Trends in American Adults’ Social Networking Use

January 13, 2015

This article is included in these additional categories:

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

Pew-Social-Networking-Site-Matrix-Jan2015The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has released its latest social media update [pdf], and the report shows that while some things remain the same (Facebook being the leading platform, for example), others are changing. Indeed, based on a survey of almost 1,600 internet-using adults conducted in September 2014, the study demonstrates that online adults are now more likely to be using multiple platforms – and the appeal of those platforms to different demographic groups are in some cases shifting.

First, some top-level figures (all related to late 2014):

  • 79% of internet users report using at least one of the 5 sites measured (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter), up a point from a year earlier;
  • Facebook, as expected, remains the top platform by adoption among the 5 measured, although its 71% penetration rate among online adults is flat from a year earlier;
  • LinkedIn and Pinterest are each used by 28% of the online adult population, up from 22% and 21%, respectively;
  • Instagram has seen the most rapid rate of growth, increasing from 17% in 2013 to 26% last year; and
  • Twitter now sits behind Instagram with a 23% adoption rate, though that’s up from 18% a year earlier.

Translate those figures to the entire adult population (bearing in mind that in the survey, 81% of adults reported using the internet), and some 58% of all US adults use Facebook, with LinkedIn (23%), Pinterest (22%), Instagram (21%) and Twitter (19%) all trailing distantly. Facebook’s vast adoption is worth taking into account when assessing its slower growth rate relative to the other platforms.

Facebook leads in another important category too: frequency of use. In fact, 7 in 10 Facebook users reported using the site on a daily basis. The next-closest is Facebook-owned Instagram, with 49% of users claiming to use it on daily. Following the Facebook properties is Twitter (36% using daily), with Pinterest (17% daily) and LinkedIn (13% daily) seeing much less activity. Indeed, most Pinterest and LinkedIn users – 52% and 61%, respectively – are using those platforms less than weekly.

Multiple Site Usage

One of the interesting highlights of the study is its examination of multiple site usage, with this being an area of significant growth.

According to the survey results, 52% of internet users in this latest report use multiple platforms (at least 2 of the 5 sites measured), with this being a significant increase from 42% reporting the same in 2013. Most of the increase comes in the form of respondents using 3 or more sites, with 28% reportedly doing so in the 2014 survey as opposed to 19% the year earlier.

Following from those results, the study constructs a social media matrix, examining the percentage of users of each site who also use another site. In this examination, there are some interesting overlaps worth mentioning:

  • Almost 6 in 10 (58% of) Twitter users also reported using Instagram, up from 53% overlap in the previous year’s study; but
  • The 52% of Instagram users also using Twitter is actually down a point from last year;
  • Pinterest users are certainly visually inclined: they’re more likely to be found also using Instagram (47%) than to be doubling as LinkedIn (40%) or Twitter users (34%); and
  • LinkedIn users are more likely to be doubling as Pinterest (40%) or Twitter (39%) users than Instagram (35%) users.

Compared to last year’s matrix, it’s worth noting that reciprocity is generally up, meaning that users of one site are generally more likely to be users of another, reflecting the overall increase in multi-site use. Some of the largest changes are for:

  • The percentage of Pinterest users also using Instagram (47%, up from 31%);
  • The share of Instagram users also using Pinterest (47%, up from 37%);
  • The percentage of LinkedIn users also using Instagram (35%, up from 24%) and Pinterest (40%, up from 28%); and
  • The share of Facebook users also using Instagram (34%, up from 23%).

Because Facebook is easily the dominant platform, the vast majority of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn users also use the site. LinkedIn users are the least likely to also use Facebook ”“ with 86% doing so.

Demographic Shifts

Finally, the study also takes a look at how various demographics have adopted these platforms. This topic has been covered recently in this publication via a YouGov survey, and an alternative view (based on unique visitors rather than survey reporting) is available in a recent MarketingCharts study. Rather than delve into the details for each platform, then, the following list highlights the major year-over-year shifts in adoption by platform. (See here for the demographic highlights from each platform in the 2013 survey.)

Again, the following figures are among internet users, rather than the general population. They are limited to a select number of shifts that represent a significant change from 2013 at the 95% confidence level.

  • Facebook’s reach among the 65+ group has increased notably, from 45% to 56%;
  • Facebook has also become more popular among college graduates, with 74% reporting use in 2014, up from 68% in 2013;
  • Twitter has grown in appeal among white non-Hispanics, up from 16% using in 2013 to 21% in 2014;
  • As with Facebook, Twitter has also seen a significant increase in use by the 65+ bracket (10%, up from 5%) and college graduates (30%, up from 18%);
  • There has been a notable increase in Twitter use among the $50-75k (27%, up from 15%) and $75k+ (27%, up from 19%) household income brackets;
  • Urban residents in 2014 showed strong growth in Twitter use (25%, up from 18%);
  • Both men and women adopted Pinterest at significantly higher rates in 2014 than 2013, with women (42%) remaining far more likely than men (13%) to be users;
  • Pinterest gained in appeal among the older crowd, with significant reported increases among the 50-64 (14% to 27%) and 65+ (9% to 17%) brackets;
  • Pinterest also saw wider adoption among the college-educated, suburban and rural residents, and respondents on each extreme of the income spectrum;
  • LinkedIn saw a notable rise in popularity among women (from 19% to 27%), with females now rivaling males (28%) in adoption; and
  • LinkedIn also saw significantly wider reach among the 18-29 and 65+ age brackets, college graduates, and urban residents.

Given Instagram’s rapid overall growth, it experienced significant increases in adoption across almost each demographic variable measured. Indeed, the only demographic groups to not record a significant increase were black non-Hispanics (who, at 38% adoption, nevertheless outpaced Hispanics and White non-Hispanics), the $30-50k income group, and urban residents. Despite growing popularity among older age groups, Instagram’s appeal remains far higher among the 18-29 age group (53%) than any other.

More specifics details can be found by accessing the Pew report here [pdf].

About the Data: The results in the report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from September 11 to September 14, 2014 and September 18 to September 21, 2014. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,002) and cell phone (1,001, including 594 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 2.5 percentage points. For results based on Internet users (n=1,597), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

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