Aliona Tarankova
November 9, 2016

The History & Future of Social Media Growth [Infographic]

Social Media Trends

Social media is something everyone reading this article is likely to take for granted. We could be forgiven for feeling as if it has been with us forever, that everyone is on it, and that it is as much a part of everyone’s life as it is ours. Quite the contrary though! The majority of the world still does not have access to it, and there is still skepticism in some businesses regarding whether its ROI potential makes it as indispensable as we consider it.

So, let’s take a look at how we got here, what is happening now, and some social media growth trends and predictions for the future.

Social Media Usage as of mid-2016

Before we can figure out where we are going, we need to understand where we are now. As of mid-2016, social media reached a mere 31% of the world’s total population. Of course this average varies a lot depending on which specific region you are looking at. At first glance, though, it suggests that there is still a lot of room for growth. Even in North America, social media only reaches about 59% of the population.

The averages in Africa and South Asia are far lower – both at 11% – and the Middle East only gets up to 26%. The lowest social media usage is seen in Central Asia at only 6%. This is primarily due to the fact that the large majority of the population in these countries simply do not have internet access yet.

Internet Usage vs. Social Media Growth

One of the important points to keep track of when evaluating the growth of social media is how fast it has been growing when put up against the growth of internet access in general. We have put this information in the infographic, below the social media penetration on the world map. So let’s take a deeper look in to that now.

Just a couple of years ago, in 2014, 35% of the world’s population had access to the internet, either on a mobile device or a desktop computer. By mid-2016, that number had grown to 46%. That is a growth of 11% in absolute terms in 2 years. Actually, the increase is close to a third. In the same timeframe, however, the number of active users has only grown less than 20% – from 26% of the world’s population, to 31%.

There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. For a start, a lot of people who once used and enjoyed social media have simply “dropped out” for one reason or another. Another likely reason is that many people who are only starting to get internet access now are just not that interested in social media. Perhaps these newcomers to the internet are older than the average social media user. Or, perhaps they have internet access on their smartphone, and while counted in the growth of internet usage, they are simply not using it?

115 Facts about Social MediaSource

Marketing Predictions

If there is one thing that marketing departments of large companies hate more than anything else, it is spending money in ways that have low or non-existent returns on investment. So, it makes sense to look at what these marketers are predicting for the future of social media.

We can see in the infographic that the current spending on social media marketing is almost $12Bn for 2016. In 2015, it was just under $10Bn. When we look at the predictions for the future, it is expected to reach almost $18Bn by 2019.

Of course they could be wrong, but these are predictions based on real people with jobs that depend on them being right about things like this. If these large marketing departments and agencies did not see further growth of social media in the future, and instead saw a plateau or even a decline, then they would not predict that the spending on marketing campaigns would basically double in five years.

Inactive Social Media Accounts

There are around 400 million people from all across the world who have become inactive on social media. Maybe they just weren’t enjoying it any more. Maybe they thought it was consuming too much of their time. Or maybe they had other more personal reasons.

Whatever the case may be, quitting social media completely has now become a thing to do – at least in the short term, just to see what happens. Spoiler alert: the world does not end!

Your Turn

We can conclude that the rate of social media growth has slowed considerably over the last five or so years.  But that is to be expected from just about any new technology over the course of its existence. And even as that slowdown occurs, is it becoming an ever more important marketing vehicle.

Do you have any thoughts on the history, or the path of social media usage? Are there any interesting facts you would like to share?


aliona-tarankovaAliona Tarankova is a Ukrainian linguist and content marketer. She writes about everything that can draw her attention. When not working, she loves traveling and cooking. You can contact her via Twitter at @AlionaTarankova or her Facebook page:
Image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo
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