Why Do Different Generations Use Social Media?

October 21, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Digital | Featured | Social Media | Youth & Gen X

For the past few years, Facebook has experienced a decline in usage among younger generations while other social media channels like Instagram have taken the lead. This is especially true among the youngest generation of adults, as a study [download page] from Adobe reveals that Facebook is not even in the top 3 social platforms used by Gen Z.

The research found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of Gen Z adults (ages 18-23 years old) actively use Instagram, followed by Snapchat (63%) and YouTube (62%). Facebook does, however, remain the most used platform for Millennials (74%), Gen X (68%) and Boomers (61%).

But how are the different generations using social networks? The research reveals that some generation are drawn to some activities more than others.

Some 57% of Boomers and 50% of Gen Xers say they use social networks to share pictures and updates. Although this has been one of the core uses of social media since it began, the younger generations’ use of social media has evolved into using it for an array of other purposes. Indeed, only one-third of the Gen Z respondents said they use social networks to share pictures and updates, illustrating a wide gap between generations in this key reason for using social media.

That said, Gen Z is by far the most likely to use social media to “hang out and chat with friends” – so communication remains a crucial aspect for this young generation, too.

Meanwhile, Millennials (18%) and Gen Zers (23%) are much more apt to use social media to follow celebrities than Gen Xers (9%) and Boomers (5%) – demonstrating why influencer marketing tends to perform well with a younger audience.

All age groups turn to social media to get advice or for how-tos. Previous research has found that the majority of US adults value YouTube when it comes to helping them figure out how to do things they haven’t done before.

Getting Inspired

Compared to other generations, Gen Zers are more likely to turn to social networks to get inspired. This is an opportunity for brands, especially considering Gen Z’s affection for Instagram and that Gen Zers prefer to follow brands on Instagram. Additionally, a survey from last year found that Gen Z shoppers were more likely to turn to social media to discover products than were Millennials.

As the youngest generation, Gen Z doesn’t possess the same household wealth as the older generations but they do make more purchases than other age groups. And when it comes to purchases like fashion, more Gen Zers are finding inspiration through social media than other age groups.

This most recent study found that the greatest share of all respondents (34%) think that Gen Zers are the most easily influenced online. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are perhaps more open to discovering new products and brands online but, on the other, they may be more easily misled by unethical influencers.

Location-Based Advertising Appreciated

Turning to ethics, the report examines companies’ access to personal data and how its use for online advertising can sometimes cross the line from appreciated to creepy. While tracking mobile data, specifically location data, is widely used by mobile marketers, more than two-fifths (43%) of advertisers have personal misgivings about this practice.

Nonetheless, more respondents to the Adobe survey say they appreciate (23%) having offers pop up when they are in a specific location than do those who find it creepy (16%).

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Results are based on a survey of 4,000 consumers. The respondent group was divided equally across each generation.


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