Much has been made of the fact that Snapchat reportedly now has more daily active users than Twitter, but is overall usage of all social apps peaking?

According to data from website traffic and mobile app analytics service SimilarWeb, the answer just might be yes.

The company compared Q1 usage for the Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter Android apps in 2015 and 2016 and found that time spent within all of them appears to have declined globally.

In the United States, Android users spent 45.48 minutes per day in the Facebook app in Q1 2016, down from 48.75 minutes in Q1 2015.

Instagram usage dropped even more substantially, with users spending just under 20 minutes in the Android app in the first quarter of the year compared to just under 30 minutes in the same quarter last year.

SimilarWeb says even ascendant Snapchat saw its users spend considerably less time in the popular app, 18.72 minutes in Q1 2016 versus 23.17 minutes in Q1 2015.

Declines were tracked in nine countries, including the UK, Germany, Australia, Spain and Brazil.

There were a few exceptions. For instance, in Spain, time spent in the Facebook app increased slightly.

But such modest increases paled in comparison to the declines, which included a massive 34% drop in the time spent by French users in the Twitter Android app.

What's happening?

Interestingly, the SimilarWeb data shows that in most countries, the percentage of Android users with the Facebook and Snapchat apps installed also dropped, while in the United States, Instagram and Twitter registered modest gains in their Android install base.

While SimilarWeb's data only looks at Android usage, the broad stagnation and declines among four of the most popular social apps raises serious questions about the state of social.

Is peak social here? Are users tiring of their favorite social apps? Or does something else explain what SimilarWeb is seeing?

Obviously, tracking social usage is not a perfect science, so looking at multiple data sources is a must.

According to eMarketer, overall time spent on Facebook by American users is still growing, but much more slowly, and it expects that trend to continue.

Twitter's own figures show that its overall user base has largely stagnated, and other sources, such as analytics firm 7Park, suggest significant declines

Facebook's slower growth and Twitter's woes are commonly attributed to hot upstarts like Snapchat, but while Snapchat might be growing more rapidly than its more entrenched competitors, some data raises questions about the nature of Snapchat's growth.

For example, according to comScore, Snapchat penetration among users aged 25-34 and 35+ appears to have plateaued, and even among the 18-24 year-old demographic, growth has slowed compared to previous years.

What does it really mean?

Even if social media is indeed peaking, the implications could be minimal for marketers, at least for the foreseeable future.

The world's population is only so big, and there are only so many hours in a day.

Over the past decade, the most popular social media destinations have captured such large audiences, and so much attention, that growth in users and engagement is bound to wane sooner than later. There's just no physical way around it.

But that's not bad news for marketers, which now have numerous channels through which they can target and reach billions of consumers around the world.

As long as those consumers don't abandon those channels in droves, marketers probably don't have much to worry about, or change.

As Kieley Taylor, the head of GroupM's paid social practice, told AdAge earlier this year:

Our approach takes into account the cost effectiveness and how many people we can talk to across platforms as an apples-to-apples metric.

By that measure, social will remain one of the most important digital channels for marketers for years to come, peak or no peak.

Patricio Robles

Published 8 June, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

There are an ever-increasing number of social channels, including games with social functionality, so it's not surprising if social time gets spread thinner and the leading social channels get a bit less of it.

But here's the thing - these leading channels have got very much better over the years. The first facebook app was horrible - with memory leaks, crashes, having to reboot your phone, waiting for rendering etc.. But as time has passed it's got really very good.

So even if users are spending slightly less time in facebook, they are wasting less of it - and spending much more time on useful things like looking at our clients' adverts. And it's this useful time that's the important measure for "peak social".

over 1 year ago

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