The social media landscape continues to evolve to meet the usability of its audience. Much like the quandary of what comes first — the chicken or the egg — in this instance there is the question of whether the audience is changing or the platform is evolving to become more accessible and relevant to any given audience.
In 2014, there were interesting trends in both consistency and change. Healthy growth in the 65+ age bracket along with consistently strong (but stagnant) numbers from millennials and Gen Xers affected both the way social platforms operate as well as how we strategize around those platforms. These changes also opened up social media conversation to new audiences who were harder to reach a year ago.
Many of these trends are expected to continue into 2015, with growth in users aged 65+ and a consistent standing of consumers aged 25-34 as the largest and most engaged base.
Social media use in 2014 suggests that multi-platform use is on the rise. More U.S. adults are now engaged with multiple social media platforms as opposed to a single platform. Roughly 52 percent of adults online used two or more social media sites, up 10 percent from 2013. Additionally, significantly fewer adults used just one site — 28 percent, as compared to 36 percent in 2013.
Trends also demonstrate a significant overlap and reciprocity between Twitter and Instagram users. In 2014, some 58 percent of Twitter users also used Instagram, and 52 percent of Instagrammers also used Twitter. Among sites outside of Facebook, this is the highest rate of overlap between user groups measured.
Facebook remains the primary platform for many social media users. While it has grown across some demographics, others have remained stagnant. Facebook continues to have the largest number of users, but it has held stagnant with consistent participation from 71 percent of adults online in both 2013 and 2014. Of consumers who use only one social media platform, 79 percent use Facebook.
There was, however, significant growth among Facebook users aged 65+. The platform has seen a greater than 10 percent increase in the number of seniors who use Facebook, as compared to 2013. Other age groups have only fluctuated a maximum of four percentage points.
Facebook users by age, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use Facebook
Interestingly, although Facebook users have started to plateau, the platform still holds strong with the highest usage and usage frequency of all social sites. Its large base has continued to be very active — 70 percent accessed the platform at least once a day, up from 63 percent in 2013. Nearly half of its users (45 percent) logged on multiple times daily.
In addition to frequent visits, Facebook users engage with regularity: 65 percent of users frequently or sometimes shared, posted or commented on the platform.
Demographically, adult women continue to lead in usage at 77 percent, a trend that continues from prior years. Newly growing, however, is the participation of seniors. While the usage figures for other adult groups haven’t grown dramatically over the past two years, consumers aged 65+ have grown from 45 percent to 56 percent in the last year. More than half (56 percent) of Internet users aged 65 and older were using Facebook, which is roughly 31 percent of all seniors in the U.S. Likewise, a 6 percent increase in adult users with a college degree indicated that this user group is also experiencing growth.
Twitter usage has grown across a variety of groups, yet engagement and daily visitation rates are declining.
In 2013, some 46 percent of Twitter users visited the site daily. However, in 2014, the user pool itself dropped to only 36 percent (a 10 percent decrease), and just 40 percent reported checking Twitter less often than a few days a week.
Although overall engagement numbers were lower than they were a year ago, a diverse group of demographic users actually increased usage. Use of Twitter by male consumers has grown faster than that of females, with an additional 7 percent of males who used Twitter in 2014, as opposed to 2013. This has risen from 17 percent of all adult Internet users to 24 percent. Similarly, Pew Research Center noted a rise in Hispanic users, which was at 25 percent in 2014 (up 9 percentage points from the year prior). Hispanics are now the second most prominent ethnic group on Twitter, with the Black population using the platform most at 27 percent of adults online.
Twitter users by racial group, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use Twitter
Instagram usage is growing rapidly. Overall use increased by 9 percent in 2014, driving user totals up to 26 percent of all adults online. User-frequency rates did not increase dramatically over 2013. About half of Instagram users visited the platform daily (49 percent), some 24 percent visited weekly and 26 percent visited less often than weekly.
Data also revealed that in 2014, Instagram experienced significant user growth among nearly every demographic group. While all age groups saw growth, 53 percent of Internet-using young adults (aged 18-29) were using Instagram, making it the highest-ranking age bracket, up 16 percent from the year prior. A quarter of adults online aged 30-49 used this platform last year. Black users made up the majority of Instagrammers at 38 percent, yet both white and Hispanic users increased 9 percent and 11 percent respectively, representing significant growth.
Instagram users by racial group, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use Instagram
Instagram users by age group, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use Instagram
Pinterest gained more users over the past year, rising from 21 percent of all Internet users to 28 percent. Frequency of use did not change dramatically over the past year, though usage continues to remain relatively infrequent: 9 percent visited Pinterest several times a day, 17 percent daily, 23 percent weekly and 52 percent less than weekly.
Still dominated by women, the site’s audience in 2014 rose to 42 percent women (9 percent above last year), with male users increasing by 5 percent. Older users aged 50+ saw significant growth — users aged 50-64 increased from 14 percent to 27 percent, and those aged 65+ increased from 9 percent to 17 percent. These two groups are now a significant part of Pinterest’s audience.
Pinterest users by age group, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use Pinterest
LinkedIn users log in with the least frequency when compared to other social sites. Just 28 percent of adult Internet users spent time on LinkedIn, a 6 percent increase from the year before. However, the proportion of not-very-active users who used the site weekly or less frequently increased significantly (both jumped up 9 percentage points) — that is, more users logged on less frequently. Additionally, engagement saw no change from 2013, remaining at 13 percent.
LinkedIn is the only social platform that’s used more often by consumers aged 30-64 than those aged 18-29. Although 50 percent of users are college graduates, this number has grown dramatically from 38 percent in 2013. These users also tend to be have a higher income and are employed (44 percent make more than $75,000 annually).
LinkedIn users by level of education, over time
Among online adults, the percent who use LinkedIn
Across all social platforms, the largest increase in users will continue to be the 65+ age range, although the largest user group will continue to be consumers aged 25-34.
There is an anticipated minor decrease in users aged 18-24, as well as a minimal increase in seniors aged 65+. The 25-34 demographic will remain the largest, although growth is not anticipated for 2016.
The largest number of users will come from the low end of the millennial demographic.
This platform will not experience any dramatic changes, and it will remain the most popular among older millennials and some Gen Xers.
Consumers 34 and older using Instagram are expected to dissipate. The millennial audience, however, will remain and add another 11.4 million users aged 17 and under.
There is an anticipated increase in usage by younger consumers. Likewise, overall frequency of usage is expected to increase.