Social media usage has grown as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, as more users go online to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Now, new data from insights and consulting firm Kantar reveals exactly how much some apps are benefiting. According to a survey of more than 25,000 consumers in 30 markets conducted from March 14 to 24, WhatsApp is the social media app that has experienced the greatest gains due to COVID-19.
Overall, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage that grew from an initial 27% bump in the earlier days of the pandemic to 41% in the mid-phase. For countries already in the later phase of the pandemic, WhatsApp usage has jumped by 51%.
In individual markets, that usage may be even higher, Kantar noted. For example, WhatsApp usage in Spain was up 76%.
Across all messaging platforms, the growth in usage has been the largest in the 18 to 34-year-old age group, the study also found. In addition, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram saw a 40%+ increase in usage from this same demographic.
Other social media apps seeing gains during the pandemic include, not surprisingly, Facebook and China’s WeChat and Weibo.
Overall, Facebook usage has increased by 37%, while China’s local social media apps saw usage climb by 58%, Kantar says.
Despite the gains, consumers reported they didn’t trust their social media platforms for critical news related to COVID-19. National news channels and government agency websites were considered better options, with 58% and 48% of survey respondents, respectively, identifying them as a “trustworthy” source of news and information. Social media platforms, meanwhile, were only considered “trustworthy” by 11% of consumers.
Kantar’s is not the first study to report on the growth in social media activity attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Facebook recently shared its own data, noting that total messaging on its platform was up by more than 50% over last month. This would include Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp combined. It also claimed that time across all apps since the crisis had grown 70%, as well, and time in group calls (three or more participants) was up by more than 1,000% during the last month.
In addition, Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week’s time, Facebook said.
While not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, Facebook’s metrics confirm Kantar’s report of significant growth during March related to the pandemic. The company spoke, too, of preparing its infrastructure for this unprecedented amount of usage. Previously, Facebook was able to remain stable during major events, like New Year’s Eve or the Olympics, but now says it’s seeing sustained, record levels of use, which required it to reduce bit rates on Facebook and Instagram videos and add capacity as needed.
Related to this, another report from influencer marketing platform Klear compared the week of March 7-14 to the week of March 15-21, in order to drill down into more specific Instagram user behavior. It found that users posted 6.1 Instagram Stories per day, on average, an increase of 15% week-over-week. Stories’ impressions, meaning views, also increased by 21% during that time.