How important is social media for you?

I have been a very active social media user for close to 15 years now, or to put it another way – about half of my life. It was not until I started doing research about how consumers are using social media however, and that ended up being published as #OMG social media is here to stay, that I started to reflect on just how much I have been using social media over all these years.

crowd taking pictures

My first major social media platform was called Orkut. It was huge among my friends, you just had to be there if you wanted to be cool. Orkut was mainly a platform to communicate with your friends and join communities. The social networking website was owned and operated by Google.

It's weird to remember that Orkut allowed you to go into someone else's profile and check all the messages they had ever received. Can you believe that information was public?!

Orkut no longer exists, it could not handle the fierce competition from Facebook. In fact, 5 out of the 10 most popular social media platforms of 2008 no longer exists today, or as our report says, it's often a rather short lifecycle for social media brands.

Social media can expose consumers to many internet issues, from phishing and privacy to social engineering and online trolls.

Many social media scandals have been highlighted extensively all over the news, raising consumer awareness of social media issues further, as displayed on the figure below.

percentage of consumers aware of different social media issues

Those issues plus their media coverage have definitely impacted trust, less than 20% of the 2600 consumers we surveyed in the US and the UK trust social media services with their personal data.

Personally, I never liked how much of my personal information social media gathered about me, but it was only after reading about the Cambridge Analytica case, that I lost trust.

As a result, I decided to completely delete my Facebook account and to reduce my overall usage of all social media. So, I was amused when I saw the results of our research, 30% of the consumers we surveyed told us they have reduced their usage of social media because of one of the issues mentioned in the picture above. However, a third of those went back to their previous usage levels, and that was also true for me. Even though I no longer use Facebook, I have been using other social media platforms more than ever, especially Instagram.

It is almost embarrassing to admit it, but I think my overall social media usage today is at an all-time high! But why is it that I feel embarrassed admitting such a thing?

Well, consumers think there is a negative stigma around social media usage. During our research, we heard that time spent on social media might be seen as non-productive or that people who use social media excessively might be seen as attention seeking individuals.

The fact is that 30% of the consumers we surveyed refuse to say exactly how much time they spend on social media when asked by others, and over two thirds believe their friends are also lying about their current usage.

So how is it that even after all of that, we have increased the time we spend on social media apps by almost 60% between 2014 and 2018, from 30 to 47 minutes a day, as can be seen on the #OMG social media is here to stay report? We are spending more time than ever on social media platforms. The reason is actually straight forward – social media is social infrastructure!

When I think about it, once more I feel myself represented in the findings, I always use social media for restaurant recommendations, and since I live abroad also I use social media to keep in touch with my family and friends, even using video or voice call features to avoid the expensive roaming call. I even use it to buy and sell second-hand products every now and then.

But for me, the most emblematic use case was unfortunately under terrible circumstances. In 2017, a truck was hijacked and used to attack people in the busiest street of Stockholm, a couple of kilometers from where I live. At the time, Facebook allowed users around the area to inform their close friends by just clicking a button. This helped my parents who live half-way across the world to remain calm and not worry about my safety when they awoke to the terrible news.

Social media is too important and fundamental in our daily lives to simply give up. It is becoming more important everyday adding new functionality while we continue to increase the time we spend using it. And even though the social media brands might come and go, social media platforms are here to stay.

If you want to deep dive on the findings of our latest research around social media, you can find the full report on the link below, I also advise you to watch the video and hear from some of the consumers we interviewed about how they are using social media. Maybe you'll recognize yourself in their stories too?

#OMG social media is here to stay


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