Two-thirds of adult internet users (65%) now say they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, up almost 7% from 61% one year ago, according to [pdf] an August 2011 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That’s more than double the percentage that reported social networking site usage in 2008 (29%), and about eight times the 8% who said they used social networking sites in 2005.
Looking at usage on a typical day, 43% of online adults use social networking, up 13% from 38% a year ago and more than triple the rate of 13% in 2008. Out of all the “daily” online activities that Pew polls about, only email (which 61% of internet users access on a typical day) and search engines (which 59% use on a typical day) are used more frequently than social networking tools.
Women, Young, Minorities among Top SocNet Users
Focusing on social networking usage by different demographic traits, the survey finds that women (69%) are about 15% more likely to use social networking sites than men (60%). In addition, 83% of 18-to-29-year-olds use social networking sites, about 2.5 times the 33% usage rate of adults 65 and older.
Differences by ethnicity are not quite as pronounced. Black, non-Hispanics have the highest rate (69%), which is 4.5% higher than the 66% usage rate of Hispanics and 9.5% higher than the 63% usage rate of white, non-Hispanics.
Social network usage by household income level shows some interesting trends. Adults earning $30,000 – $49,999 annually have the highest usage level (70%), closely followed by those earning more than $75,000 and less than $30,000 (68% each). Those in the middle income bracket of $50,000 – $74,999 have a notably lower usage rate of 63%.
Trends by education level follow a similar pattern, with high school grads (61%) having a distinctly lower usage rate than adults with less than a high school degree (a leading 68%), college grads (65%), and those with some college (67%). Furthermore, rural adults (61%) lag their suburban (65%) and urban (67%) peers.
Boomer Daily SocNet Use Booms
The frequency of social networking site usage among young adult internet users was stable during the last year – 61% of online Americans in the 18-29 age cohort now use social networking sites on a typical day, compared with 60% one year ago. At the same time, those ages 30-49 have become somewhat more likely to use the sites on an average day; the frequency of social networking use among this age group grew a modest 18% (from 39% to 46%) in the past year.
However, among the Boomer-aged segment of internet users ages 50-64, social network usage on a typical day grew a rigorous 60% (from 20% to 32%). The frequency of use among the oldest group of internet users did not increase significantly in the past year.
SocNet Users Get Older
The average age of social network users rose between 2008 and 2010, according to data released in June 2011 by the Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project. For example, the percentage of social network users age 18-22 fell 43%, from 28% to 16%.
In addition, the percentage of social network users age 23-35 dropped 20%, from 40% to 32%. Meanwhile, the percentage of users age 36-49 rose 18%, from 22% to 26%. Most significantly, the percentage of users age 50-65 more than doubled, from 9% to 20%.
In total, 52% of social network users in 2010 were 36 and up, a 58% increase from 33% in 2008.
About the Data: The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted its Spring Tracking Survey from April 26 – May 22, 2011 among 2,277 adult internet users ages 18 and older, including 755 cell phone interviews.