The pandemic did a lot to push up the amount of time people spend on social media. In fact, Sprout Social’s The State of Social Media report shows that more than half of consumers surveyed have increased their social media use either significantly (27%) or slightly (27%) compared to a year ago.
Increased social media use is especially prevalent among younger adults. The Q1 2021 survey of more than 1,000 US adults who use at least one social media platform found that 65% of Gen Z and 63% of Millennials say they have increased their use of social media compared to the last year, while fewer (37% of) Baby Boomers have upped their usage.
Looking to the near future, social media usage looks like it will stabilize. Some 44% of respondents expect their social media usage to stay the same three years from now, with only about one-third (34%) expecting it to increase.
Reasons for Following Brands
Research from GWI found that about one-third (34%) of US consumers currently follow brands they like on social media, with about one-quarter (23%) doing so the month prior to being surveyed. Additionally, Sprout Social’s report shows that 3 in 10 (31% of) adults used social media more in the past year to follow brands.
And, while the report lists several reasons for adults using social media, some are brand, product or service related, spanning the entire buying cycle. One-third of respondents say they use social media to discover products, services or brands. Indeed, 43% report that they have increased their use of social media compared to a year ago to do just that, while another 4 in 10 expect to increase their use of social media in order to do so in the next 3 years.
Another 34% of respondents say they use social media to learn about products, services and brands. About two-fifths (43%) say they used social media more in the past year to learn more about products or brands, and 38% predict that in the next three years they will be using social media more to do this.
Making a purchase through social media is gaining popularity, and one-quarter (26%) of adults surveyed say they use social media to purchase products. Some 36% also say they used social media more than a year ago to purchase a product, service or brand, while the same percentage expect to increase their use of social media for this purpose over the next few years.
Engaging with Brands on Social
Roughly two-thirds (68%) of respondents agree that social media enables them to interact with brands and companies. Some 3 in 10 (31%) also say they have increased their use of social media compared to last year in order to interact with brands and companies.
Some of the ways consumers engage with brands or companies on social media include “liking” posts from a brand or company’s social media account (45%), following a brand on social (43%) and leaving a review of a product or service (32%). Others engage by sharing brand or company-related content (23%), reporting issues with products or services (21%) and sending private messages to the brand (20%).
Along with engaging with brands on social media, consumers have some expectations. Some 6 in 10 (61%) expect companies to provide a more personalized experience on social media based on their previous interactions with them. A similar share (59%) expect companies to read and analyze what they post on social media, while half (51%) agree that they want companies to know them better based on what they post and/or their activity on social media.
The full report can be found here.
About the Data: Findings are based on a Q1 2021 survey of 1,006 US adults ages 18-74, all of whom use at least one social media platform.