The numbers of the digital life

The numbers of the digital life

17 April 2023 Off By Oscar Giacomin

We live in the era of digital transformation, with Internet, social media, and hyperconnectivity. We are part of it, directly or indirectly. Managers who want to maintain and expand their businesses must be aware of this and act accordingly.

For those who are still in doubt, the amount of data collected recently in the “Digital 2023” report, by Meltwater in collaboration with We Are Social, can be enlightening. The report reveals that out of the 8.01 billion people that make up today’s global population, 68% (5.44 billion) use a mobile phone, 64.4% (5.16 billion) have access to the Internet, and 59.4% (4.76 billion) have a profile on social networks.

About Internet usage, the report also highlights that in the last year, users have grown by 98 million (+2%), and that in the 55 countries of interest, Internet adoption rates exceed 90%, with countries like Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates, reaching 99%.

How much time do people spend online? And doing what?

Of interest in the report, are data showing that, on average, people aged 16 to 64 spent 6 hours and 40 minutes online per day in 2022, which is about 20 minutes less than the previous year. However, this does not mean that the Internet is becoming less important in their lives. Instead, the conclusion is that there is a more rational approach to online activities, probably as a result of a gradual detoxification from the habits acquired during the lockdowns in pandemic times. This would give more importance to the quality of time spent online rather than the quantity. Users go online primarily to search for information (57.8%), and then, among the main reasons, to stay in touch with friends and family (53.7%), keep up to date on news and current events (50.7%), watch videos (49.7%), search for guides and how-tos (47.6%), and research products and brands (43.4%).

Social media: increasingly used and loved

During the pandemic years, the use of social media has increased globally by a significant amount (about 30%) with over 1 billion new users in the last 3 years. In 2022, the typical working-age user spent an average of about 2 and a half hours per day on social media platforms, an increase of a few minutes compared to 2021. It’s worth noting that social media now accounts for the highest ever share of total online time, with nearly 4 out of 10 minutes spent online attributed to activities on social media.

But which social media platforms today are the most popular worldwide? Based on the number of monthly active users collected by official sources, these are the top 5 social networks: Facebook retains the first place with 2.958 billion monthly active users (almost 37% of the population), followed by YouTube with 2.5 billion, WhatsApp with 2 billion, Instagram with 1.28 billion, and WeChat (the most popular social media platform in China, owned by Tencent) with 1.26 billion.

If we rank social media platforms according to user preferences (both men and women) in the 16-64 age group, the first place goes to WhatsApp (15.8%), second to Instagram (14.3%), third to Facebook (14.2%), fourth to WeChat (12.2%), and fifth to TikTok (6.1%). However, it is worth noting that TikTok’s share of preferences has increased by 42% compared to the previous year, emphasizing the growing popularity, especially among young people aged 16 to 24, and particularly among girls. In this specific age group, the favorite social media platform is Instagram, while for example, in the 45-54 age group among males, it is WhatsApp (18.5%), and among females, it is Facebook (16.9%). In the 55-64 age group, both men and women rank WhatsApp as their top preference (20.3% for women and 19.5% for men), followed by Facebook (18.9% and 18.4%).

Digital advertising on the rise

When it comes to ad-supported content, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the lockdown-induced changes in digital behavior has been the digital advertising business.  The report reveals that the share of digital ad spending, out of the total ad expenditure from 2019 to 2022, has increased from 57.4% to 73.3%, with global revenues skyrocketing from $374.8 billion in 2019 to over $667 billion in 2022.

Social media platforms seem to have been the biggest beneficiaries of the shift to digital: the share of social media in global digital ad spending has grown from about a quarter of the total in 2019 (25.6%) to over a third (33.9%) in 2022, reaching $226 billion last year.

Ad coverage: Facebook and Instagram down, TikTok and Twitter up

The report also looks at the “reach” of ads on social media, i.e., the number of users reached. This should not be confused with “impressions,” which refers to the number of times each user has the opportunity to see the ad, regardless of whether it has been clicked on or not.

Data on the potential ad reach of Meta’s platforms are subject to regular revisions (on average every 12-18 months). The most recent analyses indicate significant changes in the numbers for both Facebook and Instagram, with a drop, in 2022, estimated at 127 million fewer users for Facebook (-6% compared to 2021) and 160 million fewer for Instagram (-11%). These significant adjustments are not so much due to a sudden exodus of users, but rather to the large-scale removal of duplicate and/or fake accounts.

The potential ad coverage of the short video platform TikTok, on the other hand, is growing, with a 19% increase compared to 2021, or 166 million new users, bringing the total to 1.05 billion people aged 18 and over.

The same trend is seen for Twitter, which in 2022 saw 120 million more users than in 2021, and a potential reach that increased by over 27%, reaching 556 million users, predominantly males (63%).

What about metaverses?

All virtual worlds are trying to gain users, but the data collected indicate that their appeal has not yet reached significant levels, leaving, for the time being, the role of innovator in this domain to the gaming world.


Oscar Giacomin  / General Manager, Facto Edizioni

© All rights reserved