Social media trends in 2024Find out

For marketers and research professionals, the social media landscape can be inspiring – and overwhelming. Social media statistics change so rapidly it can be a real challenge keeping up. That’s not exactly ideal for anyone hoping to use their social media knowhow to support decision-making and make the most of their budget.

If that sounds familiar, help is at hand. Our global media landscape 2024 report and summary of social media trends in 2024 are packed with essential insights. Now, to make your life even easier, we’ve created this blog covering 2024’s must-know social media statistics, giving you the insights you need to define strategy, drive growth, and improve ROI.

Here are the questions we’ll answer:

  1. What are the most popular social media platforms?
  2. What are people using social media for?
  3. Why is short-form video content hotting up, big time?
  4. What do younger generations want from social media?
  5. How much is social media impacting mental health?
  6. What’s social media’s role in brand discovery?
  7. Why is social media livestreaming so big in APAC? 
  8. Do social media users really trust influencers?
  9. Social media and the US election – what’s happening?
  10. What social content works best on what channel? 

1. What are the most popular social media platforms?

Let’s start with some key social media statistics on the most popular platforms du jour.

There are clear winners in the race for social media world domination, and perhaps not surprisingly they vary by age.

Our data shows Facebook is still the global leader for monthly engagement among millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. It even ranks in Gen Z’s top three platforms, dispelling the myth that younger groups are ditching their accounts.

Talking of Gen Z, if you think they spend all their time on TikTok, think again. It’s actually Gen Alpha who like TikTok most, with 22% saying it’s their favorite social media platform. 

Chart showing top 5 used and growing social platforms by generation

Gen Z do have a unique social media footprint, though. Instagram is both their most-used app, and the one they’re most likely to say they’ve mentioned recently in a real life conversation – which leads nicely to our next point.

Popularity and power aren’t quite the same thing, and brands should consider which to prioritize when deciding their mix of social channels.

Popularity increases the chances of a brand’s products and messages being seen, while power improves the chances of them being talked about by consumers. Luckily they’re not mutually exclusive. If brands share compelling stories on social platforms that spark conversation and recommendation in the real world, they’re getting the best of both. 

2. What are people using social media for?

Social media statistics show that the way people consume news is changing. Perhaps surprisingly, more consumers say they follow news influencers than fashion equivalents, and there’s been an uptick in people using social platforms to keep up with current events. It seems that with trust in the mainstream media dwindling, people are looking for information elsewhere.

Despite this, “staying in touch with friends and family” is the top reason for using social – proof that despite the blizzard of marketing content flooding our feeds, the social side of social media is still going strong. Beyond “staying in touch”, older groups tend to follow news stories on social channels, with younger groups more interested in busting boredom. 

Before we move on, let’s get specific and break all this down by generation.

Chart showing top reasons for using social media

3. Why is short-form video content hotting up, big time?

It goes without saying that different content works best on different social channels – but the influence of short-form video across the global media landscape has been massive. TikTok is less than a decade old, yet social media statistics show it competes in the same leagues as Netflix and YouTube when it comes to monthly engagement. 

Right now, TikTok is the market leader for short-form content, but definitely isn’t the only player in town. Instagram and YouTube have taken advantage of their massive user bases to launch their own short-form features, both of which have become very popular. 

The number of Instagrammers using Reels has grown by over 50% in the last three years.

And with a fair few LinkedIn users saying they watch videos on the app, it seems that even the business networking site is following suit

In terms of topics, short-form video scores big in sports, with highlights being the single fastest-growing content type in the US. 

Chart showing what videos people are watching on social media

While 2024’s Super Bowl broke all kinds of live TV viewing records, 25% of Gen Z and millennial viewers also kept up with the game via updates on social media. And just as short clips have helped make some lesser-known music artists popular, they’re also carving out a bigger space for emerging sports. 

Social videos – typically movie trailers – should also be on the film industry’s radar. Industry leaders like The Boxoffice Network hope that by giving social scrollers some tasty snippets they’ll visit cinemas or stream from home more, and it seems to be working. Compared to other US Instagram users, those who watch Reels and movie trailers on social media are 23% more likely to say they go to movie theaters at least monthly. 

4. What do younger generations want from social media?

Gen Alpha are growing up, and with age comes agency. More and more Gen Alpha are saying they get a sense of which brands and products they like from social media. In fact, there’s been an 11% year-on-year rise in the number of teens who say finding things to buy is one of their main reasons for using social. 

Chart showing reasons Gen A use social media

Many brands would be wise to start speaking to and building bonds with Gen Alpha today, but they need to do it in a way that doesn’t risk damaging their reputation. Recently the phenomena of “Sephora kids” saw a slightly worrying rise in younger people buying anti-aging serums and creams designed for significantly older adults. This trend has even pushed a Swedish pharmacy chain to start ID’ing its skincare buyers.

Moving up the age range, Gen Z are driving a shift toward inspiration-seeking searches on social media – especially on Pinterest. They’re big into using mood boards to collate their findings; 47% of Pinners say they use the app for style inspiration, almost as many for home décor/design ideas, and 18% for wedding/event inspo. These boards ultimately give Gen Z consumers what they want – freedom, personalization and a community they can belong to. 

Brands can take advantage of the popularity of mood boards, and create products that match the trending vibe. For example, in late 2023 – after noticing that Pinterest users were pinning pictures of David and Victoria Beckham from the 1990s wearing baggy parachute pants – Jaded London released a version of their own, and have since sold over 200,000 pairs. 

5. How much is social media impacting mental health?

Let’s not be coy; social media gets a bad press for its supposed negative impact on mental health. But is that fair? Our research shows that in the US, only 13% say that’s actually the case. 

Among those who do say it’s had a negative impact, the top thing people feel is guilt about wasting time scrolling (50%). This is followed by feeling hopeless about the state of the world (47%) and increased feelings of anxiety (43%). 

But from a global perspective, social media statistics show more people think social media is good for society (37%). 

The number of consumers who say social media causes them anxiety is down 11% since 2021. 

With more people using social media as a way to explore the world, whether that’s keeping up with the news, finding products to buy, or being entertained, social platforms could work on their algorithms to balance the exposure of negative news with more positive, uplifting stories.

6. What’s social media’s role in brand discovery?

Search engines are probably the first tool you think of for product or brand discovery. While that might have been true once, social media statistics show that discovery journeys have changed.

Finding new ideas or inspiration has become a more important reason for using social media. Gen Z in particular like the customized results they get on social platforms. 

Today, more consumers discover products via ads on social media, updates on a brand’s social pages, or social media recommendations, than via search engines. When combined, these methods have a lot of influence, to the extent that social media has become a sort of “pseudo search engine” for brand discovery.

Chart showing which platforms people use to search, shop and discover

It’s not hard to see why; using social, people can discover, research, share, and buy all in one place. Over 50% of consumers who’ve bought an item on TikTok Shop say they purchased from a brand or seller they discovered using it.

The point is, brands should aim to create visually engaging content that inspires their target audience to explore, with those in certain sectors standing to benefit from social media’s increasingly sophisticated ecommerce tools. 

7. Why is social media livestreaming so big in APAC?  

Most social media platforms offer livestreaming, with over 20% of social media users worldwide saying it’s their main reason for logging on. But APAC markets take interest in livestreaming to a whole new level.

One reason might be that APAC consumers are used to doing many day-to-day tasks on their smartphones. They’re more likely than the average global consumer to use them to order groceries, send money, and even take fitness classes, so it’s no big surprise they also interact with influencers and brands via livestreams, and are huge fans of live shopping.

Consumers in APAC are 51% more likely than the global average to have bought something during a live shopping event. 

For many brands, live shopping yields especially high ROI because it’s a sociable experience that fosters feelings of inclusivity and involvement, which can translate into higher sales. APAC social media shoppers are also more likely to advocate online for brands that offer live shopping experiences

Chart showing whats makes APAC social media users buy online

The lesson is clear: APAC-based brands – and international brands with customers in this region – should keep their consumers’ appetite for livestreaming front-of-mind, while Western brands considering this technology should look to APAC’s success for best practice tips.

8. Do social media users really trust influencers?

A recent Hubspot survey revealed that 50% of marketers who collaborate with influencers plan to boost their investments in 2024. But is the juice worth the squeeze? 

While there was a small climb in the number of social media users saying they follow influencers way back in 2020-21 (actually +6%), social media statistics have stayed pretty consistent ever since, a sign that growth isn’t increasing at the rate of marketer investments. 

That said, some markets are still seeing bigger and more recent jumps in influencer engagement. The proportion of social media users following influencers in countries like the US, Ireland, and South Korea has hit or passed the 25% mark, an impressive milestone.

Influencer followers are an audience with a lot of purchase intent. They’re 45% more likely to say they use social networks to find products to buy than the average social media user, and 24% more likely to have actually bought a product or service online in the last week. 

Also, while younger generations are the most likely to follow influencers, the number of baby boomers who say they do is growing faster.

The number of baby boomers who follow influencers has climbed 17% since Q4 2022.  

 But how powerful is influencer marketing really? The answer might be surprising for anyone who assumes influencers rule the roost. Globally, just 13% of consumers say “influencer recommendations” are the thing that would most increase their likelihood of buying a product online, compared to 40% who say “discounts”. 

This suggests influencer marketing should generally be a supplement to a brand’s sales and marketing strategy, not the main event, and that it should be approached strategically. Given the current economy, perhaps it’s not too surprising that price/value are the top motivators rather than influencer coverage.

At the same time, 84% who buy from influencers say they avoid using their affiliate links at least some of the time and prefer visiting a brand’s official website. Offering a discount code personalized to the influencer can help incentivize direct purchases, and definitely helps brands track ROI on their influencer investment, but again the power of influencers over real-world purchase behavior is lower than the hype would suggest.

Chart showing what influences influencer buyers

But let’s say you’ve decided to try out an influencer anyway. With more Gen Zers identifying as influencers/creators than healthcare workers, the talent pool for brands to pick from is huge. The right choice will depend on budget, offering, and goals.

To assess all this it’s a good idea for brands to create an overall scorecard for each influencer they’re considering, measuring things like their engagement metrics and the consistency of their messaging, not just their follower count.

Not surprisingly, influencer impact varies by sector. Despite being low-investment items, buying haircare, skincare, and makeup are where influencer trustworthiness matters most. But even here, influencer impact has its limits, ranking third behind “value for money” and “brand reputation” among all influencer-driven buyers.

9. Social media and the US election – what’s happening?

We’ve already mentioned the rise of people consuming news on social, but let’s turn our attention to the 2024 US presidential election that’s fast approaching. With more Americans turning to social media – especially short-form videos – to keep up with the news, this election cycle promises to be like no other. 

50% of US Gen Z and millennials have consumed information on US politics on social media in the last month. 

You may have noticed a growing skepticism toward politics in general, something the emergence of generative AI isn’t helping. Deepfake images and calls have already reared their ugly head in this election cycle, so it’s no wonder social media statistics show that over half of American consumers have some concern over AI’s impact on both election campaigns and news stories.

No wonder then, that there’s been a 26% drop in US consumers who say they trust the media completely/a lot since 2020. Concerns around misinformation tend to rise before every election. Nevertheless, US publishers and content creators have an opportunity to gain new fans and boost loyalty in the months ahead using some of the methods we outlined in our 2024 consumer trends report, Connecting the dots

So, what exactly can they do?

Chart showing  what engages political content viewers

A third of Americans who consume political content on social media say they’d engage more if there was third-party verification of claims. They don’t mind ideas that challenge their beliefs – some actively seek it – but they do want clear, accurate, and verifiable content as they scroll their way through this election cycle. And who can blame them?

10. What social content works best on what channel? 

It’s important to remember each app has its own unique culture and audience expectations. Social media statistics show it’s not a good idea to post the same stuff everywhere. Instead, brands should tweak content to reflect the expectations of each audience. 

Chart showing what users want each platform to be

For example, LinkedIn users want content that’s innovative, exclusive, and bold. They don’t want routine posts that lack a clear voice – they want to see compelling thought leadership. Brands using LinkedIn to promote themselves need to bear this in mind, perhaps by sharing insights that few are aware of, or offering a fresh perspective on a familiar topic.

On X (formerly Twitter, as if you didn’t know), brands presenting themselves as trendy do well, but it’s a slightly different story over on Reddit. While their users still crave bold content, what they really want is for brands to be authentic. Redditors downvote any marketing posts that feel out of place, so brands should focus on creating content for a specific subcommunity, rather than using the app as a forum for existing content. 

The point is each platform has its own culture and audience expectations. Brands need to use the latest social media statistics to understand these nuances and tailor their content to suit each space. Repurpose content by all means, but it’s essential to make the effort to fine-tune it. That’s the key to knocking your social media strategy out of the park.

Social media trends: The highlight reel Check it out

Written by

Roger is a senior copywriter at GWI with a special interest in research and data topics. He's written three books on copywriting for major publishers that together have earned him literally dozens of pounds. His hobbies include running, music and writing about himself in the third person.

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