The first recognizable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997, enabling users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. Blogs began growing in popularity in the late 1990s, encouraging interactions with others in the comments. MySpace launched in 2003, and Facebook was released to the public in 2006.
Since then, dozens of social media platforms have been developed – from Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest to Twitter, TikTok, and WhatsApp.
The chart below shows the most popular social media sites in the US as of 2019.
Generally, social media is used for connecting with friends, family, and businesses, engaging with news and other content, sharing information, and entertainment. However, these platforms are developed for different reasons, and users spend time on them in different ways.
Audiences are different, too. It’s important to understand your audience’s differences between platforms in order to communicate and engage with them successfully. Today, more than 70% of the public uses some type of social media (up from 5% in 2005), and as more people adopt social channels, the user base has also grown and diversified.
In 2019, people ages 18-29 made up the majority of users, followed closely by ages 30-49 and 50-64, with 65+ users still low but significantly growing. But each platform’s age, gender, income, interests, and reasons for using the platform vary. Keep reading to learn more about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In 2019, 69% of all U.S. adults use Facebook. That’s more than 2 billion people. While it continues to be one of the most widely used online platforms among internet users, the demographics are changing compared to what they were one, three, and five years ago.
According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, around 75% of U.S. adults who use Facebook visit the site at least once a day, and half check it multiple times per day. In fact, users spend an average of 35 minutes a day on the site.
While the platform is popular among all age groups, teens no longer dominate platform use. In fact, only about 50% of teens say they use Facebook, making it the fourth most popular social site among teens, falling behind YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
On the other hand, around 79% of those ages 18-29 use Facebook, the majority being between ages 25-29. Surprisingly, use among the 65+ demographic is increasing drastically, more than doubling since 2012 from 20% to 46% users. About 80% of users ages 30-49 are currently on the platform.
If you are attempting to reach users ages 25+, Facebook is a great option. It’s also the platform with the largest share of users ages 65+, so content and advertisements can be heavily and easily targeted to that age demographic.
As far as other audience demographics, Facebook users typically report:
- 55% of users are female and 45% are male
- Household income of $75,000 or more
- High percentage of college degrees or higher
- Majority live in an urban environment, though closely followed by suburban
- India has the highest number of users at 300 million, followed by the U.S. with about 210 million
How do people use Facebook?
Part of understanding your audience is knowing how they use social media platforms, as well as how they communicate through them. Facebook was developed as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and it’s still often used for those reasons. It’s a great platform to stay in touch with childhood friends, college roommates, colleagues, or family, through post updates, images, and videos.
- Mobile First: Because 96% of Facebook users access it from a mobile device, including tablets and smartphones, you should optimize your content and ads to ensure the mobile view is set up appropriately and the ads and content present well on the device.
- Content and News: Facebook ranks near the top of the platform list for searches in content and news. In fact, 43% of users get their news from Facebook. While LinkedIn is often considered the place to post news and company information, Facebook can be a great platform for this content as well.
- When to Post: If you’re wondering about the best time of day to reach your audience, Sprout Social reports weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., specifically on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during that time, have some of the highest engagement rates. In fact, around noon in the middle of the week is one of the best times to post.
- Video: Video continues to be one of the most engaging and popular forms of content consumption on the platform. Between uploaded videos and live-streaming, videos reach up to 8 billion views a day. That being said, people spend 3x as much time watching a live video than an uploaded one. It’s important to note that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, so when developing a video, also use text overlay and captions.
Note: Video ad attention is 75% lower amongst ages 18-24 than 65+. This means your videos should be much shorter if you’re targeting a younger audience, and they can be longer for older audiences. Facebook caps in-feed video ads at 15 seconds, so keep that in mind when developing that content.
Understanding Your Own Audience
An important part of your social strategy should be keeping an eye on your own page’s audience. While general Facebook audience demographics is important to know, you can use Facebook Insights to learn about your specific page.
- Go to your business page
- Click on Insights
- Click on People on the left side bar
- Toggle through your Fans, Followers and People Reached. You can see the percentage of women vs. men, age demographics and where your audience is located.
If your brand is using Twitter for disseminating content or advertising, it’s important to understand the demographics of its more than 336 million monthly users. In fact, Pew Research Center reports 22% of all U.S. adults use Twitter, making it the fifth most popular social networking site.
Twitter serves more than two billion search queries a day, and Hootsuite reports 93% of people who follow small and medium-sized businesses on Twitter plan to purchase from the brands they follow.
In 2019, slightly more women use Twitter than men – 74% vs. 62%. This has shifted since 2015, when male users outnumbered female users.
About 80% of all monthly active Twitter users live outside the U.S., making Twitter a great platform to reach users around the world.
When it comes to age demographics, social media marketers will find millennials are a key group they can reach: 45% of adults are ages 18-29. Only 27% of users are ages 30-49, 15% are 50-64, and 8% ages 65+.
It’s important to note that 32% of teens use Twitter, but only 3% say it’s the platform they use most often. If you’re hoping to reach a younger audience, Twitter may not be the best platform. However, it may be a great opportunity to target users ages 18-29.
Other Twitter demographics include:
- Twitter users have above-average incomes. 30% of Americans who earn $75,000 or more per year use Twitter. 26% earn between $50,000-$74,999.
- Users are also highly educated. 32% are college graduates.
- Most users in the U.S. live in urban areas, followed by suburban and rural areas.
Looking forward to 2020, Hootsuite predicts that Twitter’s user base is expected to grow only 0.3%. However, due to its popularity among 18-24 year-olds, it may be a key advertising strategy for that demographic.
How do people use Twitter?
Twitter allows users to easily promote their websites, blogs, and products, while reaching a large number of people quickly. Many users follow the work of experts in their fields, or fields they are interested in, such as sports and politics. It’s often used to promote minute-to-minute information about an event or happening, as well as live-tweet discussions or events. This is often done through hashtags.
The primary use of Twitter for most users is to receive news. In fact, 43% of 30-49 year-olds report using the platform for that reason, and 71% of all Americans on Twitter are using it to read news.
Twitter has a reputation for being one of the most political of the social platforms, and it’s heavily used by U.S. and world leaders. In the U.S., the majority of Twitter’s top 10% of users are women, and 69% say they tweet about politics.
Other categories of content include technology (10% of information), celebrities (10%), and movies (6%).
When it comes to video, people watch 2 billion videos on Twitter per day – a 66% year-over-year growth this past year. In fact, 32% of people on Twitter say they go to Twitter to watch videos, and it’s the #3 reason people use the platform.
Understanding Your Own Audience
Twitter has an Audience Insights dashboard that includes information about the general Twitter audience, your followers, and those who have engaged with your tweets. You can also use the insights to identify new, relevant audiences to target with your ads. The dashboard even shows information regarding user demographics, interests, lifestyle, and purchasing behaviors.
To access your audience insights, click your twitter profile picture to bring up the menu bar. Click Analytics, then Audiences along the top navigation. This takes you to your audience insights page. On your insights page, you can understand:
- Audience Overview
- Consumer Behavior
- Mobile Footprint
According to Pew, 37% of U.S. adults use Instagram, with a total number of monthly active users reaching more than 1 billion – more than 1/10th of the world’s population. In fact, 6 in 10 online adults have Instagram accounts, and it’s the second-most downloaded app in the Apple app store (ranking only behind YouTube).
The U.S. has the highest number of Instagram users and it’s quickly growing to one of the most popular social media sites, currently ranked third behind Facebook and YouTube.
More than 500 million people use Instagram daily, sharing more than 100 million photos and videos per day (50 billion photos to date) and generating 4.2 billion likes per day.
Instagram is popular with businesses too, with more than 25 million using the platform to promote products and services.
Instagram’s age demographics breakdown range across the board, but it’s a great platform to reach users ages 18-34:
- Ages 13-17: 7%
- Ages 18-24: 32%
- Ages 25-34: 32%
- Ages 35-44: 15%
- Ages 45-54: 8%
- Ages 55-64: 3%
- Ages 65+: 2%
In fact, 35% of U.S. teens say Instagram is their preferred social media platform, and those under age 35 make up the vast majority of users.
When it comes to ethnicities, black Americans use Instagram the most. In a Pew Research study, 43% of black respondents say they use Instagram, compared to 38% Hispanic and 32% white. However, note that Instagram doesn’t ask its new users about their race or ethnicity during the signup, so there isn’t much “official” data on ethnicity demographics.
When it comes to gender, it’s about 50/50 male and female, with females pulling slightly ahead at 52% of users. Again, Instagram blurs the line during sign up by offering male, female, and “not specified.”
Income demographics are similar to those of Facebook users, with 60% of those earning more than $100,000 per year using Instagram. 46% earning $80-100k use the platform, followed by 55% earning $70-80k, 36% earning $60-70k, 45% earning $30-60k, and 44% earning less than $30k per year.
Just 29% of those with a high school degree or less say they use Instagram, 36% with some college education are on the platform, and 42% of those with degrees have accounts.
How do people use Instagram?
Instagram was created as a platform to share videos and photos – developed around telling a story through pictures. While you can add descriptions to your posts, primary use is viewing photos posted by friends, family, and businesses.
Instagram Influencers is a growing platform, with more than 500,000 active influencers. In fact, 69% of U.S. marketers plan to spend most of their influencer budgets on Instagram, and ad revenue is expected to reach $14 billion by the end of 2019. The chart below shows that Instagram posts and stories are the most effective forms of social media-based influencer marketing as of 2019.
Instagram is a great platform for exploring. Whether your interest is traveling, fashion, business, or sports, 50% of users use the Explore page every month, which is comprised of posts liked by people whose posts you’ve liked, posts from similar accounts to those you follow, and posts with high engagement. Users will spend an average of 28 minutes per day on the platform, and 42% will check multiple times per day.
When it comes to interacting with businesses, more than 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily, and 62% say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it on Instagram Stories. People are also making purchases directly from Instagram, with more than 130 million users tapping on shopping posts every month.
One primary difference between the way users use Instagram vs. Twitter is only 14% of U.S. adults report using Instagram as a news source.
Understanding Your Own Audience
In your business page’s Instagram Insights, you’ll learn about your audience’s gender, age range, and location. You can also see which posts and stories your audience sees and engages with the most.
To view your insights, make sure you convert your profile to a business account. Then, go to your profile, extend the menu, and type Insights.
The Insights lets you learn about your followers, such as age range, gender, locations, and time/day of the week your posts perform best, as well as how your content performs with them.
Why You Should Know Your Social Audience
It’s important to understand why people use certain social platforms, and what your specific audience is, in order to generate the best possible engagement and ad performance for your brand. The better you know your audience, the more targeted ads and content you can post, and the better you can make use of your resources..
Taking an audience-centered approach can help your posts be more effective, and your brand be more of an industry expert, eventually selling more products or services and driving traffic to your website. By using social media marketing strategies and creating content around your audience, you guarantee higher engagement and performance of your posts and ads with those who follow your brand.
By analyzing your audience, you can understand which content topics and formats are most interesting to your audience, and you can budget ad dollars more accordingly.
If your brand is on social media, make sure you spend time learning the general demographics of the platform, why people are using the platform, and the demographics of your specific audience. This will help you reach the people you want to reach, at the right time, with the right information to promote your brand.