Half of users’ time on Meta platforms is now spent on video
Tech giant’s group director, Sophie Neary, says younger users are going all-in on video content.
Meta's group director Sophie Neary in conversation with Huw Edwards on community, video, and the Metaverse
Meta claims that young people are sticking with its platforms and not deserting them, as is the common presumption. Its group director, Sophie Neary, says that the consumption habits of different age groups have created that perception, but younger users are actually going all-in on video.
Speaking at the Hello Tomorrow conference in London today (January 16), Neary stated that half of the content consumed across Meta’s platforms – primarily Facebook and Instagram – is now of video content. That’s a number that the tech company has been creeping towards for a few years, but Neary confirmed that the significant milestone has been reached, saying: “50% of all people’s time on our platforms is now spent consuming video.”
Neary said social platforms are liable to change considerably as new products become available: “When we look at the data – independent third-party data – we have a larger share of young audience than any other social media platform. When I first joined Meta just over two years ago, there were 41 million people on Facebook every month in the UK. Now there are 43 million. The way I like to think about it is that different generations use it differently.”
It is these different generations – and by extension the lack of intersection between how different generations use the platforms – that are responsible for the misconception that young people are abandoning the platform for rivals like TikTok, she argued. For Meta, countering that assumption is paramount given the significant headwinds it is facing in terms of advertising spend. While forecasts are that digital ad spend will continue to increase, Meta is no longer as well-placed to benefit as it once could: it is facing issues regarding data processing following an EU ruling and is still being affected by Apple’s privacy changes.
Despite the stats shared about the growing user base for Meta’s platforms and the prevalence of the young demographic there, there was no discussion about the average revenue per user of the respective demographics. If younger audiences are indeed spending less time on Facebook, they are less able to be monetized in the way Meta has done in the past. In 2021, an internal Facebook presentation estimated that teens spend up to three times as long on TikTok than on Instagram and that Snapchat is the preferred method of communicating with best friends for young people.
As digital video is typically seen as having greater yield than other ad formats, it is no surprise then that Neary was keen to position Meta as being in a good place to take advantage of its users’ increasing time spent with the format. She stated that 140bn Reels are shared every day and that the largest cohort among the site’s reach of 72% of the UK population are in the 18-34-year-old demographic.
When pressed on the viability of the company’s investment in – and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in – metaverse technology, Neary argued that it was best to look at previous tech trends to determine how that will develop in the long-term.
She also mentioned Meta’s work with Apple on developing a framework for the metaverse as evidence that Meta is not trying to unilaterally own the entire metaverse space and that privacy and safety are paramount to its plans: “We are building the metaverse with a safety-first aspect from the get-go, rather than having to bolt some safety aspects on when something has happened because we’ve had to learn on the way because things have accelerated so fast.”
She said that it would be realistic to look at a 5-to-10-year timescale before the public will be using metaverse technology on a day-to-day basis. Given the trends around engagement with Meta’s social products, it is likely we will see Meta pivot numerous times before then to keep young people – and the advertisers that want to reach them – engaged.