I had several research questions in mind. Which are the top 20 social networking sites in the US? How many unique monthly visitors do they attract? How much time do visitors spend on these websites? How many visitors access these websites via mobile? Which of these websites are most important for marketers? What is the share of social media spending within total online advertising spending? How much can it grow? What will drive growth? This last question was of particular interest to me. We believe that mobile will be a key driver for social media spending growth. Here’s why:
More users are accessing social networking sites through mobile. As per our forecast, we expect the number of US social media users accessing social networking sites via mobile to exceed 200 million by 2018. Nearly one-fourth of them will be mobile-only social media users; the rest will access social networking sites via both PC and mobile.
The share of time spent on mobile social networking apps continues to increase. Social media apps are among the top apps that smartphone users use. The amount of time they spend on these apps continues to increase.
The European economy is still struggling for growth after the global recession. While overall GDP growth was positive in 2010 and 2011, it again turned negative in 2012. A slow economic recovery is projected through 2017, but growth is not expected to reach 2007 levels during the next five years. Despite this weak macro-economic environment, spending on social media has continued to grow in Europe and will continue to see double-digit growth over the next five years as well. Why?
The continuous shift of ad spending from traditional media to online media. The megatrend of the past decade — advertising dollars shifting from offline to online media — is expected to continue in this decade as well. Internet advertising’s share of overall advertising spend grew from 1% in 2001 to 22% in 2012 for Western Europe. There still exists a significant gap between the time spent online by consumers and the share of online spend in overall advertising spend, but this gap will decrease over the next few years with the continued shift in spending.
Social media’s increasing share of online ad spend. Currently, display ad spending is nearly four times higher than social ad spending in Western Europe, and search advertising is eight times larger. However, social will experience faster growth than display or search in the coming years. Social’s share of overall online spending will increase as companies spend more to engage with consumers on social media platforms for marketing and sales initiatives.