Social Media

15.5 Customers Be part of Social Each Second (And Different Vital Stats You Ought to Know)


If you're looking for the latest social media digital insights and statistics, you can find them all in our new one Digital 2021 reported series.

This year's reports, published in partnership between Hootsuite and We Are Social, show that connected technology has become an even more important part of people's lives over the past year. Social media, e-commerce, streaming content, and video games have seen significant growth in the past 12 months.

Some of the key topics to look for in this year's reports are:

  • Changes in the way people search for information and brands;
  • The evolving demographics of the online audience;
  • The fast growing importance of e-commerce;
  • Why mobile is important, but not the only answer; and
  • Why it's time to change the metrics that drive marketing's social media mix.

Download the full Digital 2021 report– including online behavioral data from 220 countries – to learn where to focus your social marketing efforts and how to better target your audience.

Just before we dive into the numbers, I'd like to thank all of the data partners and vendors who made this year's reports possible, specifically:

I would also like to draw your attention to the important indications of changes to our methodology, which you will find on page 6 of the report.

The Global 2021 Global Overview Report

Read on for my analysis of this year's top stories.

Essential headlines

Here are the headline stats and trends for the global state of digital in January 2021:

  • Population: the world population stood by 7.83 billion at the beginning of 2021. The United Nations reports that this number is currently growing by 1% per year, which means the global total has increased by more than 80 million People since early 2020.
  • Cell phone, mobile phone: 5.22 billion People today use a mobile phone, which is synonymous with 66.6% the world population. Unique mobile users have grown 1.8% (93 million) since January 2020, while the total number of cellular connections has increased by 72 million (0.9%) to achieve overall 8.02 billion at the beginning of 2021.
  • Internet: 4.66 billion People all over the world were using the internet in January 2021 316 million (7.3%) since that time last year. Global internet penetration is now at 59.5%. However, COVID-19 has a significant impact on internet user number reporting, so the actual numbers may be higher.
  • Social media: there is now 4.20 billion Social media users all over the world. That number has grown 490 million in the last 12 months achieved a growth of more than last year 13%. The number of social media users is now more than 53% the world population.

But what does all this data tell us about yummy trivia beyond what people are actually doing online?

Below is my handy round-up of all of the year's top trends. However, if you'd like to dig deeper into any of these stories – along with a few other stories not included here – visit, where you'll find our full collection of Digital 2021 reports and analysis.

1. The acceptance of social media is increasing

The number of social media users increased by more than 13% in the past year, nearly half a billion new users brought the total worldwide to nearly 4.2 billion until the beginning of 2021.

On average more than 1.3 million In 2020, new users entered social media every day, which is roughly 15½ new users per second.

Global social media usage chart

The typical social media user now spends 2 hours and 25 minutes on social media every day, which is roughly one day of their life per week.

Graph showing the increase in time spent on social media over time

Taken together, the world's social media users will spend more overall 3.7 trillion Hours on social media in 2021 – that's more than 420 million years of combined human existence.

However, as we have seen in the past few years, there are significant differences between countries.

GWI reports that Filipinos are still the world's largest consumers of social media, spending an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes a day on social platforms – a full half an hour more than second-placed Colombians.

At the other end of the scale, users in Japan say they spend less than an hour a day on social media. However, this year's 51 minutes is still 13% higher than the number we reported for Japanese users around this time last year.

Chart showing how long people spend on social media every day around the world

2. Cell phones have become our first screen

Data from App Annie shows that Android users around the world are now more than spending 4 hours a day with their cell phones.

Overall, this means that Android users have more than spent 3.5 trillion accumulated hours on their cell phones over the past 12 months.

Graph showing the percentage of time spent in different types of mobile apps

App Annie's 2021 Mobile State Report also reveals that mobile phones are more time for people today than live TV.

GWI's data tell a similar story. The company's latest research found that the typical global Internet user now spends 3 hours and 39 minutes per day on the Internet on their mobile phones, compared to a total of 3 hours and 24 minutes per day watching TV.

In context, this means that the average internet user now spends about 7% longer using connected services on their phone than watching TV.

As we'll see below, mobile devices still only make up about half of our daily internet time.

Graph showing the daily time spent with different types of media

3. Online time leaps

Overall, the average internet user now spends almost 7 hours a day using the internet on all devices, which equates to more than 48 hours a week online – that's 2 full days out of 7.

Assuming that the average person sleeps between 7 and 8 hours a day, that means that we now spend approximately 42% of our waking lives online, spending almost as much time on the internet as we do sleeping.

The numbers also show that people spend more time online every day than in previous years.

The latest results from GWI show that the typical internet user was online 16 minutes longer each day in the third quarter of 2020 than in the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 4% over the previous year.

Graph showing changes in time spent using the Internet over time

If internet usage stays at this level through 2021, the world's internet users will be spending almost money 12 trillion Hours online this year, which means more than 1.3 billion years of combined human time.

However, as we saw in last year's report, there are significant differences in the time people spend online in different countries.

Filipinos report that they spend most of their time online, averaging almost 11 hours a day.

Brazilians, Colombians and South Africans also report that they spend an average of more than 10 hours a day online.

At the other end of the scale, the Japanese report spends the least online time online at less than 4½ hours per day.

Interestingly, the figure for China, at just 5 hours and 22 minutes per day, is also on the lower end of the spectrum – 1½ hours less than the global average of 6 hours and 54 minutes.

Chart showing how much time people around the world spend online by country

4. The behavior of the online search changes

Finding information is the number one reason people get online. Almost two-thirds of internet users worldwide say this is one of their main motivations.

Diagram showing the reasons why people use the internet

However, the latest research from GWI shows that the world's search behavior is evolving, and this changing behavior has important ramifications for anyone looking to target a digital audience.

Traditional search engines are still an essential part of the mix. 98% of respondents say they use a search engine every month.

However, more than 7 in 10 respondents also say they now use at least one tool other than text-based search engines every month to find information online.

Online search behavior chart

Voice interfaces are the most popular alternative. 45% of global internet users said they had used voice searches or commands in the past 30 days.

Almost a third of the world's internet users now use image recognition tools on their phones every month. Tools like Pinterest Lens and Google Lens are particularly popular in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

But perhaps the most interesting trend in the evolution of search behavior is the rise in social search.

Approximately 45% of the world's internet users say they turn to social networks when looking for information about the products or services they want to buy.

However, this number is even higher for younger users. Gen Z users say they are more likely to search for brands on social media than search engines.

Chart showing which middle age groups are preferred for brand research (search engines or social media)

5. A multi-device strategy is still essential

Cell phones now make up 53% of the time the world spends online. However, the data clearly shows that other devices still play an important role in our connected lives.

Graph of time spent using the internet on mobile devices as a percentage of total daily internet time

GWI data shows that 9 out of 10 internet users get online from their smartphone, but two-thirds also say they use a laptop or desktop computer to access the internet.

It should be emphasized that cell phones are the most widely used internet device in all countries today. However, the gap between cell phones and computers is often quite small, especially in Western Europe.

The latest data from StatCounter shows that computers are still a significant part of the world's web activity.

More than 40% of the web pages served in December 2020 were requested by web browsers running on laptops and desktop devices, although the total share of these devices has decreased slightly compared to December 2019.

Graph showing the percentage of web traffic by device (including mobile devices, desktops / laptops, tablets and other devices)

6. A more strategic approach to social media marketing

Kepios analysis of the data collected by GWI shows that at least 98% of users of a given social media platform also use at least one other social platform.

Individual social platforms are also subject to significant audience overlap. 85% of TikTok users aged 16 to 64 say they use Facebook, and almost 95% of Instagram users of the same age group say they use YouTube as well.

Diagram showing user intersections on social media platforms

While the general concept of audience overlap isn't surprising, the extent of that overlap is of particular concern to marketers.

The key to success is that brands don't have to be active on every single platform. In fact, the data shows that having a presence on just one or two of the larger platforms has the potential to reach almost all social media users in the world.

At least 6 platforms now have more than 1 billion active users per month, while at least 17 have more than 300 million.

Chart showing the most used social media platforms in the world

However, this doesn't mean that marketers should focus solely on these larger platforms.

Indeed, the data supports the case for a more strategic, portfolio-based approach to social media.

Rather than focusing all of their attention on reach, it's time for marketers to look into other factors, such as: B. the specific creative possibilities that the content formats of the individual platforms offer, or the different inclusion possibilities that are available on more niche platforms.

So instead of getting distracted by the platform's user numbers, ask yourself:

  • who I want to get involved
  • Why could you use social media?
  • Which Platform (s) are most relevant to your motivations?
  • As Can I use these channels to get my desired results?

7. A deeper look into the demographics of the online audience

We've added a variety of new charts to this year's reports that provide insight into related activities by age and gender.

One of the most revealing of these graphs shows how different the acceptance of e-commerce is depending on the population group.

Graphic with ecommerce acceptance by age and gender

And the obvious insight from this GWI data is that Internet users in the baby boomer generation use e-commerce only marginally less than Internet users of Gen Z and Millennial.

In addition, female internet users between the ages of 55 and 64 are more likely to shop online than male internet users between the ages of 16 and 24.

It is also interesting to note that a significant proportion of older Internet users play video games.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, game adoption rates among older generations are not as high as Gen Z, where more than 90% of internet users say they play games.

However, GWI data still shows that more than two-thirds of internet users ages 55 to 64 play video games worldwide.

Chart with video games by age and gender

Another age-related trend is evident in the latest social media data, which shows that older age groups are the fastest growing segments among some of the top platforms.

On Facebook, for example, users over 65 increased by around 25% last year – almost double the overall average of 13%.

Chart showing the reach of Facebook by age and gender

It may come as a surprise that users over 50 are also the fastest growing demographic on Snapchat.

The number of users aged 50 and over that advertisers can reach via Snapchat has increased by around 25% in the last 3 months, with male users in this age group increasing by a third.

Graph showing quarterly changes in Snapchat ad reach

Note that these Snapchat numbers represent quarterly growth while the Facebook numbers above represent annual growth.

It's also worth noting that these numbers represent relative growth, not the absolute increase in user numbers.

In context, users aged 25 to 34 still made up the largest number of new Facebook users last year, even though they were already the platform's largest demographic segment.

However, the relative growth numbers still show that a larger number of older users are joining social platforms.

These evolving demographics may offer new opportunities for marketers as well as new sources of revenue for platforms and publishers.

8. Online grocery stores and the rise of e-commerce

One of the standout digital stories in 2020 was the rise of e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic drove consumers around the world to turn to online shopping.

At a global level, almost 77% of Internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 now state that they buy something online every month.

Internet users in Indonesia are most likely to make e-commerce purchases. More than 87% of respondents in the country who took the GWI survey said they had bought something online in the past month.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 57% of internet users in Egypt say they made an online purchase in the last 30 days.

Graphic shows the worldwide acceptance of e-commerce

In the meantime, what people have been buying in the past few months also makes for interesting read.

Statista reports that the Fashion & Beauty category accounted for the largest share of global B2C e-commerce sales in 2020 at more than $ 665 billion.

Global ecommerce spend by category chart

This is the first time in our ongoing series of Global Digital Reports that the Travel category has not generated the largest share of revenue. This shows how difficult the past few months have been for travel and tourism brands.

According to Statista, online revenues in the Travel, Mobility and Accommodation category were down more than 50% year over year, causing annual consumer spend to fall by well over half a trillion US dollars.

On the other hand, many other categories saw strong growth in ecommerce sales in 2020.

Food & Personal Care was the fastest growing consumer e-commerce category in 2020. COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures have been a catalyst for a significant increase in online grocery shopping.

Globally, the category had annual sales of more than $ 400 billion in 2020, an increase of more than 40% over the previous year.

Global ecommerce growth chart by category

These numbers support the results we shared in our Global Statshot Report Digital 2020 in July, when many internet users said they expect to continue with new online shopping behaviors that they adopted during the COVID-19 lockdown.

However, the impact of this trend should extend well beyond the food and personal care category.

Grocery shopping is typically a high-frequency activity, which means that over the past few months, people have had the opportunity to develop and embed new online shopping habits.

As most marketers know, this type of behavior change can be very difficult to inspire – especially with high-frequency activity – so these new habits represent an unprecedented opportunity for brands and retailers to redefine the status quo.

What to look for in 2021

Hopefully this has given you a solid understanding of the current state of digitization.

But what does the future look like?

Based on my analysis of the data in our ongoing series of global digital reports, here are a few things that I will be closely monitoring over the coming months.

The downfall of third-party cookies: Google's Chrome browsers will end support for third-party cookies in late 2021. Therefore, we can expect significant changes in advertising technology this year, especially as programmatic platforms reinvent themselves.

Flexible working: “Working from home” seems to be an integral part of many people's working lives for the foreseeable future. Therefore, in the coming months, we should see more innovations in products and services designed to aid remote working, especially in the areas of communication and "team cohesion".

Digital disturbance: Connected products and services will continue to shake up existing categories and create new ones, but I will be watching three industries with particular interest in 2021:

  • Healthcarein particular telemedicine and networked services that contribute to mental well-being;
  • Finances, with insurance and cross-border payments are both strong competitors for innovation;
  • educationGovernments and philanthropists come together to create more effective solutions for networked schooling as companies focus their attention on the burgeoning opportunities of online learning.

The big tech split: This has been taking a long time, but lawmakers around the world are signaling that 2021 could be the year of the big showdown. The big question, however, is whether Google, Facebook, Amazon or Alibaba will beat them and spin off components on their own terms before governments force them to.

Wearable digital identities: With privacy back in the spotlight following recent updates to the WhatsApp Terms of Service, a “decentralized” approach to digital sign-in could come to the fore. Inrupt is definitely one to check out, but it certainly isn't the only contender.

Are there any other trends you will see in 2021? Send me your tips on Twitter.

If you'd like deeper insights into the future of the digital for your brand or business, connect with me on LinkedIn to learn more about Kepios' quarterly digital briefing service.

And finally …

We couldn't finish this year's analysis without updating our Pulitzer-worthy coverage of one of the most hotly contested battles on the internet.

Although the alarm went off around this time last year, it still seems that many people have not received the memo that the internet was invented to share pictures of kittens.

Chart showing the popularity of cats and dogs on the internet

#TeamDog was able to publish an additional 44 million #dog posts on Instagram in the last 12 months, while #TeamCat only managed 33 million new #cat posts.

Similarly, on Twitter, where the platform's advertising tools show that 307 million users are "interested" in dogs today, compared to just 23 million who are "interested" in cats.

This is a marked improvement over last year's thousand-to-one ratio (250 million versus 250,000), but dog lovers are still 13 to 1 more numerous than cat lovers on Twitter.

We will keep an eye on this story again this year. So watch out for future students.

All of those word games probably took up enough of your 6 hours and 54 minutes for today, so I'll be pulling this year's analysis over there.

I'll be back in a few weeks with the first of our local country reports on Digital 2021.

In the meantime, if you need more statistics, visit our library of global digital reports.

Discover the latest data and insights on social media, the web, mobile devices, and other digital behaviors in the Digital 2021 report.

Get the report


Jeffrey Rabinowitz