The future of social media is rarely predictable. Pinterest had an unexpected explosive growth over the last year. There will always be surprises, but there are also some emerging and continuing social media trends that we can both track and predict with a certain degree of confidence.
Social media usage is constantly rising everywhere but growth will continue to be far higher in emerging markets, as Internet penetration and more forms of online engagement continue to catch up with those in more established markets.
According to eMarketer figures in 2011 and 2012, India and Indonesia were the two biggest emerging markets. In 2011 the two countries experienced a social network user growth of 51.5 percent and 51.4 percent respectively. Compare this to the US and UK markets, which grew by only 9.8 percent and 9.9 percent.
In 2013 India and Indonesia are still expected to see the biggest growth, at 37.9 percent and 28.8 percent respectively. The established markets will pretty much plateau, with usage in the UK predicted to rise by 7 percent and the U.S. by just 4.1 percent.
By region the Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America will see the largest growth rates. The implications for social media marketers are pretty clear: get into emerging markets before they catch up with the rest of us.
Facebook recently stated “While most of our mobile users also access Facebook through personal computers, we anticipate that the rate of growth in mobile usage will exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future and that the usage through personal computers may be flat or continue to decline in certain markets.”
Many commentators predict 2015 as the year when mobile search and online activity will overtake overall static usage worldwide. For social media that may happen very soon.
Nielsen’s Social Media Report 2012 found that 43 percent of U.S. users use smartphones to access social media, with 16 percent connecting from tablets. Users have also increased their social app usage by 76 percent. This meant they were now spending seven times more minutes on apps than on the mobile web.
This year mobile engagement looks to rise even higher. However there is still a huge divide between broadband penetration rates in developed and developing countries (International Telecommunications Union 2012 report).
In emerging markets mobile access is still more affordable and reliable than static connections, meaning mobile social media is often the norm. These usage habits are unlikely to change even as broadband infrastructure catches up.
With the recent implementation of 4G, mobile internet will be faster and more versatile than ever before.
More people are engaging with social media while watching TV. This can spike during major events such as the Super Bowl.
Sixty-three percent of users in the Middle East and Africa use social media while watching TV and 52 percent in Latin America do the same. People aren’t just chatting while they do so. They’re also shopping and looking up relevant program and product information.