Consumer Usage Of Social Media Platforms Is Shifting (Again)

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According to a recent Consumer Pulse survey conducted by Sprout Social, there has been a notable shift in social media platform usage, which could have significant implications for brands.

The survey reveals that Instagram (65%) has now surpassed Facebook (64%) to become the top platform among the 2,059 consumers surveyed.

It is important to highlight that the survey participants comprised 1,009 US consumers and 1,050 UK consumers, all of whom have at least one social media account and follow at least five brands on social media.

It’s important to note that this survey doesn’t represent a global sample. With the US population at 335 million, nearly five times larger than the UK’s 68 million, the survey lacks full representation of either country. Additionally, focusing on consumers who follow at least five brands on social media introduces a bias into the results.

However, there are still valuable insights for marketers when examining usage patterns by age group. For instance, significant differences emerged among age cohorts, which marketers should carefully analyze and incorporate into their social media strategies.

The survey categorized participants as follows: 519 Gen Z (ages 18-24), 757 Millennials (ages 25-40), 502 Gen X (ages 41-56), and 281 Baby Boomers (ages 57-75).

This consumer survey was conducted online by Cint on behalf of Sprout Social from May 17-27, 2024.

Usage Of Social Media Platforms By Age Group

Segmenting by age group reveals the following usage patterns:

  • Gen Z prefers Instagram the most, followed by TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook.
  • Millennials favor Instagram the most, followed by Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube.
  • Gen X predominantly uses Facebook, followed by Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
  • Baby Boomers primarily use Facebook, followed by YouTube, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter).

Additionally, it’s noteworthy that 45% of surveyed consumers have undergone a “social media detox” in the past six months, and 51% plan to do so in the next six months. This indicates a significant portion of consumers who follow at least five brands on social media are taking breaks due to reasons such as mental health concerns, feeling overwhelmed, or a desire to reassess their social media habits.

The findings from the Sprout Social Q2 2024 Consumer Pulse survey indicate:

  • Gen Z has shown the highest engagement with Instagram Reels (83%), Instagram Stories (81%), and TikTok posts (78%) in the last six months. Looking ahead, despite uncertainties surrounding TikTok’s future in the US, this group plans to maintain high engagement with TikTok posts (75.5%), Instagram Reels (74%), and Instagram Stories (74%) over the next six months.
  • Millennials have been most engaged with Instagram Reels (77%), Instagram Stories (77%), and TikTok posts (68%) in the past six months. Their anticipated engagement over the next six months includes Instagram Stories (75%), Instagram Reels (73%), and TikTok posts (66%).
  • Gen X has shown a preference for Facebook videos (67%), Instagram Reels (59%), and Instagram Stories (59%) in the last six months. Looking forward, they plan to remain engaged with Facebook videos (59%), Instagram Stories (60%), and Instagram Reels (59%).
  • Baby Boomers have been particularly engaged with Facebook videos (61%), Facebook Live (41%), Instagram Reels (41%), and Instagram Stories (41%) over the past six months. Their projected engagement over the next six months includes Facebook videos (67%), Facebook Live (47%), Instagram Reels (46%), and Instagram Stories (42%).

Despite YouTube Shorts now averaging over 70 billion daily views, it may seem surprising that this video format wasn’t mentioned in the survey findings earlier.

As previously noted, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm prioritizes videos based on each user’s viewing history and preferences.

In contrast, Sprout Social defines engagement as any interaction between a brand and its target audience on social media. This encompasses actions that indicate how actively engaged an audience is with a brand’s content, such as clicking on links, sharing content, or leaving comments.

Therefore, the specific focus of the survey sample and the different key performance indicators (KPIs) used explain why YouTube Shorts didn’t feature prominently in the survey results.

The Formats Of Brand Content That Consumers Find Most Entertaining

Based on findings from the Sprout Social Q2 2024 Consumer Pulse survey, the preferred types of content are:

  • “Edutainment,” which educates consumers about products or services in an entertaining way (65.5%).
  • Posts featuring memes (40%).
  • Serialized content (38%).
  • One-off video skits (38%).
  • Interactive content such as polls and stickers (34%).

Contrary to perceptions about the popularity of “lo-fi content” characterized by intentional rawness and authenticity, the survey reveals that most consumers consider production quality as a factor influencing their engagement with a brand’s content.

Furthermore, many respondents believe that artificial intelligence (AI) is intensifying the already vast volume of content on social media and will exacerbate challenges related to misinformation in the future.

AI-Generated Content Should Be Disclosed

Furthermore, a majority of surveyed consumers agree that AI-generated social content should be disclosed, although opinions differ on who should take responsibility for this disclosure.

Despite earlier indications that AI-generated content can be visually appealing or engaging, the latest findings suggest it could potentially influence consumer purchasing decisions negatively.

Consumers are divided on whether brands (33%) or social networks (29%) should be responsible for disclosing AI-generated social content. A small percentage (6%) believe that AI-generated content does not require disclosure at all.

Additionally, 46% of consumers indicate they are less inclined to purchase from a brand that shares AI-generated content on social media, while 31% feel no significant change in their likelihood to buy.

Furthermore, the survey, encompassing 2,059 consumers in the US and UK, reveals the following insights:

  • 83% of consumers agree that AI-generated content will further saturate their social media feeds.
  • 80% agree that AI-generated content will contribute to the spread of misinformation on social media.

Consumers Most Likely To Unfollow Brands

The Sprout Social Q2 2024 Consumer Pulse survey revealed several key findings:

  • 43% of consumers are most likely to unfollow brands due to an unoriginal content strategy, where content becomes repetitive or lacks originality.
  • 42% of consumers are inclined to unfollow brands if they collaborate with influencers who do not align with their values.

While posting frequency does not typically lead to unfollowing, it’s notable that younger consumers are more likely to unfollow influencers for posting too infrequently (17% Gen Z vs. 10.5% overall). Conversely, older consumers tend to unfollow due to excessive posting (24% Baby Boomers, 21% Gen X, 16% Millennials, and 14% Gen Z), a trend that extends to brand unfollowing as well.

The Alternatives To Using Demographics For Targeting

Many marketers view age as a marker of life stage, indicating social roles and responsibilities, and how historical events shape societal perspectives within specific generations.

However, it’s essential for marketers to consider Pew Research Center’s evolving approach to generational reporting, which acknowledges the vast diversity of thought, experience, and behavior within each generation.

As for alternatives to demographic group targeting, that’s a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say, there are numerous strategies beyond traditional demographic segmentation worth exploring.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal