User Demographic Highlights From 5 Major – and Growing – Social Networks

January 6, 2014

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Digital | Hispanic | Household Income | Men | Social Media | Women | Youth & Gen X

Pew-Demos-SocNet-Platforms-Jan2014Not surprisingly, various social networks appeal to different segments of the population. The latest social networking survey [pdf] from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project provides some insights into which online adults are most drawn to 5 key platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram – each of which has grown in penetration over the past year. The results are both intuitive (Pinterest adoption is higher among women) and intriguing (the strong appeal of Instagram and Twitter to black Americans).

[Editor’s Note: For an up-to-date breakdown of the demographics of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram users, see the MarketingCharts report, US Media Audience Demographics, which also examines audience demographics for numerous other media.]

Below are some highlights from the Pew study, ordered by popularity of the social network. (Note that all percentages below refer to percentages of US adult internet users, rather than percentage of Americans.)

  • Facebook, which (no surprises) ranks as the most popular social network, used by 71% of respondents, proves particularly appealing to women (76%), 18-29-year-olds (84%), and those with household income of less than $50,000 per year (76%). Penetration rates appear to be slightly below-average among those with a college degree (68%), while adoption among the 65+ crowd has grown by 10% points in about a year’s time to reach 45%.
  • Men (24%) are more likely to use LinkedIn than women (19%), and while the penetration rate among whites is right on average at 22%, blacks over-index (30%) significantly, at more than twice the rate of Hispanics (13%). LinkedIn use is highest among the 30-49 (27%) and 50-64 (24%) age groups, and is also far above-average among those with a college degree (38%). LinkedIn use trends upwards alongside household income (HHI), reaching 38% among those with HHI of at least $75k, more than triple the rate for those with less than $30k in HHI (12%). LinkedIn use is also higher among the employed (27%) than the unemployed (12%), and is virtually ignored by the rural population (8%).
  • Women are 4 times more likely than men to use Pinterest (33% vs. 8%). There appears to be little variation by race and ethnicity, with big gains in the past year among blacks (20%) and Hispanics (18%) putting them just below the 21% average. Interestingly, 18-29-year-olds (27%) have moved ahead of 30-49-year-olds (24%) in adoption, despite other research showing the site to attract an older audience. There is also a clear trend of rising adoption alongside education attainment and household income. Interestingly, suburban respondents are more likely than urban respondents to use Pinterest (23% vs. 19%).
  • There is virtually no gender disparity in Twitter usage, which stands at 18% of respondents, while non-Hispanic blacks remain far more likely than the average respondent to report using the micro-blogging site (29% vs. 16%). Twitter is easily most popular among 18-29-year-olds (31%), but there is no real trend when sorting by education attainment or household income. Suburban (18%) and urban (19%) are equally as likely to use Twitter, which has not penetrated rural areas (11%) to the same extent (something also referenced in this study).
  • Instagram use is also most popular among 18-29-year-olds (37%), and is right around average among 30-49-year-olds (18%). As with Twitter, Instagram proves particularly appealing to non-Hispanic blacks (34%). Unlike Twitter’s user base, though, Instagram penetration is much greater among Hispanics (23%) than whites (12%). Instagram also tends to appeal more to urban (22%) and suburban (18%) than rural (6%) respondents.

The Pew figures serve as an update to a previous study released early last year, which looked at the demographics of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr users.

Overall, Facebook remains the most popular platform as of the latest study, with its 71% adoption among adult internet users up from 67% in 2012. Of the 5 platforms, LinkedIn has the next-highest penetration (22%), slightly ahead of Pinterest, which has shot up 6% points to 21%. Twitter (18%) also edges Instagram (17%), although the latter has shown a much faster rate of growth (as also evidenced here). (The two platforms also have a sizable overlap in user groups.)

While Twitter has a slightly higher (although statistically insignificant) rate of adoption than Instagram, the latter has the clear edge in engagement. Almost 6 in 10 Instagram users report using the platform on a daily basis, second only to Facebook (63%) and significantly ahead of Twitter’s 46%. Just 23% of Pinterest users and 13% of LinkedIn users report logging on daily.

About the Data: The results in the report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from August 7 to September 16, 2013, among a sample of 1,801 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (901) and cell phone (900, including 482 without a landline phone). For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. For results based on Internet users (n=1,445), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.


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