2018 social media research is teaching us at least one thing: This may be the year that social media changed forever.
Released hours ago, a new report from my friends at Edison Research and Triton Digital uncovered a trove of statistically significant social media usage irregularities that may herald a dramatic shift in how and why Americans use social media (or don’t).
The Infinite Dial 2018 report continues the annual research series that consistently produces important findings that describe how we use social media, podcasts, and online audio services.
I highly recommend you grab the entire report, as the highlights I cover below are a VERY small selection of the insights contained in The Infinite Dial 2018.
Here are the six extremely important 2018 social media research trends that this report surfaced.
Social Media Usage Is Down Overall
For the first time ever, fewer Americans are using social media than the year prior. Edison Research contacted 2000 people aged 12 and older, using random digit dialing techniques, the same methodology used each year.
In 2018, however, they found that 77 percent of Americans use social media, compared to 80 percent in 2017.
This is a nearly four percent drop in social media usage nationwide. While not massive as a solo data point, remember that social media usage has increased a minimum of three percent, and an average of 7.77 percent, for the past nine years.
In terms of what we consider to be the primary “social networks” (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, et al.), we may have reached “peak social media.” It’s likely that we’ll see a subsequent decline in usage in 2019.
This is because young Americans are embracing messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and others, while using the core social networks less. I certainly don’t foresee a massive “extinction event” that would cause a collapse in social media usage, but the migration away from public social toward private social is very, very real.
Any drop in social media usage is unprecedented, and indicates that Americans are not wholly satisfied with social in ways they may have been in the past.
Facebook Usage Is Down Overall
Facebook is the biggest contributor to the overall decrease in social media usage. Last year, more than two-thirds of all Americans said they use Facebook. This year, usage dropped from 67 percent to 62 percent, the first decline in Facebook’s history.
Perhaps the constant arguing (about politics, mostly) on Facebook is making it a less joyful experience and chasing people off of the platform. I don’t think that’s the only reason for the decline, but it’s certainly part of it.
I wrote an entire blog post about other reasons why Facebook’s audience is slipping: Facebook Usage Declined and the 3 Reasons Why.
It will be interesting to see what Edison’s upcoming 2018 social media research findings show for Facebook usage in Canada and Australia. That data might yield some clues as to whether America’s toxic political climate is having an impact on Facebook usage that is USA-specific.
Facebook Usage Is WAY Down Among Young People
Facebook’s demise as a hangout for young Americans has been long rumored, but the math finally supports the premise.
Among 12 to 34 year-olds, Facebook usage declined a staggering 15 percent in one year. Usage is still high, at 67 percent of young Americans, but such a precipitous decline does not bode well for the future of the platform.
And in a related trend, for the first time ever, Facebook is more popular among middle-aged Americans than it is among young Americans. This is remarkable, considering that Facebook was developed as a platform that ONLY students could use.
Twitter Usage Is Also Down
While the decline in Facebook usage represents the biggest share of America’s reduction in social media time spent, Twitter experienced a similar falloff.
Twitter’s overall usage is—as it has been for a long time—about one-third that of Facebook.
But this year, Twitter’s usage also declined for the first time ever. This pattern mimics Facebook’s almost exactly, with a bump between 2016 and 2017, and then a retreat in 2018.
This 2018 social media research found that 21 percent of Americans 12 years or older use Twitter, making it the sixth most popular social network.
Snapchat and Instagram Are Pulling Away Among Young People
In 2017, 19 percent of Americans 12 to 34 used Snapchat more than any other social network. Instagram was best-loved by another 18 percent.
This year, Snapchat is the favorite social network of 29 percent of 12 to 34 year-olds. This is a huge climb in just 12 months. Instagram also saw growth, with 22 percent now saying it’s their favorite.
What are these young Americans using less, so that they can use Snapchat and Instagram more? Facebook, which declined as a favorite from 48 percent to 35 percent in one year.
Photo-Driven Social Media Is Ascendant
Every social platform features a lot of photos. But only three are almost entirely photo or video dependent: Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Among the top six social media destinations, only those three saw an increase in usage in the past year, with Instagram moving from 34 percent to 36 percent, Pinterest moving from 30 percent to 31 percent, and Snapchat moving from 29 percent to 31 percent.
The more text and opinion-oriented platforms (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter) were either flat or experienced a decline in usage.
In a complex and conflicted world, the relative escapism offered by thumbing through photos on Instagram, or creating the ultimate wish list on Pinterest, may be a welcome respite from the snark of Twitter or the sales pitches on LinkedIn.
Download This 2018 Social Media Research (and More)
This report provides some of the first evidence of a potentially massive shift in how and why social media is used. The team at Convince & Convert and I will continue to monitor these changes and document them for you here.
Meanwhile, I highly recommend you download The Infinite Dial, as it contains many more insights into smart speakers, podcasting, social media, and online audio trends.