11 surprising social media statistics

A look at changes in how Americans use and consume social media.

You think social media is reaching maturity, and the whipsaw behavioral shifts that change like a Dwight Howard trade request are things of the past? Uhhh, no.

Released Tuesday at Blogworld New York, findings from social media behavioral researcher Tom Webster and the team at Edison Research show some shocking changes in how Americans use and consume social media.

You can access the entire presentation at The Social Habit microsite, but 11 social media statistics in particular stood out for me.

Two quick notes: This is not data dredging. This is real, random-sample, tightly controlled research from the exclusive provider of presidential exit polling in the United States. Also, this is the last time the entire research from Edison will be released for free. It’s too valuable to be given away wholesale—considering it costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce. But you can get exclusive access to the Social Habit research when it’s refreshed and expanded in early fall. Sign up now for a sneak peek.

I’m partnering with Edison Research, Jason Falls, and Mark Schaefer on the next round of these findings, so you’ll be hearing more throughout the summer. For now, here are some statistics.

1. Twitter users are 33 percent more likely to be Democrats.

An interesting finding, and representative of the type of custom queries we can answer in the next round of the Social Habit, this edition found that 40 percent of Twitter users are Democrats, compared with 30 percent of the U.S. population overall. The percentage of Republications and independents on Twitter mirrors the U.S. average almost precisely.

2. The “check-in” is the phenomenon that never happened.

Seventy-four percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the concept of checking in to a location via mobile device, and only 3 percent have ever checked in. Even more damning is that 4 percent had checked in when surveyed in 2011. This is a 25 percent decrease in check-in behaviors in a single year. It’s not going to rebound, which is why Foursquare’s play is to be the new Yelp.

3. Only 33 percent of Americans have ever followed a brand in social media.

From 2010 to 2012, the percentage of Americans following any brand on a social network has risen from 16 percent to 33 percent. This is a sharp increase, but looked at from the opposite perspective, it’s shocking to me that two-thirds of Americans using social networks have never followed a brand. Companies still have substantial room for growth in connecting with customers and fans on social networks.

4. Fifty-six percent of Americans have a profile on a social networking site.

This is up from 52 percent just last year, and 48 percent in 2010. How high can this climb? Certainly, there are sizable chunks of the populace that will never join a social networking site, but it’s amazing to consider that significantly more Americans (12 years old and up) have a social networking profile than do not.

5. Fifty-five percent of Americans ages 45-54 have a profile on a social networking site.

It’s not just for kids any more. The biggest growth of any age cohort from 2011 to 2012 was 45- to 54-year-olds, who now exhibit participation matching the U.S. average. The only group that is below average are Americans age 55 and older, and even three out of 10 of them are in the social networking game.

6. Twenty-two percent of Americans use social networking sites several times per day.

It really is a “social habit.” In the past year, 12 million more Americans are using social networking many times daily. How many other things do we do several times per day? It’s not a long list.

7. Huge uptick in Facebook’s influence on purchases.

Last year, 68 percent of Americans using social networks said that none of those networks had an influence on their buying decisions. This year, just 36 percent said that there was no influence. Now, 47 percent say Facebook has the greatest impact on purchasing behavior (compared with just 24 percent in 2011).

Incidentally, Twitter ranks below “other” at 5 percent. If you want to drive purchasing behaviors within social networks, Facebook is the one and only game to play, statistically speaking.

8. Facebook via mobile continues to be a major factor.

Fifty-four percent of Facebook members have used the social network through a phone, and 33 percent use a phone as their primary way to access Facebook, even though the Facebook mobile experience and mobile apps are mediocre, at best. Here’s hoping the Instagram guys can jump-start it. If so, watch for these numbers to soar.

9. Facebook is the most addicting of the social networks.

Twenty-three percent of Facebook’s users check their account five or more times every day. The mean number of daily look-ins by Facebook users is four. Are we really so interesting that we have to keep up with our friends’ inanities every 90 minutes? Evidently, yes.

10. Twitter can modify its core service more easily than Facebook can.

Fifty-three percent of Twitter users have been a member for less than a year, compared with just 19 percent for Facebook. This means Twitter’s user base doesn’t have long-term, deep-seated expectations for what Twitter is or should be. It will be interesting to see whether Twitter doubles down on this advantage, and continues to hang ornaments on the functionality Christmas tree.

11. Seventy-six percent of Twitter users now post status updates.

This is one of the biggest behavioral changes of the past two years. In 2010, the Social Habit research found that just 47 percent of Twitter users actually sent tweets, with more than half the user base in listen-only mode. The overwhelming majority of new Twitter users are active tweeters, driving the overall average to 76 percent. In the next edition of The Social Habit, we’ll be looking at YouTube, social video, Pinterest, Instagram, and more.

If you have questions you’d like to ask thousands of Americans via the best social media research methodology available, let’s talk.Get on the list for The Social Habit now. Which of these is the most shocking social media statistic? I’ll go with Nos. 7 and 11. You?

Jay Baer is a social media strategy consultant, speaker, and co-author of “The NOW Revolution.” He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a social media strategy firm, and he blogs at the Convince & Convert social media strategy blog, where this article originally ran. (Image via)

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