Australia vs. the World: Analysing social media use in 2019
Social media has made our world a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week hub of connection. A report on social networking sites and platform demographics from We Are Social (WAS) and Hootsuite shows there are 3.5 billion active social media users worldwide.
While that may seem boggling, here’s another one to put you through the ringer: WAS’ report shows nearly three-quarters of Australians are active on social media platforms at least monthly. We’re clearly a nation that love our selfies, Snapchat stories and selling on social – but how do we compare to the world? Is the way we Insta our Grams, or how we Link In, any different in Australia?
Nearly half of Earth is now on social media.
The World in numbers
Whether we use it to connect with friends, discover the world in pictures or engage with businesses, social media usage continues to grow. Here are key stats about social media globally.
Nearly 300 million – January 2019 marked a peak for social media – there are 288 million more unique users than 12 months earlier (WAS report), with new accounts still being added daily.
Over 2 billion – WAS also shows Facebook is the world’s leading social platform by active users, with 2.3 billion unique actions each month.
Two – A pair of social messenger apps dominate world usage; Facebook and WhatsApp (WAS).
With the world so intricately connected online, what makes Australia stand out?
What does this tell us about social media usage here? Some insights we can draw include:
- Social media in Australia isn’t thought of as a work tool.
- There is a high level of support for following businesses’ content on social media.
- Different platforms have different gender, age and geographical balances.
All around the world – without leaving your social profile
WAS’ report shows the continent has a population of over 1.3 billion people, but only 216 active social media users. This is following a 13 per cent increase in account activity over the last year (WAS), demonstrating interest in and access to social networking sites is growing.
However, this engagement faces challenges thanks to political influence. An article from The Conversation shows Sub-Saharan governments wield enormous power over internet providers and prominent social media users, cracking down on political or social opinions expressed online. This contrasts the comparative lack of interest in engaging with politics on Australian social media.
Mobile is king in the Americas, with over 91 per cent of social account holders logging onto their profiles primarily via a mobile device (WAS). This on-the-go attitude is reflected in users’ personal and professional lives, particularly south of the equator. Nearly 35 per cent of users in South America’s three largest countries – Brazil, Colombia and Argentina – regularly conduct business on social platforms (WAS).
Businesses in North and South America need to develop mobile-optimised content to boost social media engagement in the continent. This is less of a priority in Australia, where organisations need to remain focused on engaging, not doing business with, users.
Europe had the lowest regional growth of social media users worldwide last year, according to WAS. This could be from the large proportion of existing users or fatigue around political uncertainty in recent years. Regardless, it’s clear social media use is stagnating on the continent.
An Aarhus University report on the impact of social media on political participation claims networking sites online directly affect political decision making in European countries. Issues around asylum seekers have been a particularly hot-button topic, influencing opinions in Romanian, German and British movements. Australia doesn’t have the same political landscape to contend with, which likely contributes to lowered interest in politics on social media platforms.
Middle East & North Africa
This region has some of the highest levels of social media activity globally. Qatar and the UAE have the world’s highest social media penetration rate at 99 per cent (WAS). This, alongside the fact that three-quarters of the Middle Eastern & North African population is urbanised, makes for a very connected and social society.
However, this region also has a high split between user demographics. Certain social media platforms are banned in countries in the region, meaning a lot of activity is focused around core networking sites. Additionally, male user rates are higher across all sites (WAS), making it a different social scene to what we experience in Australia.
Arriving within touching distance of our start point, we find that only half of all people in the region use social media (WAS) – more than 20 per cent lower than the Australian average. However, this figure is rising, with four of the top five countries experiencing an absolute increase in social media use Asian, according to WAS.
With the potential to reach a colossal new market previously not on social media, platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn are beginning to focus efforts on how they can compete with regional messenger favourites like China’s WeChat and Line in Japan.
What did we learn from the trip?
If we can take away three lessons about Australian social media use from our tour, it’s this:
- Political freedom on social media doesn’t equate to interest in politics. Organisations don’t need to back a political agenda to appeal to users.
- Mobile is an important area for social – but shouldn’t be the sole focus.
- Tailoring content for audiences on different platforms is key to a global content reach.