Today we launched Digital 2021: United States, part of our series of annual global digital reports (check out our global report, Digital 2021, if you haven’t seen it already). It’s a comprehensive report covering digital, social and mobile use in the US.

Here in the US, we started 2021 with 11 million more internet users than we had in January last year while our ranks of active social media users swelled by 10 million over the same period. This represents a 4% year-on-year rise in both internet and active social media users, following a year many people spent in a series of pandemic-related restrictions. There are now 299 million internet users and 240 million social media users here in the US.

The total average time spent online each day for internet users aged 16-64 spent was 7 hours and 11 minutes, slightly ahead of the global figure. Social media platforms occupied an average of 2 hours and 7 minutes of users’ time daily – the second most popular online activity, after watching broadcast and streamed TV.

YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are the three most popular social media networks with internet users aged 16-64. Twitter, in spite of the loss of one notable user, has reported a 1% rise in advertising reach as of January 2021, via its suite of tools. Relative newcomer TikTok was the most downloaded smartphone app in any category during 2020, with users averaging 21 hours a month on the platform. 

Covid-19 appeared to have a significant impact on consumers’ choice of smartphone apps. Second most downloaded after TikTok was Zoom, while mobile payment service Cash App and Disney+, which launched in November 2019, both featured in the top 10. With limited opportunities to find romance in real life, dating service Tinder was the biggest smartphone app in terms of consumer spend, with rival Bumble ranked at number 8.

Other key findings in Digital 2021: The USA include:

  • Marketers diverted their advertising budget to online media to the tune of an extra 7%, bringing spend across all digital media to $141 billion in 2020. Social media advertising saw an even bigger year-on-year increase, up 9% to $40 billion.
  • Older consumers are shopping online in the United States as much as their younger counterparts: 81% of internet users aged 55-64 had purchased a consumer product online in the last month, which is the same figure as for the 25-34 age group. However it was internet users aged between 35-44 who were most likely to have bought a consumer product online in the past month, at 83%. The total value of the consumer products ecommerce market rose 20% year on year to $432 billion
  • The digital ride-hailing market was particularly hard hit in the US, shrinking in value by 52% in 2020. But with restaurants forced to close in many areas of the country, digital food delivery services experienced a steep rise in demand adding 20% in terms of value year on year

Our managing director in New York, Benjamin Arnold, commented on the report’s findings: 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has driven changes in Americans’ digital lives at an incredible pace and proven just how powerful a tool the internet is. As 10 million more active users on social media indicates, these platforms are far from trivial distractions – they’re where we connect with our friends and families, and they are sources of vital information. Brands that still don’t get this - or don’t prioritize social in their marketing strategies - are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to connecting with consumers.”

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