The Changing Demographics of Social Media

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

social media worldSocial media has changed the way we think about the world and each other, but the time has come for us to change the way we think about social media. No longer a simple tool for the young, social media has becoming a major influence in society, politics, and the economy. This change is also reflected in the changing demographics of the users of social media. Understanding these changes in the use of social media can help businesses create better marketing and advertising campaigns that are more effective at reaching target audiences.


The Broad Picture

According to a recent survey from Pew Research, though many things have changed about social media, certain things remain constant. For example, young people (18-29 year olds) are the most likely to use social media (about 83% do); women use social media more than men (71% vs 62%); and people in urban areas are more likely to use social media than rural internet users (70% to 61%).

Once you get past the more obvious finding, the research actually paints a demographic portrait that is more complex than people may realize. By December of 2012, more than 75% of people between the ages of 18 and 49 were using some form of social media. And even older generations are getting into the act. According to the Pew study, more than half of adults between 50 and 64 are on social media and even 32% of seniors over the age of 65 are now on social media.  For business owners, this shows that social media marketing is a worthwhile investment, since members of every age demographic can be found on social platforms.

And even though the majority of senior citizens aren’t currently on social, this percentage is sure to rise as more people who already have social media get older. This observation is in line with earlier research from Pew found that senior citizens were the fast growing demographic on social media (though this finding is more an artifact of the low percentage of seniors on social media). Also, as more and more businesses and government agencies use social media to reach people, the adoption rate of senior citizens will also increase.

Another interesting finding of the study is that social media use is relatively constant across all economic groups. Whether you look at the upper, middle, or lower economic class individuals, the social media adoption rate is between 38 and 48%. This is also true for educational attainment. Though it appears that social media use increases with educational attainment the difference between social media use of those who didn’t finish college (33%) and those who graduated from college (43%) is not extremely significant. At least, not so much that someone can say that social media use is something that is only for certain kinds of people.

Changes to the Paradigm

Technology allows the internet to evolve quickly and these changes carry over to the world of social media. One key example comes from the growing number of social media networks. While Facebook still reigns supreme, new social media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram, are quickly gaining large followings. In fact, knowing the best social media platform to use to best reach your target audience, is a key part of successful social media marketing (more on that in another article).

According to Pew Research:

Another big change in the internet that has crossed over to social media is the growth of mobile devices. Nearly half of all cell phone owners (40%) say they access social media through their phones. Keep in mind that this includes people who don’t have smartphone; as more people get smartphone, you can expect the percentage of people who access social media through their mobile device to rise. Also, about one third of Americans now have tablet devices which allow people to access the internet and social media while on the go.


If there is one takeaway from all of this research it’s that social media’s influence will continue to grow exponentially as a generation of social media users enters their golden year and technology makes it easier for people to stay connected to the internet. For business owners, advertisers and marketers, it should be a clear sign that social media represents a great opportunity to reach your target audience in a way that is more personal and responsive than most forms of traditional marketing. It’s worth to learn how to engage customers through social  media. 

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