How harnessing customer’s social media behaviours will benefit your business

With 95 per cent of the online population using social media, it is imperative to keep up with the current behaviours and best marketing practices in order to attract potential customers.

Market research centre Global Web Index (GWI) has shared a detailed report on the most important insights in the world of social media, outlining how attitudes and online behaviours are changing amid the ongoing pandemic.

GWI surveyed over 688,000 internet users between the ages 16 to 64, primarily from Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US, with some exceptions depending on the individual question.

The report noted the increased social media usage last year had fallen back to regular levels once the region was out of widespread lockdowns. GWI inferred lockdown habits are unlikely to leave a permanent mark on engagement.

However, how people view social media has changed. In 2019, social networking websites had a focus on content consumption. But lockdowns reportedly reinitiated the ‘social’ side of social media with more people using the services to connect with others.

Keeping in touch with loved ones was listed as the top reason for logging on among survey participants. This was even the case among Gen Z (people born from 1997 to 2012), who consume content in much larger amounts.

That doesn’t mean people aren’t going to social media for new content though. Entertainment and inspirational content has been highlighted as the key to profitable social commerce. People are engaging with more livestreams, Instagram stories, IGTV and Reels, according to GWI.

Live-streaming in particular has taken off amid the pandemic, with the conversational tone of many streams being preferred to scripted content. Around one in four participants listed live streams as a leading motivation to go online (excluding China).

In fact, 51 per cent of US and UK participants said they planned to communicate online with live streams, even after restrictions were lifted.

Time spent on social media across the world

GWI reported 32 out of the 47 tracked global markets saw an increase in social media use in 2020.

The country that used social media for the longest time per day was the Philippines, averaging four hours and five minutes in 2020. Even back in 2017, the Philippines used social media for an average of four hours.

Australians used social media for an average of one hour and 48 minutes each day in 2020, according to the report.

This was a two-minute increase from average usage in 2019. In 2017, Australians used social media for an average of one hour and 39 minutes.

New Zealand has slightly higher daily social media use, with an average of our hour and 51 minutes in 2020.

Interestingly, the UK actually reduced their time on social media in 2020.

In 2017, Brits used social media for an average of one hour and 54 minutes. In the following years, it reduced to one hour and 51 minutes in 2018 and one hour and 47 minutes in 2019.

In 2020, it reduced another minute, down to one hour and 46 minutes on average.

Meanwhile, the US used social media for an average of two hours and eight minutes in 2020.

Notably, the tracked market with the lowest average social media use was Japan. Japanese people used social media for an average of 48 minutes in 2020.

Tracking daily time spent on social media. Source: GWI

Leading social media platforms

Despite suggestions that Facebook was on the decline, it remains the world’s most popular social media network.

GWI noted breaking down each platform’s engagement by generation revealed further insights.

While Gen Z used Facebook on a weekly basis, it fell significantly behind Instagram in popularity.

Meanwhile, Boomers (1946 to 1964) were most likely to use Facebook over any other social platform.

Gen X (1965 to 1980) and Millennials (1981 to 1996) preferred WhatsApp, which is a very popular chat service primarily used in Europe.

In Australia, the most popular social media platform was Facebook (39 per cent).

New Zealand, the UK and the US also had Facebook as the most popular social media platform, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Thailand and Vietnam.

Outside of China, YouTube came before every other television, video or film service online.

In the US and UK, 51 per cent of consumers use YouTube to research products and services.

In China, Douyin (owned by the same parent company as TikTok) was the most popular video service.

Weekly usage of social media. Source: GWI

Instagram Stories may be short-lived, but it has been highlighted as having a lasting impression of brand followers, as it showcases the people and organisation in a more laidback and authentic way.

Additional features like Q&A and polls deliver higher engagement and offer free consumer insights.

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter were the most popular social media platforms among survey participants to seek information about products, services or brands.

Around four in 10 Pinterest users log onto the site to research brands and products, making discovery a lot more likely. The most popular topic on Pinterest was home decor and design inspiration.

Key takeaways

Keeping these behavioural trends in mind when content planning will allow you to target audiences you may have otherwise missed.

Similarly, you can avoid wasting money on targeting an audience that isn’t prominent on the social media site.

Got a property in Sydney’s trendy Newtown with a price tag that is set to draw in first time buyers? Putting your time and money into getting that property all over Facebook is going to do little to get a potential sale. Popping a pic up on Instagram might be a great alternative.

Or perhaps you’re marketing a high-end apartment on the Gold Coast with stunning interior design. Pinterest and Facebook might be a great place to start.

Don’t make decisions purely on age demographics, however. There’s a lot of other targeting factors to consider, including interests, gender, relationship status, current location, language, occupation and more.

Each of these demographic sectors have their own behavioural trends that can work together to help you target a potential buyer.

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Jessamy Tredinnick

Jessamy Tredinnick was the news journalist for Elite Agent Magazine from June 2021 - October 2021. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email