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Facebook Is Utterly Dominating America's Social Media Use

Facebook is still growing while other social sites plateau, a new Pew Research Center study finds.

by Samantha Cole
Nov 11 2016, 3:19pm

Image: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Social media is playing an increasingly influential role in our lives. Even if given the benefit of the doubt—believing that they are "tech" companies and not "media" companies—people are using Facebook and Twitter to gather news and information about world events, not just to find and follow friends.

A new study from the Pew Research Center makes this abundantly clear. The study surveyed 1,520 adults around the United States, from March 7 to April 4, 2016, and asked them about their social media habits: how often they look at social media, how they access these sites, and how heavily they use the internet in general.

The results show that Facebook is king, and its popularity is still growing. This isn't terribly shocking news, but in light of the events of the past week—when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied the spread of fake news on Facebook played a meaningful role in the outcome of the 2016 election, despite previous Pew research showing nearly half of Americans turned to social media for election information—the new data on how American adults consume news is all the more striking. The highlights, taken from Pew's Social Media Update 2016 study released today:

Facebook rules the social scene

Compared to last year's report, daily Facebook use is up from 70 to 76 percent: "Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans (79 percent) now use Facebook, more than double the share that uses Twitter (24 percent), Pinterest (31 percent), Instagram (32 percent) or LinkedIn (29 percent). On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68 percent of all U.S. adults are Facebook users."

Image: Pew Research Center

Older users are adopting Facebook

Or early adopters are carrying it into later life. "Some 62 percent of online adults ages 65 and older now use Facebook, a 14-point increase from the 48 percent who reported doing so in 2015."

If you're using only one, it's probably this

Reciprocity, or the crossover of social media use, shows that if you're using Instagram, Twitter, or other sites, you're likely using Facebook as well, and not necessarily vice-versa. It's a gateway site to the others: "Among those who only use one social media platform, 88 percent indicate that Facebook is the one site that they use. Moreover, the vast majority of those who use other social media sites also use Facebook. For instance, 93 percent of Twitter users also use Facebook — as do 95 percent of Instagram users and 92 percent of Pinterest users."

LinkedIn's still in the game—and it's for the wealthy

College graduates and high income earners are this platform's bread and butter, with half of adults online with college degrees using the site. And it's for the middle to upper class: "Forty-five percent of online adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more use LinkedIn, compared with just 21 percent of those living in households with an annual income of less than $30,000."

Twitter's a bubble for the well-educated, well-off and young

More than triple the amount of those 18-29 use Twitter than those over 65. The highest demographic by income is making $50-$74,999 a year, and living in urban areas. They're also more likely to be educated: "Twenty-nine percent of internet users with college degrees use Twitter, compared with 20 percent of those with high school degrees or less."

Youth—and messaging—is fleeting

Apps like Snapchat and Whisper, which make messages or photos self-destruct upon viewing, are popular with millennials. "Some 56 percent of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use auto-delete apps, more than four times the share among those 30-49 (13 percent) and six times the share among those 50 or older (9 percent)." Twenty four percent of all smartphone-using adults online use apps that delete messages automatically, up seven points from last year.

Few took him seriously when Trump bragged during a presidential debate about having 30 million Facebook and Twitter followers. This data, combined with the results of the election and all of the post-mortem social media analysis that's coming with it, could put social at the top of the 2020 campaign agendas.

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