Social Networking Platforms’ User Demographics Update 2016

November 21, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Digital | Household Income | Men | Social Media | Women | Youth & Gen X

pew-demographics-social-media-platform-users-nov2016Facebook continues to be by far the most popular social media platform, used by 79% of online adults in the US, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Beyond Facebook, other major platforms are tightly bunched, with Instagram overtaking Pinterest in adoption. The report breaks down adoption by demographic, allowing us to make some comparisons with a similar survey conducted last year.

The following is a brief overview of some of the highlights from the report. (Click on the above chart to enlarge it and see full details.)

Social Platforms


With 79% adoption among online adults, Facebook use has increased from 72% in the same survey conducted last year. Facebook use remains most popular among 18-29-year-olds (88%), with women (83%) continuing to be more likely to use the platform than men (75%).

Compared to last year’s results, the biggest changes in adoption were for:

  • – Men (75%, up from 66%);
  • – Adults aged 65 and up (62%, up from 48%);
  • – Those who have completed some college (82%, up from 72%);
  • – Adults with household income of less than $30k per year (84%, up from 73%); and
  • – Adults living in rural areas (81%, up from 67%).

The only demographic to see a very slight decrease in adoption was the affluent ($75k+) population, with the 77% adoption rate down a point from last year.


Instagram adoption has grown by 4% points year-over-year to reach almost one-third (32%) of online adults in the US. Like Facebook, it’s more popular with women (38%) than men (26%), though there’s a much stronger age skew in play than for Facebook, with a more than 50%-point difference in adoption between the youngest adults (18-29: 59%) and the oldest (65+: 8%).

In terms of trends from last year, the biggest changes are for:

  • – Women (38%, up from 31%);
  • – Adults aged 50-64 (18%, up from 11%);
  • – Those with a college degree and higher (33%, up from 26%);
  • – Adults with household income of less than $30k per year (38%, up from 26%); and
  • – Adults living in rural areas (31%, up from 18%).


The only platform of the 5 not to see any increase in adoption, Pinterest is reportedly used by 31% of online adult respondents to the survey, which was conducted in March and April of this year. Pinterest continues to be heavily favored by women (45% adoption), at a rate more than double that of men (17%).

Adoption rates actually fell for some demographic groups, most notably for those living in households with income between $30k and $75k per year, as well as rural Americans.

The largest shifts were observed for:

  • – Adults aged 50-64 (28%, up from 24%);
  • – Adults with household income of less than $30k per year (30%, up from 24%);
  • – Adults with household income of $50-75k per year (31%, down from 41%); and
  • – Adults living in rural areas (25%, down from 31%).


LinkedIn has seen a comparatively rapid increase in adoption, up 4% points to 29%. As with last year’s results, LinkedIn is more popular among men (31%) than women (27%), with the gap widening over the past year. This year, adoption is actually slightly higher among 18-29-year-olds (34%) than 30-49-year-olds (33%), whereas last year LinkedIn was the only platform of the 5 which didn’t see its highest adoption rate (on an age basis) among the 18-29 bracket.

In terms of adoption rates, the biggest changes were for:

  • – Men (31%, up from 26%);
  • – 18-29-year-olds (34%, up from 22%);
  • – Adults aged 65 and older (20%, up from 12%);
  • – Adults with household income of $30-50k per year (13%, down from 21%); and
  • – Rural Americans (18%, up from 12%).



Twitter is used by about one-quarter (24%) of online adults, per the survey, statistically unchanged from last year, though up directionally by a point. This is the platform with the narrowest gender gap, as a slight drop among men and a more sizable increase among women has brought them to virtual parity in adoption rates.

Looking at year-over-year shifts, the largest were for:

  • – Women (25%, up from 21%);
  • – 30-49-year-olds (23%, down from 29%);
  • – 50-64-year-olds (21%, up from 13%);
  • – Urban Americans (26%, down from 30%); and
  • – Rural Americans (24%, up from 15%).

Site Usage: Frequency and Cross-Over

Facebook continues to have the heaviest engagement of the 5 platforms, per the study, with about three-quarters (76%) of its users saying they access the platform on a daily basis. Instagram is next, with a slight majority (51%) using the platform on a daily basis. LinkedIn is last on this measure, with fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) using it daily.

Meanwhile, a majority (56%) of online adults use more than one of the 5 platforms measured, though that isn’t a significant rise from 52% in 2014. Given Facebook’s near ubiquity, it’s not surprising that it’s used by the vast majority of users of other sites (for example, 95% of Instagram users also use Facebook).

In terms of other “reciprocity”:

  • – Almost two-thirds (65%) of Twitter users also use Instagram;
  • – Close to 6 in 10 (57% of) Pinterest users also use Instagram; and
  • – A majority (54%) of Twitter users also use LinkedIn.

For more data on media audiences, see MarketingCharts’ US Media Audience Demographics report.

About the Data: The report is based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7-April 4, 2016, among a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Of these respondents, 381 were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,139 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 636 who had no landline telephone. The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

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