at the moment, Hootsuite suggests that "with smart market research and a strong understanding of the target audience, it’s a risk that can pay dividends."
  • For the campaign's first 11 months, Billie's "organic social reach grew to 65,000 followers purely via social sharing from like-minded web denizens."
  • More examples of successful social media campaigns may be found here.