Social media platforms are used by 66% of the U.S. online adult population. Of those adults, nearly two-thirds say that staying in touch with friends and family is a “major reason” for using these platforms, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Half of them list reconnecting with old friends as a major reason to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media networks.
What are the other reasons for adopting social media tools?
- 14% use social media to connect with others around a shared hobby or interest
- 9% use these sites to make new friends
- 5% said reading comments by public figures was a major reason for using social media
- just 3% cited finding potential romantic partners as their main reason for using social networks
The social media users that list family and friend connections as a major reason to use social networks are widely varied in terms of age, income, education, race/ethnicity, parental status and place of residence. However, there is a strong gender gap in this category: women (72%) are significantly more likely than men (55%) to list family connections as the major reason to use social tools. Women (70%) are also more likely than men (63%) to list staying in touch with current friends as a major reason for using social tools.
Age was a noted factor for those who listed connecting with others who share a hobby or interest as a major reason for using social media. While this only applied to 14% overall, older users were more likely to be in this category with 16% of 30-49 year olds and 18% of 50-64 year olds. The number of social media users who listed connecting with others via hobby/interest dropped to 10% in the 18-29 year old age bracket.
Additionally, men are a bit more likely than women to use these sites to connect around a hobby or interest—56% of male users say that this is either a major or minor reason for their usage of these sites, compared with 44% of female users.
Parenthood has an effect on the reasons behind social media use as well; parents are more likely than non-parents to list connecting with old friends is a major reason behind their use of these sites (56% vs. 47%).
While only 9% overall listed making completely new friends as a major reason to use social networking sites, men (12%), African Americans (15%), those who haven’t attended college (16%), and those with annual income of under $30,000 (18%) were more likely to do so.
Racial demographics came into play regarding social media users who were interested in reading comments by public figures including politicians, celebrities and athletes. While this was unimportant to 74% of social media users, 10% of African Americans and 11% of Latinos listed it as a major reason to use social networks, vs. only 3% of white users. Twitter users are more likely to list this as a major (11%) or minor reason (30%) to use social networks, while among non-Twitter users reading comments by public figures was a major reason for only 4%, and a minor reason for just 11%.
Where would interacting with brands have placed in these results? While it probably would not be listed as a major reason for many, would brand interaction be a minor reason for using social networks for a significant percentage of social media users, especially those looking for discounts and deals online?
The results are based on a national survey of 2,277 adults conducted April 26-May 22, 2011. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish. Read the full report here.