Over 3.4bn people to use social networks by 2023

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 14 Jul 2020

By 2023, approximately 3.43 billion people will be using social networks, a figure representing 44% of the estimated 7.79 billion global population.

This is according to a report issued by BuyShares, which gathers data sourced from eMarketer, and provides information on global social media user numbers and app downloads, as of June 2020.

The report notes that in 2019, social network users stood at 2.95 billion, a growth of 6.11% from the 2018 figure of 2.78 billion. Next year, about 3.21 billion people will be using social networks, with this number forecast to grow to 3.32 billion in 2022.

Over the last decade, the lowest number of people on social network platforms was in 2010 at 0.97 billion, a growth of 217.52% by 2020 estimates, notes the report.

According to the report, Facebook-owned networks continue to dominate the industry. The social media giant owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide: WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

An overview of the top social networking app downloads in the Apple App Store and Android’s Google Play worldwide shows Facebook-owned networks are leading the pack. WhatsApp Messenger has the highest downloads at 8.62 million on iOS and 116 million on Android, followed by Facebook with 6.86 million downloads on iOS and 1.1 billion downloads on Android. Instagram recently struck the one billion downloads mark on the Google Play Store. Facebook Messenger follows with 6.79 million iOS downloads and 73 million downloads on Android.

In the last quarter of 2019, Facebook netted almost 2.9 billion downloads from phone users across all app stores globally, according to app intelligence monitor Sensor Tower.

With over 2.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook remains the biggest social network worldwide. 

TikTok has thrived during the global pandemic, with Sensor Tower reporting that the social media platform has been downloaded more than two billion times globally.

The video-sharing app has also taken South Africa by storm. It was the biggest social media sensation of 2019, and is continuing its momentum in the youth market in 2020, according to the South African Social Media Landscape 2020 report, by World Wide Worx and Ornico.

Justinas Baltrusaitis, who compiled the BuyShares report, says in the coming years, various factors are set to influence the growth of social networks.

“In the last 10 years, the social network industry was largely based on alternating monopolies, underpinned by extraordinary growth. As highlighted, Facebook owns the majority of networks like Instagram and WhatsApp, which are popular among young people. However, there might be a shift considering that new platforms like TikTok are coming up targeting specifically young people."

The South African Social Media Landscape 2020 report highlights that TikTok’s user base in SA must be well over five million. WhatsApp has been gradually on the rise in SA, accounting for 10.2 million active users, according to the latest stats.

In terms of the local active user base of the other platforms, the report shows Facebook has 9.2 million users, YouTube counts 9.1 million users, Instagram and Twitter both have 4.7 million, LinkedIn comes in with 3.7 million, Pinterest boasts 3.4 million, Tinder has 3.2 million, while WeChat and Snapchat both have 1.2 million.

Globally, according to BuyShares, Chinese-based WeChat counts over 3.3 million downloads on iOS and 5.8 million on Android. This is followed by Telegram Messenger at 2.89 million downloads on iOS and 5.4 million on Android. As to chat platforms for gamers, Discord has 2.09 million downloads on iOS and 1.6 million on Android. Tencent-owned QQ has 1.63 million iOS downloads and 188 000 Android downloads.

With the social networks projected to keep growing, it will be interesting to know if the current networks will remain dominant.In the next decade, social networking sites might transform further to provide a fragmented assortment of platforms with increased niche communities meant for different demographics, notes BuyShares.

“New networks will emerge while old ones might fall or struggle to stay afloat. The evolution of smartphone technology will also offer new iterations on old ideas of social media. The growth of the smartphone industry has been rapid. Smartphones have transcended their primary function and turned into a tiny computer, fundamentally used to interface with an increasingly cloud-based Internet. Social network companies will keep leveraging this capability,” according to Baltrusaitis.