Social Networking Adoption Trends, by Age Group

August 7, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Digital | Hispanic | Men | Social Media | Women | Youth & Gen X

Pew-SocNet-Site-Use-by-Age-Aug2013After leveling out in late 2012, usage of social networking sites by online adults is back on the rise, according to [pdf] the latest study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. As of May, 72% of online adults reported using at least one social networking site, finds the study, up from 67% in December 2012. While every age group showed growth, the biggest increases were found among older age groups.

Specifically, the research indicates that:

  • 43% of internet users aged 65 and older reported being social networking site users as of May, a large jump from 32% at the end of 2012; and
  • 60% of internet users aged 50-64 used social networks as of May, up from 52% in December.

Both represent the highest levels of adoption since Pew began tracking social networking site use in February 2005.

In fact, social networking use by online adults is now at its highest point, thanks to growth among those older populations. For younger users, the latest trends are more mixed. The study indicates that 78% of internet users aged 30-49 are using social networking sites, the highest proportion on record, but up only a point from December 2012. And while adoption among internet users aged 18-29 increased from 83% to 89% during that time period, it hasn’t yet rebounded to its peak level from August 2012 (92%).

The study also provides some further demographic details regarding social networking use by internet users:

  • Adoption is higher among Hispanics (80%) than African-Americans (75%) and white non-Hispanics (70%);
  • Women report a slightly higher adoption rate (74%) than men (70%);
  • Those without a high school education are the least likely to be using social networks (67%), though there is little gap between other educational attainment levels (72-73%);
  • Respondents with an annual household income (HHI) of less than $30,000 a year report a 75% adoption rate, compared with 71% among those with HHI of at least $75,000; and
  • Urban residents (74%) are more likely to be using social networks than suburban (71%) and rural respondents (69%).

A detailed look at which social networks are popular with which demographics can be found here.

Separately, the Pew study takes a look at Twitter use among online adults, finding that it has grown to 18% adoption as of May. While that’s more than double the rate from 2010 (8%), it’s a fairly insignificant increase from 16% in December (see link above).

Twitter use is particularly high among online Hispanics (28%), African-Americans (27%) and 18-29-year-olds (30%), per the latest study. Usage also tends to increase alongside educational attainment and household income level.

About the Data: The results in the Pew report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from April 17 to May 19, 2013, among a sample of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,125) and cell phone (1,127, including 571 without a landline phone).

For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For results based on Internet users (n=1,895), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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