Over the past five years, social media’s coming of age has seen a lot of shifts that are becoming the new norms.

In a relatively short period of time, social platforms have evolved from networks where people can keep up with friends, to places where social media users can engage in a myriad of behaviors that aren’t so social.

As a result, the way people use social media networks has changed. Here’s how.

1. Social media time has overtaken TV.

Every year we’re seeing more and more time being spent on social media. It’s increased so much that it’s overtaken TV as the media of choice.

The average internet user now spends about 15 minutes longer each day on social platforms than they do watching TV.

In fact, a higher proportion are using Facebook daily (50%) than are watching TV (39%), with an even bigger gap seen among millennials (54% vs. 33%).

Crucially, this means TV and traditional media no longer offer the widest or most efficient reach.

2. There’s been a shift from sharing to consuming.

Back in 2014, “sharing opinions” was a top motivation for using media. Fast-forward to 2017 and this motivation is much further down the list.

Now, just 30% say this is a key reason for using social media platforms, compared to around 40% three years ago.

Similarly, there’s been a fall in the percentages using social networks to share opinions and details of their daily lives. Instead, entertaining and time-filling content have become more important than sharing with active users.

So while the numbers updating their statuses, writing tweets and sharing photos have dropped, the portion watching videos and reading news stories has risen.

In short, there’s been a transition from sharing content to consuming content.

3. Social behaviors have become more purpose-driven.

As networking behaviors have become less focused around sharing content about daily lives, they’ve become more orientated around fulfilling purposeful activities that traditionally lay outside the social arena.

Via their social media accounts, consumers can access a wide range of information and services – whether that’s news updates, customer service agents, or details on a brand’s latest products.

Passive networking does not necessarily translate into social disengagement, however.

Since 2014, the percentage using social media to research products to buy has risen.

Passive networkers* are a lot more likely than average to be using social media for more meaningful behaviors like product research, keeping up with news and watching sports content.

This shift in social behaviors actually presents some opportunities for brands and marketers. With less content creation but more content consumption, brands can fill the gap.

One example of this done well is the promotion of Netflix show Orange is the New Black.

By hosting a Twitter event, creating a hashtag for one of the characters, and giving shareable content to fans through a custom app, the campaign earned over 98,000 social mentions in one week before the Season 2 premiere.

These changes pave new rules and ways of interaction for brands, media companies and consumers alike.

Although users are becoming less ‘active’, businesses can at least be sure that, from a brand awareness perspective, their social media strategy is yielding high numbers of video views.

It’s important for them to adjust to the changed landscape and consider the new, evolved opportunities for interaction that have arisen.

social trends to know

*Passive networkers are defined as those who use social media channels to fill up spare time, because their friends use them, or who have logged into Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the last month without commenting on or posting anything themselves.


Written by

Katie is a Strategic Insights Manager at GWI. Moving to the company 4 years ago, Katie heads up the Strategic Insights team, overseeing the production of bespoke assets for clients. Katie also writes on GWI's blog, with a particular interest in social media and marketing.

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