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Pew: Facebook taps silver surfers to remain biggest social site

Facebook remains the most popular social media site by some margin, despite little or no growth during 2014, according to new figures.

Research by Pew, a well-regarded source of statistics, showed 71 per cent of US internet users were on Facebook last year – the same share it held in 2013.

But while Facebook’s penetration may have plateaued its closest challengers, LinkedIn and Pinterest, each sat on 28 per cent, confirming Mark Zuckerberg’s company as by far the biggest beast in the social media jungle.

Facebook gets older, smarter, richer and more engaged

Facebook’s demographics are changing, with more older people, more university graduates and more high earners using the site, according to Pew’s analysis.

[pullQuote position=”left”]71% of US internet users were on Facebook last year, well ahead of LinkedIn (28%), Pinterest (28%), Instagram (26%) and Twitter (23%)[/pullQuote]

More than half (56 per cent) of respondents over the age of 65 were on Facebook last year. The site also counted 74 per cent of internet users with at least a university degree and 72 per cent of the top income segment among its members.

Facebook’s growing popularity with older online adults – so-called “silver surfers” – means that almost one third (31 per cent) of Americans in that age bracket were using Facebook last year.

“Facebook continues to be the most popular social media site, but its membership saw little change from 2013,” Pew said in a blog post presenting its findings. “The one notable exception is older adults. For the first time in Pew Research findings, more than half of internet users ages 65 and older use Facebook.”

And while Facebook’s overall share of US internet users was flat, it was the only platform that saw significant, positive change in engagement.

An impressive 70 per cent of Facebook users are on the site every day, while 45 per cent use it several times a day. That compares to 49 per cent of Instagram users and 36 per cent of Twitter users who log in daily.

Facebook also enjoys significant crossover with other platforms. People who use Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest are also almost always on Facebook too.

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Instagram leapfrogs Twitter

Each of Facebook’s rivals, while still some way behind, all saw their popularity among US internet users increase during 2014.

LinkedIn and Pinterest were both on 28 per cent, up from 22 per cent and 21 per cent respectively. Twitter went from 18 per cent to 24 per cent, but was overtaken by Instagram.

[pullQuote position=”right”]Instagram overtook Twitter for the first time with 18 to 29-year-olds helping to fuel its growing popularity[/pullQuote]

Instagram made impressive strides last year on a number of fronts, really establishing itself among the top tier social media brands. Growth potential was one of the reasons Facebook paid $1 billion to acquire it in 2012 and so far it has not disappointed.

Pew’s figures showed 26 per cent of America’s online audience were on Instagram last year, while Twitter was on 23 per cent.

“Instagram not only increased its overall user figure by nine percentage points, but also saw significant growth in almost every demographic group,” Pew said.

At 53 per cent, the number of young people (18 to 29-year-olds) using Instagram put it second only to Facebook. This group was the biggest driver of Instagram’s growth having leapt up from 37 per cent in 2013.

An Instagram blog post at the end of last year declared its membership at 300 million, putting it ahead of Twitter (284 million users) on that metric too.