19 January 2015

Pew Research Center: “Social Media Site Usage 2014”

Facebook continues to be the most popular social media site, but its membership saw little change from 2013. The one notable exception is older adults: For the first time in Pew Research findings, more than half (56%) of internet users ages 65 and older use Facebook. Overall, 71% of internet users are on Facebook, a proportion that represents no change from August 2013.

Every other social media platform measured saw significant growth between 2013 and 2014. Instagram not only increased its overall user figure by nine percentage points, but also saw significant growth in almost every demographic group. LinkedIn continued to grow among groups with which it was already popular, such as professionals and college graduates, while Twitter and Pinterest saw increases in usership across a variety of demographic groups.

Maeve Duggan, Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden

Interesting study about trends in social media usage for the US. The breakdown by various demographics on the second page offer more fine-grained insights, some of them rather obvious, others more unexpected.

  • Gender-wise, and Instagram have more female users, while and LinkedIn are preferred by men, although by a small margin. As expected, Pinterest is heavily skewed towards women, the gap growing wider compared to 2013. US social media statistics 2014 by gender
  • In terms of age, most social networks in the study are preferred by the youngest age group, under 30, with the exception of LinkedIn, where the most active users are between 30 and 65 years old – not surprising, since the site is aimed at professionals. Pinterest also experienced solid growth in the more mature demographic groups. US social media statistics 2014 by age
  • The breakdown by education paints a more varied picture: Facebook is evenly represented in all three groups, but Twitter has started to attract more users with higher education. Pinterest also attracts a slightly higher percentage of college graduates, while LinkedIn positively dominates that demographic – again, by nature of their career focus. Instagram on the other hand peaks among the middle group, people still attending college, something that has changed very little compared to the previous year. US social media statistics 2014 by education
  • The income distribution is also very telling and somewhat similar to the education demographics: Facebook and Instagram are slightly skewed towards lower income users, while Twitter and Pinterest are preferred by higher-income Americans. As expected, LinkedIn dominates the higher income group, with 44% of people with more than 75,000$ income using the site. US social media statistics 2014 by income

Overall, I get the impression that the demographics of Facebook and Instagram are most similar among the big social networks, which is probably why the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook made sense. It must be encouraging for Facebook to see the strong growth of the mobile photo-sharing network. On the other hand, the education and income distributions could hint at its weakness: attracting lower income Americans and college students could hurt their monetization prospects in the long run. It remains to be seen whether users will remain loyal to Instagram after graduating and moving into the professional field. It’s an aspect where the other three competitors are better positioned, with a more mature, better educated audience, hence more valuable to advertisers.

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