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US time spent with social increased in 2021, but growth was slow

The forecast: Growth in time spent with social networks among US users will taper to 94 minutes in 2023 following a huge uptick in 2020. This comes after US social network users spent an average of 97 minutes per day on the platforms in 2021, a gain of 2.5 minutes over 2020.

Dive deeper:

  • Users' time spent with social skyrocketed 16% in 2020, which might make 2021's 2.6% look low, but it shows social media platforms were able to maintain the first year of the pandemic's monster gains.
  • Growth in 2021 was driven by strong years from TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. Meanwhile, weaker performances by Facebook and Pinterest tempered growth, as they struggled to hold onto 2020's growth.

What's driving growth?

  • Social commerce: Facebook and Pinterest's engagement would likely have declined faster without retail functionality. Meanwhile, shoppers are driving growth on Instagram and TikTok.
  • TikTok: On its own, TikTok is driving growth numbers for social network use at large. Time spent reached 40 minutes per day in 2021.
  • Video: With TikTok setting a standard for time spent with social networks, other platforms are leaning into videos as a main draw with the expectation that multimedia drives up engagement.
  • Pandemic: COVID-19 increased isolation and in-person socialization, driving up digital time, specifically smartphone use. Even with people in the US returning to in-person activities, digital gains aren't going away any time soon.

Looking ahead: Social network engagement is here to stay, but growth won't keep up with 2020, or even 2021. In 2022 time spent with social network among users will fall by 1 minute, and then another 2 minutes in 2023. However, time spent will remain above 90 minutes.