The use of social media continues to grow in 2021. More than half the world’s population has an account on at least one social media network. That’s up 13.2 percent over the past year alone. And nearly all of them are accessing social media on their mobile devices.



No doubt about it, this is interesting data. As the adoption of mobile devices has increased across the globe, so has activity on social media — as users can more easily access their accounts from wherever they roam. 

Who are these social media users? They span nearly every age group, from most corners of the map, yet their behaviors and preferences can be quite different from each other. Let’s have a look at who’s using social media in 2021.

A Look at Users by Social Media Platform 



Even though Facebook continues to grapple with privacy issues, it remains the world’s most-used social media platform — a position it’s been claiming for the past decade. YouTube and WhatsApp have been closely trailing Facebook for almost the same amount of time.



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Even more interesting, though, is this breakdown of U.S. social media users across platforms. It reveals user patterns by gender, race, age, income, education, and location. Across almost every demographic, there is a strong preference for YouTube — even above Facebook. Pew Research Center shows YouTube with the most significant growth across U.S. users.    



If your audience skews younger, you may also be interested in this data from OfCom in the U.K. It shows more than 74 percent of 8- to 15-year-old children use YouTube, and a whopping 89 percent of 12- to 15-year-old children do the same. These are impressive numbers for the video-sharing network.  



Also interesting is that a large amount of social media traffic takes place in browsers, rather than apps. Do you find that surprising?

How Age Groups Use Social Media Differently

While people from nearly every age group have social media accounts, it’s the ways in which they use them that can differ. On a global scale, the most popular reason for using social media is to “stay up-to-date with news and current events,” but even that percentage is only 36.5 percent of all users aged 16 to 64.  



Here’s a look at social media preferences across different age groups:

  • 65+: While this demographic may not be the largest user base on social networks, those who do belong to this group certainly favor the “social” aspect. Older users typically login to their accounts to stay connected with others and participate in conversations. Key topics among these conversations tend to be health and community.
  • 50-64: Diversion and entertainment are the leading use cases for this generation of social media users, especially on Facebook. Socially active users in this demographic use Instagram to document their stories and promote themselves in a visual way, according to a study of U.S. adults in this age group.
  • 30-49: As the group most likely to get their news from social media (particularly Facebook), those between the ages of 30 and 49 look to their networks for the latest updates — even more so than traditional media.
  • Millennials: While this age range represents one of the largest social media user groups worldwide, there are significant differences in how these users interact with their social communities. In fact, within these millennial years, it’s far more common to see users spending more time on image-led platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. This demographic is also more likely to be involved with identity-forming content like posting selfies. This age group also tends to spread social media time across more platforms than other groups.
  • Gen Z: The youngest age group shares the tendencies of millennials as far as sharing and interacting with image-led platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, but they also dominate on video platforms as well. YouTube, Facebook and TikTok are the main platforms where this generation spends their time, which can be up to three hours per day for some of this population.    

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How to Apply Social Media User Data

Now that you have a better understanding of who’s using social media in 2021, you can apply this data to your marketing and advertising strategies. Consider what you’ve learned about various demographics across the world as you map those preferences to your own target audiences. If you can reach those likely to buy from you on the platforms where they spend their time — whether that means posting newsworthy content or sharing images and videos — you’re more likely to make valuable connections, build trust, and establish relationships with your customers. 

Interested to know more about social media marketing strategies? Then check out the Advanced Social Media Marketing Training. Enroll now.

Spruce Up Your Social Media Skills

Any digital marketing strategy must include social media. That’s why so many companies are looking for experts in the craft. If you want to get into this exciting field or add to your existing skill set, check out Simplilearn’s Advanced Social Media Certification Training. If you are looking to go even bigger in digital marketing, you can also opt for their Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing, offered in partnership with Purdue University. Whichever route you take, a career in social media marketing is both exciting and rewarding.

About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

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