While the overall numbers have peaked, there is still growth and change within categories.

A new Pew Research Center study indicates the use of social media and internet adoption more broadly are flat. Greg Sterling writing in Marketing Land (100118) stated ‘The organization found the percentages of users who own smartphones, use social media and the internet overall is roughly identical to 2016 figures, or even down slightly.

◉ The shares of U.S. adults who say they use the internet, use social media, own a smartphone or own a tablet computer are all nearly identical to the shares who said so in 2016.
◉ The share who say they have broadband internet service at home currently stands at 65%, nearly identical to the 67% who said this in a survey conducted in summer 2015.
◉ And when it comes to desktop or laptop ownership, there has actually been a small dip in the overall numbers over the last two years, from 78% in 2016 to 73% today.

Imagine, only 65 percent broadband penetration. What is striking about the above excerpt from the report is that broadband internet penetration stands at only 65 percent of all US adults.’ One of the reasons for this surprisingly low penetration is an aging America who never adapted to tech and the price of entry. ‘Pew says that multiple factors are standing in the way of further penetration:rural availability, cost, complexity or basic lack of interest.

On the latter point, a Pew survey in 2013 found that about 34 percent of non-internet users had no interest in going online and said the internet wasn’t relevant to their lives.

Saturation is a factor in some categories such as smartphones. As the chart above indicates, roughly 95 percent of survey respondents have “cellphones,” according to the survey. And 90+ percent of those under 50 own smartphones (97 percent are online).

Changes happening within categories. Despite friction or saturation in multiple categories, Pew observed that the market is still fairly dynamic and there is growth in several areas. For example, while overall social media penetration and usage aren’t growing, selected sites (e.g., Instagram) are. Pew also said, “Looking beyond the adult population, the social media environment of today’s teenagers looks remarkably different than it did just a few years prior.”

In addition, smartphone internet usage continues to grow at the expense of PCs. In 2016 Pew found the number of “smartphone-only” internet users was 12 percent. Today that number is 20 percent.

There are also new device categories (e.g., smart speakers, wearables) that have emerged and continue to grow. By several measures, half of all US households will soon have a smart speaker. Pew also cited smart home device adoption and IoT as categories that will continue to see growth in the coming years.

What does it means for marketers? The overview is that while overall adoption of core internet technologies is flat, the market is still quite dynamic and evolving. Marketers need to be able to continue to adapt to shifts in behavior, from one platform to another and one device category to another. Historically there has been a meaningful lag between consumer adoption of technology and use of that technology for marketing purposes.’

Yet there are other factors involved.

With nearly 290 million internet users as of 2016, the United States is one of largest online markets worldwide. According to Statista, About 76.2 percent of the U.S. population accessed the internet as of 2016. While internet adoption in the United States is equal amongst both genders, online usage increases among demographic groups with higher levels of education and income. The United States is also one of the highest-ranked countries in terms of internet freedom, ranking fourth in the Freedom House Index of 2017 with 21 points.

Internet users in the United States often turn to their mobile devices to access the internet. Accessing the internet is indeed the most popular smartphone activity among adult users in the country. Over 72 percent of mobile phone users accessed the internet through their mobile devices in 2017. This share is forecast to add up to 80.6 percent by 2021. As of 2017, Americans spent half of their digital media time on smartphone apps. Tablet apps accounted for seven percent of their time, as did smartphone browsers. Recent research shows that Americans spend the majority of their daily mobile online time on apps. Smartphone users in the United States spent 85.7 percent of their mobile online time on apps, and tablet users spend about 76.5 percent of their time. The most popular app among U.S. smartphone audiences is Facebook with just over 80 percent user reach.

Social networking is a common activity among internet users in the United States. A total of 81 percent of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2017. With a market share of 42 percent of all social networking site visits in the country, social network Facebook is the most popular social media entity in the U.S. across different age groups. Other popular social platforms include YouTube, Google+, Twitter as well as image-oriented networks Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. In terms of messaging apps, Snapchat is already the third most popular mobile messaging app with 48.67 million unique active users as of February 2018.

Internet usage in the U.S. is frequent, with 43 percent of surveyed adults saying that they used the internet several times a day as of February 2018, compared to just eight percent who said they accessed the internet about once a day. In fact, 39 percent of 18-29 year old respondents to the survey said that they are online almost constantly. As of 2017, the most popular daily online activity of adult internet users in the United States. was sending or reading e-mails, and the number of e-mail users in the U.S. is forecast to surpass 254 million by 2020.

Realistically, social media is used by more than the broadband quotient of 65% of America. Smartphones are mobile and are not dependent upon broadband connection. It has established itself as a platform for information, news and contact sharing. It is one of the key channels for reach and engagement. Today it fits into entire game plan of reaching those who could, would or should buy your product and/or services. It is just like television, cinema and radio, and to a targeted extent, print.

Historically, marketing used newspapers and magazines first, followed by outdoor. Then came radio, cinema followed by television and then the internet which provided social media. All of these platforms have to be considered in building a sound marketing platform for 2018 and beyond. And for retail, it doesn’t stop there. It starts there. Plus, internal in-store adaption of WiFi and signage that truly tells the story of your products and your services must be added now.

We live in a new era of multiple platforms and shifting focus by the consumer. It is our job to keep in front of them every hour of every day and tell them the story about how you can make their lives better. We are not selling the story, you have sales associates for that. We are telling the story. You have to reach them before we can sell them. And now is the time.