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Whether you love using social media in your marketing strategy or you see it as a necessary evil, we all know it’s important. It helps with audience exposure, customer connections, and advertising. Recently, app analytics platform App Annie released its “Evolution of Social Apps” report to show how social media trends have changed in the last decade, from Q4 of 2010 to Q2 of 2021.

The study focuses primarily on Android users who, according to BusinessofApps, top about 2.5 billion mobile device users around the world. It also accounts for data in a variety of countries, like the United States, China, India, and the UK. Reading and understanding the report can help you make marketing decisions in the ever-changing social media landscape.

The Highlights

The report kicks off with data about different key factors of social apps:

  • There have been 74 billion social app downloads during the timeframe and 4.7 billion downloads in 2021 alone.
  • There have been $22.2 billion exchanged in consumer spending on social apps, with $3.2 billion spent just in 2021.
  • People spend 740 billion hours per year on social apps, which is equal to 44% of the time people spend on mobile devices globally.

Image via App Annie

To say it simply: people spend a lot of time and money on social media. As a marketer, you probably already knew that, but this study reaffirms that common belief.

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Live From New York, It’s Social Media

The study also found that live streaming is now more popular than chat, photo, and pre-recorded video social apps. This is a significant change, especially from just a few years ago. In 2018, photo and video social apps like Instagram and YouTube were the most popular among users. The study focused on the top five social apps for live streaming on Android phones outside of China and found that people may stream more than half a trillion hours of live content in 2021.

One thing the study doesn’t mention in this section is the names of those five social apps. Most programs offer live stream feeds and broadcasts. So does it consider features like Facebook Live or is it only concerned with apps made specifically for live streaming? What about Hulu, where you can stream live TV? These questions are important for marketers because it affects where we do business. It can tell us if we have to learn and use new platforms, take advantage of the features of programs we already use, or both.

Video Is King

Though probably not a surprise, the study showed that video viewing—both live-stream and pre-recorded—increased over the last decade. The shift from static to motion content has been a steady evolution. What’s unique now though, aside from live-streaming, is that TikTok has overtaken YouTube in average monthly viewing times in the United States and the UK, and it’s growing in markets like South Korea and Japan.

Why? Well, the study doesn’t tell us explicitly, but we can draw our own conclusions. According to graph data, the rise of TikTok correlated with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. It saw a large spike in viewership from February 2020 to March 2020, when cities and states started their lockdowns. It rose steadily to a peak in August 2020, where it tied YouTube with about 24 hours of monthly usage. But the pandemic may not be the only reason for TikTok’s popularity.

Image via App Annie

TikTok clips are short where YouTube videos are long, though the latter is trying to introduce a new “shorts” feature to compete. Human attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds in 21 years. Humans now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish. We like things short and TikTok delivers. Plus, the appeal of “going viral” for minimal effort and the push of the younger generation to seek community and validity in the virtual world rather than the physical one may also contribute to TikTok’s success.

Creators Unite

The Creator Economy, as App Annie called it, now fuels in-app purchases better and faster than other types. In the past, these types of purchases included game upgrades or things like stickers for text messaging. Now? Apps like TikTok and Twitch allow you to give money and virtual gifts to creators as you watch their content. Live streams encourage creators to give “shoutouts” to their supporters. This fuels the cycle. Someone donates and gets a shoutout, the next person wants to do the same thing and get recognized by the creator.

What Does This Mean?

What does all this data mean for you as a content marketer? Truly, it means a lot of things we already knew. People are spending most of their time online, particularly on social apps. Putting your marketing efforts there can get recognition for your brand. Video is a more powerful stand-alone tool than words or images, and shorter videos and live-streaming are even more impactful. If you’re not on apps like TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitch yet, it might be the time to create your presence.

The report predicts that social apps will create $78 billion in consumer spending by 2025. But, as a marketer, remember that social media and human behavior don’t exist in a vacuum. New technologies, global events, and government decisions can all affect trends. Stay up to date with the latest platforms and use them in a way that makes sense for your company. You never truly know what’s going to be the next TikTok that takes over the market.

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