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Reopening slows use of social media: Morgan Stanley

·2-min read

Social media usage has decreased since reopening efforts began, a new report from Morgan Stanley (MS) Research found.

The report, released Friday, noted that social media usage in May of 2021 was significantly lower than that of December 2020. “The percent of surveyed people using social media platforms on a daily basis fell anywhere from ~250bp (TikTok) to ~800bp (Facebook) since our last survey (December '20). Monthly usage also fell from ~140bp (TikTok) to ~900bp (Twitter),” according to the report.

Social media use generally increased during the pandemic, with as many as half of Americans claiming to use social media more than before COVID-19, according to some research sources. In 2020, Americans spent an average of 82 minutes per day on social media.

Now, as the economy reopens and people regain employment, social media use has begun to decline from pandemic-highs. Beyond the usage of platforms in general, engagement with products associated with social media has declined.

“At a high level, we view this as a sign of lower time spent per user across social media,” the report said. “While from a micro perspective, the drop-offs in Instagram Shopping and Snapchat Discover stand out the most as usage of these important long-term revenue drivers has fallen significantly since the shelter-in holiday season," the report said. 

Even so, the content of social media usage has changed over the course of the pandemic. Social media was used quite often to reconnect with friends and family after social distancing restrictions prevented people from coming in contact with others.

Close up of people using mobile smart phones - Detail of friends sharing photos on social media network with smartphone - Technology concept and cellphone culture with selective focus on right hand
Close up of people using mobile smart phones - Detail of friends sharing photos on social media network with smartphone - Technology concept and cellphone culture with selective focus on right hand

Certain social media platforms, like Tiktok, thrived during the pandemic. TikTok grew in popularity among young people especially, with a growth of 180% among 15- to 25-year-old users after the onset of the pandemic. Additionally, 12% of the population used TikTok in May 2020, as opposed to only 4% in September of 2019.

The Morgan Stanley report found Facebook (FB) to be the most promising stock out of the major social media platforms. “We remain most positive on FB within the large cap social media names as we see their leading ROI, product innovation, and monetization call options (Reels, Marketplace, Shopping, etc) enabling them to navigate through difficult near-term engagement headwinds,” the report said. Researchers also found 20% upside to Snapchat (SNAP) and 15% upside to Pinterest (PINS).

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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