Social Media Usage Highlights Generational Differences

Everyone with a parent on Facebook or a nephew on TikTok knows that the generations use social media differently. The market research firm GlobalWebIndex, in its report on social media behavior in 2019, highlights some of those differences, including data that shows that Generation Z and Millennials are driving the slowdown in growth in time spent on social media—with Millennials, in fact, showing a downward trend.

In its research, GlobalWebIndex also found signs of flagging consumer interest in being on every social media platform that comes down the pipe. Multi-networking is still on the rise, but it could be plateauing. Globally, in 2014 the average social media user had 4.8 social media accounts and in 2015, 6.3, but 2016’s 7.6 accounts had only grown to eight accounts by 2017 and 8.8 in 2018. There’s a clear generational difference in how many accounts users are on as well, with Generation Z having 9.9 accounts, on average, compared to 10.1 for Millennials, 7.3 for Generation X and 5.3 for Boomers.

Looking at what platforms attract the most users by generation, YouTube is at the top across the board with 89 percent of Generation Z, 88 percent of Millennials, 84 percent of Generation X and 73 percent of Boomers using or visiting the platform in the past month. Facebook is most popular with Millennials at 83 percent, followed by Generation Z and Generation X, both at 77 percent, and Boomers at 69 percent. Generation Z leads Instagram users at 74 percent, followed by Millennials at 67 percent, Generation X at 45 percent and Boomers at 28 percent.

Notably, Instagram and WhatsApp have caught quite a bit of Boomers’ attention in recent years. GlobalWebIndex reports that between 2016 and 2018, Boomer use of Instagram grew 59 percent and their use of WhatsApp grew 44 percent. In comparison, Generation X’s use of the apps grew 19 percent and 20 percent, respectively, during that time period.

Another interesting takeaway from the survey is why people use social media platforms. In 2015 and 2018, GlobalWebIndex asked users what their main reason was for using social media, and in that time period, those who said they did so because their friends were on them dropped 16 percent and those who did so to stay in touch with friends declined nine percent. However, during that time period, it recorded a nine-percent increase among those who use social media to network for work, a 27-percent increase among those who do so to follow celebrities and celebrity news, and a 30-percent increase among those who use social media to research and find products to buy. In fact, among Generation Z and Millennials, social networks are practically neck and neck with search engines as their go-to product research channel.

For more on GlobalWebIndex’s findings, click here.

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