Social media use boomed last year, especially with TikTok

Consumers spent a lot more time on social networking apps last year, with video-sharing app TikTok making major strides, according to new data from App Annie.

Mary Lennighan

January 13, 2021

3 Min Read
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Consumers spent a lot more time on social networking apps last year, with video-sharing app TikTok making major strides, according to new data from App Annie.

Time spent per user on social media apps increased by up to 325% year-on-year, the analytics firm’s State of Mobile 2021 report reveals. That headline figure is not altogether surprising, given most people’s change in lifestyle due to the ongoing pandemic. But beyond the headlines, there is some interesting data on consumers’ choice of social networking app.

Once-dominant Facebook is now playing second fiddle to TikTok based on certain metrics, in a number of key markets, the report shows. TikTok’s on-year growth in average monthly time spent per user came in at 80% in the UK and 70% in the US, for example, putting it ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s platform, as well as many other apps.

TikTok users clocked up an average of 19.9 hours per month in the UK last year, up from just 11 in 2019, while in the US the average increased to 21.5 hours from 12.8.

“TikTok is on track to hit 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2021 as consumers look to stay connected as well as entertained,” the App Annie report predicted.

That is not to say Facebook is not entertaining, of course. Although they do say that comparison is the thief of joy…

I digress. Facebook remains the leading social networking app in terms of overall time spent in both markets.

Furthermore, Facebook-owned apps are the only major competitors to TikTok, with WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook Messenger and Instagram making up the top five in the UK, US and a number of other big markets, like Australia, Canada and Germany. Twitter makes the top five in some countries – Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia, for example – while France’s fifth platform is Snapchat.

It almost goes without saying that the patterns look very different in China, where homegrown app WeChat continues to dominate. However, TikTok is its closest competitor and closed the gap significantly last year, with users racking up an average of 23.1 hours per month, to WeChat’s 29.2 hours. TikTok recorded annual growth of 69%, while WeChat was virtually flat.

The mobile app market is much broader that just social networking though, and App Annie reports accelerated adoption across the whole space last year.

“The world has forever changed. While people stay[ed] at home across the world, we saw mobile habits accelerate by three years,” said Theodore Krantz, CEO of App Annie, in a statement. To be clear, the company believes that mobile adoption advanced by two to three years in the space of 12 months.

Consumers spent $143 billion on mobile apps last year, an increase of 20% on 2019, with the likes of China, Japan, South Korea, the US and the UK driving the spend.

Despite economic uncertainty in much of the world, we’re clearly still willing to splash out on staying connected.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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