Commentary

Social Media Growth Leveling Off in U.S.

While it’s probably not time to start digging its grave, social media seems to have reached saturation in the U.S., where it originated. That’s according to a new global survey of media usage by Ofcom, the British telecoms regulator, citing results from its own independent research panels in countries around the world. Ofcom also found that social network usage appears to be declining in the UK.

According to Ofcom’s survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, the proportion of the U.S. Internet population who reported visiting a social network at least once a week dipped from 56% in September 2013 to 54% in October 2014. Over the same period the proportion edged up among U.S. mobile Internet users, from 67% to 69%, but this increase failed to offset the proportional decline among desktop users.

Any time the proportion of social media users declines people start forecasting doom, but it’s worth noting that according to comScore, the total U.S. Internet population increased 10.6% from 225.3 million to 249.4 million over this period. Combining Ofcom’s proportional figures with comScore’s Internet population figures (admittedly, not a scientifically rigorous approach) the number of weekly social media users would still have increased 6.7% in absolute terms, from 126.2 million to 134.7 million.

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Also according to comScore, the number of Facebook’s monthly users in the U.S. and Canada edged up from 199 million in the third quarter of 2013 to 206 million in the third quarter of 2014 (it’s worth noting these are monthly figures, versus Ofcom’s weekly data).

Ofcom saw a much steeper drop in the UK, where the proportion using social networks fell from 65% to 56% over the same period. Meanwhile the proportion of U.K. mobile Internet users accessing social networks at least once a week remained even at 66% from 2013-2014.

The Ofcom report contains a lot of interesting insights into other aspects of social media usage. For example, among U.S. respondents who own a game console and use it to access the Internet in 2014, 16% said they also used it to access social media. That compares to 51% of tablet owners, 64% of smartphone owners, and 61% of laptop and desktop owners.

Turning to online video, in October 2014 55% of laptop and desktop owners reported watching online video, along with 48% of tablet owners, 44% of smartphone owners, and 35% of game console owners. No surprise, YouTube was the most popular site for online video, used by 36% of mobile Internet users in the U.S., compared to 25% for Facebook.

1 comment about "Social Media Growth Leveling Off in U.S.".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 11, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.

    The penetration of TV ownership also levelled off -- at 98 percent in the 1970s. I doubt social media is the fad that CB radio was back then.

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