Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide — or about one in three living on the planet today — logged onto a social network in 2017, according to new estimates of social media users worldwide by digital market research company eMarketer. 

As usual, Facebook still accounts for the lion’s share of social media activity, as more than 1.5 billion people — or about 62 percent of all social network users worldwide — logged onto that site at least once a month last year.

Sheer numbers aside, however, eMarketer’s report now suggests that photo-sharing site Instagram is quickly catching up, revealing big gains in new members and accounting for an increased share of total global social network users. The online photo service, which is owned by Facebook, now counts nearly 594 million regular users, accounting for nearly a quarter — 24 percent — of total current social network users worldwide. Instagram penetration among social network users as well as the population as a whole was highest in North America and Western Europe, according to the eMarketer report.


eMarketer now predicts that nearly 700 million people worldwide will use Instagram at least once a month in 2018, representing more than 26 percent of all social network users. By 2021, that share is expected to surpass 30 percent.

In a development that should come as a surprise to no one, mobile now constitutes the primary means by which Internet users now access social media sites. eMarketer estimates that 82.5 percent of all social network users worldwide used a mobile device to access social sites at least once a month in 2017, and 74.7 percent of all mobile phone internet users worldwide used their device to access a social media site.

eMarketer said that while social media usage continued to be widespread in digitally saturated markets such as North America and Western Europe, some of social media’s biggest gains last year came from emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, which saw year-over-year social media growth of 8.7 percent in 2017.

eMarketer predicts that social media’s future growth across the globe will come as a result of improvements to Internet access in developing nations, itself a consequence of government investments in mobile broadband coverage and the availability of affordable consumer smartphones.

eMarketer annual report, “Worldwide Social Network Users Update: eMarketer’s Estimates and Forecast for 2016–2021,” included data estimates for Instagram for the first time, as well as forecasts for Facebook and Twitter users.