In this post, GlobalWebIndex's Senior Trends Analyst, Katie Young examines the key behaviours and motivations which set the most engaged social media users apart from the crowd; and what brands need to considered in order to grab their attention.

21 years have passed since the arrival of the first social network in the late 90s. Six Degrees was the first website to combine many of the features we know today: user profiles, lists of ‘friends’, and the ability to store contact information in one place. On its 21st birthday, social media is now a very different place to how it was back then. But what about the people using these platforms? What is it that sets apart the most engaged social networkers?

Fashion and community are key
In our research, the heaviest social networkers are averaging more than two hours a day on social media. A look at our attitudinal statements shows they’re an audience who value fashion, trends and group-belonging. They’re twice as likely as those who don’t use social media to value keeping up with the latest fashions, and to say they would buy a product to be part of the community built around it.

Social platforms are channels where these heavy users are influenced by what is cool; they’ll buy into products or brands that are popular amongst their peers. To take an example, back in 2015, Taylor Swift posted a photo on Instagram of her on an inflatable swan, and ever since giant inflatables have become a major trend and sales have taken off. After seeing photos of friends with these products on social platforms like Instagram, many have clearly followed suit and made this a trend. In short, the heaviest social users are impressionable to products or brands that can boost their social standing, and it’s imperative for brands to stay on top of what is cool and trendy.


For information on how these segments are defined, click here.

They value travel and culture
The heaviest social networkers are a ‘cosmopolitan’ audience. They like to travel, learn about different cultures and are not afraid to explore the world. This group is 24% more likely than non-users to be holidaying abroad every six months, for example, and they are equally more likely to want to work and live abroad.

Above all, this highlights how social platforms can be ‘eye-openers’ to the world and different cultures. A great deal of social media users head to social platforms for holiday inspiration. The good news for travel brands is that there’s a great deal of user-generated content already out there. A lot of holiday-makers post hashtagged holiday snaps and share their experiences at certain locations across social - whether that’s sharing their hotel room on their Instagram Story, or complaining about airline delays on Twitter.

This sharing of experiences has the potential to make or break a brand in a category like travel. Get it right, though, and there can be big benefits in terms of brand awareness and image: 3 in 10 heavy social networkers say they come across new brands via recommendations seen on social media.

Expedia is one brand to capitalise on the power of user-generated content. Its #EyeWanderWin travel photography contest called for the best travel images in exchange for the chance to win a free trip. It generated over 4,300 authentic photos for them to use in their marketing which allowed them to localise their online experiences.

They’re more likely to shop sustainably
Social platforms are now crucial sources of news about events and issues, especially when it comes to raising awareness around environmental issues. To take an example, the issue of plastic waste is well documented and shared across social media, and there’s been a number of high profile campaigns on the issue - from Sky’s #PassOnPlastic to the #BeatPlasticPollution movement for World Environment Day.

The heaviest social networkers have a greater awareness around sustainability and are more likely to act on it. GlobalWebIndex research shows that as many as 62% say they would pay more for sustainable/eco-friendly products, compared to just 38% of non-users. They’re also considerably more likely to want brands to offer these products, and to say that they aim for organic or natural products when shopping. This spells an opportunity for brands to reevaluate their green credentials, and social media provides the perfect place to communicate their sustainability initiatives.

The most engaged social networkers have their own set of attitudes and values that pave new ways for brands to engage and interact with them. Keeping on top of the latest trends, and positioning as a brand that considers environmental impact, should help to set brands apart. And the good news is that those who get this audience on side are likely to benefit from this group’s loyalty and advocacy.