It seems so natural to many people now, that it’s a hazy memory of a time when it wasn’t possible to catch up on the latest news stories or updates from celebrities on your mobile, in the same amount of time it takes to step off the tube, jump on the escalator and order a latte in the coffee shop next door. In the modern world people want information quickly and in an easily digestible format, and this helps to explain the growth in popularity of Twitter since its inception 6 years ago.
The most striking thing about the use of social media in 2012 is the normality of it for many. Almost half of the GB population has accessed Facebook in the last three months, for example. Although it’s by no means universal, and there are certain groups who tend to be drawn to different sites, it’s clear that social media has become an increasingly important part of people’s lives and has completely changed the dynamics of how media is consumed.
One of the most telling technological changes of the last few years is the increasingly mainstream usage of smartphones. At Ipsos MediaCT, we know that 9.5 hours of smartphone users’ time is spent on social media apps each month. Twitter accounts for nearly 3 hours, and Facebook just over 5.
The 3 hours spent on Twitter is notable when you consider that Facebook has a lot more users in GB than Twitter (46% vs. 12%). We also know from our MediaCT Tech Tracker that Twitter users access the site via their mobile almost as much as they do using traditional devices like a PC/laptop (65% vs. 67%). It seems that Twitter is perfectly matched to a device that people are well used to for consuming snippets of up to date information on the move.
Twitter users aren’t quite as broadly spread across society than Facebook users. Most are male, they are typically more affluent, and are also more likely to be working. Well over half (58%) of Twitter users are aged 15-34, compared to 47% of Facebook users. This could change in the coming years as social media becomes even more mainstream. Facebook has attracted new users from older generations in recent years, and the same could happen with Twitter.
However, there are commentators who have questioned the hype surrounding Twitter by highlighting it as still being very niche, and pointing to the relatively low proportion of its members who tweet on a regular basis. There are also challenges emerging in 2012 to the principles of free speech that made Twitter such a unique tool for sharing opinions and ideas in 2011, such as during the Arab Spring revolts. Governments now want tweets to fall in line with laws within their own country regarding what can or cannot be said by its citizens.
2012 is set to be another interesting year for social media. Although Twitter is some way behind Facebook and is certainly more niche in terms of the demographics of its users, its impact on the world in the last five years has certainly been considerable in terms of allowing people to share ideas and changing the interactivity of TV and events. Arguably the numbers who are using their smartphones to access the site suggests that it’s only going to grow as more of the population become used to consuming information on the move.