I recently visited Shanghai for a business trip and quickly faced the fact that I was going to have to live for a week within a very different social media world to the one I was used to.
I’d be living without Google (therefore without any of my professional or personal emails), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and not to mention the sheer number of apps I use with my Facebook login (such as Spotify and TripAdvisor), for a full eight days. Of course, there are VPNs that enable you to circumvent this, but in practice, doing this is often slow and frustrating.
Despite the lack of Western platforms, digital and social is, of course, huge in China. Here, people use Baidu instead of Google. The ever growing WeChat is just one of the alternatives to the social networks we’re used to in the West. You can even pay for drinks at a vending machine using WeChat by scanning the drink’s QR Code, like my colleague Pete Lin, Managing Director at We Are Social in Shanghai, is doing in the picture below.
And talking about QR Codes, it’s surprising how WeChat has reinvented them. Each WeChat user will even have their own QR Code on business cards and emails, so people can scan it to connect with you. WeChat has become a place for clients to send briefs, where work meetings take place, and even where real-time requests happen, via short voice mails (Chinese phone operators don’t even offer a voice mail service, and in my opinion they’re right not to – it’s outdated).
So, yes, the internet and social media are very different, in a fascinating and incredibly innovative way. After a week spent between Shanghai and Beijing meeting people from We Are Social, BlueFocus and various clients, I’m about to leave, very tired, and with a few extra pounds thanks to the local hospitality! But above all, I leave intrigued by China’s impressive innovation capabilities. I’m curious about its future, and look forward to seeing the rise of WeChat, and whether the West can compete with the app. So, as WeChat is now my new toy, feel free to add me while scanning my personal QR Code from your account:
Facebook releases Q2 figures
Facebook released its Q2 figures last week and it continues to grow apace. The network now has 1.49 billion monthly active users, up 3.47% from Q1. That’s slightly slower growth than the previous quarter (3.6%), but has been enough for the network to pick up $4.04bn in revenue. Daily active users reached 968 million from 936 million in Q1.
Facebook tests profile tags
Facebook is trying out LinkedIn-style profile tags. The feature allows users to add tags to their friends’ profiles or to their own, and was described by the network as follows:
Profile tags are a creative tool that lets you and your friends add tags to your profile to highlight the things that describe you and what you’re into.
Instagram ad sales to reach $2bn by 2017
Instagram ad sales will hit $600m this year, according to a report by eMarketer. The figure is expected to jump to $2.81bn by 2017, when it’s predicted that Instagram will outsell both Google and Twitter for US display ads.
Twitter releases Q2 data
Like Facebook, Twitter released its Q2 figures last week, seeing ad sales jump 63% year-on-year for the quarter to $452m. Total revenue was up to $502m, but interim CEO, Jack Dorsey, still recognises the network’s issue with user growth:
In order to realize Twitter’s full potential, we must improve in three key areas: ensure more disciplined execution, simplify our service to deliver Twitter’s value faster, and better communicate that value.
Snapchat continues to update Discover
Snapchat’s transformation into a content publishing platform is seeing signs of success, as the network announced that 50 million users have visited its Discover section in the 30 days since tweaks to make content more conspicuous. While they won’t say what the figure was before the changes, apparently they’re happy with the result.
The changes are set to continue, with a shake-up of content providers that sees Yahoo and Warner dropped for the youth-focussed Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio. The platform is also reportedly planning a ‘special product’ for e-commerce with Hearst Corporation, which publishes the likes of Cosmopolitan and Esquire. PLUS, if all that fails to bring in revenue, you can now buy an official Snapchat beach towel for $24.99.
Google ends YouTube and G+ integration
Google has ended its forced integration between YouTube and Google+, meaning users can now sign up for the former without a profile on the latter. And there’s more where that came from, with Google stating that “It doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use”.
Yahoo acquires social shopping site Polyvore
Yahoo has agreed to buy social shopping site Polyvore, which allows people put together and purchase sets of outfits and accessories. Polyvore will continue as a stand-alone service, while enhancing Yahoo’s consumer and advertiser offerings and helping drive traffic.
Talenti’s ‘Flavorize Me’ campaign
Gelato brand Talenti has launched a campaign that uses social media profiles to create personalised ice cream flavours. An algorithm scans platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for keywords, which are then linked to different ingredients and combined to create the perfect ice cream flavour for you.
Coca Cola measures happiness of Londoners
This summer Coca Cola is teaming up with Capital FM to measure the happiness of London commuters as part of its ‘Choose Happiness’ campaign. Londoners are encouraged to tweet their mood along with the hashtag #choosehappiness. Tweets will be used to project a real-time data analysis of the general mood of London’s inhabitants onto 300 billboards.
Topshop removes mannequin due to Facebook complaints
An unhappy shopper has recently accused Topshop of promoting unhealthy beauty standards after coming across a ‘ridiculously shaped’ mannequin in one of their stores. The shopper’s 500-word message attracted more than 3,700 likes on Facebook. In response to the complaint, Topshop has said that they will no longer be ordering the mannequin in that size.
Our latest statshot on the state of Digital, Social & Mobile usage around the world shows that the pace of change shows no signs of slowing:
Year-on-year growth remains strong, particularly in the use of mobile social media:
- Internet user growth: +7.6%
- Social media user growth: +8.7%
- Mobile user growth: +3.4%
- Mobile social media user growth: +23.3%
There are some important changes to the ways people are using mobile devices too – read on for the full story.
The latest data suggest that global internet penetration now stands at 43%, up from 41% in August 2014.
The numbers also show that 225 million people around the world used the internet for the first time in the past 12 months, translating to 600,000 new users every day, or 7 every second.
However, we believe that the figures in this month’s report still under-estimate the true number of internet users due to the considerable number of mobile internet users coming online in developing markets.
In addition to the existing 2.9 billion mobile broadband subscribers around the world, Ericsson reports that mobile broadband subscriptions are currently growing at 30% year-on-year, with 50 million new subscribers every month.
Social media usage continues to grow around the world, with global penetration rates now in excess of 30%.
Facebook continues to dominate the global landscape, accounting for almost 1.5 billion users.
The world’s favourite social platform shows little sign of losing its grip either, with 180 million new users joining the community over the past 12 months, up 13.7% year-on-year.
To put that in perspective, Facebook is still adding around half a million new users every day, or almost 6 new users every second.
Other platforms still outperform Facebook in some markets though, notably China, where Facebook access continues to be restricted.
QZone remains the most active social network in China, with an active global user base of 668 million. QZone grew 4% year-on-year according to the latest data from owner Tencent, but this is tempered by growth in Tencent’s real growth engine, WeChat, which added almost as many users as Facebook in the past 12 months (see below for more stats on WeChat).
VKontakte continues to lead in Russia, but the latest data suggest that globally active users on the Russia-based platform are falling slightly each month.
More than half of the world’s population now uses a mobile phone, although reports of the actual number of users varies between sources:
The 3.4% annual growth in the number of unique mobile users around the world misrepresents the story that’s taking place behind the numbers.
The real growth is in the adoption of smartphones, with 2 million devices sold every day around the world.
This shift to ‘smart devices’ means that the consolidation we highlighted in our analysis of our global report back in January continues.
A key reason for this is that data-powered services such as chat and VOIP apps mean people no longer need to maintain multiple handsets in order to benefit from network-specific cheap calls.
The growth in sales of smart devices has resulted in a significant change in global share by type of device, with smartphones now accounting for more than 40% of the world’s active handsets (i.e. handsets connected to an active mobile subscription).
Feature phones still dominate, accounting for 6 out of 10 of the world’s active phones, but with smartphones contributing 75% of all new phones sold in Q1 2015, it’s likely that smartphones will account for more than half of all globally active handsets before the end of the first half of 2016.
Despite the slowing growth in the number of unique mobile users, the steady growth in the number of active mobile subscriptions has continued thanks to the growth in machine-to-machine (M2M) subscriptions associated with ‘the internet of things’.
Data from Ericsson suggest that there are roughly a quarter of a billion M2M subscriptions in use around the world today, accounting for barely 3.3% of the global total (most subscriptions are used to power mobile phones for human-to-human communications).
However, Ericsson’s projections suggest that this share will grow to more than 25% over the next 5 years to almost 8 billion active subscriptions – that’s more than the global total for all types of cellular subscription today.
Mobile Social Media
The number of users accessing social media through mobile devices has exploded in the past 12 months, with 1 million new users accessing via phones or tablets every single day.
This has delivered year-on-year growth of more than 23%, with global penetration now exceeding a quarter of the world’s population.
What’s more, with around 12 new active mobile social users every second, it’s likely that the global total will exceed 2 billion before the end of 2015.
However, it’s worth noting that there are some interesting developments within the mobile social world too, with the growth of mobile-centric ‘chat apps’ overshadowing the growth of more conventional social networks.
WhatsApp is the world’s fastest growing ‘big’ platform (i.e. platforms with more than 100 million active users); the Facebook-owned platform has added more than 300 million new users since August 2014, achieving impressive year-on-year growth of 60%.
Meanwhile, the data suggest that Facebook Messenger may have doubled its user base since this time last year, with active users up 200 million since the start of 2015 alone.
WeChat (Weixin) added roughly 150 million users around the world in the past 12 months too, translating to year-on-year growth of 39%.
It’s worth noting that Viber is also growing at an impressive rate, especially in Southeast Asia, where it is capturing significant share. The Skype-like service already has around a quarter of a billion monthly active users, up 40 million (19%) since the start of 2015.
As we reported in our comprehensive global report back in January, the future of all things digital seems interwoven with the growth of smart mobile devices.
As these devices become an integral part of life all over the world, marketers will increasingly need to understand how people are using these devices, and not just how many are using them.
Smart devices are so much more than just phones; for many people around the world, they are our primary tool for communicating with friends, family and business contacts, for accessing the internet, for watching content such as TV shows and movies, for playing games, and many other activities besides.
As a result, marketers need to stop treating smart devices as merely another channel through which to deliver ad impressions, and start using them to create more of a meaningful impression for their brands.
If you’d like some tips and ideas on how to make that possible, you may like to read these:
Alternatively, if you’re looking for more stats on individual countries, try our in-depth Digital, Social & Mobile reports:
We Are Social has always been at the forefront of new social platforms and behaviours with our clients’ marketing, but that was yesterday. ‘Now’ isn’t waiting for anyone. So it’s my job to create a renewed culture of innovation that keeps us (and our clients) ahead of social technology and trends.
My plan is simple. Panic.
Well that’s what I did to start off the project without any real idea of what an Innovation Director was supposed to do. My first few months in the role featured some weird social experiments, horny rabbits and a lot of sentences featuring the words “no, Tom that’s a sh*t idea”.
But one of the pieces of work I’m most proud of being a part of is the Curiosity Stop; a monthly round-up of what We Are Social’s 10-strong office network thinks is inspiring innovation. We’re looking for ideas that makes something better, faster or cheaper. Is it truly innovative, disruptive, does it have a social implication and most importantly – does it make you smile?
One of this month’s selections that ticked the smile box for all of us was the Hands-Free Tinder app for the Apple Watch. Enough of this swiping left and swiping right – the app allows you to choose with your heart, not your head. As your potential matches are offered, the app monitors your heartbeat; if it goes up at the sight of someone, they get a heart. If it goes down, you say goodbye. Finding the apple of your eye has never been so simple.
We also loved adidas’s new shoes, made entirely from plastic rubbish found at the bottom of the sea. This knit-together plastic eliminates waste by avoiding pattern cut-outs.
CropX is another innovation that caught our attention. With California suffering from a drought, farmers are struggling to irrigate their fields with the small amount of water they’re allowed to use. CropX uses only three sensors and a app, meaning it is a lot more affordable than traditional irrigation tech. Each day, the sensors work out which parts of the field need water. They then beam this information to sprinklers, so they don’t needlessly waste water.
We Are Social writer Charlotte Miller’s summary of the 41 Curiosity Stop innovations is as it should be – funny and easy to understand. Innovation isn’t just for horn rimmed bespectacled Wired readers. Innovation is a language the whole industry should be speaking and Curiosity Stop is our attempt to get everyone to listen.
With lovely long summer days comes the much less welcome increase in pollen count. For all those suffering from hay fever across the UK, it can be a very uncomfortable time. Even if you don’t get affected yourself, I’m sure you can identify with being stuck on a crowded bus or train in the heat next to someone with a streaming nose, sneezing every few minutes.
As the country’s leading tissue brand, Kleenex knew this was a conversation it should be involved in, as well as an opportunity to let people know about its Sensitive range, with hypoallergenic qualities. So they asked us to come up with a fun, relevant way to speak directly to hay fever sufferers.
Through social listening, we discovered that hay fever sufferers certainly don’t hold back when it comes to talking about their allergies on social; the most commonly used emojis are those showing crying and desperation.
Hayfever is trying to mess with my life today! No tissue to save my life 😭
— Rio-Romaine (@RioRomaine) April 15, 2015
— Alix (@thewoodstoday) April 10, 2015
In these moments of despair, we wanted to reach out to people to show them that we care and want to help, by engaging with them in a way that is uplifting in keeping with Kleenex’s overarching strategy around offering gestures of care. To do this, we decided to reach out, using Twitter, to those most in need this summer – the hardcore hay fever sufferers.
In an attempt to turn some of their sad or distressed hay fever vibes into a more positive feeling, we created ‘Hay Fever Heroes’ to surprise and delight the social community, and hopefully help Kleenex turn their bad day into a better one. We identified Twitter users sharing the most dramatic and funny tweets about their hay fever, and reached out to them with a message of support, making those with the best messages our #HayfeverHero of the day.
— Kleenex (@Kleenex_UK) July 16, 2015
The activity isn’t just limited to Twitter – all our Hay Fever Heroes are sent a hay fever rescue pack, which includes a selection of Kleenex Sensitive tissues and a personalised certificate of hay fever heroism. The campaign has only just kicked off and we’ve already seen a positive response to the first packs we have sent out.
— Libbie Nickson (@itsLibbie) July 21, 2015
We’ve still got another month to find many more of the UK’s Hay Fever Heroes, so if you’re suffering, make sure you share it on social, and don’t hold back! We’re waiting to hear from you.