Global social media research summary 2016

Our compilation of the latest social media statistics of consumer adoption and usage

Social networks are now so well established, that there are now a core 'top 5' social networks which are most popular which doesn't change from year-to-year. But, as we'll see in this post, the most popular social media sites vary a lot by level of usage in different countries and with demographics. So understanding these differences in popularity of different social networks is really important when targeting specific audiences. When comparing the most popular social networks it's best to review them by active account usage, not just the number of user accounts. We'll also see in this summary that some social networks are growing more rapidly than others while some are now in decline.

2016 social media stats update

We'll keep this post updated during 2016 as the latest statistics are published drawing on our recommended top 10 digital marketing statistics sources. In this, the 3rd update of the year, we'll be pointing to new data around social media interactions based on research by Trackmaven, but first, we present the answers to some of the key questions marketers should consider when deciding on how to invest their time in social media.

Q1. Which are most popular social networks?

This compilation of the most popular social networks worldwide prepared by Statista gives a  clear picture with Facebook ruling supreme. This won't be a shock to anyone! With over 1,590 million active users, it holds an 18% market share, 7% more so than its closest competitor, the Facebook-owned, WhatsApp.


Following from this, we have predominantly APAC favoured platforms, with QQ (9%), WeChat (8%) and Qzone (7%) all with over 600 million active users, highlighting the array of offerings the APAC. We then see a cluster of predominantly western social media networks in Tumblr (6%), Instagram(4%) and Twitter (4%).

Most Popular Social Networks Globally

Q2. Which are the fast growing social networks?

Every marketer has limited time for social media marketing, so which social network should you focus your efforts on? This compilation from Statista on the growth of Twitter shows how it compares to Facebook, WhatsApp and China's WeChat  - it's clearly losing ground - sad since we love it!

Twitter growth

Q3. Which is the most engaging social network?

Another factor which determines the time we put into social media marketing is the engagement of the audience. Here we again see the dominance of Facebook - it's also got the greatest engagement in time according to this insight from the US consumer panel from comScore.

social engagement

The above chart from Comscore shows engagement in terms of time spent on the platform vs reach among the millennial demographic. It's interesting to see how effectively Facebook dominates, but also interesting to see how well Snapchat is doing in terms monthly usage per visitor.

Facebook dominates social landscape

Facebook's dominance is truly extraordinary. Not only does it take the top spot, it's other platforms also take 2nd and 3rd respectively. Facebook Messenger has an impressive 47 penetration, and Instagram (also owned by Facebook)  comes 2nd for engagement.

Q4. What the different interaction rates in social media

TrackMaven analysed 51 million posts from 40,000 different companies over 130 industries to establish which social networks achieve the greatest engagement per follower. The results show that Instagram absolutely dominates when it comes to interactions per 1,000 followers. In-fact it is so much higher than the other channels we've had to include a 2nd chart just to show the difference between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter!

social engagment per 1000 followers

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Engagement

As you can see, Instagram dominates, but when it comes to the other networks Facebook has a considerable lead on Twitter and LinkedIn. This is in large part because people tend to post a lot more on Twitter because it doesn't have an algorithm that only serves posts to a small section of an audience. This has turned Twitter into a bit of firehose of content where companies have to most more and more often to be heard through the noise. This has resulted in lower engagement per post.

Q5. What is the overall Social Media usage globally?

We also want to highlight the great summary of social media and mobile stats from WeAreSocial Singapore, which is mainly extracted from GWI who they partner with.

For statistics on the social network usage and growth we recommend Global Web Index (GWI) as one of the most reliable research sources of social media statistics to compare consumer use and engagement across different social networks. Research is conducted in quarterly waves, each of which has a global sample size of more than 40,000 internet users. Many other social media research programmes are no longer active. Although Global WebIndex are a paid subscription service, their blog provides useful insights on digital consumer behaviour and the Global Web Index Slideshare gives the latest top-level summaries which we share later in this compilation.

Each year, We Are Social update their massive global compendium of stats which gives some great insights into the world of social media. It's a great download for presentations. It's particularly interesting how far some countries are diverging in terms of social media use, and surprising that Western Countries are actually lagging a fair way behind in adoption rates.

we are social

Annual growth continues apace, particularly in the number of mobile social users, which hit 17% last year.

annual growth social global

Asia-Pacific is driving much of this growth, which internet usage rates high and number of active social media users increasing 14% on the year before.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 12.04.37

When looking at the world by number of internet users, it really rams home the importance of East Asian and South Asian markets. Digital offers new opportunities to reach these people, although as always cultural differences are considerable challenges to international marketers.

internet use by region

The full report from we are social contains a massive amount of data across 537 slides. It provides country-specific data for a the vast majority of the world, so you might want to check out the slides of the countries in your core markets to get a better idea of the current state of social in the areas you operate.

US Social media adoption

US consumer technology adoption specialists Pew Research Center released a new set of data on US Social Media US on October 8th which shows the latest social media trends and how far it has permeated society. Looking at data from the past 10 years, it charts the meteoric rise of social media.

10 years ago on 7% of the US population used one or more social networking sites. Now that figure has increased almost tenfold, to 65%. Of those who use the internet a massive majority of 76% of American's use social media.

Pew social media trends 2005-2015

Social Media has grown massively, but it's growth is now starting to plateau. Interestingly the over 65s segment are now driving growth, as other age groups have plateaued completely and use is hardly growing it all. Among the 50-63 age cohort, use hasn't increased since 2013. 
Pew social media trends by age group

Social network popularity by country

This is a great visualisation of the popularity of social networks based on the interviews in the GWI report. If you pick out your country it's probably way behind the countries in which these four core social networks are most popular. Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico, India and Brazil are in the top 10 for each with significantly higher levels of use than the US, UK and European countries.

2015 Social network popularity by country

Use of social networks by different demographics

This chart is striking for the similarity of usage across different age groups. It shows that the social networks are now at a stage of maturity where they give opportunities to reach all age and gender groups. The exceptions to this are Instagram and Tumblr which are clearly popular with younger age groups.

Demographic use of social networks - age and gender


Share your thoughts

  • Dave,

    Great article. How can one value what to charge for social media engagement ? If you were to say to an advertiser that 10,000 people would share an image with their logo on it ? Is there any places to read about this ? Thanks

  • Meryl commented on September 22, 2016

    Dave, thank for this amazing article. Is there a difference in usage when using social media for recruitment marketing purposes? Do you know where I could find this data?

  • ana commented on September 20, 2016

    you did not mention Reddit….

  • Thanks again for an inclusive report.

  • Thank You. The data is overwhelming but very useful. It is cheerful to know that the social media usage is growing at 10% and over 14% in Asia-pacific. The youth are leading the way, naturally. Is there data on what is the kind of information sharing people are interested ? ..this would be interesting to know.

  • Dave – this is an awesome piece of work.

    I’ve found it as I research for a report I have to prepare on exactly this level of detailed data on social media penetration in various parts of the world, matched to mobile adoption and usage.

    So, pretty much exactly what you have covered.

    We’re looking specifically at the future trend of social media use on mobile by younger demographics. It’s clear from a lot of the data presented here that the younger users are so deep into social that as they age they’ll stay with it. We’ll be looking at 90% (certainly in the first world) of people under 50 actively using social media within a few years.

    I’m also intrigued by whether the latest change at Instagram (stories) will shift it way ahead in the usage graph if it cannibalizes minutes from Snapchat.

    All round – super helpful.


  • Hi Dave,

    First of all, amazing article and really educating insights to the Global Social Media trends.
    I have a question though:
    In media like Facebook (which is the fastest growing and has the most users), they have a homepage feed which has two types, either the feeds shown are recent (time based) which are the most common or they are the most popular one. Do you think targeting users on their time based homepage feed would be more effective? i.e. Identifying a particular time segment when people use facebook the most and release our marketing posts at that time. Do you think conversion rate will increase in this method?

  • Thx

  • Keith Dewar commented on July 24, 2016

    Interesting site but really needs to include the Chinese Wechat, with just under a billion users I think.

  • Badrul Amin commented on July 19, 2016

    hello i’m from malaysia, student of polytechnic sultan mizan zainal abidin. can you explain what do you mean about “core ‘top 5’ social networks which are most popular”

    i’m sorry because i just know english just a little

  • Meya Ngh commented on July 18, 2016

    Couldn’t the discrepancy in adoption rates between America and other countries be because we adopted sooner and are now leveling out?

  • Hello Dave,

    Thank you for this research, it’s very useful. I was wondering what de definition of an active user is? ‘active account usage, not just the number of user accounts’. Maybe I’ve mist this part, but it would be very helpful if you could answer this quation.

    Thank you.

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Jeltje,

      You’re welcome! Monthly users are the number who interact with a social media platform at least once within a time period. Usually it’s a month, e.g. that’s what Facebook report, but sometimes it can be 6 or 12 months depending on the data source.

      It’s important to use this metric since many social networks have dormant or inactive accounts which can be spam rather than real users.


  • Fanny Mazna commented on April 30, 2016

    Thank you for sharing this. It is really helpful for my school paper.

  • it help to research document in social media excellent

  • socialpimp commented on April 16, 2016

    Social Media is very important for driving traffic for any type of business. Good Article.

  • Thank you Dave for sharing this article. You should also mention that some of these social networks are more popular and relevant if you are a B2C marketer, I am thinking about Facebook. However, if you’re a B2B marketer, LinkedIn will be more efficient.

  • Aaron Acevedo
    Aaron Acevedo commented on November 11, 2015

    It’s a excellent resources for make a objetives planning. Thanks

  • I am surprise to see that much of 65+ people are using Social Media, Although it was an excellent article with backup by the statistics, good to read that.

  • Seems like Snapchat should be on here somehow, as it is clearly more popular that at least half of this list. I just don’t know how much that site can be measured.

  • you give a excellent data about the social media marketing. thanks for sharing with us.
    prime Marketing

  • Thanks for sharing the social media platforms that are mostly used. It will give a clear view that which social media platforms should be more focussed by any agency for promoting their brand.

  • Excellent data for social media engagement.

  • social media is a part to digital marketing. and people can see what is new you have.

  • Akash Agarwal commented on April 3, 2014

    Now a day’s social media is very helpful. It helps to increases the traffic for your website. Thanks for sharing these social media strategies.

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