Conclusions and Forecasts
So, what does this huge wealth of data tell us? We’ve got three key take-aways, together with a few related forecasts:

  1. Mobile is dramatically changing everything: mobile phones aren’t just a more convenient way to access the internet; they’re changing people’s fundamental connected behaviour, whether it’s shifting our social media habits to a more one-to-one, private conversation context, to accessing M-commerce whilst we’re at physical world stores, to paying for things directly in those physical stores and on public transport using mobile wallet.So, if you’re still wondering about how to optimise your website for mobile, you’re being left far behind; success tomorrow won’t just be about a mobile web presence, but about optimising your entire organisation for a mobile-centric world.
  1. Connectivity is becoming the norm: more than half of the world’s adult population now uses the internet, and well over one-third of the adult population uses social media at least once a month. Our study of the Key 30 economies – which account for 70% of the world’s population – shows that nearly three-quarters of internet users access the net every single day, and this is still increasing at an impressive rate.People now expect everything to be connected, from their real-time public transport schedule, to the voting system, to real-time stock availability in physical world stores. The internet is no longer just an information portal; it’s the ‘electricity’ of modern society and commerce connecting us to the people and things we care about most. As a result, businesses and brands need to explore how connectivity can improve every element of their business, not just their advertising.
  1. For most people, social is (once again) about conversations: for a few years – namely 2007 to 2014 – social media was largely about sharing our lives publicly with the world. That behaviour still exists, but we’re becoming more selective about what we share, and whom we share it with. For everyone except marketers, social media is quickly returning to what ‘social’ has always been for human beings: connecting on a personal basis with the people we care about most. Many of those people will be people that work for organisations we care about too though, so social’s role in marketing definitely isn’t going away.Indeed, social’s role can now evolve into more value-added experiences, providing the one-to-one meaning that social has always promised, but that marketers have shunned in favour of more flashy, advertising-led ‘public social’ activities. For organisations and brands to succeed in this more personal environment, marketers will need to get better at listening to people and understanding what they want, and not simply using social media as a way to say what we want to say in new ways. The clue is in the name: it’s called social media, not ego media. Let’s make 2016 the year we become truly social brands, and not just brands that interrupt people where they’re socialising with each other.

So there you have it: all the highlights of the digital world in 2016. Don’t forget that there’s a huge amount more information in our actual reports:

Digital in 2016

2016 Digital Yearbook

Here’s to another great year of growth and success!

We’d like to thank a number of people and organisations who helped make this year’s reports possible:

  • Jason Mander and the entire GlobalWebIndex team for their incredible generosity in providing so much of their valuable data and support;
  • Matt Ablott and the GSMA Intelligence team for providing us with mobile connections data for almost every country on the planet;
  • ITU and InternetWorldStats for collating and publishing internet user data for almost every one of the world’s nations;
  • Facebook for making their active user data available for all except 5 of the world’s countries (we’d be so pleased if we could get the data for Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Western Sahara next year!)
  • Google Consumer Barometer for publishing such a comprehensive and in-depth study of the world’s connected populations;
  • The StatCounter team for making their web traffic data available to the world;
  • The Ericsson Mobility team for their hugely valuable, quarterly Mobility Reports;
  • Akamai for publishing their State of the Internet Report each quarter
  • eMarketer for collecting and publishing a wide variety of data on internet, social and mobile usage;
  • All of the government agencies and national industry bodies who publish information about their nation’s connected behaviours.

Note 1: For those who are curious, the discrepancy between internet and social media user figures usually arises because of the difficulties in measuring unique internet users in real-time; in developing nations, many people still access the internet from shared devices, making it particularly difficult to know exactly how many people use the internet. However, commercial opportunities and the need to set up individual accounts make it easier for social media platforms to understand how many people use their services. Social media number also benefit from ‘single source’ information, whereas a variety of service providers may be responsible for delivering internet access in an given country, resulting in dispersed or overlapping data.

Note 2: To determine the number of social media users in any given country, we identify the total number of monthly active user accounts on the most active social platform in each country (with the exception of China, where we use QZone, the second most-active platform, due to our concerns over the widespread use of multiple accounts by single individuals on the country’s top platform, QQ). Whilst this approach may ‘double-count’ people who maintain more than one active account on the top platform, we’re confident that this over-counting will be balanced out by those social media users who do not use the country’s top platform (for example, senior executives may use LinkedIn on a monthly basis, but not use Facebook at all).