When considering use of social media to meet business objectives, there are two pieces of information that are critical to understand:
- Whom you are trying to reach
- Which social media platforms they use and how
The first data point may be constant, but the second assuredly is not. While 73 percent of online adults in the United States report using social networking, adoption and use vary by social media platform and shift over time.
The old saying “fish where the fish are” has never been more true than when developing a social media strategy. If you have the luxury of time and budget, consider primary research directly with your target audience to find out what social media platforms they use. However, there is a great deal of information available from secondary research sources to inform your selection of platforms. A web search for social media statistics can yield insight; refining the search with time periods or specific platforms can make the research more fruitful.
Some secondary sources you may find helpful include:
- Platform-generated data sources
For instance, Facebook reports weekly highlights as well as year-end wrap-ups that include information about who is using Facebook and how. (http://newsroom.fb.com/Trends)
Similarly, YouTube reports data here: http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html
- Credible thought leaders, bloggers and media covering the social media field
Following Mashable, Social Media Today, Ragan Communications, Shel Holtz, and others can put up-to-date and already-vetted insight at your fingertips.
- Third-party analytics and research organizations
This category would include analytics and research organizations such as Comscore, Nielsen, McKinsey and Forrester and the Pew Research Center.
Of particular note is the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which has a wealth of research, articles and data on its website. Its data about online, mobile and social media behavior related to health is quite robust. Susannah Fox is one of the researchers there, and following her on Twitter (@SusannahFox) is a great way to keep abreast of the latest trends.
Pew’s latest data on social media adoption and use were released on Dec. 30, 2013. The findings reflect responses from those who reported using the Internet, which includes 85% of U.S. adults. Respondents were asked specifically about Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. This page includes the detail and is a good one to bookmark as it is updated regularly.
General use information
- 73% use a social networking site of some kind.
- 42% of online adults report using more than one social network site.
- 71% use Facebook, up from 67% in 2012.
- 22% use LinkedIn, up from 20%.
- 21% use Pinterest, up from 15%
- 18% use Twitter, up from 16%.
- 17% use Instagram, up from 13%
Single platform users
- 36% reported that they used only one platform (while 22% did not use any of the five sites specified in the survey).
- Of single-platform users, 84% use Facebook, 8% use LinkedIn, 4% use Pinterest, 2% each use Instagram or Twitter.
- 23% report using two of the five sites; only 2% report using all five.
- Facebook appeals to a broad mix of demographic groups.
- 76% of women and 66% of men
- Non-Hispanic white, 71%; non-Hispanic black, 76%; Hispanic, 73%
- 18-29 year olds, 84%; 30-49 year olds, 79%; 50-64 year-olds, 60%; 65+, 45%
- Use decreases slightly as income rises, with 76% penetration among those with household income less than $30,000 and 69% penetration among those over $75,000.
- 18% of Internet users overall (statistically similar to 16% in 2012)
- Pretty even distribution among men and women and across education and income levels.
- Higher use among non-Hispanic blacks at 29%
- Higher use under 30 (31% in the 18-29 age range), moderate use 30-49 at 19% and much lower use among those age 50-64 (9%) and 65+ (5%).
- Slight preference among urban and suburban dwellers (18%, 19% respectively) versus rural dwellers (11%)
- 17% overall, up from 13% in 2012. This increase is fueled by a jump form 28% to 37% among users in their 20s and a jump from 23% to 35% among African Americans. Note that Instagram was acquired by Facebook in April 2013.
- Higher usage among blacks and Hispanics, 34% and 23% respectively, compared to whites, 12%.
- Use skews slightly female, with 20% of women and 15% of men using Instagram.
- Use also skews younger, with 37% of 18-29 year olds using Instagram, compared to 18% age 30-49, 6% age 50-64 and 1% age 65+.
- Use also skews toward urban and suburban dwellers at 22% and 18% respectively, and 6% among rural dwellers.
- 21% of Internet users overall, up from 15% in 2012, and women continue to dominate the site.
- 33% of online women use Pinterest, compared to 8% of men.
- Pinterest users also skew toward higher education and income.
- About a quarter of users in their 20s, 30s, and 40s use Pinterest, compared to 14% of those age 50-64 and only 9% over age 65+
- 22% of Interest users overall, and geared toward professional networking, usage is especially high among those with college degrees (or higher) and annual household incomes over $75,000.
- Skews slightly more male, at 24% of men and 19% of women using the platform.
- As expected, greater usage in prime career years, with about a quarter of those between 30-64 using LinkedIn, compared to 15% age 18-29 and 13% over 65.
- 38% of those with a college degree use Linked In, compared to 16% of those with some college and 12% of those with a high school degree or less.
- 38% of those making over $75,000 annual household income use Linked In, compared to 22% for those between $50,000-$74,999; 13% for those making $30,000-$49,999 and 12% for those making less than $30,000.
- Again use also skews toward urban and suburban dwellers at 23% and 26% respectively, versus 8% for those in rural areas.
- 63% of Facebook users visit at least once/day; 40% visit more than once a day.
- 57% of Instagram users visit daily; 35% do so more than once a day.
- 46% of Twitter users visit daily; 29% visit multiple times a day.
- 23% of Pinterest users visit daily, while 30% say they visit weekly, and 45% do so less frequently.
- 13% of LinkedIn users visit daily, while 34% visit weekly and 52% do so less frequently.
- Identify the target group or groups with which you wish to engage.
- Using the data here or through additional secondary research, identify the platforms that may be most appropriate to use to reach them.
- If you have found other credible sources of demographic data and other insights about who is using social media and how, please share them in the comments.
Cynthia Floyd Manley (@CynthiaManley) is a member of the External Advisory Board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.
Posted by Cynthia Floyd Manley
Great blog post. Thank you for bringing all these great statistics and resources together.
Reply by Jeff Poterucha