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Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

There has been a significant reset and shift in the social media landscape in the past year, with both Facebook and Instagram reflecting a dramatic fall in usage, according to the “Social Media Landscape Report” conducted by Ornico and World Wide Worx.

Facebook usage fell from 96% to 81% and Instagram usage from 86% to 68%. The fall was not restricted to the two social media giants: YouTube fell from 69% to 54% of brands using it while WhatsApp usage fell from 51% to 42%.  LinkedIn and Twitter usage, on the other hand, were both stable.

Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, attributes the fall to a question mark over the algorithms that have allowed these platforms to be abused by peddlers of misinformation during the pandemic. The image of WhatsApp, as a separate marketing platform was damaged by the 2021 debacle around Facebook and WhatsApp user data being combined for targeting of advertising, he says.

The big winner in the social media landscape, according to the survey, is TikTok, which more than doubled its penetration among major brands from 12% to 25%. This rise is expected to continue, with an additional 13% of brands saying they plan to use it in the next 12 months. No other social platform is expected to rise by more than 7% in penetration.

The big question is why brands are moving away from certain social platforms. Goldstuck concedes that it’s unlikely that brands have suddenly developed a conscience about how their customer data is used, and says it could well be that Facebook and Instagram are seen as slipping in their effectiveness as public relations channels.

This year’s survey reflects a shift in who handles social media accounts, with agency involvement declining while PR involvement is rising, as well as in the metrics that are tracked. Metrics such as likes, shares, retweets and views are all down, as well as followers and subscribers on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. At the same time likes, shares and followers on LinkedIn rose.

The survey notes a drop in the number of respondents who think social media provides brands with a return on investment (a drop from 76% to 65%). Goldstuck attributes this to brands’ self-reported effectiveness on social platforms.

“It is very likely that the shifts seen this year will be reversed in the coming year as brands begin to experiment with new features of social networks, in particular short-form video, such as Facebook and Instagram reels and TikTok Stories. These are already used, respectively by 30%, 40% and 17% of major brands. A total of 25% of brands intend to make use of such features in the coming year, suggesting a rebound for the big platforms,” says Goldstuck, adding that for now, the contrasting audiences of LinkedIn and TikTok are making all the running.

The big take-out: Brands are moving away from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp.

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