Thought leadership

The use of social media continues to rise all over the world. Today, 8 in 10 British internet users are active on social media. Facebook is by far the most popular site (68% are active on Facebook), followed by LinkedIn (26%) and Twitter (28%).

The study conducted by InSites Consulting demonstrates that the increasing number of smartphones worldwide is stimulating the use of social media. Smartphone owners visit social network sites more often than consumers who do not have a mobile internet connection. Smartphone users are also more open to communication with brands.

Smartphones assure further growth of social media

58% of British surfers have a smartphone and the vast majority have an internet subscription on their device. 13% owns a tablet. The increasing number of smartphones and tablets is boosting the use of social media. 66% of smartphone users are active on social media on a daily basis, as opposed to 48% of people without a smartphone. In addition, social media applications are very popular.

"The results of our study clearly illustrate the importance of mobile internet. Apart from entertainment, consumers also use their smartphone for a broad range of practical online applications. Navigation and weather monitoring applications are especially popular. The fast-paced mobile evolution has given fresh momentum to the use of social media,”  says Professor Steven Van Belleghem at InSites.

Pinterest and Instagram are the stars of the future

InSites Consulting’s study confirms the popularity of the three big social network sites. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn still head the list not just in the Netherlands, but virtually all over the world. Moreover, new social network sites will find it hard to emulate the success of the top three anytime soon.

The study shows that the average consumer is a member of two social network sites, which generally translates into ‘Facebook + one other site’. 95% of these users have no intention of abandoning their regular sites, while 60% are unwilling to create a new account. However, the study did find two exceptions that are bucking the overall trend: Pinterest and Instagram. 10% of American surfers use Pinterest and 7% are active on Instagram; in the UK both sites reach only 5% of surfers. These two sites show the biggest growth potential worldwide. A large percentage of people are considering using these sites in the future. 

Professor Van Belleghem notes that “Consumers are clearly satisfied with the currently-available range of social network sites. A small group of consumers is constantly on the lookout for the latest thing, but the vast majority prefer a status quo. Only sites that bring something new to the mix are able to arouse the consumer’s interest, which explains the success and potential of Instagram and Pinterest. Both sites offer something that neither Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn have, and that’s why consumers are interested”. Key findings include:


  • Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter are the most popular social networks. Use of LinkedIn and Twitter ranks amongst the highest in the world.

  • The use of social media keeps increasing thanks to the rapid adoption of mobile internet.

  • Pinterest and Instagram are the rising stars. Consumers prefer not to start using a new social network unless it has a unique function. Quite a few people intend to use Pinterest and Instagram in the future.

  • 1 in 2 consumers follow at least one brand. On average, consumers follow 12 brands passively and 4 actively.

  • 7 in 10 consumers are prepared to help companies improve existing products. Customer co-creation appeals to consumers and companies have yet to adequately capitalise on this opportunity

Consumers are more than willing to help companies on social media

One striking conclusion of this study is the high degree of consumer willingness to help companies. Nearly half (47%) of all European social network users follow at least one brand. The average consumer is a passive follower of 11 brands and an interactive follower of 6 more. Consumers primarily expect these brands to provide information on their products, launch exciting promotional campaigns and involve consumers in the product improvement process. 84% of social networkers would love to help a brand and offer advice. Most of all, they want to help companies improve existing products or services. Some are even interested in helping them brainstorm about the products of tomorrow.

Van Belleghem concludes that "So many companies out there are wasting a golden opportunity. Most of them only worry about likes and the number of fans, while forgetting about customer co-creation. Social networks provide the perfect platform to involve consumers in the development of corporate strategy. Consumers are able and willing to provide added value in this respect, but unfortunately most companies have yet to recognise these opportunities".

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