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Pew Study Highlights the Explosion of Photo and Video Sharing

5 Comments 24 September 2012

A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project looks at habits of curators and creators of photos and videos online. Pew’s thesis is that photos and videos have become key social currencies online, and the study tends to support that. The project conducted a phone survey of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older between August 2-5, 2012 and asked them questions about their photo and video habits on social media, and the social media activities in which they participate.  The study looked at photo and video sharing habits of creators and curators on Facebook, Linkedin, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. For the first time ever, the Pew Internet and American Life project asked questions about Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, which also means that there are no comparable statistics for review.

The study finds that 46% of internet users post original photos and videos online they have created themselves (the creators), and 41% curate photos and videos they find elsewhere on the internet and post on image-sharing sites (the curators).

Given the rise of smartphones with cameras built into them as well as the growth of social media image sharing services such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, the percentage of photo and video creators is a relatively large. However, according to Forrester’s 2011 Social Technographics study, only 24% of internet users are considered “creators” of internet content, and Forrester’s definition of a creator is much broader than photos and videos. Forrester’s Social Technographics ladder that classifies social media use worldwide is one of the long-held standards of social media use classification. The only conclusion that I can come to: what a difference a year of Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram growth can make!

A few highlights from the report:

  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media service (66% of all internet users), followed by Linkedin (20%), Twitter (16%), Instagram (12%), Pinterest (12%), and Tumblr (5%). This is clearly illustrated in the graph below, taken from the Pew Internet study, and created by Mediabistro.

  • Significantly more people prefer to create and share their own images over videos. 45% of all internet users create and share images, while only 18% of users create and share video.
  • The dominance of the 18-29 age bracket. There are more curators and creators are ages 18-29 than any other age demographic; 63% of them are curators and 69% of them are creators.
  • More specifically, 67% of those who create and post images online are ages 18-29, while 50% of those ages 30-49 do the same, 28% of those aged 50-64, and 26% of those 65 or older.
  • Video creators dominate the 18-29 age demographic even more than photo creators, comparatively. 33% of those ages 18-29 create and share video, compared with 18% of those ages 30-49, and 8% of those over age 50.
  • Young adults use Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter more than any other age demographic. The dominant age demographic for all three services is ages 18-29. There is slightly more penetration of the 18-29 age demographic on Facebook, but also 72% of the 30 – 49 age group uses Facebook. Not surprisingly, the adults ages 30-64 use Linkedin far more than those ages 18-29 or over age 65.

When running a photo or video campaign, or sourcing photo or video material, know your audience.

Organizations are far more likely to receive photos and videos from those ages 18-29 during any online crowdsourcing campaign or solicitation. Adults in all age groups are for more predisposed to create images than videos. Consequently, if your audience is older, you will find a relatively small percentage of participants over age 50 in any user-generated image content campaign. Additionally, the surprise to me is how dominant Twitter is among young adults; there is much deeper Twitter use in the 18-29 demographic than any other age group. One organizational challenge must be to engage young adults on Twitter.

Another takeaway is that photos and videos seem to be created and shared more than ever before.

My expectation is that this trend will continue to grow with rising smartphone adoption, and the adoption of more image curation and creation services such as Pinterest and Instagram. The takeaway for any organization is how you will use the concept of image and video curators and creators, along with what you know about who they are, to nurture a connection to your cause, organization, and conversation online.



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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