We will spend 420 million years on social media in 2021

Over half the planet uses at least one social media platform and use is growing each year.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

For many, it is hard to imagine a life without social media, mobile phones or, indeed the internet.

But although use is growing year on year, not every country in the world has access to the tools, internet access points and bandwidth that the US enjoys. But how important is social media for commerce, brands and consumers?

Vancover, BC Canada-based social media management company Hootsuite, and social media agency We are Social, have released their annual US 2021 Digital Trends report, covering US social media consumer trends.

4.2 billion of the world's population are now active on social media -- an increase of 490 million (13.2%) compared to January 2020. In the US 72.3% of the total population, and 79% of Northern Europe uses some form of social media.

Yet again, Facebook utterly dominates the list of most-used social platforms with 2.74 billion users, closely followed by YouTube at 2.291 billion. No wonder social media users will spend a combined total of 420 million years using social media in 2021.

In the US 240 million of the population are active social media users -- 72.3% of the entire population.

The number of social media users in the US has increased by 10 million (+4.3%) between 2020 and 2021 -- no doubt swelling due to the pandemic. Almost everyone (97.2%) accesses social media from their mobile phones.

Users in the US spent an average of 17.7 hours a month on Facebook compared to 21.5 hours a month on TikTok, and 7.5 hours a month on Instagram. YouTube is the most watched streaming app with an average of 23.1 hours per month per user.

We will spend 420 million years on social media in 2021 zdnet

Internet users spend much of their time accessing social media from our mobile devices – over two hours per day across and average of seven social media accounts per internet user.

We will spend 420 million years on social media in 2021 zdnetdnet.png

Facebook utterly dominates in this area holding the top four slots of monthly active users. Leading the list is Facebook followed by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

Amazon is fifth followed by Twitter, Netflix and TikTok. Although newcomer TikTok seems far behind at 689 million users, it was the number one downloaded social media app in 2020. Almost all (99.7%) of TikTok's users aged 16 to 64 say that they use at least one other social platform.

Almost all Americans (97%) own a mobile phone and 96.3% own a smartphone. Only 4.1% own a non-smartphone mobile phone. Surprisingly, despite the hype, only 5.4% own a virtual reality device.

Despite this growth, 37.6% of internet users in the US still discover new brands or products through TV ads indicating that there is still a market for the channel.

Only 25.7% discover new products through social media ads, and 23.2% via ads on websites.

Word of mouth and search engines still enable 35.3% and 34% of internet users to discover new brand and products. There is obviously still a long way to go before social media becomes the dominant channel for product discovery.

Perhaps the social media ad is on the wane already as we attempt to scroll on to find more interesting content, we no longer notice the ad as we continue to search for a meaningful connection.

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