Social media use is on the decline but TikTok continues to rise

Time spent on social media has declined among consumers for just the second time in a decade, but a switch to a more ‘focussed’ rather than casual audience might be good news for advertisers.

The average daily time spent on social media has declined globally since last year, According to a report from audience insights company GWI that analysed habits from more than 970,000 consumers.

Narrowing the scope, this trend has also been consistent among Gen Z social media users based in the UK, whose social media usage has dropped to the lowest level since 2014.

Part of this decline in use could be due to the rising popularity of mobile phone’s voice notes feature - use of which has increased among Gen Z, most of whom currently send them daily and are 28% more likely to do so than older generations. This generation is also the least likely to make a voice call.

Despite decline in overall use, TikTok’s popularity continues to rise

Although social media usage is declining overall, the report identified that popularity of some platforms, particularly TikTok, has remained on the rise throughout 2023. While WhatsApp has retained its position as the world’s most used social media platform, TikTok is climbing the ranks at a rate of knots, with the number of consumers citing it as their preferred platform doubling in the last two years.

Keeping in touch with family and friends continues to be the most popular reason for using social media (54%), per the report. Interestingly, the second most popular reason was keeping up with news headlines (27%), something that has become far more difficult to do in both Australia and Canada after spats with Meta following legislative changes in the respective countries.

TikTok again, is popular on this front, with 41% of Western-based TikTokers using the platform to keep up-to-date with the news. Consumers are also leaning on the platform to discover what’s trending and being talked about, with more than half (52%) turning to TikTok for information about products and brands on the rise, compared to just 22% in the broader social media space.

“Consumers are starting to utilise social media in a more deliberate and intentional manner”

Social media, although declining in overall use, appears to be undergoing a metamorphosis with user’s becoming more discerning about how they use the tool. Almost 30% of Gen Z use social media to find inspiration for things, they also use social media platforms to discover new products more often than engines - with millennials not far behind.

Since 2019, finding new ideas or inspirations has jumped from 9th to 6th place in reasons for using social media. Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer at GWI, reaffirmed this assertion: “Our data offers a window into how UK consumers are starting to utilise social media in a more deliberate and intentional manner, as opposed to just ‘passing the time’.

“With tech fatigue setting in, especially among younger audiences - with Gen Z being 30% more likely to worry about the amount of time they spend on social media this year - Brits may be spending less time online overall, but they are still utilising their preferred platforms to stay informed, learn new things, and interact with like-minded people”.