Facebook, social networks, Twitter

Connecting and Finding Fans: The Demographics of Social Media Users

3 Comments 20 March 2013

Pew Internet Social media users landscape

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently published The Demographics of Social Media Users, detailing the demographics of social media users by age, ethnicity, household income, gender, urbanity, and education and platform. While report hones in on the demographics of who is using Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, Linkedin, Google Plus, and Flickr are not included. A few data points stand out:

  • Both Twitter and Instagram are used most heavily by the same demographic: African-American, urban, 18 – 29 year-olds. While the study does not include Americans under age 18, anecdotally, I believe many high school students use both heavily.
  • Tumblr is a young person’s medium; most users are between ages 18 and 29.
  • Hispanics are relatively heavy users of every social media channel. They are more likely to use social networking sites than whites or African-Americans.
  • Urbanity plays a role: slightly more social network users overall live in urban environments than suburban and rural. Significantly more Twitter and Instagram users live in urban areas than other types of environments, and more Facebook users are urban-dwelling than suburban or rural.

It’s no longer enough to broadly assume that “everyone is on Facebook, professionals are on Linkedin, and women are on Pinterest.” Our thinking about our online audiences, and potential fans, must be more sophisticated. If an organization works with urban youth, then look to Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter. If you want to engage young adults, think beyond Facebook to Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you want to specifically attract African-American stakeholders, do not leave Twitter and Instagram out of the mix. A quick glance through nonprofit Tumblr blogs illustrates how Tumblr blogs engaging with youth can be extremely successful.

Moreover, 40% of all cell phone users in the US are accessing social networks from their mobile phones. African-American and Hispanic young adults ages 18 – 29 are far more likely to access social networks from their phones than older, white, social network users. How does this information inform your next online or mobile campaign? How could you create easy one-click actions from an organizational Facebook Page just for this audience?

Social networking on mobile phones

Interestingly, in a related data set, the Pew Internet and American Life Project evaluated internet usage over time by age group. The data reveals that the percentage of social networking users in every age groups has decreased since August 2012 except ages 30-49. The sharpest decrease in percentage of users is in the 18-29 age bracket, dropping 9% during the second half of 2012. It is not longer acceptable to assume that adoption will continue to rise amongst every age group. No longer are those 55+ the fastest-growing social media adoption age group; in fact, the conceit of “the fastest-growing social media adoption age bracket” no longer holds true.

Social Networking Site Use by Age Pew

For a quick glance at the social networking demographic data, check out this interactive infographic compiled from the Demographics of Social Media Users study. For highlights of the Pew study related to social networking, Pew offers this summary of its data set.

  • Claire Axelrad

    Thanks for sharing this interesting study. Debra. The fact that usage is no longer increasing does not surprise me. I’ve held for some time that pretty soon we’ll stop calling it “social media” and it will simply be media. In other words, it’s no longer so new that we must consider it a shiny object (and one we don’t necessarily have to play with). Children aren’t playing with it; they breathe it like air. We’ve got to breathe it too. We’ve got to be there, as it’s one of the primary ways folks now build relationships.


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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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