Social Media: Stats You Might Not Know

Social Media: Stats You May Not Know

Looking for Connection, Information, and Fun?

Two types of entities comprise social media: social networks and social communities. A network is the social structure made up of people connected to an individual. Each of us has our own social network that includes our family, friends, work colleagues, classmates, neighbors, and more; we are the glue that brings these people together. Popular online social networks include Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter.

Although motivations for participation vary from person to person, the primary reason people join social networks is to connect with others, to maintain existing relationships and meet new people, be they personal or professional. Sharing content creates connection and can take the form of status updates, uploaded photos and videos, presentations posted through SlideShare, likes and comments, and even retweeting of brand content if it is compelling enough. The most active sharers on social media are from Saudi Arabia; more than 60 percent of Saudi respondents indicated that they share everything or most things online. This compares with 50 percent in India, 24 percent worldwide, and 16 percent in the United States.4

People also look to their social networks to provide them with vetted information, whether it is discovery or search oriented. These trusted sources simplify people’s lives and help them to make better decisions. According to the Generation C Study conducted by IBM, 85 percent of users say social networks help them to decide what to purchase.5 Combing newsfeeds, following hashtag-designed discussions, and actively querying friends and colleagues through social search features like Quora expand their personal resources.

People also enjoy social networks because they can be fun. Profile surfing is enjoyable for many, as are the myriad contests, games, and creative challenges that social media offer. They also provide a popular public platform for self-expression.

Have an Interest to Further Explore?

Social communities are vehicles for connection around an interest (fitness) or event (#Super-Bowl), a place (work), a sense of shared purpose (healthcare reform), or a common set of needs (marketing tips). Social communities may be public or private (password protected), branded (owned by an organization) or independent (established by users or trade association).

People join social communities to learn, find others that share their interests, and for self-expression. They join branded social communities to be able to collaborate with brands. People may or may not know each other when they join the group and can be involved in multiple communities depending upon their interest, time, and qualifications. In contrast to social environments characterized by passive observation or anonymous contributions, in social communities people are known. They share ideas and feel connected. Some groups also connect offline, using tools like to facilitate gatherings.

Social networks and communities are often intertwined because community can take root anywhere. Groups form on LinkedIn. People form networks of followers around their Instagram uploads and Pinterest pins. Like most everything these days, the boundaries are blurring.

Social Media Has Taken the World by Storm

It is hard to believe that these pervasive communication tools have only been around for about 15 years. People and organizations everywhere have adopted tools that once were the domain of academics at CERN (the Organisation Europeenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire) in Switzerland or college students at Harvard. A lot of statistics follow but bear with us, because they tell a fascinating and important story for marketers.

Social media has become a fundamental component of today’s marketing toolkit; 93 percent of marketers say they use social media.6 Big companies, small companies, nonprofits, and even governments are tweeting, posting, pinning, and uploading. Social media is maturing as organizations become increasingly sophisticated about its use. A study by the public relations firm Burston-Marsteller found that companies are using social media to engage with their constituents, not to just broadcast information.7 Fifty-seven percent of companies on Facebook and 67 percent on Twitter actively connect with their fans and followers by responding to comments on their walls and timelines or with @mentions.8

YouTube is no longer just a place for posting funny videos; 79 percent of companies have a branded YouTube channel and many are successfully using it for educational purposes and branding.9 Customers have also moved beyond status updates; more than 10.4 million conversations about Fortune Global 100 companies that take place monthly in social spaces.10

Social Media Has a Global Reach

People are active on social networks around the world and their time commitment is significant; social media accounts for roughly 20 percent of people’s total time online on computers and 30 percent of their time online via mobile.11 Facebook alone has over 1.3 billion monthly active users. Of those, 60 percent log in daily and average of 130 friends with whom they connect.12 Forty-eight percent of 18-to 34-year-olds check Facebook when they wake up.13 But Facebook is not just a young people’s playground. In recent months, its fastest-growing age demographic was 45- to 54-year-olds.14 Facebook remains the biggest player, but it is by no means the only player.

Twitter is the fastest-growing social network in the world in terms of active users; 21 percent of the world’s Internet population use Twitter every month. Twitter’s fastest-growing age demographic is slightly older than Facebook’s: 55- to 64-year-olds.15

LinkedIn remains the largest professional network, with two new users joining every second.

Social media use is by no means an American phenomenon. The majority of Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube users are from outside the United States. These numbers would be larger if Twitter and Facebook were freely available in China. The country is not lacking for social media, however. Nine of the top 15 social networks in the world are based in China.

Social Media Differs Around the Globe

There are many variations on the social media theme around the world reflecting the nuances of each market. Social media tends to be quite integrated in China. Tencent’s Weixin (We Chat), for example, is a mobile platform that combines instant messaging, video calls, group chatting, photo sharing, and status updates.18 The microblogging site Sina Weibo combines the capabilities of Twitter and Facebook and incorporates rich media.

In South Africa, the largest social network is Mxit.19 With over 10 million users, the network has a broader reach throughout the country than Facebook (6 million users) and Twitter (1.1 million subscribers). Mobile is key in South Africa. It has made it possible for a continent that previously had very little communications technology to be able to connect almost all of its citizens.

There are several features that make Mxit work well for the African market. Its text messaging pricing is a fraction of the cost of SMS texts, making adoption more affordable. The app serves as a mobile wallet, facilitating payments in a community in which people may not have access to traditional banking services. Its mobile marketplace allows people to purchase music, games, videos, and wallpaper, providing sources of entertainment for people who may not have iPads, PCs, TVs, or Xboxes.

Social Media Is Increasingly Visual

Some of the most popular players on the scene are visual platforms— Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine, and Facebook. When you consider that Facebook purchased Instagram for $2 billion, Yahoo! acquired Tumblr for approximately $1.1 billion, and Snapchat declined a reported $3 billion offer from Facebook, it appears as if a picture is worth even more than a thousand words these days.

Pinterest is a visual content sharing service that is organized around pinboards to which users “pin” their favorite images, infographics, and videos. In its first three years of operation, Pinterest amassed 70 million users representing 20 percent of women who use the Internet in the United States. Tumblr is a microblogging platform that allows users to post multimedia to their dashboard. The company currently hosts 158 million blogs with over 70 billion posts. The ephemeral messaging platform Snapchat allows users to take photos and videos up to 10 seconds in length, add text and drawings, send them to the people they choose, and have them disappear from the recipient’s’ phone and the Snapchat server after a designated period. Over 350 million photos are shared through the app daily. Instagram, the photo taking, enhancing, and sharing app also allows users to create videos of up to 15 seconds in length. YouTube remains a favorite, with over 100 hours of video uploaded to the platform per minute.20

Niche Is the Future

Despite the fact that Facebook now has over 1.3 billion active members, in the next few years we will see a proliferation of smaller, interest-based networks and communities. Once again, our customers are driving this change. Niche networks can be a more efficient way of gaining the information for which our customers are looking than larger one-size-fits-all networks. In addition to search, they facilitate discovery. Smaller communities means less time spent filtering through streams of photos, updates, and advertising. Niche networks also offer the opportunity for deeper engagement with like-minded colleagues; it’s hard for 1.3 billion people to enjoy each other.

Since 2011, approximately 3 million teens (ages 13–17) have left Facebook, many of which are opting for smaller networks.22 A new image-based social network,, has over 25 million users, 80 percent of which are under the age of 24, and is adding 1 million users monthly. Its distinctively young feel is prompted by a platform that, according to CEO Ranah Edelin, prohibits comments so as to prevent verbal bullying or negativity.23 Over 23 million people have joined to be part of an environment in which people are actively making make a difference on issues about which they care. The network facilitates connection, knowledge sharing, and job finding.

Who Is Not Using Social Media?

Not everyone in the world is active on social media or the Internet. Of the world’s 7.1 billion people, an estimated 61 percent are not presently using the Internet according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).24 The majority of users (77 percent) are in what ITU defines as the developed world. The least-penetrated regions are Africa and Asia and the Pacific. Lack of connectivity is partially responsible as are Internet black holes, areas of the world where news is not free to circulate due to government policy.25

Some people within developed markets remain unconnected. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Foundation, 15 percent of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the Internet or e-mail.26 When asked why, over a third said they did not think the Internet was relevant to them. Just under a third said that they found it too difficult to go online, either because they were physically unable or because they were worried about spam, spyware, and hackers. (This latter represents a significant increase over earlier years.) Others (19 percent) found the cost of owning or paying for access to a computer to be prohibitive or they simply did not have access (7 percent).

CASE STUDY: Kaiser Permanente

When you are a respected thought leader and provider in an industry that is prime for disruptive change, being part of the conversations that will shape the future of the industry is essential. Recognizing this imperative, Kaiser Permanente (KP), one of America’s leading healthcare providers and managed-care organizations, is actively creating environments for its multiple constituents—members, employees, policy makers, other members of the industry, and the press—to discuss and influence the future of healthcare.

Being an innovator and thought leader is not a new role for KP. The company’s pioneering roots reach back over 65 years when, as part of its efforts to provide medical care for workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct Project, it started one of the first prepaid healthcare plans. Taking a fresh look at the way in which healthcare is delivered remains a high priority for KP and is part of the reason that the company is continually recognized as a top performer and a leader in providing quality care.1

To continually foster new approaches, KP formed an internal Innovation Consultancy—born out of work with the design firm IDEO—that focuses on better ways to deliver healthcare.2 The Innovation Consultancy makes its services available to the entire organization and jumpstarted the Innovation Learning Network, a consortium of 10 healthcare organizations to expand the conversation beyond its own organization. The group meets regularly to share ideas and results.

The Center for Total Health, KP’s learning space in Washington, DC, brings additional voices into the conversation. The vision for this unique conference center is to be “a place for the nation to discuss the future of healthcare.”3 Interactive touchscreen exhibits about wellness and meeting rooms equipped with Cisco Telepresence, which enables local and virtual meeting participation, encourage ongoing discussion.

To engage the company’s constituent community and the general public in conversation about wellness and health policy, KP has a new, robust digital presence: Kaiser Permanente Share. A brand journalism platform where all the company’s communications and marketing efforts can live, the site offers both thought leadership and news content. It replaces 15,000 pages of content that were previously scattered around the web on two websites, seven corporate blogs, and numerous social channels, simplifying access and improving the visibility of the content so that it can reach a broader audience. By publishing all content to one destination, it also maximizes opportunities for the organization to stand out as a leader in the healthcare space from an SEO perspective.

A sophisticated, backend content management system, combined with a simple interface, allows for greater participation in content creation from employees across the organization and brings more voices into the conversation. Members of the KP community can hear their CEO discuss health policy, in the same space where they receive messages from their doctors, make appointments, read about breaking healthcare news, and receive online coaching about healthy lifestyles. Between all of its forums, only a fraction of which are captured here, KP is getting more people talking about total health.

Community Matters

Kaiser Permanente understands the importance of community in providing the necessary support and education that encourages people to take care of their health. Community provides the fodder for innovation and forms the coalitions that make large social change possible. The need for community is not new, but in the last 15 years social media has created digital communities that can overlay, augment and, in some cases, replace physical communities.

There you have it, a rundown of what social media is. Next week we will talk about how Marketers are using social media.

This content is an example of what ContentOro does for its customers…providing high-quality, relevant content from experts and their published books.

About the Authors

Larry Weber and Lisa Leslie Henderson are the cowriters of this Digital Marketing guide. Larry is the CEO of Racepoint Global, an advanced marketing services firm. A globally known expert in public relations and marketing services, Larry has successfully built companies and brands and is passionate about the future of marketing. Lisa is an observer, synthesizer, and writer who draws extensively from her background in marketing and consulting. Lisa and Larry have collaborated on two guides to date, The Digital Marketer, and Everywhere: Comprehensive Strategy for the Social Media Era. To stay current on their thinking, frequent and follow them at @TheLarryWeber and @ljlhendo.

Buy on Amazon: The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric

1. To read about KP’s multiple awards, see
2. To learn more about how Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy has used design thinking to develop KP MedRite, Nurse Knowledge Exchange, and Painscape, please go to
3. “Center for Total Health,” Kaiser Permanente,
4. Mary Meeker and Liang Wu, “Internet Trends D11 Conference,” Kleiner
5. Vala Afshar, “50 Powerful Mega Trend Statistics For CIOs and
CMOs,” Huff Post Tech (blog),
6. Cooper Smith, “10 Social Media Statistics That Should Shape Your Social
Strategy,” Business Insider
7, 8, 9. Burson-Marsteller, Global Social Media Check-Up 2012 ,
10. Burson-Marsteller, Global Social Media Check-Up.
11. “Social Media Report 2012; Social Media Comes of Age,” Nielsen,
12, 13. “Facebook Statistics,” Statistic Brain ,
14, 15. Brett, “Stream Social Q1–2013,” GlobalWeb Index ,
16. Jeff Bullas, “20 Stunning Social Media Statistics Plus Infographic,” (blog),
18. WeChat,
19. Mxit,
20. “YouTube: Statistics,” YouTube,
22. Cooper Smith, “Here’s Where All Those Teens Fleeing Facebook are
Going,” Business Insider,
23. Kurt Wagner, “Why We Heart It Could Be the Next Big Social Network,”
24. “Key ICT Indicators for Developed and Developing Countries and the World (Totals and Penetration Rates)”, International Telecommunications
Union, Geneva.
25. To learn more about Internet black holes go to Reporters Without Borders ( and examine their World Press Freedom Index.
26. Kathryn Zickuhr, “Who’s Not Online and Why,” Pew Internet ,

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