KEY POINTS

  • Social media platforms dominate users' digital attention. In 2015, social accounted for nearly 20% of total US time spent online across both desktop and mobile devices, according to a recent comScore report. 
  • While social as a category contributes the most to overall digital time spend, user attention on each major social platform varies greatly. Unsurprisingly, the core Facebook property makes up the lion's share of social time spend, contributing nearly 14%, according to comScore.
  • When looked at on a per-user basis, Facebook is still the leader in engagement by a wide margin, but it's followed behind by Snapchat, which has fewer users than Twitter or Instagram. Tumblr ranks just behind Snapchat on our engagement index, followed by Pinterest.
  • Of the top social media platforms, LinkedIn is least effective in getting users to engage. In March, LinkedIn had the second-largest unique digital population out of our selected social platforms, but it also reported the lowest overall time spend. However, Microsoft's recent acquisition of LinkedIn could result in a significant rise in engagement for the platform.
  • Advertisers are increasingly shifting ad budgets to social as users continue to spend more time on these platforms. BI Intelligence estimates that social ad revenue in the US will hit $30.8 billion by 2021, up from $15.5 billion this year. Advertisers can leverage paid social media through branded and sponsored content, influencer marketing, and video formats.
  • As social platforms mature and new ones emerge, the user and brand use cases for each become more varied. Facebook has seen a decline in user posts but a big rise in news consumption and video viewing. Snapchat is still favored for messaging but its Live Stories and Discover channels are turning the app into a media distribution platform. Twitter is beginning to prioritize video with its Periscope acquisition and NFL streaming deal.
  • Social giants have branched out well beyond serving as pure content hosts and instead are shaping what the future of content looks like. Perhaps most indicative of this trend is Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality (VR) hardware company Oculus. Facebook has since invested in VR content creation through Oculus Studios and promoted mass VR consumption by introducing 360-degree videos in the News Feed.  

Introduction 

Social platforms have become the new leaders in the digital media industry, evolving well past their beginnings as digital communication [...]