What Do People Do Online?

Guest post by Johnathan Blakely,

Since the internet became mainstream in the 1990s, it has rapidly become an integral part of our lives. Most of us can’t go more than an hour without checking our phones, and “Google It!” has become a part of our daily language.

However, a fair question to ask is: what do people actually do online?

The internet is such a vast ocean of information that one can do pretty much anything. But despite having so much at our fingertips, most of us use the internet for the same core activities.

Broadband Search has compiled stats about internet use in 2019, and these numbers can help us wrap our head around not only how much we use the internet, but also why we spend so much time on the web.

You can read the full report here, but to save you some time, here are some of the highlights.


Due to the ubiquity of the phrase “Google it,” it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that people use the internet mainly to search for information. In fact, Google is the number one most-visited site in the world, according to the Alexa rankings.

Pinning down exactly what people search for is difficult, but here’s a list of the most common search terms people use along with the search volumes for each:

  • weather (24.4 million)
  • maps (20.4 million)
  • translate (18.3 million)
  • calculator (16.2 million)
  • YouTube to MP3 (13.7 million)

These terms are just the most popular. Overall, Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every single day, which is equivalent to more than 1.2 trillion searches per year.


The next most common thing people do on the internet is watch videos. YouTube is obviously a huge part of this. It’s ranked number two on the Alexa ranking, behind Google and in front of Facebook. YouTube has more than 1 billion unique monthly visitors.

But YouTube isn’t the only place people go for video content. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all receive tons of traffic. 45 percent of people globally watch at least one hour of online video content per day.

Social Media

Some may be surprised to see this is not the number one thing people do online. However, that it’s not in the top spot is not an indicator that social media is not popular. Overall, there are more than 3 billion social media users around the world.

With more than 2 billion active users, Facebook is the most popular platform. Next is Facebook Messenger and Instagram (both owned by Facebook), and then Twitter, LinkedIn, and SnapChat.

In total, Facebook is the third most visited site in the world behind Google and YouTube.


After searching, watching videos, and perusing social media, shopping is the most common online activity.

The world of e-commerce has seen significant growth over the years as more and more people get used to the comfort and convenience of shopping online.

To give you an idea, consider that global e-commerce sales last year were more than 650 billion. And things are not expected to slow down. Soon, e-commerce could be the leader in the retail space.


Most of use the internet to search for information, watch videos, check up on friends and family, and shop. However, as the web continues to advance and offer more features, perhaps we’ll find new ways to use this awesome tool in the future.

Stop! Doing These 3 Things on Social Media

You may feel like you are on top of it because you have integrated social media into your marketing and communication. But using outdated tactics may be ruining your impact.

Social media is constantly evolving. Tactics that worked in the past are no longer effective. Worse, they may work against your efforts to engage online.

Stop wasting time and resources on these social media tactics:

Don’t focus on follower numbers.

The quantity of people who follow you is not nearly as important as the quality. You are not in a competition to gain the most followers. Your focus should be on connecting with the right people.

Do follow the people you want to be connected with. Hopefully, they will reciprocate.

Then, spend your energies on providing great content. Couple that with engaging with your followers – liking their comments, sharing their content, answering their questions, etc.

Now you are on the right track to building the right community rather than focusing on numbers.

Don’t automate.

It’s so tempting to set up auto responses. It’s also completely counter to why people connect with you on social media!

Your social community wants and expects personal contact. Automated responses at best don’t give people the connection they crave. At worst, they make them walk away.

Automated, generic messages are a big turn-off. They signal that your only concern is getting people into a pipeline rather than creating a real connection and relationship.

Don’t hashtag and link excessively.

Unfortunately, too many brands still think that the best way to get the most out of a post is to stuff it full of links to their products or services and hashtags.

Link to what you want to sell! Use hashtags to get more eyeballs! Neither is really your best approach. Hashtags and links actually make posts harder to read and understand, completely defeating your reason for posting on social in the first place.

Further, many social platforms are now down-ranking posts that link off that platform, decreasing your organic reach. For example, a Facebook post that has a link to your website, will not be shown to as many people as a post with no link. That’s also works against the whole reason for posting.

Your social approach needs to evolve.

Don’t get complacent on social media. Platforms change rules and algorithms all the time. People’s expectations also change. Your social media strategy needs to keep pace.

Social Media Usage & Nonprofits: Are You Using It Like a Billboard, or to Build Relationships?

Guest Post by Ami Neiberger-Miller

Many nonprofit organizations have been on social media for more than a decade. New start-up nonprofit organizations can easily set up a Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account to share their work, attract donors, and engage volunteers. But what value do nonprofits really get out of social media? And how are they leveraging limited time and resources to engage in social media?

Are they using social media more like a billboard yelling out “hey look at us!” at anyone who passes by? Or are they using social media strategically to build and nurture relationships with core audiences that matter to them and their work? Some recent studies shed light on what nonprofits are doing.

A 2017 survey by Bloomerang, found that nonprofits want to use social media to share organizational news, promote events, and share organizational success stories. Sharing news and information ranked #4 on their list of goals, with fundraising at #5. The social media platform of choice was Facebook with 99% of respondents on Facebook and 90% considering Facebook to be their primary vehicle for social media engagement. Respondents said success was tracked by examining engagement.

More than half (55%) said social media was “very valuable” for their marketing efforts (they are really busy hanging those billboards!). Yet the survey also revealed that many struggle with strategy. Sixty-seven percent don’t document their social media goals. And more than half – 58% – don’t document their social media strategies (posting schedules, content types or target audiences). Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) did not have a documented strategy for responding to negative comments. In other words – the billboard hangers are more often than not, winging it when it comes to what they put on the board and how they hang it.

Many of the survey respondents were also missing important connections that could have been nurtured through a social media engagement. Only 13% were tracking the social media accounts of constituents in their donor database. This is a key gap for nonprofits seeking to communicate with donors and raise funds. And other key audiences – volunteers and supporters – ranked eighth seventh, respectively, when it came to overall goal-setting for nonprofit social media presence.

A 2018 study Kansas University on international nonprofits and social media usage concluded that nonprofits were more effective in using social media if they received clear support for social media engagement from organizational leadership. The allocation of resources – people power and funds to support social media engagement – made a big difference.

Researchers noted, “Strong organizational leadership support of social media efforts was the most significant factor in predicting the organization’s social media involvement. A lot of people say, ‘Social media is free.’ But it’s not free,” Seo said. “It takes people to develop content and share it, and that takes time, resources and leadership commitment.”

A 2015 study known as the Nonprofit Social Media Scorecard  noted that nonprofits often don’t nurture sharing and relationship. About half (49%) don’t respond to questions on Facebook and 55% don’t respond to questions on Twitter either. When donors posted a comment or asked a question, only 28% within 24 hours on Facebook and 8% responded within an hour on Twitter. In many cases, all that might have been needed was a simple thank you!

Only a quarter (24%) give donors tools to share about a donation on social media. The authors note a study by the American Red Cross which found that 40% of donors would share or be likely to share about a donation they made on social media. They also noted that 18% donated because they received an email from a friend and 17% donated because they read a social media post. By not enabling social sharing and not commenting and engaging with donors and supporters through social media, many nonprofits are losing opportunities to engage and nurture relationships.

If you just discovered you are a billboard hanger and not a relationship builder when it comes to social media – you can make a change today. Here are a few steps to help:

Suggested Action Steps:

  • Identify social media as an important engagement strategy for your organization, with clear support for it from the leadership of your organization.
  • Write down your goals for social media engagement for your nonprofit. Review your goals regularly and consider how they can be measured and improved. Write a social media policy for your organization and a clear policy on how negative comments (and positive ones) are responded to.
  • Draft your social media tactics and content.
  • Allocate staff time and resources to foster more engagement on social media.
  • Respond to comments and questions on social media platforms. Pay particular attention to donors and supporters.
  • Turn on social sharing tools for donors and supporters. Praise those who share and carry your message as an ambassador to others.
  • Periodically measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts. Modify what you are doing based on what you learn.

About the Author

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your projectreview the portfoliosign up for the e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.