Stop Scrolling: Is YouTube Officially the Most Versatile Social Channel?

Stop Scrolling: Is YouTube Officially the Most Versatile Social Channel?

Jamie Ross-Skinner • 13/06/2023

The average European consumer spends just over 2 hours per day on social media. Long periods of scrolling through a range of content have become the norm, making social an essential channel for marketers to leverage at all stages of the marketing funnel. Despite YouTube being the first social platform to gain real traction in the 2000s, when we now think of ‘social media’, our minds tend to jump to the likes of Facebook and Instagram and increasingly TikTok. But the vast range of content on YouTube has enabled it to remain consistent in its popularity, usage and in terms of both the most used platforms and which platforms offer users the most diverse content, YouTube comes out on top.

YouTube sits in a unique position. It is often classed as a video service due to video being the sole content type on the platform, but social media, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, includes ‘websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking’, YouTube can undoubtedly be classed as a social network as well. The platform provided the first real content creators and whether YouTubers and influencers are now sharing reviews, vlogs, clothing hauls, or tutorials, the creation and sharing of content are at the centre of the platform. So, while some aspects of YouTube do fall into video services rather than social media, it has the core characteristics of a social platform – content creation from users, interaction, and personalisation.


Source: GWI April 2023 Zeitgeist, Social Media Platforms, Europe, Number of Responses: 13,460

When it comes to the most visited platforms over a weekly basis, European consumers find themselves using YouTube the most, with Facebook a close second. Usage does differ between generations with Gen Z and Millennials using Instagram the most while Gen X and Baby Boomers are more likely to have visited Facebook. Despite these demographic divergences, with content matching all types of search queries, YouTube usage is high across the board.

YouTube’s position as the most used platform is perhaps more impressive when we examine what consumers use social media for. For over half of Europeans, they want to stay in touch with friends and family, which is why photo sharing platforms like Facebook and Instagram are both popular and accessible for all generations. TikTok has become synonymous with sharing funny or interesting content with loved ones and friends for Gen Z in particular. YouTube is not such a natural platform for communication with friends or family, especially in comparison to the likes of Facebook or Instagram, but it’s the range of content that keeps users engaged with the platform.


Source: GWI Core, Wave: Q1 2023, Reasons for Using Social Media, Europe, Number of Responses: 1,030,418

Yes, consumers do want to use social media to keep in touch with friends or family but filling spare time is also a top driver for social media usage, and this is where YouTube shines. Data from GWI’s latest zeitgeist on ‘Social Media Vibes’ gives us additional insight into what type of content consumers actually want from the main social platforms they use, and we can therefore understand why YouTube has stayed at the forefront of the social channels.

Content is what fundamentally drives consumers to social media and in the case of YouTube’s popularity, it comes down to the range of content on offer. Consumers might turn to Instagram or Pinterest for clothing and lifestyle inspiration and TikTok for funny content but whether its content from prominent vloggers or someone else entirely, YouTube ticks all the content boxes. Users want informative content when they access almost all the social platforms and just under a third of Europeans expect this from YouTube. As well as this, 28% expect funny content, 25% turn to the platform for helpful/how to guides and 24% like the engaging and creative content on offer. Instead of sifting through the various platforms, no matter how engaging or funny the content may be, users like the convenience of YouTube’s never-ending array of material.


Source: GWI April 2023 Zeitgeist, Social Media Vibes: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Europe, Number of Responses: 13,460

For brands creating content and running ads on YouTube. It is important to think about not only who is using the platform and how often, but also why they are using it. Whether your audience are there to learn, laugh, or simply relax.

Find the mindset you’re trying to tap into, and then create content which complements it.

What does this look like in practice? It looks like Nissan’s four hour long lo-fi mix to promote their new ‘powerfully peaceful’ Ariya model.

There are millions of different reasons people come to YouTube, so there are millions of contexts that brands can target. Our advice would be, don’t try to target them all at once.


GWI Core, Social Media Attitudes and Behaviours

GWI 2023 Zeitgeist: Social Media Vibes

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