This week in social media news, App Annie releases its State of Mobile 2021 report, TikTok announces an incubator program for its black creatives, Facebook shares new research on shifts in consumer shopping behavior worldwide, LinkedIn launches a new swipe-up link feature to Stories, Facebook Workplace updates its employee safety and live video features and more.

App Annie: Consumers Spent $143 Billion On Mobile Apps In 2020

According to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report, US consumers spent $143 billion on mobile apps in 2020—a 20 percent year-over-year (YOY) increase—and eight percent more time on mobile than watching live television each day.

Why it matters: The surge in mobile adoption provides a massive opportunity for marketers to reach consumers as they continue to crave shared experiences during lockdowns. In 2020 alone, advertisers spent $240 billion on mobile ads, a figure set to top $290 billion this year.

The details: App Annie notes that in the US, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X/Baby Boomers spent 16 percent, 18 percent and 30 percent more time YoY, respectively, in their most-used apps.

In terms of top apps from the year, TikTok reigned supreme with time spent on the app growing 70 percent in the US and 80 percent in the UK. This year, App Annie anticipates TikTok will hit 1.2 billion active users.

In addition, time spent in streaming apps surged by 40 percent in 2020, with Youtube seeing up to six times higher time spent per user than Netflix.

Global downloads of Pinterest and Instagram grew 50 percent and 20 percent YoY, respectively, leading the way for social commerce and live shopping to become a $2 trillion market globally by 2024.

As far as games, casual games dominated downloads, with core gamers generating 66 percent of spend and 55 percent of time spent on mobile games.

TikTok Launches Black Creatives Incubator Program

Today, TikTok announced its new ‘TikTok for Black Creatives,’ a new three-month incubator program that aims to nurture and develop 100 black creators and music artists through grants.

Why it matters: Ever since black creators on TikTok accused the app of censoring Black Lives Matter content in June, TikTok has pledged to promote its black users. It has since committed to donating $3 million to nonprofits that help black communities and an additional $1 million toward eradicating racial injustice.

The details: TikTok is giving black creators the chance to apply for the program, which will award a select number with funds toward educational resources, production equipment and other creative content development tools. The grant for the initiative was created in partnership with MACRO, a multimedia platform that champions diversity.

Facebook Publishes New Research On Consumer Shopping Behavior 

As part of its new ‘Perspectives’ series, Facebook has published a new report on the major shifts in consumer shopping behavior across the world in 2021, during which growth in essential categories is expected to skyrocket while nonessential categories contract.

Why it matters: During COVID-19, consumers have realized that their shopping habits mean more to them than ever before for a variety of reasons including safety, security and convenience.

The details: Facebook found that safety and reliability are the new standards for in-store shopping, with 71 percent of respondents noting it’s very important that a retailer create a safe shopping environment, and 68 percent saying it’s critical for retailers to always have products they’re invested in buying in stock.

Convenience, customization and delivery capabilities are also influencing consumers’ shopping habits, with more than two-thirds saying all are very important.

Consumers also still care about what companies care about, with 56 percent saying it’s very important that brands they buy from support the same values they believe in.

LinkedIn Adds Swipe-Up Link Feature To Stories

LinkedIn just launched a new feature that lets members with at least 5,00 connections or followers and Company Pages add a swipe-up link to their Stories.

Why it matters: The move is in line with that of a key feature on Instagram and Snapchat that lets brands with 10,000 or more followers add swipe-up links to promote products and editorial content.

The details: As per social media expert Matt Navarra, LinkedIn’s new swipe-up feature lets you preview and edit your link before posting, and will display a ‘See more’ prompt to viewers. Users will also be able to see how the Stories performed in their insights.

Facebook Workplace Updates Safety Check And Live Video Features

Facebook Workplace is updating its Safety Check and Live Video features to help businesses bridge the distance between colleagues amid hybrid work environments induced by COVID-19.

Why it matters: Facebook Workplace usage has surged as the pandemic forced companies to shift to remote work. In May, the company said that its Workplace platform alone has 5 million paid users, up from 3 million in October 2019.

The details: As per a tweet from Facebook technology communications manager, EMEA, Alexandru Voica, Facebook Workplace is rolling out a new iteration of Safety Check called Safety Center. The goal here is to provide increased functionality and a new user experience to help businesses check on employee safety and manage communications during incidents, as well as issue travel advisories to employees during the pandemic.

Facebook Workplace has also updated its Live Video feature to let employees go live with multiple presenters.

Voica says the updates “preview Workplace’s broader 2021 product strategy, which aims to expand Workplace’s reach in connecting communities.”

Youtube Debuts New Dedicated Pages For Hashtag Searches

YouTube rolled out a new feature that gives anyone who searches for a specific hashtag on YouTube access to a dedicated page that only contains videos with the hashtag.

Why it matters: Up until now, when users searched for a hashtag or clicked on a hashtag, YouTube displayed a combination of content using the hashtag in the video, in addition to other related videos.

The details: Available on mobile and desktop, YouTube’s new hashtag page sorts hashtag-specific videos to keep the best videos at the top. Users can also navigate these dedicated hashtag pages by clicking any automatically linked hashtag they see on YouTube.

Facebook Shares Games Marketing Insights For 2021

After surpassing 1 billion hours for the first time in Q3 2020, Facebook Gaming has published the findings of a survey it conducted in July 2020 across four key markets—the US, UK, South Korea and Germany—that highlights the importance of connecting with new gamers in the new year.

Why it matters: According to the report, 70 percent of people reported spending more time on mobile devices. That behavior seems to have stuck, as those who started playing after the crisis are still playing today. Respondents said that the main reason for the increase was they had more free time (41 percent).  

The details: Facebook found that since March, there are 28 million new gamers in the US, 8.6 million in the UK, 9.4 million in South Korea and 6.5 million in Germany.

In the US and UK, new gamers were more likely to play video games on a PC or gaming console. New gamers also skewed significantly toward core game genres.

Regarding ads, new players are open to alternative monetization models like in-app purchases, whereas existing players prefer ad-supported models. Both cohorts prefer to see gameplay and character/story elements represented in ads.

TikTok Streamed A Virtual Ratatouille-Inspired Musical And Benefit

TikTok streamed an encore presentation of a creator-inspired virtual musical and benefit based on Ratatouille after the premiere virtual benefit it streamed on January 1 garnered $1 million for the Actors Fund.

Why it matters: In August, TikTok theater creatives’ content inspired the creation of a new account entitled @ratatouillemusical. The account made a video calling for community submissions to help bring the fictional musical to life. To date, the #RatatouilleMusical tag has 227 million views.

The details: The January 1st premiere of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical was a virtual benefit performance for The Actors Fund featuring 10 songs sourced from TikTok and musical stars. Throughout, viewers were able to donate to the Actors Fund via an in-app donation sticker. TikTok offered an encore presentation of the musical on January 10.

Parler App Gets Axed By Amazon, Apple and Google

Amazon, App and Google have all removed Parler following complaints that the platform was being used to plan and coordinate the storming of the US capitol by President Trump supporters.

Why it matters: According to BuzzFeed News, Apple removed Parler from its app store after it received numerous accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington DC, adding that “The app also appears to continue to be used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.”

The details: On Sunday night, Amazon removed Parler from its cloud hosting service, a move that shut down Parler’s website and app until it can find a new hosting provider. Amazon Web Services said that in recent weeks it reported 98 examples of posts promoting violence on Parler that it didn’t effectively identify and remove.