Why Do Millennials Use Facebook and Twitter?

March 24, 2015

MediaInsightProject-Millennials-Main-Reasons-Facebook-Twitter-Use-Mar2015More than 9 in 10 US Millennials (aged 18-34) use Facebook, while fewer than 4 in 10 use Twitter, according to results from a recently-released survey conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey finds that Millennials have different reasons for using each platform, with Facebook use driven primarily by a desire to keep current with friends’ lives and Twitter use more to see what’s “trending.”

Asked which – if any – of several options are the main reasons they use Facebook, respondents were most likely to say they do so to see what’s happening in their friends’ lives and what they’re talking about. Some 69% of respondents cited this option, which works out to about three-quarters of users (just 9% said they don’t use Facebook). Next on the list, 53% of respondents overall (58% of users) reported that a main reason for using Facebook is to find things that entertain them, such as funny lists, articles or videos.

By comparison, significantly fewer (31% of respondents; 34% of users) said that a main reason for using Facebook is to see what’s “trending” and what people are talking about on social media.

That was the top reason given by Millennials for using Twitter, however. Some 16% of Millennials surveyed (or 43% of users, given that 63% reported not using Twitter) said this is a main reason for using Twitter, slightly ahead of the 15% (or 41% of users) who said they mainly use Twitter to find things that entertain them.

The study – which was conducted to examine the different ways in which Millennials consume news content – found that 7 in 10 Facebook users regularly read or watch news stories or headlines posted by other people, and that 6 in 10 regularly like news stories, headlines, or story links posted to Facebook. Those figures were comparatively lower among Twitter users: 49% regularly read of watch news stories or headlines posted on Twitter by other people, while 33% regularly retweet news stories, headlines or story-linking tweets posted by other people.

Of note, Twitter users were more likely to say they compose their own posts about news-related items than share news content seen on other websites. The opposite was true for Facebook users, who reported being more likely to post or share a news story seen on other websites than to comment on a news item posted to Facebook. In each case, though, Facebook users appeared more engaged in these activities than Twitter users, an interesting result given Twitter’s reputation as a real-time news source.

In related news, while the Media Insight Project study didn’t identify brand engagement as a reason for using Facebook or Twitter, a recent survey from BuzzStream and Fractl looks at the reasons consumers follow and unfollow brands. Notably, Facebook was the preferred network for following brands (by 38% of respondents), with Twitter (19%) next among the 10 platforms identified.

Returning to the Media Insight Project report, there were numerous other interesting findings, some of which are highlighted below.

  • Almost 4 in 10 Millennials find it very (28%) or extremely (10%) important to keep up with the news, while about 1 in 7 find it not very (11%) or not at all (3%) important.
  • The top reason given by Millennials for using news and information is to help them stay informed to be better citizens (57%).
  • Respondents were more likely to say they “mostly bump into news and information” (60%) than actively seeking it out (39%).
  • Roughly three-quarters of Millennials’ news and information comes from online rather than offline sources.
  • Facebook ranks as Millennials’ most frequent source of news for a variety of topics, including: celebrities or pop culture; the arts and culture; sports; music, TV and movies; local restaurants or entertainment; style, beauty and fashion; and food and cooking. It falls a close second to search engines in terms of health and fitness news and information.
  • Millennials are more likely to regularly follow information related to their interests or hobbies (61%) than traffic or weather (51%) information and information related to their job, industry or profession (44%).
  • Respondents are more likely to get the following types of information from search engines than Facebook: product research; information related to jobs, industries or professions; advice or how-to information; information related to interests or hobbies; and traffic or weather. However Facebook outranks search engines and local TV stations when it comes to getting information about Millennials’ city, town or neighborhood.
  • In terms of current events news and information topics, crime and public safety (44%), national politics or government (43%) and science and technology (43%) are the topics regularly followed by the largest share of respondents.
  • Among current events news and information topics, Facebook is the top source for information on: national politics or government; religion or faith; social issues such as abortion, race and gay rights; the environment and natural disasters; and crime and public safety. Search ranks atop the list for healthcare and medical information, science and technology, and business and the economy, while Millennials are most likely to turn to a national TV network (or its website, application or news alerts) for foreign or international news information.
  • When looking “into something fairly deeply, not just casually searching,” a search engine is by far the first source of information for Millennials.

About the Data: The survey reached 1,046 adults nationwide between the ages of 18 and 34. Study recruitment was completed through a national probability telephone sample, while the main portion of the questionnaire was administered online. The margin of error was +/- 3.8 percentage points. More details can be found by following the above-referenced link to the study.

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