Raymond Morin
April 10, 2017

The Changing Landscape of Social Media Usage

Social Media usage

The 2016 Nielsen Report On Social Media Usage

At the beginning of the year, the Dutch survey firm Nielsen published its annual Social Media Report on the use of Internet and social media. It reveals very interesting figures on user habits. Contrary to expectations, we learn that the biggest users are not the Millennials. Gen X’ers (who are now between 35 and 50) spend an average of 7 hours per week online. This compares with 6 hours for the 18-34, and 4 hours for the 50+ years. And that women spend most of their time (25%) online on social networks (as opposed to 19% for men).

The Nielsen study first shows that the majority of adults aged 18 and over connect on different platforms: 87% on smart phones, 82% on computers and 65% on tablets. More than 97% of young people aged 18-34 use their smart phones frequently, with Generation X (35-49 years) not far behind – 94% of regular users. Also, just over 3 out of four consumers (77%) in the 50+ age group are smartphone enthusiasts. With usage so widespread, it is essential that any new Website design has small screen formatting and functionality as a top priority, rather than an afterthought.

Leading Activities

According to the report, the keeping up with friends is still the leading activity, although not by as much as it used to be. 57% visit a friends page, with 55% leaving comments on those pages. 50% watch videos, with the same amount posting pictures and sending  IMs or emails. Only 13% will have clicked on ads to learn more in the last 30 days. Brands must therefore respect the values ​​of the community and demonstrate genuine social involvement.

Differences By Platform

The use of social networks also differs according to platforms, especially depending on whether the smartphone (which is the platform of choice of Generations X and Y) or the computer (which is more the preferred platform of the 50 + years). According to data from Nielsen, in the United States, 178.8 million Facebook users log on regularly via their smartphone, followed by Instagram (91.5M), Twitter (82.2M), Pinterest (69.6M) and LinkedIn (60.1M). For Desktop PC users, Facebook is far ahead with 90.2 million users, ahead of Twitter (32.7 million), Pinterest (26.5 million), Blogger (22.5 million) M), Instagram (20.4 M) and LinkedIn (20.1 M).

Different generations and their relationship with brands

Depending on the nature of the social network, the motivations of connected consumers also change, and they interact in different ways with brands. While nearly 39% consider using social networks to find information about a product or service, 35% are more interested in exclusive offers and coupons. One in four consumers (25%) will look for reviews and recommendations.

Finally, Nielsen’s report elaborates on the online shopping habits of Generation C connected consumers. Overall, the study found that among adults (18 years and over), over one-third (34%) of Americans spent more than $500 during the year, and 1 in 5 (20%), more than $1,000. The most popular online items are clothing and accessories (58%), followed by books (38%), movie tickets (31%), home and decoration accessories (28%), beauty / health (28%), and mobile applications and devices (28%). Next came games and toys (27%), hotel, restaurant and car reservations (25%) and finally music downloads (23%).

Sprout Social Q1 Study

In March, Sprout Social released the first quarter 2017 report of its study The Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index: The Social Generations: Millenials Ask, Gen X Buys & Baby Boomers Observe. This study, conducted among more than 1000 individuals of the three main generations of consumers, shows that 7 out of 10 Generation X people are inclined to buy from a company they follow on social networks, while 30% Of Generation Y regularly engages (at least once a month) with brands on different platforms. 60% of Baby Boomers are mainly interested in promotions and discounts.

Trust and Deal Breakers

Each of the generations expresses its interests at each stage of the journey, but they do not seek the same experience with the marks they follow. Millennials are more likely to follow companies for information (42%) but also for entertainment (38%), while Gen X’ers will follow brands for promotions (58%) and (41%), while Baby Boomers prefer both promotional offers (60%) and information (53%).

Generally, each generation trusts the brands they follow on social networks: 67% of Generation X, 60% of Generation Y and 51% of Boomers. However, the boomers are barely 14% regularly engaged with the companies they follow, while nearly a third of Millennials (30%) and the X (32%) regularly do so on a monthly basis.

Conversely, Baby Boomers are the most likely to stop following a trademark (29% if they consider that the company is guilty of spamming), while one Generation Y youth out of five will leave following a bad experience or because he finds the mark annoying. 18% of Generation X respond that they will spontaneously leave a company if it commits an action that goes against their values.


Brands and companies must prioritize the quality of the customer experience and ensure that they meet the expectations of consumers at each stage of the purchasing process. This should involve the whole organization, including:

  • From senior executives to department heads
  • Public relations, communications / marketing, sales and business development
  • From production to technical support
  • Human resources / customer service / support staff

And it is at this moment that the relations with the influencers of the communities will intervene to effectively reach the target clientele.

Have Your Say

What is your thought? Will the customer experience become the priority of brands and companies (as it surely should)? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.


Featured image: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_juliatim‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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Raymond Morin

SMO Senior Consultant, Author/Blogger and Speaker at Virage 2.0
Strategic analyst / consultant for over 20 years, specializing in optimizing Web marketing / social media for businesses and organizations, Raymond Morin is also the author of three reference guides (in French), and co-author of three other books about digital marketing, public relations and human resources management. A recognized professional blogger, in both languages, he regularly presents and facilitates conferences for organizations, as well as in-house training workshops. In English, he contributes monthly to various platforms of professional bloggers and social media influencers. His next book, Generation C - Confluence Marketing at the Era of Connected Consumers, will be published next fall on Friesen Press Publishing.