How Frequently Do People Use Social Platforms?

April 4, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

Advertising Trends | Brand-Related | Creative & Formats | Customer-Centric | Digital | Privacy & Security | Regulatory | Social Media

About 7 in 10 American adults report being online “almost constantly” (26%) or “several times a day” (43%), according to recent data from the Pew Research Center. Many of those are likely spending their online time visiting social media platforms, judging by new studies from the Pew Research Center and from Reuters.

Each study looked at several social platforms to measure the frequency with which they’re being used. This article will break out highlights from each and see how they compare.

Reuters: Facebook Is the Most Frequently Used

Facebook is not only the most widely used platform, but it’s also the most frequently-accessed by its users, according to the study from Reuters, which was conducted by Ipsos (see the chart above).

Just 14% of the online US adults surveyed reported not using Facebook, meaning that 86% use it, even rarely. Meanwhile, 51% of all respondents said they’re on the platform continuously throughout the day, which translates to 59% of users (factoring in that 86% are using the platform).

That stat bears repeating: the current privacy furor in the US surrounds a platform that half of all online US adults claim to use continuously throughout the day. (No wonder Facebook has so much data…)

Meanwhile, the Reuters study comes to some surprising results: more online adults claim to use Google+ (57%) and Pinterest (48%) than Instagram (47%), Twitter (41%) and Snapchat (35%).

It’s worth noting that these particular statistics relate to usage at any point, so these figures are not necessarily an accurate reflection of current usage. Data from comScore contained in MarketingCharts’ US Media Audience Demographics study finds, for example, that both Instagram (120 million adult unique visitors in June 2017) and Snapchat (95 million) have wider monthly reach than Pinterest (84 million).

Nonetheless it’s instructive to see what proportion of self-reported users of these platforms access them frequently. Although it’s somewhat unexpected to see 35% of Google+ users saying they use it continuously throughout the day, it’s less surprising that close to 4 in 10 Instagram (38%) and Snapchat (37%) users do so with that frequency.

By contrast, far fewer Pinterest (17%) and Tumblr (14%) users are accessing the platform continuously throughout the day, using the same method of calculation as used for Facebook.

Pew: Snapchat and Facebook Neck and Neck in Frequent Usage

The Pew Research Center report likewise assessed the breadth of usage of several platforms as well as the extent to which they’re frequently used, based on telephone surveys conducted among 2,020 adults (18+).

The analysis of overall usage – covered in detail here – indicates that YouTube (73%) and Facebook (68%) are the most widely used by US adults. The figure for Facebook is lower than in the Reuters study because it measures usage among all US adults, not only those who are online. (About 11% of the population doesn’t use the internet.)

The Pew study is similar to the Reuters study in finding the heaviest usage to be among Facebook users, and in seeing more frequent usage of Snapchat and Instagram than of Twitter.

But there are some marked differences.

For example, 51% of Facebook users purported to using the platform “several times a day” – a figure rivaled by the 49% of Snapchat users. In other words, heavy usage is almost as common among Snapchat as Facebook users.

There is an asterisk to that finding, though: an additional 23% of Facebook users claimed to visit the platform about once a day, compared to 14% of Snapchat users. So all told, Facebook did have a higher percentage of its users in this study visiting at least daily (74%) than Snapchat (63%).

Another finding that was unique to the Pew study: heavier Snapchat than Instagram usage. The 49% of Snapchat users visiting the platform several times a day compared favorably to the 38% of Instagram users visiting it with that regularity. (A similar share of each platform’s users visit daily, though.)

All told, it seems reasonable to assume that Facebook boasts the heaviest usage, with Snapchat and Instagram vying for the next spot and Twitter and Pinterest used less frequently.

Survey Highlights: Americans’ Privacy Attitudes

The Reuters and Ipsos survey also measured respondents’ attitudes to some privacy issues. Here are some highlights:

  • Privacy concerns were the second-leading reason given for not using Facebook, and the third-largest reason for not using Facebook more;
  • Almost half (46%) feel that the government should increase its regulation of how companies use their personal information;
  • Respondents are twice as likely to think that “targeted” advertisements that use personal information and search history are worse than regular advertisements (41%) as to believe they’re better than regular ads (21%);
  • Fully 63% would like to see less targeted advertising in the future, against just 9% who would like to see more; and
  • In terms of trust in various companies to obey laws that protect personal information, online adults show more trust (“a little” or “a lot”) in Amazon (66%), Google (62%), Microsoft (60%) and Apple (53%) than they do in Yahoo! (48%) or Facebook (41%). These findings are in line with general attitudes towards these platforms, which are more favorable to Amazon and Google than to Facebook.
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