There’s a new Pew Internet study that covers just how much U.S. adults – specifically those who are regularly online – are using social networks. The research continues to reinforce some patterns with social media that have been pretty standard over the years.
First, social media is primarily women. Of the five networks Pew tracked – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn – four of them are predominantly female-skewing, with LinkedIn being the only exception. Twitter is close (25% women to 24% men) but everything else has a gender gap of at least eight percentage points. Pinterest’s gap is the widest, 45% women versus 17% men, which is to be expected.
Second, 18-29-year-olds continue to rule the roost. That demographic dominates all five networks, sometimes by a little and sometimes by a lot. On LinkedIn the age groups are pretty evenly spread out, ranging from 34% of 18-29s to 20% of those over 65. The biggest disparity is on Instagram, where 59% of 18-29-year-olds are active on the networks but just 18% of those 50-64 and a minuscule 8% of those 65 or older.
What’s interesting is that while Twitter is the least-used network (24% of internet users, 21% of U.S. adults) of the five, it’s not that far from other networks that have far more buzz and positive press. While it’s far outside of Facebook’s usage numbers, so is everything else. It’s within 10 percentage points of Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn and none of those networks are the subject of thrice-yearly speculation over whether or not they’ll be shutting down within six months. More than that, Twitter continues to be where the conversation happens and is an invaluable tool (for good or ill) for the press, who use it to monitor what elected officials and other important people are saying because those people themselves are using it.
The report also has interesting stats looking at how users of each network also use the others on the list, as well as the percentage of people who are using the apps daily. And it dives a bit into messaging app usage demographics.
Overall, though, the study reinforces the notion that social media is a tool that’s being used predominantly by young women. That’s not surprising based on historical trends but it is surprising given the level of harassment faced by women in general on these networks. While some, including Twitter and Instagram, have recently begun introducing better tools to take on that abusive behavior, the stigma that social media provides a platform for hateful, racist and sexist commentary that’s often lobbed directly at an individual will be hard to shake.
Every brand program will have a different demographic audience. I’ve seen Facebook pages that had audiences that were 75% male and some that were 80% female. But by default, the audience is made up of young women. If you’re not accounting for that to at least some extent you’re ignoring trends and putting your program at a disadvantage.