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3 Social “Trends” That Just Aren’t True (And Why Believing Them is Bad)

Here are three ripped-from-the-headlines social media trends that one expert says are being reported all wrong.

Christina Newberry June 12, 2019
Image via Digital Buggu under CC0

For marketers, it’s important to understand apparent shifts in social behavior. After all, if you base your marketing strategy on incorrect assumptions, you’ll have a hard time meeting your goals. Unfortunately, the headlines don’t always get it right when it comes to analyzing social trends.

Enter Simon Kemp. The founder of marketing strategy consultancy Kepios examines the activity behind the headlines. He shares that data in reports produced in collaboration with Hootsuite and We Are Social.

Kemp recently shared highlights from his Q2 Digital Statshot at The Next Web’s TNW2019 conference in Amsterdam. Here are three ripped-from-the-headlines social trends that Kemp says are being reported all wrong.

Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.

1. There is no social media apocalypse

Yes, there are real concerns about privacy. Headlines shout about the #DeleteFacebook movement. But Facebook’s user numbers are not dropping. In fact, they’re growing.

“Last year, Facebook still grew 8 percent,” Kemp said. “Facebook is still growing massively all the time.”

Consider these statistics from Kemp’s Digital 2019 analysis:

  • The number of social media users worldwide increased 9 percent last year, to 3.48 billion.
  • Nearly a million people join social media for the first time every day.
  • Facebook is the third-most visited website—after Google and YouTube.
  • Twitter comes in at number 7, and Instagram number 10.
  • Facebook was the most used app in 2018.
  • Facebook Messenger was the most downloaded app.

“There is no social media apocalypse,” Kemp said. “Despite concerns about privacy, the everyday person is not so concerned that they’ve stopped using it yet.”

The takeaway

Do not build your plans around clickbait headlines about people leaving social media in droves.

2. Teens are not flocking to Instagram

Yes, teenagers are leaving Facebook. But they’re not headed to Instagram. In fact, the number of 13- to 17-year-olds is dropping on Instagram, too. So where are they going?

One possible answer is TikTok. (Say what? Check out our blog post, What is TikTok.) TikTok doesn’t publish audience numbers in the same way as other social networks. So, Kemp used Google search trends to get a sense of the platform’s popularity. Check out this chart showing comparative searches for Tiktok and Snapchat:

But TikTok doesn’t fully account for all those teens missing from Instagram. In fact, Kemp says, in Western markets, we may be “past peak TikTok.” So where have the teens gone?

“They’re moving away from social networks altogether and joining communities,” Kemp said. He mentioned Discord, a gaming platform that he describes as “a little like Slack but for kids.”

In most cases, you can’t advertise in these communities (yet, anyway). So how can you work them into your marketing strategy? The answer is the takeaway for this social trend.

The takeaway

“Move from interruption to inspiration,” Kemp said.  “It’s what the entire influencer movement is built on.”

3. Home assistants do not lead the way in voice control

The headlines about voice control tend to focus on home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. But Kemp says the real power of voice control is not found in smart speakers in upscale living rooms.

Instead, voice control is most revolutionary in areas of the world where literacy is low. Or, where the local language doesn’t use a character alphabet that’s conducive to typing. Voice search is currently used most in India, China, and Indonesia.

Worldwide, voice is most popular among young people. Nearly half of 16- to 24-year-olds have used voice search or voice controls in the last 30 days.

Increasing voice use could completely change the way we think about brands, Kemp said. When you’re composing a shopping list by voice, you tend to order by product category (milk, eggs, beer) rather than brand name.

That means our voice assistants are going to have to choose brands for us when we don’t specify, using algorithmic selection. Kemp argues that if you know this change is coming, you can see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

The takeaway

In certain product categories, you’re “not going to be marketing to consumers anymore,” Kemp said. “You’re going to be marketing to machines.”

For more of Simon Kemp’s analysis of social trends in collaboration with Hootsuite and We Are Social, check out his 2019 Global Digital Overview (or the summary here) and his Q2 Global Digital Statshot.

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

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