Half of consumers to abandon or limit social media

Published on the 18/01/2024 | Written by Heather Wright

Half of consumers to abandon or limit social media

And most expect AI to further harm the user experience…

Misinformation, the prevalence of bots and toxic user bases are driving users from social media platforms according to a new survey from Gartner which is forecasting that 50 percent of consumers will abandon or significantly limit their interactions with social media by 2025.

And the hype around generative AI isn’t helping social media either, with more than 70 percent of consumers believing greater integration of GenAI into social media will harm user experience.

“CMOs must refocus their customer acquisition and loyalty retention strategies.”

Last May Gartner’s CMO Spend and Strategy Survey highlighted that CMOs expected to increase their social advertising spend, with social advertising identified as a top digital channel for increased investment.

Emily Weiss, senior principal researcher in the Gartner Marketing Practice, says while that marketing push still holds true, consumers’ interactions with the technology are changing.

“Social media remains the top investment channel for digital marketing, but consumers are actively trying to limit their use,” she says. “A significant slice says that, compared to a few years ago, they are sharing less of their own lives and content.”

Fifty-three percent of consumers said social media had ‘decayed’ compared to either the prior year or five years ago.

While Gartner’s report is based on a survey of a scant 263 consumers carried out between July and August 2023, it does echo other recent reports.

A GWI (Global Media Intelligence) report last year, representing more than 970,000 consumers globally, revealed that the average daily time spent on social media had declined year-on-year for only the second time in 10 years, with average daily usage for Q1 of 2023 dropping below 2019 figures.

While many will applaud any decline in social media use, it means CMOs and marketers who have favoured social for digital marketing, will need to refocus their customer acquisition and loyalty retention strategies, Weiss says.

The decline in trust of social media comes as Australia’s eSafety commissioner raises more concerns about X. Information provided by X and released by the eSafety Commissioner shows X has slashed its global trust and safety staff by a third, including an 80 percent reduction in the number of safety engineers, since the company was acquired by Elon Musk in October 2022. The number of moderators X employs directly have also be cut by more than a half.

The platform has also reinstated more than 6,100 previously banned Australian accounts, 194 of which were suspended for hateful conduct violations. Globally some 62,000 accounts have been reinstated, with no additional scrutiny applied once reinstated.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant dubbed the moves the creation of ‘a bit of a perfect storm’.

“It’s almost inevitable than any social media platform will become more toxic and less safe for users if you combine significant reductions to safety and local public policy personnel with thousands of account reinstatements of previously banned users,” she says.

She says there are clear concerns about the implications for the safety of users.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that X is on track to record an advertising revenue decline of around US$1.5 billion – dropping to roughly $2.5 billion – for 2023.

X made headlines last year as advertisers left in droves, reportedly unhappy over Musk’s actions and unwilling to be associated with the brand. His endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy in November drove further exits from major brands – a move the New York Times reported was expected to cost the company as much as US$75 million by the end of 2023.

X’s dramas drove an increase in interest in new platforms, including Mastodon, Bluesky and Instagram offshoot Threads, though after a brief period in the limelight most have faded from public consciousness for the most part.

AI absence a differentiator

While many companies are currently eyeing AI as a differentiator, results of another Gartner survey suggest that when it comes to marketing at least, some companies are embracing an absence of AI in their business and products.

It says a survey of 305 consumers found 72 percent believe AI-based content generators could spread false or misleading information.

“Mistrust and lack of confidence in AI’s abilities will drive consumers to seek out AI-free brands and interactions,” Weiss says.

The analyst firm is forecasting 20 percent of brands to ‘lean in’ to positioning and differentiation based on the absence of AI in their business and products, shunning AI and prioritising more human positioning.

“This ‘acoustic’ concept will be leveraged to distance brands from perceptions of AI-powered businesses as impersonal and homogenous,” Weiss says.

A Conference Board survey last year showed 87 percent of marketers had used or experimented with AI tools for at least one application, with 68 percent saying they used AI at least sometimes in their daily work, most commonly for summarising content, personalising customer and user content or improving customer service.

But there were concerns, with around 30 percent expressing concerns about deterioration in the quality and creativity of work, and concerns over misinformation, lack of accuracy and legal uncertainties.

It’s not all bad news for social media however with the Pew Research Centre showing that among US youth at least, social media use remains high with one in five saying they’re on YouTube or TikTok ‘almost constantly’.

YouTube dominated, with TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram remaining popular for teens, but the bad news continues for X, with it and Facebook out of favour – just 33 percent of teens are suing Facebook, down from 71 percent in 2014-15, with X also in decline though less steeply than Facebook.

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