Social Platforms Register User Engagement Boosts, But Not Equally

It will come as no surprise that being stuck at home under quarantine has led to an increase in the amount of time consumers are spending on social media. A forecast from digital marketing research firm eMarketer on time spent with media in the U.S. projects that adults spent one hour, 22 minutes on social media each day, up seven minutes from the average in 2019. This is the first year of growth in time spent on social media among U.S. users since 2017, but not all social platforms are benefitting from this boost in engagement in the same way.

Consumers are expected to spend more time on Instagram this year, compared with Facebook and Snapchat. Daily time among adult Instagram users will jump 13.8 percent this year to nearly 30 minutes per day. That’s an increase of almost four minutes over last year. eMarketer previously estimated daily time among users to increase by just 24 seconds this year.

“Instagram has seen increased engagement recently through features such as Instagram Live and Stories,” says eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “Creators, celebrities and publishers have all used Instagram to demonstrate how they are dealing with stay-at-home orders.”

Snapchat is a close second when it comes to increased engagement among users. While it’s partly due to COVID-19, Snapchat was already seeing increased time spent with AR lenses, as well as original shows and other content on the Discover page. This year, daily time spent among adult Snapchat users will grow 12 percent to 29.5 minutes per day, a jump of three minutes over 2019. eMarketer’s previous estimates had Snapchat adding just 30 seconds per day this year among adult users.

“For Snapchat, the increased time spent comes not only from users who are spending more time on the app communicating with friends, but also from rising viewership of Snapchat’s original shows and increases in video calling on the app,” says Williamson.

Facebook—excluding Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp—will benefit the least from the 2020 bump, adding 1.4 minutes per day among adult users, bringing average daily usage to just over 34 minutes per day. Previous estimates had Facebook losing 42 seconds among adult users in 2020.

“We believe that some users who have increased their usage of core Facebook in recent months may revert back to former usage patterns by the end of the year,” Williamson adds.

As stay-at-home orders slowly lift, eMarketer expects total social time among users to drop slightly going into 2021, but it will remain above 2019 levels. Some of the increased time on social networks will stick around, driven by TikTok, Instagram Live, Snap Originals and other Discover content.

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