The outlook for the social media industry is excellent. New technologies are making Internet connections faster and easier, and users are increasingly connecting to the Internet and social media via their smartphones and other digital devices. Interest in social media is expected to increase because social media usage is transitioning from desktop PCs and laptops to mobile devices. Eighty-one percent of people in the United States now have smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center, with 18–29-year-olds solidly at 96 percent ownership. By 2025, 72.6 percent of Internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones, according to a report from the World Advertising Research Center. The increase in mobile devices has opened new markets for social media companies, since more people in developing countries own smartphones than computers.
During the coronavirus pandemic, which started in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, business lockdowns and social distancing requirements increased the use of social media. The economic slowdown, however, slowed revenue growth in the social networking sites industry in 2020, due to a decline in advertising spending, according to research group IBISWorld. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in 2020, offered economic relief to social media companies and other industry operators affected by the pandemic. The rollout of the vaccine for the virus in 2021 will strengthen the economy, which in turn will increase online advertising spending. As consumers spend more money on purchases through social media sites, the social media industry will continue to grow in the coming years. According to Statista, advertising spending in the social media advertising sector is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.76 percent from 2021 through 2025. A main trend with this sector will be social networks and messenger apps. There will also continue to be "an integration or proliferation of advertising spaces within messenger apps such as WhatsApp or Instagram, [which will] rapidly increase the revenue potential of current market key players like Facebook." Some segments of social media related to e-commerce, mobile gaming, and streaming video saw increased demand during the pandemic as people sought ways to purchase goods and entertain themselves without leaving home.
Advertising revenue is one of the main revenue streams (along with the sale of customers’ personal information) in the social media industry. Facebook dominates the paid social advertising landscape globally; in 2015, it earned 65.5 percent of all social network ad spending worldwide. Gartner, Inc. predicts that the amount of advertising will increase on social media sites. “Marketers will begin to transition from ‘onetime placement and click of ads’ toward ‘ongoing engagement’ with the Internet user and will therefore allocate a higher percentage of their advertising budget to social networking sites,” says Neha Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner, Inc. “This is mainly because social networking sites, with the help of social analytics firms, are able to unlock the interconnected data structures of users—mapping lists of friends, their comments and messages, photos and all their social connections, contact information and associated media.” This growth will create demand for digital advertising and marketing workers. Other revenue growth areas include social gaming and social media subscriptions, although these areas make up a much smaller revenue segment than advertising.
Hot social media careers include social media directors, online community managers, social media strategists, online reputation managers, chief conversation officers, blogger outreach managers, and applications developers. Blogs and podcasts remain an extremely popular aspect of social media, but it will be very difficult to establish a full-time career as a blogger or podcaster, since so many people are trying to do so. Most bloggers and podcasters work part time, while working as journalists, technical writers, editors, teachers, or in nonwriting or non-broadcasting positions in various industries.
Employment for writers in software publishing (including social media) is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2018 to 2028 (or much faster than the average for all occupations), according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). There will be many opportunities for entry-level writers, editors, photographers, and videographers, but the low pay offered by many content providers—especially content farms—and the lack of job security will create a lot of job turnover as many leave the sector for better paying and stable jobs in other fields.
Job opportunities for technical workers will grow steadily. The DOL predicts that employment for Web developers and software developers will grow much faster than the average for all careers through 2028. Additionally, demand for mobile apps continues to be very strong. As a result, employment opportunities for mobile application developers are expected to be excellent. CIO.com reports that there is a shortage of qualified developers because few colleges offer degrees in mobile application development and many developers who design traditional software do not have the skill set to easily transition to mobile app development.
The most successful workers in the social media industry will have experience, advanced education, and strong creative or technical skills. They should also be willing to continue to learn throughout their careers.
Positive developments in the more general area of the Internet suggest that opportunities in social media will continue to be strong. Here is a summary of the outlook in a variety of areas.
Continued growth at a faster rate than the overall retail sector will drive employment opportunities. Total U.S. e-commerce reached a record $601.7 billion in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Department, an increase of 14.9 percent from 2018. E-commerce comprised 16 percent of retail sales in 2019.
Employment in mobile platform gaming is expected to continue growing. Sixty-five percent of America adults played computer and video games in 2019, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets is rapidly gaining in popularity. Sixty percent of adult gamers used smartphones as their most-common device to play computer and video games. Fifty-two percent used personal computers, and 49 percent used a dedicated game console as their primary game-playing device. Online gaming will enjoy good growth because the number of broadband users is rising, microtransaction technology (enabling financial transactions online involving small amounts of money) is making it easier for users to play casual games and social network games, and smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the most popular method of play for casual game players because of their portability and intuitive touch interface features.
Search Marketing and Optimization
The advertising research firm Borrell Associates reports that U.S. search engine optimization spending reached $65 billion in 2016. It is expected to reach $77.8 billion by 2023, according to Statista.com. The field will continue to grow as companies seek to gain a competitive edge by improving the search rankings of their Web sites. The growth of mobile Internet technologies is creating demand for search marketing professionals. Opportunities should be best for those with college degrees and extensive experience in the field.
According to Statista.com, more than 228.8 million people in the United States viewed online video in 2018; the number is expected to increase to 248.9 billion by 2022. Live video has become popular in recent years, with Twitter (Periscope and the streaming of National Football League games) and Facebook (Live Video) leading the charge. “There’s no question that video content is on the rise, in popularity and significance,” according to Entrepreneur. “Users have faster, more mobile internet connections, and the flood of written content on the web has left users hungry for something more visually engaging. Beyond that, live, in-the-moment content is becoming more important in the social realm thanks to mobile experiences and constant communication.”