Many marketing managers and business owners are scratching their heads, wondering if they can just wait until this "social media thing" flames out. But we are witnessing a revolution in the way consumers interact with brands—and with each other—and that genie isn't going back into the bottle.

Think about it:

  • Facebook has more than 2 billion users and 1.32 billion of them are active daily (Facebook, June 2017).
  • Instagram doubled its user base in just two years. It now boasts 700 million users, making it twice the size of Twitter, and its growth rate is speeding up. (Instagram, April 2017; Entrepreneur, June 2017)
  • Social media use captures 30% of all time spent online. (GlobalWebIndex, Q2, 2017)
  • The mobility of content via smartphones is profoundly changing the way we consume media and interact with social networks. Three quarters of Americans now own a smartphone (Pew Research Center, January 2017) and nearly 80% of social media time is now spent on mobile devices (comScore, April 2016).
  • On Facebook, there were 1.15 billion mobile daily active users for December 2016, an increase of 23% year-over-year. (Facebook, February 2017)
  • Although Millennials tend to spend the longest time online across most devices, they strongly overtake older generations when it comes to mobile, clocking up a daily average of over 3 hours. (GlobalWebIndex, Q2 2016)
  • But this isn't just for "kids"—69% of U.S. adults are social media users, up from just 5% in 2005. While popular among younger adults (86% of 18- to 29-year-olds), a substantial majority of those ages 30-49 (80%), 50-64 (64%) and 65 and up (34%) use social media as well. (Pew Research Center, January 2017 & August 2017)
  • Generation X (ages 35-49) spends the most time on social media: almost 7 hours per week versus Millennials, who come in second, spending just over 6 hours per week. (Nielsen, Jan. 2016)
  • Print media is in free-fall, with venerable glossies turning to digital-only versions or shuttering altogether.
  • We have become addicted to connection. A July 2012 Time/Qualcomm study found that globally, 68% of smartphone owners sleep with them at their bedside.
  • Twitter’s 328 million monthly active users send 500 million tweets per day. (Omnicore, Aug. 2017 & Jan. 2017)

What does it all mean?

The old model of top-down, one-way, push messaging has reversed itself to opt-in, in-bound, listening-based communications and marketing. Public relations has always been about influencing the influencers, leading to third-party endorsement and word-of-mouth buzz. But who those influencers are, and how we engage them, is a whole new world. That world is talking about your brand—are you listening?