Digital 2020: the state of global mobile, social, and internet penetration with Hootsuite

The state of global mobile is still growing. Now with eight billion people on the planet, what’s changing? How is social evolving? How many are now connected to the internet?

In this Tech First Draft, I chat with two Hootsuite execs about where we are globally in terms of digital penetration. Hootsuite just put together a massive series of reports on precisely this topic … the one on the U.S. alone is over 200 pages, and there are reports for over 200 countries. In this video podcast, we dive deep in the 5.2 billion that now have phones, the 4.5 billion that are connected to the internet, and the 3.8 billion that are on social media.

  • See below for audio, full video, and links to subscribe to the podcast
  • Keep scrolling for the full transcript

What we chat about:

  • Talk to me about the scope of this report and the state of global mobile … what did you look at, what’s all included, and how long did this take?
    • Big picture, what did you learn?
    • Also big picture, what’s changing? What’s evolving?
  • Facebook seems to have conquered the planet with Messenger and WhatsApp … no wonder they wanted to bring them together. Any legitimate non-regional challengers?
  • It looks like southern Africa has the highest mobile connectivity on the planet. Interesting!
  • How do you see messaging and social for teens? Snap and TikTok are both interesting here … hard to classify either of them as just social or just messaging or just one of them. What’s evolving?
  • Apps are getting more social … Google Maps just announced a new tabbed interface, and one tab is updates from friends and contacts on places they’re going to and reviewing. Thoughts?
  • Time spent with the media looks scary … over 6 hours in North America. How does that compare globally?
  •  Let’s talk about the evolution of social … we’ve gone through the wow, awesome and the big growth and the uh oh phases … what’s next?
  • And maybe let’s finish up by looking at the key differences that you see between the social networks … where they are focusing and what they are evolving into:
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Snapchat
    • YouTube

Listen to the podcast here:

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Or, of course, you can read the full transcript here …

Read the transcript: killing fake reviews

John Koetsier: We now have almost 8 billion people on the planet. What kind of digital growth are we seeing from those billions, on social, on mobile, and on the internet as a whole?

Welcome to Tech First Draft with yours truly, John Koetsier.

Hootsuite just put together a massive series of reports, 200 pages, I think it’s even more than that about everything basically, in terms of digital growth, social adoption, mobile penetration, you name it. So we’re going to dive into all that and we’re going to chat with two individuals who helped put the report together.

One is Simon Kemp, the other is Henk Campher. I’m going to bring them in now. Simon, Henk, welcome!

Simon Kemp: Hey. 

Henk Campher: Hey, thank you very much. 

John Koetsier: Excellent. So Simon, you are joining us from Singapore, correct? 

Simon Kemp: Correct. It’s bright and early Friday morning Singapore here. 

John Koetsier: Friday morning at what, 6AM? 

Simon Kemp: Ah no, 8AM … 6AM I wouldn’t have joined you. 

John Koetsier: Well, we appreciate it. Excellent. Thank you so much. And Henk you are in Vancouver or am I mistaken? 

Henk Campher: Seattle. 

John Koetsier: Seattle, I was mistaken. Are you regularly there or are you just visiting? 

Henk Campher: No, I live in Seattle and then I commute to Vancouver. It’s a 22 minute flight or a 2 hour drive. 

John Koetsier: Wonderful, wonderful. Yeah, I’m very familiar with it ’cause I’m in Vancouver myself and I’ve been to Seattle many times. Simon, let’s start with you and let’s dive into this. Talk to me a little bit about the scope of this report, what you looked at, what’s all included and how long you spent working on this. 

Simon Kemp: Yeah, you alluded to it in your intro there, it’s the whole internet. So we try and cover as much as we can. In particular, we try and cover as many countries as we can. There’s quite a lot of information out there on the internet already about all of the big economies, but we try and cover every single country, so 245 countries and territories in our total list. We look at internet use, mobile use, social media use, and e-commerce use. As you sort of mentioned as well, takes quite a while to put together.

So this is an ongoing process. We publish quarterly updates to this every three months with the support of the guys at Hootsuite and We Are Social who are other partners in the reports. So it’s an ongoing process, it’d be unfair to say we did everything in a couple of weeks, but yeah, it does take time as you can imagine. 

John Koetsier: I can only imagine. I’ve published large reports myself, this dwarfs them. You gave me an astounding number and it’s a crazy figure for how many charts are in this report, can you mention that now? 

Simon Kemp: Yeah. So across all of those 245 countries, we produce about a seven and a half thousand individual data charts. Qualifies me as a nerd I think, so I’ll leave it at that. 

John Koetsier: You win the nerd Olympics. That’s great, awesome, and I have huge sympathy and pity for the design team that had to put together all these reports. 

Simon Kemp: That’s us. So my wife and I are the ones behind doing all of that. So we produce the numbers, we produce the design, we do all of the stuff behind it as well. So yeah, a team of two crazy people.

John Koetsier: Renaissance man, wow, not just the nerd, but also the creative type. Impressive. 

Simon Kemp: If you can call it creative, yes. 

John Koetsier: Excellent. Let’s dive into what you learned then, big picture. What did you see? What’s happening? 

Simon Kemp: So everything’s still growing. I think this is the really interesting thing, every year I produce these reports I expect to see things slowing down. So just a caveat before we dive into the numbers themselves, we did change some sources this year, which means that some of the numbers are not directly comparable to the numbers that we published in previous reports, but we did then look at changes based on the new sources that we use. And those changes still show that really decent growth year on year.

So internet users were up roughly 7% year on year, which is pretty good considering that we’re already past the halfway mark in terms of penetration. And social media use is still growing strongly as well, 9% growth year on year there, so we’re up to more of a 3.8 billion people around the world using social media as well.

So despite the fact that there have been concerns around things like privacy and mental wellbeing around the sort of digital behaviors that we’ve adopted over the last few years, it still seems that people are very happy to integrate that into everyday life and continue using these things, and even more so. So growth in use, both in terms of people but also in terms of time, and we’re integrating this stuff into every aspect of our lives. There really is an app for everything now, just astonishing where digital fits within our daily lives. 

John Koetsier: So you’ve been doing this for some time, as we talked a little bit prepping for this, it’s almost an annual job, I mean like a full time job to keep up with this report, keep up with the updates, all those other things. What have you noticed? What surprised you as you put this particular edition together? What’s evolving that you hadn’t seen, or weren’t thinking about, or kind of gave you a bit of a shock?

Simon Kemp: So a couple of things I would highlight. I mean, there are lots of lovely little nuances that we won’t go into in detail. I’ll give you one little secret one, dogs are more popular than cats on the internet, that surprised me, but we’ll park one and come back to it later. But you know, crazy right?

The more important findings, I think one of the really interesting changes that we’ve been noticing over the last sort of couple of quarters, I suppose, is the rising use of new kinds of interfaces. So older folks like us on this show have been using a keyboard for most of our connected lives, but increasingly, especially in developing economies and especially in the East, we’re seeing the rise of voice interfaces. So voice search, voice commands on the phone and stuff like that, this is not about smart speakers alone. Obviously that’s a part of the overall ecosystem, but this is particularly about using voice interfaces on a mobile device to enter search queries into something like YouTube so that people can watch the latest videos.

So that’s a really interesting one. The rise of those interfaces, and that’s also coupled with the rising use of image search. So those two things together, changing the way that we interface with our devices, changing our behaviors. I think we’ll probably want to dig into that a little bit later, especially because it’s got some implications for social media. And then I suppose the second key change is the rise of the East in general. So I mentioned that these technologies are particularly popular in Asia, but we’re also seeing Asian properties like websites and social media platforms coming through quite strongly beyond Asia as well.

So TikTok, one of the big stories of last year coming out of China, but it’s not the only one, especially the Asian e-commerce platform is really coming through strongly all around the world now. So I think we’re starting to see the balance of power in the overall internet world shifting or perhaps rebalancing, if you like, so a little bit less domination by Silicon Valley and a bit more distribution around the world. Those would be the two key things I’d highlight. 

John Koetsier: And you’re well situated to see that obviously because you are in Singapore.

Simon Kemp: Yeah. So I get to travel around the world, which is great. But obviously living in Singapore, I do get to see a lot of what’s going on here. We’ve got a bit of East meets West in Singapore, we see both the Silicon Valley and the Chinese brands coming through quite strongly. 

John Koetsier: Exactly, and Henk by the way my first few questions are for Simon, but feel free to chime in if you’ve got something to comment, just jump in. Simon already told me he’s totally okay with me interrupting him cause he geeks out, he nerds out and gets into the data really deep. So I will do that if forced, but you’re more than welcome to jump in at any given time. Simon, sticking with you for just a second here, it’s pretty interesting when I see the charts and maybe I should show this even, but Facebook seems to have conquered the planet with Messenger and of course WhatsApp, right? No wonder they wanted to bring them together into one sort of overall uber messaging infrastructure. Are there any legitimate non-regional competitors?

Simon Kemp: So by non-regional, I’ll sort of interpret that in my own way. 

John Koetsier: You’re allowed. 

Simon Kemp: We’ve still got WeChat, huge around the world but it’s really just China where it’s big, big. But having said that, they’ve got more than a billion monthly active users so you can’t discount them. It’s massive, it’s huge. It’s massively important, not just in the social media world either because it has become a life remote control. You can pay for stuff in restaurants with it. You can send money to friends and family. You can pretty much renew your passport on WeChat.

So this has become much more than a messenger app.

Beyond that though, there are a couple of interesting cases and unfortunately a lot of these platforms don’t publish numbers. So we just saw that WhatsApp had announced that it’s past the 2 billion active user mark. But unfortunately not all of the platforms publish these kinds of numbers. The numbers that we have seen do suggest that Viber is still particularly popular around the world. I don’t have a number to give you, but it’s the top messaging platform in a few Eastern European countries in particular, and we know that it’s popular in a lot of Asian countries as well. You’ve then got Telegram which is still popular around the world. It’s not necessarily the top in any of the markets that we look at, but it is still an important platform especially for people who are concerned about things like very strong end-to-end encryption and their own privacy.

So I think there’s a difference between the most used and the fact that a lot of us actually use a suite of these, so it’s not just one Messenger. I’m sure that you guys when you’re speaking to people around the world, you may use different applications to speak to different groups. 

John Koetsier: That is a great point. I mean and it’s getting to the point where frankly, you wonder what beeped, whether it’s on your laptop or on your mobile phone. Was it WhatsApp? Was it Facebook Messenger? What it Slack? Was it an SMS or a text message? 

Henk Campher: Was it my phone, was it my iPad, was it my computer? Which one was it, or which app was it? Yeah, absolutely.

John Koetsier: Exactly, exactly. Well, Simon, one more thing for you before we turn to Henk then. One of the things that I saw in the report that I was super interested in … it looks like southern Africa has the highest mobile connectivity on the planet. Now that stands out for me as something that I would not have guessed.

If somebody had asked me where’s the highest mobile conductivity on the planet, I probably would’ve said Singapore. I probably would’ve said Hong Kong. Maybe I would have said somewhere in North America or somewhere in Europe. I would not have said southern Africa. Talk to me about that. 

Simon Kemp: Yeah, so when I saw this in your list of things that you prepped for, I almost thought about taking it out because the numbers themselves can be a little bit, not misleading, but it alludes to an interesting trend. So you’re absolutely right, it does have the highest levels of, if you compare the number of active connections to the percentage of people.

What’s actually happening in southern Africa is you’ve got a lot of people that have more than one connection. So this is not unique individuals we’re talking about here, this is mobile connections, so the SIM cards and the devices that people use. Southern Africa still has a very high usage of more than one SIM card because they can still benefit from intranetwork deals. So if I’m on the same network as you then it costs me less to send messages to you. And part of that is because there’s perhaps a little bit less of the internet connectivity through mobile devices than we might see in a lot of the developed world. 

In places like Singapore where pretty much everybody that has a mobile device also has an internet connection on that device, we no longer need to have those multiple connections, because we do use things like WhatsApp which allow us to connect over the top as the internet community likes to talk about. So sure enough, there’s a lot of people carrying a lot of mobile devices and SIM cards around in southern Africa, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have a higher degree of unique individuals. But this is probably the perfect segue for us to talk to Henk because your family is originally from South Africa, so you can maybe give us a bit of a cultural insight into this. 

Henk Campher: I used to work in development many, many years ago, and the rise of mobile phones was one of the big breakthroughs from a development side as well, because we never had to go through landlines. Landlines never reached people, so it was a case of like, ‘Oh, we’ll just skip a technology, we’ll just go straight into mobile phones.’ So that’s really transformed society and it just shows again the power of connections today through mobile phones and whatever else as we build the network globally from computer, web, etc. as well. But that’s been an interesting experience in South Africa, just this ability to skip a technology and go straight into the next one. 

John Koetsier: Yeah. Super interesting. We’ve seen that all throughout Africa, we’ve seen that through Asia as well, India also. It’s pretty interesting. I did some stats on that, now these are probably a year old, but there were some I think it was something like 600-700 million mobile connections, cellular connections in India and something like 30 million desktop PCs. And just something that you never would have seen the same level or progression in North America or in Western Europe or something like that. Henk let’s ask you a few questions now, get you into the conversation a little more. So we see a lot about messaging. We see a lot about social and we know that teens drive a lot of the innovation there and they drive a lot of what comes up, what starts. Facebook, of course, started on campuses, right? Young people kick off a lot of these trends. So we see Snap and we see TikTok and they’re both super interesting here. It’s hard to classify those, are they just social, just messaging or both? What do you see evolving here? 

Henk Campher: I think it’s the digital natives, the social natives really coming through strong now, it’s most you know, I have two teenagers that don’t really care what we call it, whether we say it’s messaging or whether we say it’s social, for them it’s just a way to communicate to their environment, to their network, to their friends. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s social, sometimes it’s private, and for them it’s the more you can bundle it in together they just don’t try and block it and put it in the same blocks that we put it into. So that for me is going to be a continued trend if we look at TikTok as well, etc. That’s going to be a continued trend of how this will all just bleed into different ways how people communicate with each other. 

John Koetsier: Super interesting. And by the way, if people are noticing that the light for me is really weird, I am by a window and I’m near Vancouver. And guess what? It’s been rainy and cloudy for months it seems like, and all of a sudden the sun is coming out so this is unusual. So this is the new normal for me, but it’s all good. 

Sticking with you Henk, apps are getting more social as well. We’ve seen that for some time, we’ve seen some apps, some movement there, but it was very interesting … I don’t know if you saw that probably a week ago, Google Maps announced a new sort of tabbed interface. One tab is updates from friends and contacts on places that are going, things that they’re reviewing, those sorts of things. Your thoughts on that, and you see that as a bit of a trend? 

Henk Campher: Yeah, it’s the … I guess we can say natural Waze effect on Google as well. Absolutely, it’s just another extension of that whatever tools we’re using to communicate, how do we actually just integrate more and more and more of this? And it’s interesting again, like TikTok doesn’t actually care how you share as long as you share, you don’t have to go to their platform to experience it. And the Google is exactly the same, it’s what am I using today and how can I actually connect with my friends, with my colleagues and with my broader network while I’m, yeah, I don’t have to wait and go to something else. Part of that is because we’re just constantly overwhelmed with the next app that’s coming, the next app that’s coming, and the more we integrate it the easier it is for people to use those apps without having to go there and leave from one to the other. It’s just all integrated, see how we’re all connecting and if you want to go and find out more, well, there you go, just go dive in deeper there. 

John Koetsier: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Maps is the entry point for Google to be eventually finally successful in social. This would be very, very interesting after multiple big attempts, that would be very, very interesting. Simon, coming back to you, one of the things that you track is time spent with the media. Talk about that a little bit, and I noticed that it was over six hours a day in North America. How does that compare globally?

Simon Kemp: So, actually in the United States it’s almost exactly the same in terms of this is the internet time spent, so 6 hours and 42-43 minutes spent on the internet worldwide. I can’t remember which of those is the US and which is international, but they’re only a minute apart. Yeah, it’s quite astonishing isn’t it? 6.5 hours every day on average. Now you’ve got a big spectrum in here, you’ve got Japan at the low end which is 4-5 hours a day, and then you’ve got the Philippines at the high end which is roughly 10 hours a day, every single day, just blows my mind.

And we publish data from GlobalWebIndex when it comes to time spent with different media. I think it’s really important to highlight when people are checking the reports that a lot of those media activities are concurrent, so they’re happening at the same time. So it’s not like these add up to some more than 24 hours in a day spent consuming media. But nonetheless, I think that in itself is a really interesting finding. I think if you look at something like Netflix, we’ve got to the stage now where in the United States three quarters of internet users age 16 to 64 say that they watch TV via a subscription service like Netflix every month. Just astonishing how quickly that’s happened. Is that TV time? Is that internet time? Is it both, is it neither? It’s sort of blurring if you like, as to how we define it and I think this goes back to Henk’s point, a lot of people just don’t make the distinction anymore. Is it online? Is it offline? Does it matter? This is my life. These are the things that I enjoy doing. So I think maybe it’s only us marketers and business people that like to put things in those silos that Henk mentioned. We’re doing a lot of stuff online as I mentioned earlier, it’s an increasingly important part of every activity in our life. We’ve even got apps that track us when we’re sleeping so it’s not even active use, it’s monitoring us passively. 

John Koetsier: That is a super interesting point actually, because especially with voice control you’re always, you’re one utterance away from Alexa or Siri or Google Assistant or something like that. I am tracking sleep with a smart ring right here, you know, so I’m always online in some sense. 

Simon Kemp: Yeah, and it goes back to your Maps point. I think that the integration of that social bit in there, we spend a lot of time in Maps we’re out and about we’ll have that voice interface. The world is just going to come together into a useful sort of single operating system if you like, where there’s a social layer, there’s a this layer, there’s a that layer. And I think this is just coming down to what does the user really want. We talk an awful lot about platforms in the media, but I think when we start focusing on people and their behaviors we get to a lot better answers a lot quicker. 

Henk Campher: Yeah, I love this diversity of how people are consuming it not just from where but how, like you say, you can sometimes watch television, watch Netflix at the same time you’ll be on your phone. I’m a storyteller and I love that because it challenges me to say, ‘well, how do I bring a consistent story to how people experience it?’ Because they move from one connection to another connection, or they’ll double up in connections and I have to be consistent in that story, but it needs to be relevant to whatever formula they’re using, whether that’s a Netflix or whether that’s a Facebook or Twitter. It’s all just one story in one experience for them in different platforms. I love that. I love that challenge of how we connect with people as businesses and as individuals and the rules of that. It just stretches us. This is a liberating place to be, scary, but liberating because it [exemplifies how] we think and connect with people through storytelling. I love it. 

John Koetsier: What’s super interesting about what you guys are saying right now is that we have entered this era of ambient intelligence, ambient computing, right? We know that because we can say, ‘Alexa, turn the lights on,’ or other things like that. And the computing is disappearing from the devices that we see and handle and touch, into our walls, into our homes, and everything is becoming ‘smart,’ attached, connected to the cloud in different ways. And that’s just a very, very interesting way of looking at it and kind of a redefinition of what we had maybe even even two, three, four years ago where we would talk about mobile moments, right. And those still exist, there still is that incident of interaction or engagement with a brand perhaps, but there’s this continuous sort of mesh and flow that you guys are talking about that is super interesting. 

Henk Campher: I love it. When I travel I’ve got three dogs. I love the fact that I can be in a meeting, go on Ring and watch my dogs, you know … and at the same time I can take someone and engage. That’s the beauty of I think where we are, there’s just so many different ways that we connect. We don’t just use visuals anymore. We use words, the spoken word, we type. It’s all of these ways that we can connect and talk to each other that they’re just, like you say, it’s just all around us and now we feel less overwhelmed by it because now it’s just like a handshake, it is like a wink at someone. You know it’s all of these ways are just fusing into our lives. Which is again, it’s a challenge because you can be overwhelmed, but the the more we integrate it the more you’re going to be overwhelmed by one single version. You’re going to much more make it part of your life than just go to the one place the whole time.

John Koetsier: I love that you brought up pet tech because pet tech is absolutely huge, and I’m getting pitched on it all the time, and I might do a Tech First Draft on pet tech at some point. And of course, one of the things you can buy with pet tech is basically a mini private social network for you and your pet, right? It’s this thing, I forget what it’s called but it’s got a video camera on it, it’s got treats in it. You can talk to your pet and your face is up on the screen so your pet can come up and you can press a button or something on your phone and it spits out a little treat for the pet. I mean, it’s very interesting. Very interesting, let’s talk about the evolution of … go ahead, sorry, is somebody talking?

Henk Campher: No elves were injured in the making of Hootsuite.

John Koetsier: Excellent, excellent. Well, it’s a great segue. Let’s talk about the evolution of social. We’ve gone through some of those early phases in past years … the wow, the awesome, the big growth, you know where we’re just in awe at the growth of a Facebook and other companies like that. And we’ve come through some of the uh-oh phases as well, where we see things, oh shoot, you know actually as we went into these brave new worlds we’ve brought all our old problems with us. What do you both, and maybe Henk you first, what do you both see as the next sort of evolution of social?

Henk Campher: I see two things really stand out for me and the TikTok effect will be interesting to watch over the next few years. And that is how what we’ve viewed so often in the Instagram world is it’s picture perfect, and TikTok has the influence where it’s now we can be a little bit rougher, so we can have a much more full spectrum view of people’s lives. Both the kind of perfection but also just the day-to-day lives and funny moments that we capture. So that’s going to be interesting to see how those two will seep into everything that we do from a social side. The other part is what we’ve just been talking about, I think that we’re now at this balancing act where we’re starting to realize that there are more and more ways that we can connect and it becomes less and less important about the specific app. It’s more a case about how do you infuse this in your life and not over-rely on just one. That it is much more of that kind of fusion always-on world and these are different ways for you to connect to your community. Because I think we came from a world not too long ago where it was we’re overwhelmed by one single one. It’s like, oh, and we’re bringing all the bad behavior to that, but now we’re starting to see that kind of balancing act where people are fusing it into their lives, it becomes an extension of them instead of an over reliance with just one single platform. 

John Koetsier: It’s super interesting that you brought up TikTok. I’ve been a little TikTok obsessed. I had to do a report on TikTok for a client about I think maybe two months ago, three months ago or something like that. And to do that, guess what? You know what, you actually have to download the app and use it, you’ve got to know a little bit of what you’re talking about. You have to have some credibility. And so I did that, and then I download the app, I start playing with it, and I looked up three hours later. Where was my day? It was gone. I’ve done some interesting Tech First Drafts on TikTok, including with a sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist as well, and we called it ‘digital crack cocaine’. And super interesting, but what’s also interesting is something that I’ve seen … you mentioned people are a little more real, it’s a little more real life, it’s not picture perfect. And yet you also see as platforms age and grow, you’ve seen in YouTube, you seen in Instagram, we’re starting to see in TikTok as well … professional networks, professional players that aren’t a person, aren’t an influencer, but it’s a company that’s come in, created a brand on TikTok and is streaming stuff and being super successful doing that as well. So I wonder if there’s this continual chasing of reality and people moving and then the brands catching up and people moving again and the brands catching up again.

Henk Campher: Yeah I don’t know if it’s people, I don’t know if it’s brands catching up. I think it’s more a case of there’s just more different ways for us to engage. TikTok is just another way for us to engage and there’s certain rules of why it works and why it doesn’t work. I mean they’ve challenged the business model even to bring it to market, much more than what we’ve seen before. But I would say it’s more a case of like, the reason why brands are becoming successful is they realize the thing that makes any … whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, whatever … the one thing that makes anything successful on there is if it’s you.

So who are you as a brand? You can’t be stiff brand, here’s my beautiful colors. It needs to be a personality, a style that comes to it, and that’s what will connect with people no matter what platform it is. And you have to be consistent across the platforms. You gotta be something yeah on Instagram, something completely on TikTok, etc. and then go that way. You have to, that’s back to that storytelling and that consistency that the platform says, ‘okay, you’ve got 280 characters or you have 15 seconds, but hey, by the way, I want to see consistency’ and that’s why some brands are working and others are struggling because they say, ‘Oh, like how do I show up in Instagram?’ You know how you show up in Instagram? By being you, but you need to know who you are to be successful on it. 

John Koetsier: Excellent, excellent. And I see that the sun is showing up in Seattle as well. I see that behind your head and it’s wonderful, neighbors to the south and the sun shines on you also, it’s great. Simon, let’s turn to you, same question. Evolution of social. 

Simon Kemp: Yeah. So this is an interesting one. I think that there’s three things that I want to talk about here. The first of them is the things like TikTok, so the things that the media have jumped on, absolutely no question, TikTok was a really important sensation over the last few months. You can look at a couple of bits of data to sort of put some perspective to that though. The latest numbers that we’ve seen from them in terms of monthly active users, so there’s all sorts of numbers bandied about downloads and all this kind of stuff, monthly active users 800 million around the world. That’s pretty hefty. That puts it in the heavyweight leagues, but 500 million of those in China. So important to sort of caveat that outside of China you’ve got 300 million monthly active users, so it’s big, it’s important, but it’s still sort of not quite at the stage where it’s going to unsettle the Facebooks of the world.

Facebook is still the dominant sort of face of social, if you like, and it’s not even slowing down too much either. So still good growth despite the fact that it’s been a good 10-15 years since Facebook started its journey. So I think a lot of the time it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects.

John Koetsier: Yes.

Simon Kemp: One of the things that really stood out for me is that a quirk in the data this year, Yahoo is still a top five website in the United States and in a lot of countries around the world. So we get easily distracted by shiny new objects, but the people that use the internet day-to-day they have habits, and those habits die hard.

John Koetsier: There was a movie made about that.

Simon Kemp: There was, we should get …

Henk Campher: Guilty as charged, I have my Yahoo page open constantly. 

Simon Kemp: Tremendous.

John Koetsier: You just admitted that, that’s all that’s on record now. 

Simon Kemp: There’s a lot of good elements and then Yahoo’s still one of the, in fact probably still the biggest social and digital property, full stop. So it’s not social, it’s digital. Digital property in Japan. Absolutely massive still in Japan, all sorts of different kinds of services available there. So really interesting to see how a lot of these historical brands, they only existed like what 20-25 years ago, but they’re now historical in this net world, still staying strong.

But I think one of the really interesting bits, and this goes to a lot of the points that Henk was making about how do you bring your personality through? How do you deliver value? A lot of the times your audiences, I think this is the really important part of what we should be looking at about the evolution of social. Far too many brands I think get distracted by the technology and they forget that the technology is just a way to interface with the audience, but ultimately it’s the value that they share with our audience. It’s how they make that audience’s life better that ultimately will determine whether they succeed. 

So content is king. It’s a terrible cliche but it’s absolutely true. When you mix content with context, so the channel and where that channel fits within people’s lives, that’s where magic happens. That’s where you get the alchemy that delivers the value that marketers are really looking for. So I think that’s the key theme for marketers as they’re looking at their plans for the next year, the next decade even, is trying not to get hung up on the platform. Platforms are great, they’re really useful ways of delivering, but before you get stuck in the platform mindset look at the value you want to share. Look at the changes in people’s perceptions of your brand that you want to deliver, and then find the best places for doing that, and that will save you a lot of stress about chasing the latest trends and getting worried about what’s really important.

John Koetsier: Super, super cool. And I’m going to turn to Henk for a second and ask a little bit some more tactical questions on individual social networks, but I’m going to put you on the spot for just a second there Simon, and I didn’t prep this with you, so if you don’t know it’s all good, you can take the fifth … I guess you’re not American so that doesn’t work, neither am I, none of us are … but those 300 million TikTok users who are not in China, did you see anything about the distribution of those and what percentage of those might be in North America? 

Simon Kemp: Stressed at the moment, but I do have some numbers for you. So India, biggest market outside of China from what I can see, and that’s in terms of number of users and especially in terms of time spent, come back to time spent in a minute, remind me if I forget. I did have a number for the United States and I’ve forgotten what it was, which is really embarrassing, 30 to 50 million I think? 

John Koetsier: That makes sense. It’s all good, just direction is what I was looking for. 

Simon Kemp: But in terms of the time spent, and this is a really interesting one, so I think when you look at … so this is data from I think it was from SimilarWeb and from AppAnnie, so a combination of two different great partners for the report that we’ve got here. When you look at the amount of time spent around the world in total, and like you mentioned it can be hours per day for a lot of this audience, 80% of that time spent is in China and a further 10% of the total is in India. So 90% of the time spent across those two countries. Now, whether that means that they’re just totally addicted and they’re spending hours a day versus people in other countries not using it as much isn’t clear. My suspicion is that there is a huge amount of time being spent on TikTok by individuals in China as well.

John Koetsier: Yes, yes. Interesting. Cool. So Henk let’s move to you and maybe we’ll finish up this conversation by getting a little bit more tactical and looking at some of the key differences that still exist between the social networks, even as they all add features and kind of steal features from each other, but they’re kind of focusing in different areas and evolving to somewhat different things. Let’s just name them off and give me a sentence or two on each one. Maybe start with Facebook. 

Henk Campher: Facebook’s still the place where you connect with your friends and family, so those are still the rules and a good, great platform for you to share the TikToks etc. and the Twitter feeds. It’s a place where you can share it to the audience who knows you. So that’s still the foundation of where you start that connection. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. The audience who knows you, I like that phrase. Instagram. 

Henk Campher: If you want a good video or a good visual, that’s the place to go. It’s a little bit more of a bragging space, but it is a way to show your best part, it’s your best side … so it’s this side, you know. But it is, exactly, it’s a place where, for example, where I show off my dogs you know, so, but it is that place where you can invite people in to see, to see who you are, you don’t really talk as much there as what you experience the kind of visuals in special moments. It’s what I always call the ‘Hollywood angles,’ you know LA angles, because that gives you an insight into that person but from a specific angle. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. So Instagram is the Hollywood of social media. Love it, cool. Twitter. 

Henk Campher: Twitter, well I’m a Twitter addict. I think it’s where you can rant and rave. No, no …

John Koetsier: Oh no, I’ve met a few of you!

Henk Campher: Yeah, no more seriously I think it’s where you can just get quick outputs, you can go have quick engagement, see what’s trending. If I want to see what’s happening in the news, guess where I go to? I go to Twitter. That’s where I can see what’s everyone talking about? What’s the trends that’s going, throw my voice in there if I have an opinion, or retweet if I think it’s funny or insightful, etc. but it’s quick bites, it’s fast, it’s always on. You don’t have to wait, you don’t have to spend an hour to get an insight from Twitter. You can just live spend time to get that kind of insight and share moments with them. 

John Koetsier: Awesome, so Twitter is … go ahead, Simon. 

Simon Kemp: On the Twitter stuff, one thing we noticed in the data, twice as many people using Twitter without logging in as are logging in, so a hugely bigger audience than Twitter actually reports in its earnings calls. And exactly as Henk says, a lot of people just going there to get quick sound bites of news directly from journalists or whatever else, so don’t discount Twitter based numbers, it’s still a huge value. 

John Koetsier: Super interesting insight, Simon. Thank you for that. I did not know that, but Twitter is what’s happening now. Very cool. LinkedIn. 

Henk Campher: LinkedIn is professional you know, this is where I put my suit and tie on, even though I can’t remember when last I had a tie on, but it is a way you can engage with your professional audience, but it’s not just … people used to think well this is just where you put your resume up. No, no, this is where you share insightful thinking and how you drive your discipline more forward, but within the crowd that understands your discipline and who follows that. I use LinkedIn a lot and it’s to quickly share ideas and insights of work to get feedback from people as well, and to do a little bit of bragging about work and my great team that I have as well of course.

John Koetsier: Excellent. Twitter is what’s happening now. LinkedIn is my professional area to share what’s important to me and a bit of resume still. Snapchat. 

Henk Campher: Snapchat, my very close friends, that’s how I view … it’s my close friends that I want to share quick moments with, and maybe for those friends also actually share to the broader world that they can follow me. But it’s to engage with my closest group and some more creative ways to share videos, insights, etc. but then also get a sense of like, so what are other people doing behind the curtain? 

John Koetsier: Interesting, interesting. And we’ll end with YouTube. 

Henk Campher: YouTube. Well it’s the entertainment center increasingly, you know it is … you want to go listen to the latest, and I’m going to date myself, latest Springsteen I go to YouTube … that’s where people go if they want to get the visual, the video stories, that’s still where they go, the more longer form stories, the place where brands can actually show their whole story, not just a 280 character version of it or a 15 seconds, but they can actually share more a case of like now this is who I am if you go on a longer date with me, and I’m beautiful. 

John Koetsier: I think that’s a really neat characterization because the long form video on YouTube is amazing and what you fall into on YouTube, especially when you watch it on the big screen via your smart TV or something like that, is amazing. I mean there is a YouTube channel that’s super popular, millions of subscribers, of a guy building a cabin in the Northern woods of Canada somewhere. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, come across it or something like that, but you might have a 45 minute episode with literally five words. And I found myself one night, and maybe it’s zombie state, I don’t know, fugue state, who knows, but I was, ‘I’ve been watching this for 30 minutes and I’m just like… it’s crazy.’ But of course you also have action stuff as well, right? Dude Perfect is the great example, but very, very interesting things. Simon, last kicks if you’ve got anything on social networks, maybe even ones that I didn’t mention or any other thoughts. You had a great thought on Twitter that I hadn’t been aware of. Anything else? 

Simon Kemp: Yeah. Just on the YouTube one, echoing a couple of things that Henk said there, so music, absolutely massive. I know they’ve got their separate music app now, but if you look at the search queries for 2019 on YouTube, music was by far the biggest driver. But really interesting things like ASMR, you mentioned there’s like an hour long video where five words are ASMR, so you’ve seen these things I’m sure, it’s like people with their hairbrushes to make you feel relaxed. It’s the most peculiar thing until you watch it and you realize that it’s actually quite addictive. Huge, one of the top 20 search queries around the world last year, it’s big in all sorts of different cultures. Just really interesting what you can learn about people by looking at these search queries. 

So, sure enough, the big numbers are always interesting, but my advice to anybody watching today is if you really want to learn about your audiences, look at the little weird things in the numbers. Look at those search queries. Look at what people are publishing themselves, not just how many people are using it. Learn about what people cared about, and you’re in a much better place to deliver value to them. 

John Koetsier: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, Simon, Henk, I really gotta say thank you. This was a wonderful time. I think we had a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun. Hopefully you guys agree, and learned a lot as well. And for everybody else who’s watching, thank you so much for joining us on Tech First Draft.

Whatever platform you’re on, please like, subscribe, share, comment, or all the above. If you’re on the podcast later on and you like this, please rate it, review it, that would be a massive help. Thanks so much.

Until next time … this is John Koetsier with Tech First Draft.