Who Uses Social Networking Sites?
Chart data source: Pew Research Center Report – 65% of Online Adults Use Social Networking Sites, August 2011

A recent Pew Internet study found that 65% of online adults (50% of all adults) use social networking sites. That’s more than double what a similar Pew study reported in 2008 (29%); in 2005 just 8% of online adults used social media. Only email (61%) and search engines (59%) are used more now than social networks on a typical day.

Among Internet users, the rise in use of social networks is across demographic groups, but women and young adults (aged 18 to 29) stand out. In fact, Pew names young adult women the “power users” of social networking, both in terms of adoption (89%) and regularity of use (69% on an average day). And while young adults of both sexes have consistently been the most likely to use social networking sites, other age groups have been gaining steam. Social networking among online adults aged 65+ grew 150% from April 2009 to May 2011, when it reached 33% in this age group. During this same period, social network use by online 50 to 64-year-olds doubled – from 25% to 51%; more than a third (32%) use it on a typical day, an increase of 60% over the last two years.

While there are other growing social networks, Facebook is the dominant site, accounting for 90% of all time spent on social networking sites, according to comScore. A recent comScore/Facebook study, The Power of Like, found that, when on Facebook, users divide their time among profiles (21%), photos (17%), apps and tools (10%), other activities (25%) – and spend the most of their time (27%) consuming and interacting with their Facebook Newsfeeds. This is significant, the authors point out, because that’s where information from companies is viewed (as opposed to users’ visits to individual business’s Fan Pages). In fact, the Facebook study determined that Facebook users are 40 to 150 times more likely to consume a company’s brand messages in their individual Newsfeeds than to visit the company’s Fan Page. Newsfeed represents the greatest opportunity to reach and engage with current and potential customers, the study concludes, so encouraging people to “like” your Page is a good strategy.