The milestone we’ve all been waiting for is here: TikTok has passed 1 billion users. And that’s not all, either. Social media users have topped 4.5 billion too.

In addition to some major gains for the biggest social platforms, we’ve also got the dirt on advertising audiences for TikTok (for the first time ever), Snapchat, and more.

Our Digital 2021 October Global Statshot Report— which Kepios publishes in partnership with Hootsuite and We Are Social—is packed with impressive milestones.

Download the complete Digital 2021 report—which includes online behavior data from 220 countries—to learn where to focus your social marketing efforts and how to better target your audience.

You’ll find a handy summary of this quarter’s top stories in this video, but read on for my in-depth analysis of the latest essential trends.

Social media users reach another impressive milestone

There are now more than 4.5 billion social media users around the world.

That’s more than 400 million higher than it was this time last year, equating to year-over-year growth of almost 10%.

chart showing Social Media Use Around the World

It was only this time last year that we reported social media users had passed the 4 billion mark. And they’re still growing steadily too, with an average of 13 new users starting to use social media for the first time every single second.

User growth has slowed slightly compared to the annual growth figures we reported in April and July, but still higher than the growth rate we reported in our last pre-COVID report in January 2020.

We’ve been anticipating ‘less rapid’ growth for some time now, and it’s actually taken a couple of quarters longer than we expected for growth rates to return towards their pre-COVID pace.

However, even at this ‘slower’ pace of growth, current trends suggest that social media users will still pass the equivalent of 60% of the world’s total population some time in the first half of 2022.

chart showing Global Social Media Users Over Time

TikTok passes the 1 billion user mark

TikTok announced that it had passed the 1 billion monthly active user figure at the end of September 2021, making it only the seventh social media platform to do so.

chart showing The World's Most-Used Social Platforms

It’s taken TikTok only five years to reach this milestone, and arguably even less time than that if we consider that the platform only really started to gain global momentum after it merged with Musical.ly in August 2018.

What’s more, TikTok has reached this impressive figure despite still being blocked in India, which is home to more than 650 million internet users (roughly 15% of the global internet population).

TikTok’s user growth shows few signs of slowing either, with App Annie reporting that the platform continued to top global download rankings for non-game apps between July and September this year.

chart showing Mobile App Rankings: Downloads

It took considerably less time for TikTok to reach 1 billion active users than it took Facebook, but it’s worth highlighting that when Facebook passed the billion-user milestone in October 2012, they reached roughly 40% of all the world’s social media users.

For a platform to reach that same share of social media users today, it would need to attract roughly 2 billion monthly active users.

Regardless of comparative growth rates, there’s no denying that 1 billion active users is enough to make any marketer sit up and take notice.

But just how compelling is the TikTok marketing opportunity?

Well, the good news is that we’re (finally!) able to report detailed figures for TikTok advertising reach around the world in this quarter’s report.

The TikTok advertising opportunity

Marketers can now reach 825 million users aged 18 and above around the world via ads on TikTok, according to ByteDance’s latest numbers. (Note: We’ve included a couple of important notes about data collection for TikTok at the end of this article.)

chart showing TikTok Advertising Audience Overview

Those figures suggest that TikTok ads now enable marketers to reach:

  • 10% of the world’s total population, regardless of age or location
  • 15% of everybody aged 18 and above, regardless of location
  • 24% of everybody aged 18 and above outside of China (which has a separate app) and India (where TikTok is currently unavailable)

However, as we see in the data for all other platforms, TikTok’s reach varies considerably by geography and by demographic.

The TikTok audience by gender

ByteDance’s own data indicates that 56.1% of the worldwide TikTok ad audience is female.

Interestingly, this represents a ‘flip’ of Facebook’s gender ratio, where male users account for 56.5% of the global advertising audience.

However, it’s worth highlighting that Facebook’s gender ratio is somewhat skewed by its audience demographics in India, where men account for more than 75% of the platform’s 350 million monthly active users.

Note: TikTok doesn’t report audience data for genders other than ‘female’ or ‘male,’ which is why we’re only able to report binary gender splits.

The TikTok audience by age

Because ByteDance’s tools only report data for TikTok users aged 18 and above, we’re currently unable to discuss potential advertising reach for users between the ages of 13 and 17.

However, the available data clearly supports the hypothesis that TikTok is particularly popular amongst younger users.

Users aged 18 to 24 account for roughly 45% of TikTok’s global ad reach amongst users aged 18 and above.

What’s more, women in this age group account for roughly a quarter of the platform’s total advertising audience aged 18 and above. That means women aged 18 to 24 account for a greater share of TikTok’s advertising audience than users of any gender aged 35 and above do.

chart showing Profile of TikTok's Advertising Audience

Note: TikTok’s tools report a total reach figure for each age group which is slightly higher than the sum of the individual figures it reports for female and male users in each respective age group, which is why figures do not sum to 100%.

The TikTok audience by location

The United States is home to TikTok’s largest advertising audience, with the latest data showing that TikTok ads now reach more than 120 million US users aged 18 and above.

That’s just 20% lower than the 150 million American users aged 18 and above that marketers can reach using ads on Instagram.

Interestingly, TikTok’s US ad reach figure is equal to 46.5% of the total US population in the same age range, although younger users misrepresenting their age may somewhat skew this ratio.

Indonesia claims second place in TikTok’s ad reach ranking, with the company’s tools reporting potential reach of more than 87.5 million Indonesian users aged 18 and above. Brazil comes in third, with more than 72 million users in the same age group.

chart showing TikTok Ad Reach Ranking

However, when we look at TikTok’s reach compared to local populations, we start to uncover some more interesting findings.

For example, TikTok appears to be particularly popular in the Middle East.

The number of TikTok users in Saudi Arabia is equal to nearly 80% of the country’s total population aged 18 and above, and the platform’s local user base is already significantly larger than that of either Facebook or Instagram.

TikTok has also developed a strong user base in Kuwait and the UAE, where the platform’s ad products offer potential reach equivalent to more than two-thirds of all adults aged 18 and above.

The platform is also very popular across South-East Asia, with TikTok’s ad reach figures equal to more than six in 10 adults aged 18 and above in Thailand and Cambodia, and more than half of that age group in Vietnam and Malaysia.

chart showing Addressable Audience Reach Rate Ranking for TikTok

So, with a large audience that’s already spread throughout the world, TikTok offers plenty for marketers to get excited about.

However, TikTok isn’t alone in posting impressive ad reach figures this quarter.

Potential ad reach across Facebook Inc.’s platforms now exceeds 3 billion

The latest numbers reported in Facebook’s self-service tools indicate that the company’s portfolio of platforms now enables advertisers to reach a combined potential audience of more than 3 billion distinct users.

That might not sound like ‘news’, because Facebook Inc.’s investor earnings reports indicate that the company’s Family Monthly Active People (FMAP) figure exceeded 3 billion in Q2 2020.

However, that FMAP figure also includes WhatsApp’s 2 billion-plus users, and WhatsApp doesn’t currently offer advertising placements.

Furthermore, our analysis suggests that total potential advertising reach on Facebook only equates to about 78% of the platform’s monthly active users (note that this is specific to the Facebook platform, and not the company’s overall portfolio of platforms).

Based on the above, this is the first time that Facebook’s tools have reported a combined advertising audience in excess of 3 billion.

These figures suggest that marketers can now reach more than 60% of all adults aged 13 and above outside of China using ads on Facebook’s portfolio of platforms.

The company notes that—despite its efforts to ‘de-duplicate’ reach across platforms—there may still be some undetected ‘double-counting’ of audiences across different platforms, while ‘fake’ accounts may also account for a small percentage of total figures.

However, based on the figures for potential audience duplication and fake accounts that the company has cited in documentation such as its investor earnings announcements, advertising on Facebook Inc.’s portfolio of platforms should still reach roughly half of all the world’s population aged 13 and above outside of China.

For context, the latest data published in the company’s own self-service advertising tools indicate that:

  • Facebook offers total potential advertising reach of 2.28 billion
  • Instagram offers total potential advertising reach of 1.39 billion
  • Facebook Messenger offers total potential advertising reach of 1.09 billion

These numbers show that there’s plenty of identifiable overlap in the audiences of each platform, which is separate to the undetected double-counting described above.

However, the company’s data suggests that more than 600 million active Instagram users do not use Facebook, which highlights the value of Facebook Inc.’s portfolio approach.

GWI’s latest data tells a slightly different story, with a greater degree of overlap across platforms.

However, it’s worth noting that GWI’s data focuses on internet users aged 16 to 64 in a selection of the world’s larger economies.

chart showing User Overlaps for Social Media Platforms

India becomes Snapchat’s top ad audience

The number of users in India that advertisers can reach using ads on Snapchat has surged by more than 16% over the past three months.

India has overtaken the United States to claim top spot in the ranking of Snapchat’s advertising markets, even though the platform’s reach in the US also continues to increase.

Marketers can now reach almost 116 million users in India via ads on Snapchat, compared with 106 million users in the US.

chart showing Snapchat Ad Reach Ranking

India now accounts for more than 21% of Snapchat’s total worldwide ad audience, and almost 29% of the platform’s global male audience.

Interestingly, male users account for nearly 60% of Snapchat’s ad audience in India, compared with a global male average of just under 45%.

Snapchat has delivered healthy growth in global advertising reach over the past quarter too, adding 24 million new users since our July Report to take the platform’s total global ad reach to 538 million.

chart showing Snapchat: Advertising Audience Overview

At a global level, Snapchat is more popular with women than it is with men, with female users accounting for 54.4% of the platform’s addressable advertising audience.

In terms of ad reach compared with eligible populations aged 13 and above, Snapchat appears to be particularly popular with audiences in the Middle East and Scandinavia.

chart showing Eligible Audience Reach Rate Ranking for Snapchat

The cost of digital ads jumps

The latest data from Skai (formerly Kenshoo) reveals that the cost of reaching audiences on social media has increased significantly over the past 12 months.

The company’s latest Digital Marketing Quarterly Trends Report reveals that the average global CPM (cost per thousand impressions) has increased by more than 33% since this time last year.

chart showing Quarterly Changes in Social Media Ad CPM

Even more tellingly, Skai’s data shows that average social media CPMs in Q3 this year were already above the average CPM value for last year’s ‘holiday’ season in Q4, suggesting that marketers may want to brace themselves for some significantly higher prices between now and the end of the year.

For context, Q4 2020 CPMs were 31% higher than Q3 2020 values.

Past performance isn’t always a reliable indicator of future trends of course, but if we were to see a similar trend this year, marketers shouldn’t be surprised to see average social media CPMs reach USD $9 for the last 3 months of 2021.

Looking ahead: the outlook for 2022

Over the next few weeks, you can look forward to a whole host of 2022 trends reports from some of the world’s top futurists.

Many of those reports will likely focus on areas like NFTs, the metaverse, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, so, rather than repeat those same themes here, I thought it’d be more helpful to look at some of the more immediate and more actionable trends that we’ve been tracking in our Global Digital Reports.

While there are 10 themes I think we’ll all want to pay attention to in 2022, there are two that I think are especially important to all marketers. I’ve put those first.

1. The evolution of search and brand discovery

The world’s online search behaviors are becoming more diverse and fragmented.

The use of voice search continues to increase, especially amongst smartphone users in low- and middle-income countries.

Similarly, the use of image recognition tools has already become an essential consideration for marketers in many parts of the world, especially across Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of internet users aged 16 to 64 say that they turn to social media when researching products and services that they’re thinking of buying, making ‘social search’ one of 2022’s top opportunities.

Brand discovery and research are critical to marketing, so savvy marketers will want to keep these evolving search behaviors—and their potential implications in mind.

2. Cross-cultural content

New tools and new platforms have significantly increased the range of content that’s available and accessible to the world’s internet users.

At the most basic level, the improved availability, accuracy, and sophistication of online translation tools mean that it’s never been easier for people to access content that was written in languages other than their native tongue.

These tools are becoming more popular too, with various trends in our reports showing a steady rise in the number of people who translate text content online.

Meanwhile, TikTok’s content-focused algorithm means that the platform’s billion-plus users now have significantly more chance of being exposed to content created by someone on the other side of the world than they would have had on platforms where algorithms prioritize a user’s social graph.

Similarly, the surge in popularity of ‘international’ TV shows like Squid Game, Money Heist, and Lupin, means that cultural borders are becoming increasingly blurred.

Furthermore, with Netflix announcing that it will increase investments in local content intended for global audiences, and with TikTok reaching an ever larger global audience, we can expect that blurring to accelerate in 2022.

3. Cross-border ecommerce

People are increasingly looking beyond national borders to find the perfect product, especially when small domestic markets mean that local choices are limited.

Amazon is already making it easier for customers to shop in its other country ‘stores’, and is increasingly offering competitive global delivery too.

Meanwhile, ecommerce platform players like Shopify and Magento are making it easier for independent retailers to engage and serve overseas shoppers.

However, it’s the impact of cross-cultural content that will likely play the biggest role in accelerating shoppers’ interest in cross-border commerce in 2022.

Cross-border commerce has its challenges though, from basic issues like language barriers and cultural references, to logistics issues like speed of delivery and the cost of returns.

4. Shopping as an experience

Online shopping platforms in the West have become masters of checkout efficiency, but the rise of live-stream shopping formats in Asia demonstrates that there are other successful approaches to ecommerce.

As competition increases in the online shopping world, we can expect to see ecommerce players experiment with new formats that emphasise areas such as social interaction, shopper entertainment, and even augmented services like education (e.g. how-to content).

5. Regulation and corporate activism

Regulation is already one of the hottest topics in digital, but we can expect legal and ethical considerations to have even greater bearing in 2022.

On the one hand, governments are putting digital giants under increasing pressure, such as China’s emphasis on “common prosperity,” America’s push to mitigate foreign interference and mental health risks, and the EU’s action on competition and taxation.

Increased activism won’t be restricted to governments either; We can also expect to see other companies join Apple and Google in taking proactive steps to protect user privacy and safety.

This may make it seem like there’s more complexity ahead, but my top tip is to embrace these changes.

Proactivity in the areas of consumer safety and privacy will help you to define the best agenda for your business (rather than being reactive), and proactivity should also position you as a more trustworthy brand amongst your customers.

6. The next big disruptor

Entertainment, communication, and retail were the first industries to experience comprehensive digital disruption, and various other industries are currently undergoing significant digital transformation.

However, while no industry has escaped digital’s influence, it seems that large-scale disruption has yet to impact three critical categories: Education, healthcare, and consumer finance.

It’s true that COVID-19 has accelerated movement in all of these categories—particularly education—but we can expect to see digital disruption accelerate in these industries in 2022, particularly now that the pandemic has helped us to overcome some of the initial barriers and inertia.

7. Cybersecurity

Various reports have indicated that cybercrime has increased significantly in the past couple of years.

As a result, digital literacy and online safety will become increasingly important for individuals, as well as for the governments that look to protect them.

However, the most worrying cybersecurity threats go well beyond the individual, and, sadly, we can expect to see increased cyber attacks on companies, sovereign nations, and even ideologies in the coming months.

8. Disruptive interfaces

I seem to raise this topic every year, but I’m more convinced than ever that we’re overdue a disruptive innovation in the interfaces that we use to engage with our connected devices.

The most obvious candidate is some form of augmented, heads-up display—most likely in the form of AR glasses—with Facebook and Apple both tipped to be launching new products imminently.

However, in the longer-term, direct-to-brain interfaces may completely remove the need for physical devices, enabling users to augment their thinking and perceive physical sensations directly through the stimulation of their brain, nervous system, and hormone receptors.

9. From destination to integration

A move away from screen-based interfaces would help to inspire and promote a wider range of more integrated uses of connected technology.

For context, most of today’s digital products and services are standalone destinations—we still need to visit Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc.—and, for the most part, they dominate our attention while we use them.

However, the next wave of digital innovation will use connectivity to add an augmented layer to other activities, creating new dimensions and adding new value within those experiences, without necessarily becoming their central focus.

In the long run, connectivity will become something akin to electricity: an essential source of power for much of what we do, yet something that we don’t need to think about, because it’s not the core focus of attention.

10. Beware of squirrels

And for my final provocation this year, an anti-trend…

In the advisory sessions that I run for Kepios’s clients, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many marketers feel overwhelmed by the pace and diversity of digital innovation.

Part of this is self-inflicted, and relates to our industry’s obsession with shiny new objects—we’re like Dug the dog from Pixar’s Up!, constantly getting distracted by every passing squirrel.

However, a bigger part of this challenge relates to the sheer scale and breadth of what marketers actually need to know in order to do their jobs, as well as the pressure to experiment and the FOMO that we feel every time a new platform or tool comes along.

But this constant focus on the future may be compromising our ability to perform in the present.

So, while it’s important to keep an eye on what’s next, we need to spend a bit less time future-gazing, and make better use of what we already have.

Be honest with yourself: What will have a greater impact on your marketing return on investment (ROI) in 2022: Launching an NFT, getting involved in the metaverse, or optimising the efficiency of your social media spend?

Yes, NFTs are exciting, but if you’re a marketer, you’ll most likely only be able to use them as a one-off PR stunt. Critically, if NFTs are central to your organisation’s future success, it’s unlikely that marketing will be leading the NFT charge.

Similarly, the metaverse may well become a place where your audience spends an increasing share of its time. However, that’s not going to happen overnight, whereas people already spend 2.5 hours a day on social media, and that figure continues to increase.

Don’t get me wrong; NFTs and the metaverse both have plenty of future business potential, but I doubt that either will be the answer to your marketing woes in 2022.

So, do yourself a mental health favor: Set aside a couple of hours a month for future gazing (our custom briefings could be a great option), but focus the majority of your time and attention on the things that will ensure you succeed today.

That’s all for this quarter’s analysis, but I’ll be back in January with our flagship Digital 2022 report.

Until then, a big thank you to the partners who make our Global Digital Reports possible: GWI, Statista, Semrush, Skai, SimilarWeb, Locowise, and App Annie.

Discover the latest data and insights on social media, the internet, mobile, and other digital behaviors in the Digital 2021 Report.

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Note: A couple of important notes about TikTok’s figures:

  • The potential advertising reach figures come from TikTok’s self-service advertising tools, which publish potential reach as a range (e.g. 18,000-20,000). We use the midpoint of that range (e.g. 19,000) for our published reach figure.
  • TikTok’s self-service advertising tools only publish audience reach data for users aged 18 and above, even though the same tools allow advertisers to target adverts to users aged 13 and above. As a result, these figures may be significantly lower than TikTok’s total active user base, as well as its total potential advertising reach.
  • The company’s tools only publish potential reach data for a selection of countries, and as a result, figures may not reflect the platform’s total global advertising audience. Notably, TikTok’s self-service advertising tools do not report data for Douyin in China, which ByteDance operates as a separate platform.
  • Comparisons to population (e.g. percentage of population aged 18 and above) are based on the latest population data from the United Nations and the US Census Bureau. However, as is the case for all social media platforms, age-related figures may be skewed by users misrepresenting their age on TikTok.

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