by Debra Aho Williamson
The days of significant increases in time spent on social networks may be over. Daily time among US users fell by 1 minute last year after growing 6 minutes in 2016 and 7 minutes in 2017. Time spent on Facebook among users is declining faster than we expected, and Snapchat is also experiencing declines. The picture is somewhat brighter at Instagram, where user time spent is still growing.
How much time are users spending with social networks?
Daily time spent among social network users ages 18 and older stopped growing last year. The 1-minute decline was a remarkable change considering the cumulative 13-minute gain in 2016 and 2017. Through 2021, we expect user time to remain relatively flat at 1 hour, 15 minutes. While that’s still a significant amount of time relative to other daily media activities, it’s clear social network usage time is entering a plateau.
What’s happening with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat?
We have reduced our estimate of daily time spent on Facebook among US adult users to 38 minutes per day in 2018, from 40 minutes in the forecast we published October 2018. Instagram is still growing; adult users spent an average of 26 minutes per day on the app in 2018. We have lowered our estimate of users’ time spent on Snapchat to 26 minutes per day in 2018, from 27 minutes in our October 2018 forecast.
Is time spent on mobile messaging affecting social networks?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s planned pivot toward messaging will not impact social network time in the near future. We forecast that US adults will spend more than triple the amount of time on mobile social network apps this year compared with mobile messaging apps.
How do teens use social networks?
Third-party data continues to show that teen usage time and frequency are both quite high, though their platforms of choice have evolved. The trend to watch now isn’t just teens moving away from Facebook toward other platforms but also to activities such as video and gaming. Young players of games like Fortnite use them like social networks to chat and interact with friends as they play.
WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report details our latest forecast for US time spent with social networks and messaging apps and discusses key activities and drivers of engagement.
An important note on how we account for multitasking in our estimates of time spent with media: If someone spends an hour watching TV (for example) and uses a smartphone to surf the web during the same hour, we count this as an hour of usage for each medium, and hence as 2 hours of total media time.
KEY STAT: US users’ daily time on social networks declined for the first time last year and will plateau through 2021.
eMarketer’s methodology for its US time spent with media forecast is based on an analysis of 2,580 metrics from 133 sources. This analysis involves the collection of third-party data—primarily survey data—from adult respondents, asking them about their media use habits. Data is also sourced from online and mobile activity tracking services, government data and interviews with industry experts.
Using a bottom-up analysis, we assess and analyze reported time spent with each device and media activity across various sources. And where definitions differ, the data is normalized and interpreted in terms of our definition (i.e., the US population ages 18 and older). The data is then aggregated with the time contributions from each device and media type to arrive at an estimate for average time spent with media per day.
In order to arrive at forecasts for growth rates by media and by device, this analysis is followed by extensive assessments of historical and expected future growth patterns with regard to device adoption, multiple and overlapping device usage, population and demographic factors and competitors to existing devices and activities.