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YouTube dominates social platform usage

Pew Institute’s research underscores the undeniable influence of social media in shaping modern communication and societal interactions in the United States.

February 20, 2024 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Public platforms, including social media, offer a forum for open for communication, citizen journalism, and audience engagement. However, these platforms also pose many challenges including misinformation, privacy concerns, and algorithmic biases. For better or worse, the largely ungoverned content available shapes public discourse and impacts societal perceptions. These days, the field of social media platforms continues to expand with TikTok experiencing a high level of growth. However, stalwarts YouTube and Facebook lead the pack in overall usage.

Pew Institute’s new research, Americans’ Social Media Use, delves into U.S. adults’ social media usage patterns, offering insight into how individuals engage with various social media platforms. With a robust sample size of 5,733 respondents, this study shows that social media continues to play a central role in shaping communication dynamics and societal interactions.

Ranking social media platforms

Among all of the social platforms today, YouTube emerges as the undisputed leader, with an overwhelming 83% of U.S. adults saying that they use the platform. Following closely behind is Facebook, 68% of adult usage, and Instagram, 47% of adult usage.

While YouTube and Facebook maintain their dominance, other platforms command significant user bases. Approximately 27% to 35% of U.S. adults use platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. X (formerly known as Twitter) and Reddit attract approximately one-fifth of American adults.

A notable finding from the survey is TikTok’s growth, which saw a surge in its user base. Currently, one-third (33%) of U.S. adults use this video-based platform, a significant increase from 21% in 2021. In contrast, other platforms experienced more modest or stagnant growth over the same period.

Demographic differences among social platforms

Age demographics play a crucial role in shaping social media usage patterns. Adults under 30 exhibit higher usage rates across Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. However, YouTube and Facebook remain ubiquitous across all age groups, with most adults using these platforms. While there’s a substantial age gap in YouTube usage, interestingly, Facebook’s usage is more evenly distributed across age cohorts.

Pew’s analysis shows demographic differences in platform usage. For instance, Instagram attracts higher usage rates among Hispanic and Asian adults than Black and white adults. Similarly, TikTok usage is particularly prevalent among Hispanic adults and women. Similarly, race and ethnicity play a role in WhatsApp usage, with Hispanic and Asian adults more likely to use the platform compared to their Black and white counterparts.

Educational attainment also influences platform usage, with individuals with higher levels of education more likely to use platforms like LinkedIn. Meanwhile, household income is a significant factor for platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, where higher-income users exhibit greater engagement.

Gender disparities are evident in platforms like Pinterest, where women constitute a significantly larger proportion of users than men,

It’s important to note that the Pew Research Center transitioned from collecting responses via telephone to web and mail surveys. This shift can impact study outcomes, so monitoring these trends moving forward is important.

Social media rules

Overall, the Pew Institute’s research underscores the undeniable influence of social media in shaping modern communication and societal interactions in the United States. Despite ongoing controversies and concerns, social media platforms play a central role in shaping communication, connectivity, and societal dynamics.

Importantly, demographic differences further highlight the nuanced social media usage patterns, with age, race, ethnicity, education, income, and gender playing significant roles in platform preferences. These insights provide a deeper understanding of how individuals from diverse backgrounds engage with various social media platforms.

While acknowledging the ongoing challenges such as misinformation, privacy concerns, and algorithmic biases, it’s clear that social media platforms continue to serve as vital conduits for communication, connectivity, and community engagement. The transition in survey methodology underscores the importance of continually monitoring and adapting to evolving trends in social media usage.

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