Most Americans spend at least a few hours a week on social networks of one kind or another... for work, catching up on news, entertainment, artistic exploration, job searching or, well, just socializing.
Who are we spending time with on these platforms? To begin to answer this question, we decided to take a closer look at the demographics of the leading social media platforms.
The statistics reveal some interesting findings about who's participating in these
massive online communities. Which sites boast the most diverse audience? The
best educated? The
Let's go to the numbers....
We don't need to remind you (but we
will anyway) that the size of networks matters. It matters a lot. More people posting and
sharing makes for a more lively, enticing experience. Sparsely populated
networks die. The best measure of size is not the overall number of accounts, but the population that visits the site regularly. Depending on the set up of a particular network, people don't have to logged in with a membership account to participate actively in a site, or even have an account at all. We thus turned to the number of monthly unique visitors to gauge size.
According to data from Quantcast, Facebook and
YouTube are neck-in-neck for the title of most visited social platform.
The sites each have a different focus, of course --- YouTube being a
prime spot to watch trending videos, Facebook being where you, eh, look up
ex-girlfriends --- but both are seared into the fabric of most
Americans' everyday lives.
How much so? The Land of Zuck averages
about 143 million unique visitors in
the United States
every month, while YouTube logs 144 million uniques. By comparison, the
U.S. population is currently estimated at 312 million. So nearly half of
all Americans check in to Facebook and/or YouTube at least once each
month, and often much more --- making the sites almost as popular as calling
The third most popular network is Twitter, with an average
of 68.6 million visitors a month. This is less
than half of Facebook's traffic, but still a massive community of
people, no matter how you slice it. Considering the extra steps that
someone needs to take to really embrace Twitter --- learning what @
symbols, RT, and DM signify, for instance --- the size of Twitter is all
the more astounding.
Business-oriented LinkedIn can clam 42.5
million unique monthly users in the U.S., while Flickr lately has
averaged just under 18 million users.
If your Facebook newsfeed seems to feature more posts by women than
men, you're probably not imagining it. Facebook's audience includes 15
million more women than men, which even at Facebook's massive size is a
noteworthy female tilt (55% to 45%). Twitter also has a 55/45 female to
male ratio, which means women are overrepresented on these networks by a
few points. The national gender split in the U.S. is 50.7% female to
49.3% male, as of the 2010 Census.
Furthermore, according to a 2009 study by
Facebook's in-house sociologist, Cameron Marlow, female Facebook users
are uniformly more active on the site than their male counterparts.
Marlow found that the average female Facebooker posts between 10 and 26
times a month on average, while males post between 7 and 17 times.
most closely mirrors the overall gender pattern of the country, while
LinkedIn skews slightly male (51 to 49%) and Flickr slightly more so (53
to 47%) according to Quantcast's statistics.
RACE & ETHNICITY
to the U.S. population at large, all of the major social networks have
the approximate racial and ethnic makeup that you'd expect. Where things
get interesting is looking at which networks skew the most from the
norm in the area of race:
Twitter is a strikingly diverse platform,
where a combined 31% of users are non-white, including 16% of the
audience being identified as black. Compare this to YouTube, another
hugely popular network where the minority audience makes up only 27% of
the monthly visitors, the Quantcast data showed.
Meanwhile, a full 75% of Facebook's overall monthly
visitors, which adds up to well over 107 million Americans, are
Caucasian. No wonder Facebook is the only one of the platforms to make
the vaunted "Stuff White People Like" list. Hispanics are notably underrepresented on Facebook, the data suggests.
But ultimately it is Flickr that is perhaps the single most reflective social network in terms of
matching up to the demographics of the United States at large. The
percentage breakdowns for each ethnicity in the Flickr audience is
generally within one or two percentage points of its general population
LinkedIn, meanwhile, has the most overwhelmingly
white audience of the five networks examined. Caucasians make up a
staggering 83% of the professional network's audience, while African
Americans comprise just 5% and Hispanics just 4%.
half of the visitors to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr lack a
college degree. But before you rush off to condemn those kids who waste time
on Facebook rather than homework, keep in mind that some of these
social media users are still in high school or college, and thus are not
degree holders yet. (Across the country, 40% of adults have at least
some college education.)
LinkedIn is the standout here, with three-fourths
of its users being college educated, which is not surprising given the site's clear
job-hunting and networking focus. LinkedIn also has double the number of graduate-level educated users than any of the other networks --- 27% compared to between 13-14% for the others.
Our favorite stat about LinkedIn is that an estimated 5% of users are 17 years of age or younger. Rock on, all you young career-minded overachievers!
YouTube is the only social network where college grads don't outnumber
non-grads --- they are split an even 50/50.
Somewhat predictably, LinkedIn's audience is both the oldest ---
with 70% of
users over the age of 35 --- and the most affluent. Over two-thirds of
LinkedIn users make $60,000 a year or more, and nearly 40% of its users earn
$100,000 a year or more. We could not find any data on how many are in the
"millionaires and billionaires" category that have a tax hike coming
YouTube had the lowest earning audience, no doubt skewed lower by its larger youth and student base. By contrast, Facebook has a relatively high-earning audience, with 62% of its monthly visitors last month earning $60,000 or more.
all, the makeup of the largest social networks is by and large
reflective of the U.S. as a whole. We're eager to dive deeper into some
of the questions raised in these demographic slices, chiefly why are so
few blacks and Hispanics using LinkedIn? And will Twitter find a way to
monetize its sizable female member base, which as everyone knows, is a