Insights from the State of Digital 2023

WeAreSocial has published their 2023 Digital Global Overview Report and Spitfire Inbound's content team has chosen the top 10 digital trends and statistics they found most insightful.


The State of Digital in 2023 

As 2023’s financial year begins, we’re taking time to reflect on how digital landscapes and marketing spaces have changed over the past 12 months. Here are the top 10 shifts and insights from the 2023 Digital Global Overview Report from our content, social and paid media teams.

WeAreSocial has recently published their annual Digital Global Overview Report which provides all the data and insights necessary to understand recent digital shifts and thus apply them strategically. At Spitfire, we provide our clients with a range of services, including the development and implementation of inbound marketing strategies, informed by the latest digital trends and data. We’re also able to use this data to look ahead at digital shifts to come throughout 2023. 

Overall we’ve seen that the internet and digital spaces remain an integral part of our everyday lives - however, we’re becoming more intentional and purposeful about how we spend our time online, prioritizing the quality of the content we consume over the quantity. 

We spoke to our content, social media, and paid media teams to gather their insights into the data we found most interesting and relevant. 

Key Digital Shifts

1. Despite recent revelations that the world’s search behaviours are evolving, ‘finding information’ is still the primary reason why people use the internet today

Our Performance Management Specialist, Manoko Thoka, shared that, “In the era where the internet is primarily used for informational purposes, it’s crucial for brands to establish themselves as industry thought leaders by sharing relevant information that connects with consumers and leads from platforms where they can easily be found.” 

2. Search engines remained the top source of brand discovery, however, social media is on track to replace search engines in the future.

Top 3 sources of brand discovery are through Search Engines, TV Ads, and Word of Mouth, however 49.5% of social media users use social networks to seek out brands.

Chaz Driessel highlights that, “social Media's role in search is increasing and becoming more important. This reinforces why it's so imperative for brands to have at least one active social media account.” 

Justine Azzie relates this back to GWI’s Consumer trends dominating 2023 Webinar, saying that, “one of the most noticeable shifts is the adoption of social media platforms in information sourcing. This is particularly prevalent in the millennial and Gen Z generations. We tend to use social media more than older generations, and we have a higher level of trust in social media content. Part of this could definitely be because of the video and photo aspect; we like seeing social proof as opposed to just seeing statistics, written testimonials, and so on.”

3. Podcasts are increasing in popularity.

Daily media time increased for Podcasts most substantially, with a year-on-year change of 12.7%.

Our Head of Content & Senior Content Strategist, Samantha Steele found this shift particularly interesting, connecting it to the 2022 trend highlighted by Contently that compared podcasts to augmented reality. “Popping on a story while you're cooking, shopping or even falling asleep integrates this content into our daily lives in a way other mediums struggle to do,” Samantha explains. She continues, “Podcasts also don’t incorporate the News, which has become, I think, increasingly depressing to people struggling with the rising cost of living, rolling blackouts, global warming, and natural disasters across the world.” This echoes the ‘social justice’ fatigue faced by internet users, which was also highlighted in GWI Consumer trends dominating 2023 Webinar

4. Online video as a source of learning is 62% in South Africa and 43% globally.

Videos have become increasingly more popular as sources of learning, with the most popular social media platform being YouTube. This could be attributed to a variety of reasons, one of which being authenticity and reliability. GWI’s Consumer trends dominating 2023 Webinar highlighted that consumers, particularly younger generations, prefer video marketing because video ‘proof’ is perceived as more truthful than written content. TikTok has also had an impact on the rise in video popularity. 

5. Number of global social media users has reached 4.7 billion, equating to 59.4% of the global population.

Chaz highlights that, “there’s been an increase in the amount of time spent on social media. This essentially debunks the ‘demise of social media’ myth. Additionally, social media's share of online time is 38%, which is crazy high considering all the other reasons we use the internet!”

Laeveil Anderson, adds that, “this means that social media has become an integral part of many people's lives and is a significant platform for communication and interaction.”

6. Top 4 reasons people use social media are for keeping in touch with friends and family, filling spare time, reading news stories, and finding content.

This relates back to Justine’s point about the pandemic leading to a level of isolation. “We responded to this by placing significant importance on keeping in touch with our personal networks. There has also been increasing health awareness, with significant importance placed on mental health over the past few years, highlighting the necessity of having a support structure.” She goes on to suggest, “Staying connected is a major motivation behind all four of these top reasons.” 

Chaz points out that, “finding content being one of the top reasons points to the role social media plays in our everyday lives.” This makes social media marketing an important facet of brand strategies. 

7. South Africans spend 03:44 on social media daily, almost 1¼ more than the global average of 02:31.

Chaz mentions that, “interestingly enough, the daily time spent using social media in SA is the third highest in the world.” Kgomotso, says, “A fascinating insight is that people are actually spending more time on social media than ever. The report highlights that the typical working-age internet user now spends more than 2½ hours per day using social platforms, which is the highest figure recorded. This finding reinforces the importance of social media in our daily lives and its role in shaping modern society.” Laeveil, echoes this, adding that, “according to GWI, the typical social media user spends 40 minutes more on social media than on watching television, which indicates that social media is a highly engaging platform.”

8. Top three brand interactions each month come from visiting a brand’s website, watching a video made by a brand, and following a brand on a social network.

We’ve already noted the rise of video marketing and social networking sites, but we also want to emphasize the importance of a brand’s website. “Having a functional and attractive website is crucial as this is the top type of brand interaction.” Justine notes. 

9. Concern about the misuse of personal data is 42% in SA, higher than the global average of 32.3%.

“For several years now—triggered by the Cambridge Analytica/Donald Trump Facebook voting scandal—we've seen users more mistrustful of the data they share online. In South Africa, we are particularly wary of our data being misused,” Samantha explains. “For me, this speaks to the importance of brand content across all platforms (blog, social media, email) and our drive to conversions being based on adding value, not just on adding white noise to the internet to fish for SEO traffic,” she continues, “Are you helping people with your content? Are you getting their email addresses to communicate, or to spam? Brands need to focus on this, even more, today than they have been.”

10. Concern about online misinformation is 71% in SA, higher than the global average of 53.9%.

Samantha agrees that this misinformation concern is valid. “We've had some spectacularly false news stories parroted around before someone considered fact-checking (The Thembisa 10 being a famous and recent case). Media really need to pull their socks up and focus on accuracy and so do brands. Brands need to focus on how they can accurately provide useful information for an increasingly jaded and mistrusting population.”  

Manoko echoes this, saying that, “it’s important for brands to maintain strong ethical boundaries on the type of information they share with users as consumers are well-informed and are able to call out misinformation when they see it.”

How we’re approaching 2023

Samantha suggests that, “With these stats in mind, I'd ask myself:

  • Am I providing useful, unique, trustworthy and interesting information? 
  • Am I adding value to the online space?
  • Am I treating my client's data ethically?
  • Am I providing content in a format that fits into my buyer persona's life easily? 

These insights help us strategically align our content and validate, for me, that my anecdotal user experiences are in many ways universal.”

We’re looking at these digital shifts as opportunities to make our digital spaces more informed, accessible, and accepting.

We look forward to creating content that positively contributes to the quality of our clients' brands, and their customer’s experiences.

If you are interested to understand our strategic methodology which we implement with our clients, read our article on the Interceptor Strategy.

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Image : Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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