July 2024

Consumer Usage of Social Media Platforms is Shifting – Again

Discover the latest trends in social media platform usage and their implications for branding. Recent data reveals significant shifts that business owners and their marketing teams must understand to stay ahead.

Key Findings from the Sprout Social Consumer Pulse Survey

The latest Consumer Pulse survey by Sprout Social indicates a noteworthy shift in social media platform preferences among users. Notably, Instagram (65%) has overtaken Facebook (64%) as the most popular platform among the 2,059 surveyed consumers.

Demographic Insights

The survey’s participants included 1,009 US consumers and 1,050 UK consumers, each with at least one social media account and following a minimum of five brands. While not a global or perfectly representative sample, the findings still offer valuable insights. The survey demographics were segmented as follows:

  • Gen Z (18-24 years): 519 participants
  • Millennials (25-40 years): 757 participants
  • Gen X (41-56 years): 502 participants
  • Baby Boomers (57-75 years): 281 participants

Social Media Usage by Age Group

Analyzing social media usage by age group reveals distinct preferences:

  • Gen Z: Most frequently uses Instagram, followed by TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook.
  • Millennials: Favors Instagram, followed by Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube.
  • Gen X: Prefers Facebook, then Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
  • Baby Boomers: Uses Facebook the most, followed by YouTube, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter).

A significant observation is that 45% of consumers have taken a “social media detox” in the past six months, with 51% planning to do so in the next six months. This trend highlights a growing need for temporary breaks due to reasons like mental health and social media fatigue.

Engagement Trends Across Generations

The survey provides insights into which content formats engage different age groups the most:

  • Gen Z: Engages primarily with Instagram Reels (83%), Instagram Stories (81%), and TikTok posts (78%).
  • Millennials: Shows similar trends, engaging most with Instagram Reels (77%), Instagram Stories (77%), and TikTok posts (68%).
  • Gen X: Prefers Facebook videos (67%), Instagram Reels (59%), and Instagram Stories (59%).
  • Baby Boomers: Engages most with Facebook videos (61%), Facebook Live (41%), Instagram Reels (41%), and Instagram Stories (41%).

Note: This is a significant shift in platform preference. It is age dependent. Older people still use Facebook while younger people prefer Instagram. Depending on your target audience you may need to adjust your social media marketing strategy.

 Interestingly, despite YouTube Shorts averaging over 70 billion daily views, this format did not feature prominently in engagement metrics, possibly due to differing measurement criteria. Sprout Social defines engagement as interactions like clicks, shares, and comments, rather than just views.

Preferred Content Formats

According to the survey, the most entertaining types of brand content are:

  • Edutainment: Educational content presented in an entertaining manner (65.5%).
  • Memes: Humorous and relatable posts (40%).
  • Serialized Content: Ongoing series of posts (38%).
  • One-off Video Skits: Single, standalone video pieces (38%).
  • Interactive Content: Polls, stickers, and other interactive elements (34%).

Contrary to the trend of “lo-fi” content, which is raw and unpolished, the survey suggests that production quality still significantly impacts consumer engagement.

The Role of AI in Content Creation

The proliferation of AI-generated content is a concern for many consumers, with 83% agreeing it contributes to the saturation of social media and 80% believing it exacerbates misinformation. Most consumers feel that AI-generated content should be disclosed, though opinions vary on who should be responsible for this – 33% say brands, 29% say social networks, and only 6% think no disclosure is necessary. Notably, 46% of consumers are less likely to buy from brands that use undisclosed AI-generated content.

Reasons for Unfollowing Brands

Consumers are most likely to unfollow brands due to:

Younger consumers tend to unfollow influencers for posting too little, while older consumers are more likely to unfollow for posting too much.

Moving Beyond Demographics

While demographic targeting remains a common strategy, it has limitations due to the diversity within age groups. Alternative targeting methods, such as psychographics and behavioral data, offer more nuanced and effective ways to reach specific audiences.


Take-Home Message

Understanding these shifts and trends in social media usage is crucial for businesses aiming to engage effectively with their target audiences. By staying informed and adapting strategies accordingly, business owners can navigate the ever-evolving social media landscape successfully.

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