Pew Research: Social Networking Site Survey
Percentage of adult social network users over time. Black is overall, blue is Twitter only.

Online adults continue to adopt social networking sites, and 72% are now using them compared to just 8% back in 2005, a Pew Research report has found.

Young Adults Abound, but All Age Groups Engaged

As one might expect, young adults tend to be most active on social networking sites, and Pew found 43% of those over 65 to be active as well. In fact, 6 out of 10 people surveyed between the ages of 50 and 64 were social networking site users, The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project survey found. 

Pew has been tracking online adult social networking site use since 2005, and for this update, it surveyed 2,252 adult Internet users in English and Spanish on land line and mobile phones. The latest figures come from surveys conducted in April and May, and 85% of those surveyed said they use the Internet. Even that number is up significantly over the last two years when 78% said they used the Internet at least occasionally.

As to what Pew defines as social networking sites, in this survey, it asked if people use sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google +. In previous surveys, the social network sites given as example were different, and from April 2009 to August 2011, MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn were the examples given to respondents.

In November 2010, Pew began tracking Twitter use separately, and as the above image shows, Twitter use has more than doubled since then. Those in the 18 to 29 year old age bracket were found to have been the most likely to use Twitter.

Women Slightly ahead of Men in Social Networking

Pew breaks down the survey into bite sized statistics, and it found 74% of women use social networking sites, compared 70% of men. Racial breakdowns were 70% of whites said they use social networking sites, 75% of Blacks, and 80% of Hispanics.

Age group breakdowns were:

  • 89% of 18-29 year olds
  • 78% of 30-49 year olds
  • 60% of 50-64 year olds
  • and 43% of those over 65

Other demographics given were for education level, annual household income and urbanity (urban, rural or suburban), and the numbers there were all pretty similar. Usage rates for all the breakdowns in those categories were in the low 70 percents.

The fact Twitter is broken out by itself indeed shows how much potential it offers, and the inclusion of Google+ as one of the prompted examples also is telling. Still, simply being active on social networking sites only shows us how popular it is. What we need to know is what people are doing with social media. Are they sharing content, producing content or just consuming content?

Most enterprises already know how popular social media is, and they are looking for the people that are the most engaged so they can target those people for whatever campaign they have running. Pew's ongoing surveys are a good source for those campaigns that need a bit of fine tuning as to the demographics listed. As social networks become ubiquitous, it will be good to compare how much time is spent on them by usage, and also by if people are using apps or the Web.