So, More People Are Online – but What Are They Doing?

DJ Sutton, Associate Director

Although it certainly feels like our worlds have been turned upside down in the past few months, it’s important to recognize that COVID-19’s impact has not fundamentally altered our behavior on the internet. Instead, it has simply accelerated several current trends in the direction they were already moving (with a noteworthy exception of digital audio).

Everything we had expected to happen is now happening more rapidly – people are further diversifying their time spent on social platforms outside of Facebook, Amazon continues to steal away search revenue from Google, and OTT/CTV’s ascendance to the top of the video consumption realm is more prevalent than ever before.

In this article, we break down how usage trends are playing out across social media, paid search, and digital video categories – where that time is being spent and how it relates to usage trends before the onset of the pandemic.

Social Media

  • According to eMarketer, after social media usage was expected to plateau this year, it’s now expected to increase by roughly 9% year-over-year (around 82 minutes per day).
  • Both Snapchat and Instagram have seen comparable surges in daily usage too, with expected increases of 12% and 13.8%, respectively. Snapchat also touts a slightly higher daily active userbase – 78 MM compared to Instagram’s 75 MM.
  • Aside from these key players, Pinterest continues to report record usage rates and boasts the third largest userbase among social networks. TikTok has also quickly established itself as one of the fastest growing social networks in the U.S. (along with an ad platform that is becoming increasingly more accessible).

Paid Search

  • In the Great Recession, paid search was a digital channel that was uniquely resistant to the economic headwinds of that period. However, this time around will be different –the travel industry has been drastically impacted by COVID-19, which means that by extension, much of the spend it distributed across Google will evaporate.
  • Tie that into ecomm’s relative surge as more people rely on it to do essential household shopping, and this means that Amazon is positioned to benefit greatly as a result.
  • Amazon was expected to gradually to eat away at Google’s search market share for the next few years – now, it’s anticipated to take a major chunk in this year alone. Over the course of 2020, Amazon is projected to gain 4% of the U.S. search market while Google loses 3%. Google wasn’t originally expected to lose this much of the search market until 2022.

Digital Video

  • Time spent with subscription video content is expected to eclipse 62 minutes per day this year (a 23% increase), and many new brands are scrambling to grab a share of that market. Disney, NBC, HBO Max, Apple TV+ and Quibi are all new entrants to the streaming space in recent months.
  • Aside from Netflix, which comprises almost 50% of time spent on subscription services and offers no advertising capabilities, the biggest mover in this realm is Amazon Prime Video, which is anticipated to see a 19% increase in daily usage this year. Amazon Prime Video is the third most-popular streaming platform aside from Netflix and Hulu.
  • Amongst respondents in a separate survey conducted in March, Disney+ stood out at as having comparable popularity to the three leading services listed above – it was used by 29% of respondents, when the next closest platform was used by 10%. HBO Now, Apple TV+, and YouTube Premium are all jostling for a similar share in this survey, coming in around 9-10%.
  • The surge in OTT/CTV usage isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon – with most sports on hold and costly cable bills becoming more burdensome in a declining economy, even more consumers are expected to cancel their existing TV plans and make the switch to an OTT/CTV service. By the end of year, it’s expected to account for 51% of all time spent with all digital video.

In conclusion, here’s what this tells us as marketers:

  • In the near future, Facebook usage is expected to plateau or decline, while usage on virtually every other major social network is skyrocketing. Expanding paid social advertising now could lead to major opportunity as these platforms mature.
  • In terms of advertising viability, we’d recommend the following platforms (in order):
    • Pinterest
    • Snapchat
    • TikTok
  • As Amazon continues to eat away Paid Search market share, relying solely on Google Search to support the growth of your business is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
  • OTT/CTV becoming the primary video-consumption vehicle for many households appears to be increasing in inevitability. This means that all brands should be considering testing this platform before the end of the year.

Now that you know how everyone is spending their “free time,” how can you make the most of your campaigns on these channels? Reach out to New Engen – we’re here to help.