What are the essential Internet trends to watch? How is digital changing our lives and the world around us?
Every year Mary Meeker—general partner at KPCB and long-time technology soothsayer—wades through a tremendous amount of research and conducts interviews with top industry experts to find out.
Her 2018 annual report is chock-full of thought-provoking insights, from an outline of the ways in which consumer spending habits are shifting, to an exploration of how the nature of work is changing.
One of the key areas that Meeker covers in depth is social media. Specifically, she examines the latest platforms, user behavior, advertising, and content evolutions.
Here are 12 of the key social media observations from Meeker’s report that every marketer should be aware of:
1. Consumers Are Gravitating Toward “Simple” Platforms
What do consumers want from digital platforms? After looking at those growing in popularity, Meeker sees a strong preference: simplicity.
Rather than demanding more and more features, people appear to gravitating to services with clear design and a few essential elements. This trend towards ease-of-use can be seen in rising social messaging and apps such as Telegram and Spotify.
2. Social Messaging Platforms Are Increasingly Popular and Powerful
In the report, Meeker highlights the breathtaking rise of a specific type of social service: messaging apps.
How big are these platforms? At least three of them—WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger—now have more than a billion active monthly users. As Meeker points out, messaging apps are well positioned to continue to expand even further, both in their size and feature sets.
3. New Content Types Such as Streaming Gameplay Videos Are Exploding
In many ways, the first wave of Internet content—such as text articles and still images—simply replicated what existed in the offline world.
Now, though, digital platforms are sparking truly original formats. For example, Meeker notes that gameplay videos streamed live on social services such as Twitch are like nothing what has come before. The massive popularity of these streams indicates that creators and audiences are likely to continue to radically evolve what we think of as content.
4. Personal Data Is Powering Better Experiences for Consumers
Recently, most of the coverage surrounding personal data and digital platforms has been negative. And deservedly so. From the misuse of information to outright breaches, much has happened to make people wary about how their data is handled.
However, what’s sometimes forgotten is that there are compelling reasons for sophisticated tech platforms to utilize individuals’ information. As Meeker highlights, personal data continues to power better experiences for consumers, from more relevant content in Facebook’s News Feed to more sophisticated recommendations from Pinterest.
5. Facebook Is Garnering More Revenue per User, and Investing in Its Products
Despite a slew of challenges, Facebook is growing and improving.
Meeker notes that the social network’s annualized revenue per daily user has steadily climbed since 2015. Given that its user base has also grown, this means that the platform has been able to increasingly reward its shareholders and invest in its products. In other words, savvy marketers should not count Facebook out anytime soon.
6. Social Media Is Driving the Discovery of Products and Services
Do consumers find new products and services via social media?
Absolutely, according to Meeker. She notes that 78% of Americans ages 18–34 have discovered products/services via Facebook and 59% have discovered products/services via Instagram and Pinterest. Moreover, 55% of Americans ages 18–65 say they’ve purchased a product/service online after seeing it on social media.
7. Social Referrals to E-Commerce Sites Have Been Steadily Growing
Social media is increasingly important to e-commerce sites, according to Meeker.
In the report, she notes that social media referrals to e-commerce platforms have jumped from 2% of all referrals in 2015 to 6% in 2018. While this share remains relatively small, it highlights that the connection between sales and social is becoming more and more direct over time.
8. Social Has Supercharged the Growth of Direct-to-Consumer Brands
What’s fueled the recent explosion of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands such as Warby Parker and Casper?
According to Meeker, social media is one of the main factors. She notes that the time it takes for a DTC company to reach $100 million in revenue has steadily shortened thanks to the increasingly powerful marketing and sales opportunities of social platforms.
9. Engagement with Facebook E-Commerce Ads Is Rising
Facebook is continually improving its advertising units, platform options, and data-driven targeting.
Is all this work paying off? In one area—ad click-through rates (CTRs)—it appears that it clearly is. Meeker highlights that CTRs on e-commerce units have been steadily climbing for years, indicating that consumers are indeed finding what they see to be more compelling.
10. Video on Sites Like YouTube Has Become Part of the Purchase Process
What role does video play in the purchase process?
For a long time, marketers thought of this type of content as more brand-building than directly influencing sales. It’s time to change that view. Meeker highlights that consumers are increasingly turning to platforms such as YouTube to learn about products and pricing before deciding whether or not to buy.
12 Social Media Trends from Mary Meeker’s 2018 Annual Internet Report
11. Social Media Metrics Are Becoming Increasingly Sophisticated
Remember the days when the only social metrics available were likes and comments?
That time is past. As Meeker notes, social platforms are rolling out increasingly sophisticated measurement options for brands. One example is Facebook’s ability to now tie marketing efforts directly to customer lifetime value (LTV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC) metrics.
12. Advertisers and Users Are Increasingly Holding Social Platforms Accountable
Despite all the good news, these remain challenging times for social networks. One major issue is that there is less and less tolerance with advertisers, users, and governments for inappropriate, fake, and misleading content.
Companies seem to be getting the message. Meeker notes that services such as Facebook and YouTube have dramatically ramped up moderation and the culling of bad pieces. This is by no means an easy task, nor will it be be 100% successful, but the scale of resources being devoted indicates that platform quality should improve significantly in the future. That’s good news for everyone.
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