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Approximately 2.34 billion people, or 32.0% of the global population and 68.3% of internet users, will access a social network regularly in 2016, up 9.2% from 2015. Greater access to the internet, particularly through mobile phones, will drive growth over the coming years, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Networks Users: eMarketer’s Estimates for 2016” (eMarketer PRO customers only).
The global social network landscape has transformed significantly over the past few years with the rise of Snapchat, Instagram and other major players entering the market. To muddle the landscape even further, many messaging apps (which eMarketer does not include in its social network definition) have now adopted features and services that often rival and overlap with those of social networks. One example of this is WeChat, which is now China’s leading social platform. In many nations where mobile messaging is extremely popular, such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico, using social networks via mobile phone is also high.
Social network penetration in the more advanced digital markets of North America and Western Europe is nearing saturation, leaving less room for growth. This year, the number of social network users in those regions will increase by just 3.1% and 3.8%, respectively. But a new wave of social network users will come from mobile phone users in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, who are accessing the internet for the very first time by way of inexpensive smartphones, widely available Wi-Fi coverage and expanding 3G and 4G networks. More than 80% of social network users worldwide will use a mobile phone to access those networks this year. By 2020, this total will expand to nearly 86% of global social network users.
New data for China indicates social network use is more prevalent than eMarketer previously expected. As a result, we have raised our social network user projections in the country significantly for the entire forecast period. In addition, we have also raised the number of social network users in India as a result of higher estimates for internet use in the country. Combined, these adjustments have led to significant increases in social network users globally.
eMarketer PRO customers can view the full report here.
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