Born into uniquely different time periods, each generation has a different relationship to social media. Gen Z grew up with apps in hand, millennials were introduced during early adulthood, Gen X slowly adopted the concept, and many baby boomers are still getting the hang of things. Platform preference and reason for use is bound to shift between these groups. What they all have in common, though, is that they are spending more time on social media overall.
To reach target audiences, it’s important to understand where they are in the first place. So, we did our own due diligence through surveys and research to create a breakdown of which social platforms are most used by each generation and why.
Born after 1996, these social media savants turn to social media to get inspired and be entertained. They are fans of Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram—in fact, these big three are fighting for the lead when it comes to their Gen Z user numbers. Recently, it was projected that by the end of 2021, 37.3 million Gen Zers will be on TikTok. That means that TikTok’s Gen Z user count will surpass that of Instagram, which will have around 33.3 million users within the same demographic. However, Snapchat still has a comfortable lead in this category, which it is projected to maintain until 2025.
What We Found
What we found in our surveys closely resembled the statistics; however, none of our Gen Z respondents mentioned Snapchat. All of them mentioned TikTok, most mentioned Instagram, and Twitter and YouTube each got one shoutout. One of our surveyees said, “My most used social media platform is definitely Instagram. It makes it so that I don’t have to use the other platforms if I don’t want to, because the most popular posts from each one show up on my Instagram timeline or Explore page—though TikTok is a close second.”
Facebook remains supreme among millennials (84 percent use it), and they have been known to use the platform for getting advice and finding how-tos. In fact, 22 percent point to this as one of their primary uses. However, the millennial age group currently ranges from 25 years old all the way up to 40—so there are certainly differences within the group. The statistics say only 19 percent of millennials use TikTok regularly, which could have to do with the large age range.
What We Found
Our results differed from the statistics quite a bit—the vast majority of our millennial respondents said Instagram, most also said TikTok is “creeping up” as a close second, and some mentioned YouTube and Twitter as well. “Instagram has been my go-to for years,” said one of our millennial surveyees. “I like it because of the simple interface, and I like browsing through real-time stories of my friends, celebs, brands I like, social causes I follow, etc.” Another said, “I like the authenticity and silliness of TikTok. Right now it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is the charm of it. I still enjoy Instagram for the curated, pretty pictures and keeping up on what my friends and family are up to.”
Gen Xers also find themselves spending the most of their social media time on Facebook. It is where they choose to share pictures and information with loved ones as well as chat with friends. Instead of following celebrities and keeping an eye on influencers, Gen Xers take a more practical approach. They choose to consume news, with 16 percent stating that it’s because they do not like mainstream media, and 24 percent citing the convenience of finding news on this platform.
What We Found
Perhaps the Gen Xers we talked to associate more with a younger crowd, because most of them said Instagram was their most used platform. One Gen Xer stated that they use “Instagram, mostly—especially because the restaurants/bars/markets do most of their updates on that platform. Facebook is for old folks, TikTok for young, YouTube when I’m fresh out of TV (or don’t want to commit so much time), Twitter is stressful, Pinterest is for going to a BBQ or something.” Some Gen Xers also mentioned LinkedIn, referencing the value of their professional connections there.
While many boomers do lack the technical proficiency and understanding of the nuanced differences when posting on different platforms, they embrace social media for communication and research. They are also 19 percent more likely to share content compared to any other generation. As of late 2020, 78 percent of boomers on social media cited Facebook as their most-used social platform.
What We Found
The results of our survey with boomers were pretty conclusive and support the existing statistics, with 75 percent of them acknowledging increased Facebook use over all other platforms. Typically the first social platform that is introduced to this demographic, it remains a constant go-to. They primarily use the website to check in with loved ones and give updates about their personal lives. One user remarked, “I use it because I don’t have to learn how to use all the other apps out there.” Another said, “I like seeing pictures of friends and people who I have lost contact with over the years. I also like groups. For example, there is a great reading club group that posts all about books, or there is another group from the community that I live in where there are all kinds of relevant posts to the neighborhood.” Twitter also serves as a place for some baby boomers to receive their news. One that we talked to explained, “I can choose who I want to follow based on political and sports views. It also allows me to understand people’s points of view.”
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