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Facebook Still Most Popular Social Site (but others growing faster)

New research from Pew Research Center has found that Facebook is still “by far” the most popular social network and whilst its growth has slowed, the level of user engagement has increased. This is good news for marketers, many of whom have bemoaned the lack of reach that small brands are now able to achieve.

The study also found that Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn all showed a “significant increase” last year in the number of adults that use the social networks. 52% of all adults who are online now also use two or more social sites, which represents a 10% growth on 2013. Older users now more commonly use social media too, with more than half of all over 65s now using Facebook.

Women continue to dominate visual social site Pinterest, with 42% using the site compared with just 13% of men.

Facebook Usage Slows, Engagement Grows

social media 2013-2014

It was found that Facebook saw little change to its userbase when compared to 2013, except in the case of older adults. 56% of online users over the age of 65 now use the site and overall, 71% of all internet users are on Facebook, but this figure hasn’t changed since August 2013. Additionally, the site continues to see engagement grow whilst daily use on other social media sites show little change in engagement rates.

70% of all Facebook users engage with the site daily, with 45% reporting that they logon to the site several times a day.

frequency of usage on social media

Site engagement on other social sites:

  • Twitter – 36% - a 10% decrease on the previous year
  • LinkedIn – 13% - remains unchanged from 2013
  • Instagram – 49% - no significant change
  • Pinterest – 17% - no significant change

However, Instagram saw its users increase fourfold in 2014 and added 9% to its overall users as well as seeing high growth in almost every demographic. LinkedIn saw healthy growth amongst professionals and graduates, whilst Twitter and Pinterest saw an increase in users across a variety of demographics.

Research At Odds with Analyst Claims

Last year an analyst at Forrester Research advised brands to ‘stop wasting their money’ on Facebook advertising in the wake of the news that brands would see less organic engagement. However, the Pew research suggests that this is actually terrible advice as the social media site enjoys by far the most engagement when compared with other platforms.

Of course, on a site with such a large and active userbase it’s always going to be difficult to cut through the noise and make yourself heard, but brands and marketers are becoming increasingly creative with campaigns to ensure that they stand out. It’s more difficult for those with a tiny social advertising budget though, which is why it’s necessary to think a little more creatively and come up with something that has a chance of going viral.

It’s interesting to note however how multi-platform usage has risen, as this suggests that people are now more comfortable with using social media and are looking to expand their usage to further connect with people and brands.

Facebook Users

It was found that the median amount of friends that users have on Facebook is 155 and when users were asked how many of the people on their list were “actual friends” the number was around 50. It was also found that Facebook users tended to have a wide variety of friends on the network.

  • 93% are Facebook friends with family members other than parents and children
  • 87% are connected to friends from the past, such as school classmates
  • 58% are friends with work colleagues
  • 39% are connected to people that they’ve never met in person

Twitter Users

The research found that 23% of all adult internet users now use Twitter compared to 18% in 2013 and the site is particularly popular with those under 50 with a college education. Since 2013, the site has seen an increase in usage across numerous demographics, especially white males and those aged 65 and over. It’s also seen an increase in usage by those living in households with an annual income of $50,000 or more, college graduates and “urbanites”.

demographics of Twitter users

Interestingly, Google+ wasn’t included in the research; the reason for this could be the lack of active users. A We Are Social report carried out last year found that whilst the site had achieved 1.15bn users, just 35% of these were active on the site on a monthly basis.

Despite this, G+ did show a very healthy amount of growth between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013, rising from 359m to 1.15bn. However, it’s difficult to get any accurate stats on the site’s usage as Google automatically sets up an account for anyone that signs up for the company’s other products. Research from Forrester found that G+ usage matched that of Twitter in 2013, so it would be interesting to see the figures for last year.

G+ usage compared to twitter

G+ could have been left out of the research after it was revealed that the head of the project, Vic Gundotra, was leaving and the news that the company was reorganising 1000-1200 staff to move away from G+ and work in other areas. This led to plenty of speculation that the social media platform was in effect, dead. Personally, I still use the site on a daily basis and get a lot more engagement than I do on Facebook, so it’s not quite dead yet. Lots of people really love the photo features on the site too, as well as use Google Hangouts to conduct business meetings and set up webinars.

So for G+ it seems that time will tell.

The research is good news overall for social media marketers, especially with regards to increased multi-platform usage. This gives brands a very real opportunity to further strengthen brand recognition across all of the big platforms. Facebook figures too are positive, especially the news that engagement is increasing, as this negates the idea that marketers should in future ignore the platform.

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