Online Trends

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Social Media Usage Trends

Three trends around social media usage in the U.S. are that Instagram usage is increasing, Snapchat usage is decreasing, and the popularity of Stories is increasing.

Instagram Usage Is Increasing

  • A trend around social media usage in the U.S. is that Instagram usage is increasing.
  • This trend was noted by multiple sources, including Pew Research, Sprout Social, Hootsuite (platform for managing social media), and Statista.
  • Data collected by Pew Research from 2012 through February 2019 clearly shows that Instagram usage in the U.S. has been steadily rising each year throughout that period.
  • As of February 2019, 37% of adults in the U.S. were using Instagram. To illustrate the year-over-year rise in this trend, approximately 11% of adults in the U.S. used Instagram in 2012, approximately 17% did so in 2013, approximately 21% did so in 2014, approximately 25% did so in 2015, approximately 29% did so in 2016, approximately 31% did so in 2017, and in 2018 the total reached 35%.
  • With regard to the previously mentioned statistics, we had to estimate all but the first and last percentages (since those were expressly stated) by looking at the graph published by Pew Research, as those other percentages were not expressly stated, yet were able to be estimated. Nonetheless, the graph clearly illustrates that the growth in Instagram usage has been consistent and noticeable each year in the U.S.
  • The rise in Instagram usage is also expected to continue in the years ahead, as the number of Instagram users in the U.S. in expected to increase by 5.4% in 2020 compared to 2019. If that growth indeed occurs, it would equate to 112.5 million people using Instagram in the U.S. in 2020.
  • In 2021, the number of Instagram users in the U.S. is projected to further increase to 117.2 million. As one source put it, Instagram's U.S. audience is "growing consistently."
  • Likewise, Statista also projects that Instagram usage in the U.S. will continue to increase in the years ahead, yet projects an even more-substantial, increase that, by 2022, would total 131 million people using Instagram in the U.S.
  • This trend of increasing Instagram usage even holds true among marketers in the U.S. as well. Per a survey conducted by eMarketer, the following are the percentages of marketers in the U.S. who used Instagram by year: 2016 (53.2%), 2017 (62.6%), 2018 (69.2%), 2019 (73.2%), and 2020 (projected at 75.3%).
  • This trend is impacting social media usage in that more time is being spent on Instagram, to the detriment of Snapchat and Facebook.

Snapchat Usage is Decreasing

  • A second trend around social media usage in the U.S. is that Snapchat usage is decreasing.
  • This trend was noted by several sources, which included Pew Research and Statista.
  • As Pew Research's data clearly shows, Snapchat usage in the U.S. declined by approximately 3% from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, approximately 27% of adults in the U.S. used Snapchat. In 2019, that percentage had declined to 24% of adults in the U.S. who were using Snapchat.
  • An October 2019 report from Statista stated that "the popularity of Snapchat among its key user demographic is in decline and this also holds true for the general Snapchat audience in the United States."
  • This trend of Snapchat usage decreasing in the U.S. is projected to continue in the years ahead. In 2018, the number of Snapchat users in the U.S. totaled 79.7 million. In 2023, that number is expected to be down to 78.1 million.
  • This trend is impacting social media usage in that people are posting more on Instagram Stories and less on Snapchat, as both offer a video-sharing platform.

Stories Usage Is Increasing

  • A third trend around social media usage in the U.S. is that the use of Stories, such as Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories, is increasing.
  • This trend was noted by several sources, which included Sprout Social, Tech Jury, EmbedSocial, and Social Media Today.
  • As was stated in an article, "Stories have become an increasingly popular social media format."
  • An article published in December 2019 stated that a survey of marketers in the U.S. found that 93% of them "planned to post Instagram Stories more often in the future."
  • The aforementioned survey also found that 96% of those marketers in the U.S. said they "plan to continue using Stories ads in the next 6 months."
  • A social media expert explained one way that this trend is impacting social media usage, in stating the following: "Stories have a natural progression — a beginning, middle, and end. This logical series of events is satisfying for the viewer because it makes sense to them."
  • This trend is also impacting social media usage by increasing the amount of time people spend on social media. A 2018 article stated that since the 2016 launch of Instagram Stories, "Instagram engagement . . . has ballooned to an average of 30 minutes per day."
  • This trend is also impacting social media usage by increasing the level of urgency people feel to frequently check Stories before those Stories disappear from the feed.

Research Strategy

We identified three trends around social media usage in the U.S. by looking for articles about that very topic. A few of the many sources we consulted during our research were Sprout Social, Pew Research, and Statista. We ensured that each trend is indeed a trend by finding each expressly described as such by at least two, reputable sources and the trends we found were actually described as such by multiple sources. In addition to finding each trend described as a trend by the sources, we also provided data in support of each trend. Lastly, our research findings are specific to the U.S.
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SEarch Engines Usage Trends

Some trends around search engine usage include Amazon rising in the product search category causing Google to fall back; Google adding more search categories causing it to gain prominence; and a slower adoption of Bing in the east and west coasts, causing it to lag behind.

What Search Engines Are Rising/Falling

  • Amazon is rising as a search engine being used for product searches, as it has gained approximately 8% of product search share over the past three years. This has led Google's share for product searches to fall, as more than half (54%) of product searches are now done on Amazon.
  • Google has included more categories into their web search interface and results including Maps searches, YouTube videos and Google Images. This has led Google’s standard web search to gain prominence.

Google Versus Other Platforms

  • Google's web search interface now includes locations, videos, and images, causing it to become a near-monopoly among other search engines. Google accounts for 88.65% of the US search engine market, Bing accounts for 6.11%, Yahoo! accounts for 3.55%, DuckDuckGo accounts for 1.33%, Ecosia accounts for 0.13% and MSN accounts for 0.05%.
  • Demand for images is huge, and in 2018, Google Images accounted for over 20% of all searches carried out by Americans. This has led Google to directly include more images in their web search results.
  • Search Engine Usage in Different Locations

  • The west coast is dominated by Google, mostly due to the fact that Google is located in California. In fact, Google has a market share of over 80% in California. This leads to a slower adoption of Bing in the west coast, with California having the lowest Bing market share (5.28%).
  • Bing is also struggling in the east coast, which is densely populated, leading it to have a very low market share as compared to Google.
  • Bing is based in Washington, which causes Yahoo! to have the lowest market share in the state (4.16%).
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Search Engines New Products

Some new products or updates of existing products related to search engines that are expected to launch by the end of 2020 are Google January 2020 Core Update, Bing's update to BingBot’s user agent and Microsoft Advertising deprecating average position.

Google January 2020 Core Update

  • This is an update that is meant to improve how the system assesses overall content, which will, therefore, result in some pages that were previously under-rewarded doing better.
  • Being a broad core update, the January 2020 core update is set to impact all search results on a worldwide scale.
  • The core update will simply be a tweak or change to the main search algorithm itself, which will involve Google slightly tweaking the importance, order, weights, or values of certain signals.
  • However, there will be nothing necessarily wrong with pages that drop in rankings following a core update. It will simply just mean that they will have been reassessed against content that had been published since the last update, or content that was previously overlooked.

Bing to Update BingBot’s User-Agent

  • In this update, Bing will use a user agent that is able to identify the specific version of Microsoft Edge crawling on its site.
  • For the majority of websites, this update will carefully test the sites to dynamically render fine prior to switching them to Microsoft Edge and the new user-agent.
  • But if any user agents have been hard-coded into certain scripts, those scripts will need to be revised to ensure BingBot can continue to crawl the site.
  • This new update can also be tested by installing the new Microsoft Edge browser to check if the site being tested looks fine with it, and if it does, then it means that it will not be affected by the change.
  • Registration can also be done on the Bing Webmaster Tools' site to get insights concerning the site, to be notified if any issues are detected, and to investigate the site using Bing's upcoming tools based on the new rendering engine.

Microsoft Advertising to Deprecate Average Position

  • In this new update, Microsoft Advertising will be deprecating average positions as it introduces a slate of position metrics referred to as prominence metrics.
  • These changes in metrics are meant to help diagnose fluctuations in ad performance and signal if it’s time to take action or make changes to bids or provide overall assistance so that returns with Microsoft Advertising can best be maximized.
  • The addition of these new metrics and the removal of some others, such as impression share lost to bid, relevance and expected Click-Through Rate (CTR), will bring its performance reporting closer to parity with Google Ads.
  • The update is scheduled to be launched in April 2020.
  • Microsoft Advertising, which is a service that provides pay per click advertising on both the Bing and Yahoo! search engines, will launch the update.

Research Strategy

In an attempt to identify some new products related to search engines that are expected to launch soon, we searched for news articles, press releases, and media publications on related topics. After going through numerous news articles published in leading media outlets including, but not limited to, Forbes, Search Engine Land, New York Times, Search Engine Journal, SEO Hacker, Business Insider, SEO Tech Experts, and Bloomberg. We were able to identify these three new products or updates of existing products related to search engines that are expected to launch soon, that is, by the end of 2020, as Google January 2020 Core Update, Bing's update to BingBot’s user agent, and Microsoft Advertising deprecating average position.
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Social Media Platforms New Products

Facebook’s GlobalCoin, Twitter’s new setting for conversation participants, and Snapchat’s Bitmoji TV are new products related to social media platforms that were reported to be launched before 2020 ends. Social media platforms have introduced a slew of new products and features in the past year, but these three are the products and features that have not been launched but were reported to be launched soon. Snapchat's Cameos and YouTube's Learning Playlists were among the new products and features that were very recently released.

Facebook to Launch GlobalCoin

  • In May 2019, there were reports that Facebook will be launching its own cryptocurrency by the first quarter of 2020.
  • Reports indicate that the cryptocurrency, known within Facebook as GlobalCoin, will be rolled out to approximately a dozen countries on day of launch.
  • With GlobalCoin, Facebook hopes to provide Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram users, especially the unbanked and underserved, with an affordable and secure way to make payments.
  • Facebook reportedly has been in discussions with the U.S. Treasury and money transfer companies such as Western Union to talk about regulatory and operational cryptocurrency matters.
  • The company recently recruited David Marcus to head its new blockchain unit. Marcus was the president of PayPal from 2012 to 2014. He also previously sat on the board of directors for digital currency platform Coinbase.
  • GlobalCoin will be developed as a stablecoin, which promises low price volatility relative to other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. Facebook hopes that, with GlobalCoin being designed as a stablecoin, users and merchants will be encouraged to use its cryptocurrency for transactions.
  • There were reports in January 2020, however, that Facebook has failed to gain the support and approval of the government of Switzerland, the country where the social media giant’s cryptocurrency division is based.
  • There were indications that Facebook will not be getting regulatory approval anytime soon because Libra's proposed basket of currencies were not approved by the issuing national banks. Libra is the name of Facebook's cryptocurrency project.
  • Merchants may need to weigh the cost-effectiveness of GlobalCoin against the currency conversion, privacy, and regulatory risks associated with it.

Twitter to Add New Setting for Conversation Participants

  • Suzanne Xie, the product management director of Twitter, revealed at the recently held 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that Twitter will be introducing some changes to conversations on the platform.
  • Twitter will be introducing a new setting that enables users to limit conversation participants on the compose screen. Users will have four options, namely, Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.
  • The Global setting means anybody can reply, while the Group setting means only the people the user follows or mentions can reply.
  • The Panel setting means only the people the user mentions can reply, while the Statement setting means nobody can reply.
  • Twitter plans to perform mock-ups in the first quarter and launch worldwide before the year ends.
  • Apart from this new setting, Twitter is also exploring new features relating to conversation views, threading, topics, and lists.
  • Twitter has a prototype app called twttr where it publicly tests new features before they are rolled out to the actual Twitter app.

Snapchat to Launch Bitmoji TV

  • Snapchat will be releasing Bitmoji TV in February 2020.
  • Bitmoji TV is a full-motion cartoon series that will feature the customizable Bitmoji avatars of the Snapchat user and his or her Snapchat friends. At present, Bitmoji is used in comic strip-style Stories and chat stickers only.
  • The original in-house animated shows, which cannot be copied, will be created for Snapchat’s Discover section. Writing for TechCrunch, Josh Constine says Bitmoji TV could raise the quality of Discover from a tabloid-like magazine to a higher-quality content feed.
  • Through Bitmoji TV, the user and his or her friends could be secret agents or the crew of a spaceship, or they could be turning into zombies or finding themselves attracted to robots. The animation style that Bitmoji TV uses is similar to the animation style used by Netflix’s Big Mouth.
  • It is expected that Snapchat will use “funny, meme-worthy situations” to ensure users will keep coming back to the Discover section to watch Bitmoji TV. The quality of the writing will drive the success of the series.
  • Snapchat knows that the most addictive experiences on Snapchat are those that involve the users' own faces.