Student Work

Understanding Social Media Demographics

According to Statistia, the top three social media sites are Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp. But WhatsApp and Messenger are both owned by Facebook, so really the third most popular independent social media site in the world is the Chinese site WeChat.

Facebook, with 2.5 billion users, is primarily intended as a site for keeping up with people you know in real life, your friends and family, but it has also become a major site for talking about news, politics, and hobbies, and for conducting virtual garage sales. They’re trying to compete with YouTube in the online video business, but remain second to YouTube. It was founded and remains the property of Mark Zuckerberg.

YouTube, with 2 billion users, began as a place where people could share videos they’d made, without any real social aspects. But as features like comments were added, YouTube became more and more social. It features profiles, called channels, comments and likes on videos, and recently added text-only posts and short, mobile-only videos. YouTube is trying very hard to be a full fledged social media site, but most users are still there to watch videos – I personally do 90% of my YouTube browsing on my Roku Smart TV.

WeChat is a posting, messaging, ride-hailing, mobile payment and casual gaming app created by the Chinese tech giant Tencent. It is very much a mobile-first, app first experience. It has a web interface, but you must scan a QR code from your phone to log into the website (though there are also desktop apps for Windows and Mac OS). This social media and much more app has over a billion users but is virtually unknown in the West.

Demographics are the statistics on what kind of person is most likely to use a particular social network. They are important because advertisers use demographics to target what adds you would run on a particular social network. There would be little point to running political adds that reach people too young to vote.

Facebook Demographics: Facebook is a bit more female than male and a bit more mobile than desktop, but those are small differences. 69% of American adults are on Facebook. Contrary to it’s reputation as a hangout for senior citizens, Facebook is in fact popular with all ages of adult, and a larger percentage (89%) of 18-29 year olds have a Facebook account than adults over 65(62%). Perhaps the perception that Facebook is for older people comes more from their absence on other social networking sites rather than a disproportionate presence on Facebook.

YouTube is the most popular social media site in America, a bit more popular than Facebook in the US (but less popular abroad.) very popular with literal children and teenagers. Statistics on children under 13 are hard to come by because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection act, which YT has been dinged by the government for violating. But 85% of teens age 13-17 are on YouTube, compared to around 50% on Facebook. YouTube is also slightly more male than female, the reverse of Facebook.

WeChat has essentially no market share in the US, so even though it has over one billion users worldwide it is irrelevant to American marketing unless you’re marketing specifically to Chinese-Americans and Chinese expats. In China, despite its reputation for omnipresence, WeChat is markedly more popular with young and middle aged adults than children or the elderly.

The average user spend 11 minutes and 34 seconds on YouTube, 38 minutes on Facebook, and 30 on WeChat.

The fastest growing social network is Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and ranks just behind WeChat.

As I said, a small majority of Facebook use is on mobile, WeChat is apparently primarily for mobile use, and I can’t find good information about YouTube.