Despite the negative light surrounding social media over the past year, advertisers continue to invest their dollars there to reach consumers. In 2020, it’s predicted that social ad spending will grow to make up 54% of TV ad spending, as expenditures on the latter continue their slow decline. Does this mean that TV ad dollars are shifting to social? It’s true that a small portion probably are, but the increases for social are more likely to be coming from shifts within the digital space. For more proof of social’s continued importance, we have two other milestones to mention compared with traditional media. In 2019, social ad spending will be more than double the US expenditures on radio.
For the first time ever, the number of Instagram users will surpass that of print readers in 2019. Instagram will have 113.3 million US users, while print will have 112.7 million readers. We need to note that the Instagram forecast includes users of any age, while the print forecast covers only those 18 and up. But there’s little research to suggest many people under 18 read print publications.
Social media will continue to go mobile and vertical video will continue to be embraced by consumers and publishers, forcing social networks to adapt. Facebook released and helped produce a series of vertical news programs in June 2018, while Snapchat announced Snapchat Originals in October 2018. The ad formats at first lagged—kludge-y vertical video ads that started out as horizontal TV ads—but by the end of this year some real progress is predicted. Consumers and publishers will embrace vertical video and marketers will have no choice but to go along.
Even though stories and vertical videos proliferate in 2019, consumer attention will still be with the news feed unit, the main user interface for social media (and for much of the digital landscape) for the past 10 years. Feeds have become one-stop shops for users to quickly scan and engage with content. Stories are discrete packages that users must swipe through one at a time. For discovery and finding information, users highly prefer the feed over stories, according to 2017 research done by Facebook.
Instagram’s dependency on parent Facebook might be its downfall. Last year Instagram’s worldwide monthly user base increased nearly 20%, to 713.9 million. But the success of Instagram is intertwined with Facebook. Much of its ad business growth—worldwide revenues more than doubled in 2018 to an estimated $9 billion because extending an ad buy to Instagram is as easy as checking a box in Facebook’s ad manager. Challenges Instagram could still face include: user dissatisfaction over the growing ad load, an increase in the use of the platform for bullying/trolling and election meddling. In 2018, the US Senate Intelligence Committee-commissioned report revealed that the Russian Internet Research Agency relied heavily on Instagram to spread misinformation and stoke discontent during the 2016 election and beyond.
For now, Instagram’s growth and Facebook’s stable number of users in the Asia-Pacific is buffering the social network’s decline in U.S. users.