In earlier years, one of the central issues of the Information Age was how one could properly harness the rapid production of content and curate it it in such a way that it could be commercialized. Then came social media; platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have indeed come to define the modern citizen.
The competition among social media platforms has become a zero sum game, with an average of one and a half hours spent on social media per day. Even with user growth slowing, Facebook remains a dominant player. TikTok, which has grown rapidly is also starting to see user growth flatten out.
Facebook, as shown in figure 1, still has the largest share of eyeballs with over 70% of US households engaged with the platform. Furthermore Facebook users tend to spend a lot of time on the platform, with almost 60% spending at least an hour per day (see figure 2). We monitor social media usage with a wide range of questions asked to over 500 census-balanced respondents each day, and with three years of history.
TikTok has been growing in popularity, but, as shown in figure 3, over the last six months this growth has flattened out. At the current level of engagement the user base for TikTok is just over a third the size of Facebook, and this comes down to demographics.
As shown in figure 4, over 57% of Americans between 18 and 29 are users of TikTok, but under 7% of over 65 year olds use the app. In contrast, over 50% of both age groups are users of Facebook (74% of over 65 year old females, 59% of over 65 year old males, 64% of 18 to 29 year old females, and 51% of 18 to 29 year old males). In order to grow further, TikTok will need to appeal to a broader audience.
On the other hand, as shown in figure 5, users of TikTok spend more time on the platform than Facebook users, and advertisers care more about time spent and are particularly interested in the demographic profile of the age group that are TikTok users.
The demographics of Twitter users has been in the news since it was taken private by Elon Musk. Our data show that the percentage of respondents that are users of Twitter has not dropped in the last six months. The data also show, see figure 6, that the polarization of users between those indicating that they are registered Democrat and those who are registered Republican has decreased since it was taken private.
The other competition underway in social media is where to read the news. When given the chance to select multiple sources of news, a larger percentage of respondents identify Facebook as their source of news than any other individual source (see figure 7). Twitter is also growing in popularity as a source of news.
Social Media Platforms