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PEW social media roundup 2015

Senior Director, Social Media

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The PEW Research Internet Project (“PEW”) last week released a report on US citizens’ use of social media channels. We use this report as a way to challenge the numbers put out by the different social platforms and look at where healthcare marketers may find the most return.

This data is based on a survey of over 2,000 people 18+ using the PEW methodology of extensive telephone activity to reach a representative number.

One of the interesting angles to the PEW work is that they make extensive use of the telephone which corporate researchers no longer do because of cost issues. With modern surveys it is easier and often more accurate to use online sources for most survey work because the rates of participation have declined so dramatically using the telephone and the results can too easily be skewed towards an older demographic (who still use the telephone, especially landlines).

Comparison of PEW findings

To investigate this we looked at self-reported and publicly available usage numbers for the five channels in the PEW report to see how the self-reported numbers match up against the companies’ claims.

Platform PEW Compare Source Analysis
Facebook 71% 64% Ad Tool Facebook was the only platform that self-reported conservatively which speaks well to the trustworthiness of their metrics in general.
LinkedIn 28% 42% Ad Tool LinkedIn’s ad tool seems to be pretty optimistic. We suspect they are measuring all user accounts in the system rather than monthly active users (MAUs).
Pinterest 28% 12% comScore monthly October 2014 Pinterest adamantly refuses to release user details for the US market so we had to use the third party tool, comScore. This tool only measures website visits so it misses the mobile traffic / users and underreports.
Instagram 26% 32% Press Website For Instagram we took their reported total users and removed “rest of world” based on their 70% number. This resulted in a fairly close value to the PEW number since we had to make a few guesses that could easily change the estimate by 3% either way.
Twitter 23% 33% Press Website For Twitter we did the same calculation of total users with ROW backed out. This number is also pretty variable, but it does look like Twitter is being just a bit optimistic in its published numbers.

Overall, we like using the PEW numbers as a solid base of comparison because they run rigorous studies and even if users have accounts, if they don’t actually use them then they may as well not exist. Facebook came out of this comparison looking like the good guy when it comes to accurate (in fact conservative) reporting.


Older users

The report made some findings about Facebook in which healthcare marketers will be interested. The first one is that:

For the first time in Pew Research findings, more than half (56%) of internet users ages 65 and older use Facebook.

This increased usage by the older demographics bodes well for healthcare where the average age of patients is higher than the population as a whole.

Engagement increasing

Facebook’s population isn’t really increasing… once you have 71% of internet users it must get increasingly challenging to convince the remaining 29% to join. For comparison, PEW found that 71% of Americans watch local TV news.

This population, however, is using the channel more. In 2014 PEW found that 70% of the users engage with the channel daily or more often. This matches well with Facebook’s own number of 64% of global monthly users engaging daily. Again, reinforcing how conservative the channel is with their own numbers.

Facebook is “home base”

When looking at users who have more than one social account, Facebook is even more dominant. For example, the crossover with other channels shows that 94% of Instagram users and 91% of Twitter users also use Facebook:

Chart from PEW report

Chart from PEW report

Facebook is friends and family

When dealing with health sometimes it is the people closest to us that have the largest impact. While other channels are more about talking with friends or colleagues and other professionals, Facebook remains firmly entrenched in the users’ personal lives:


Similar to Facebook, Twitter has seen increases in the population of older users on the platform. The numbers are still low, but those 65 and older went from 5% in 2013 to 10% in 2014. As a channel for sharing news the platform is still the place to be.


It’s the lack of change that is interesting for Pinterest. The platform is still decidedly female-dominated with 42% of online women using it, compared to 13% of online men. The ages of the users are only getting better as well. Users aged 50-64 went from 14% in 2013 to 27% in 2014. Since women are considered the gatekeepers of health in the family this channel is worth a look by healthcare marketers.


Instagram is the darling of social pundits, in fact we posted our POV last week, but it is a very young audience compared to the other channels. For some brands this will work but we recommend healthcare marketers look at Pinterest and Instagram together before jumping in based on overall user growth.


Last year we released our POV on LinkedIn where we looked at the medical specialties on the channel and found that there were some opportunities there. The PEW data shows that college graduates have now surpassed 50% of the LinkedIn population which certainly aligns with our findings.

Thanks to the PEW Internet for their ongoing insights into all things digital and helping marketers (and other interested groups) discern the truth among all the conflicting numbers out there.

More About the Author

Brad Einarsen

Brad is Klick's Senior Director leading the social practice. His group ensures that clients get the best bang for their buck on the social platforms.

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