How Americans are using social media in 2016: essential new Pew report

How do Americans use social media? This is a question of vital importance to educators, and of especial moment during this election season.  It’s one I’ve been tracking since before it was called Web 2.0.

The Pew team has just issued a new report on this question, and it’s essential reading.  Shannon Greenwood, Andrew Perrin and Maeve Duggan have done solid work.  Let me pull out some key aspects.

Facebook remains the giant in social media, dominating the landscape. Reports of its death are simply – I have to say it – wrong and stupid:

Social media platform use 2016 Pew

This finding isn’t based just on active accounts, but also on the kind of use.  “Roughly three-quarters (76%) of Facebook users report that they visit the site daily (55% visit several times a day, and 22% visit about once per day). ”  Meanwhile, Instagram is rising, and Twitter is falling behind.

And see just how many Americans use social media:

Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans (79%) now use Facebook, more than double the share that uses Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%). On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.

“68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users”: think about that.

We are also promiscuous in our social media habits, with “[m]ore than half of online adults (56%) us[ing] more than one of the five social media platforms measured in this survey”.

Using multiple social media platforms, Pew 2016

Demographics: the age cliche continues to offer truth.  88% of people aged 18-29 use Facebook, compared to 84% aged 30-49, 72% 50-64%, and 62% for the over-65 set.  The age gap is broader for Facebook’s image platform, as 59% of people aged 18-29 use Instagram, a proportion dropping steadily to 33% for people aged 30-49, then 18% for those 50-64 years of age, and a scant 8% for 65 and over.  Ditto Twitter: “Some 36% of online adults ages 18-29 are on the social network, more than triple the share among online adults ages 65 and older (just 10% of whom are Twitter users).”

We can find the same age-tech relationship with messaging apps:

Some 56% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use auto-delete apps, more than four times the share among those 30-49 (13%) and six times the share among those 50 or older (9%). Similarly, 42% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use more general messaging apps like WhatsApp or Kik, compared with 19% of smartphone owners ages 50 or older.

Gender: Pinterest remains the women’s platform, with 45% of women using it, compared to only 17% of men.

Speaking of women owning social media, somewhat more women (83%) than men (75%) use Facebook.  The same goes for Instagram, 38% to 26%. Will we at some point gender Instagram or Facebook as female?

Education isn’t the strongest determinant of social media usage, although higher education attainment does map onto somewhat higher Twitter usage.  One exception is LinkedIn, which

has long been especially popular with college graduates and high income earners, and this trend continues to hold true… 45% of online adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more use LinkedIn, compared with just 21% of those living in households with an annual income of less than $30,000.

Overall, there aren’t any surprises in the study, except to those who like to proclaim Facebook dead.   Many trendlines continue, like the gendering of Pinterest, the gigantism of Facebook, and the persistence of the age-tech dynamic… but the continuation of trends is actually useful information.

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4 Responses to How Americans are using social media in 2016: essential new Pew report

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    if possible, check out usage by region and population density

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