Once again we have tracked the most popular social networks in each country – and the most popular for news. Our unique data from 12 countries show that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Google+ are by far the most important networks for news in that order, but for younger users Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr also come into the picture.
Main social networks for news – all
Main social networks for news – 18–24s
Almost two-thirds of all Facebook users in our sample (63%) use it in a given week for finding, reading, discussing, or sharing news, compared with 57% last year. The proportion of 18–24s using Facebook has also grown, although this group has also started to use a range of other networks much more intensively.
In the US, the biggest growing networks amongst 18–24s have been Instagram and Snapchat – now used by 34% and 32% respectively for any purpose. Although these are still primarily platforms for communicating with friends, there has been more targeting of these platforms for content and 5% of 18–24s in the US now use Snapchat for news. Snapchat Discover, a new platform for brands including CNN, Vice, and Mail Online, launched in the US amid great fanfare just before our poll was conducted.
Each network has a very distinct age profile, with Facebook spread evenly but Snapchat and Instagram skewing heavily towards under 35s. In the US nearly half of Snapchat users are under 25.
Age distribution of different social networks – United States
Interestingly WhatsApp, an American start-up now owned by Facebook, has a very small user base in the US (4%). It is much more popular in Brazil (61%), Spain (67%), Italy (49%), and Germany (41%). And a significant proportion of users is looking at WhatsApp for news. In Brazil news usage has doubled to a third of our urban sample (34%).
WhatsApp usage for news – all countries
Brazil has not only embraced WhatsApp, but it is also the biggest user of Facebook, with over 70% of our urban sample using the network for news in a given week. Japan is the only country where Facebook is not so widely used – partly because users there prefer networks that offer anonymity online.
Elsewhere we see big differences in both the level of social media usage and the extent to which the different social networks are important for news. Twitter is heavily used in Spain, Ireland, and the UK, for example, but much less important in Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Australia.
Top three social networks by country
We seek news on Twitter but bump into it on Facebook
Although large numbers of people use Facebook and YouTube they are not seen as news destinations in most countries. Respondents who use these sites in the UK, US, Italy, and Australia say they mostly ‘see news while they are there for other reasons’. By contrast, Twitter is considered a useful source of news in its own right by two-thirds (62%) of respondents.
Attitudes towards social networks and news
Scroll data area to see more
|News Lovers||Daily Briefers||Casual Users|
Q12cii/dii/fi. You say you use Twitter/Facebook/YouTube for news. Which of the following statements applies best to you?
Base: All who used Twitter/Facebook/YouTube for news in the last week UK = 296/610/144, US = 233/917/353, Italy = 191/1094/495, Australia = 141/939/310.
We note that Twitter is populated by a relatively high proportion of News Lovers (people who have a strong interest in news and access it frequently) while Facebook and YouTube have a much higher proportion of Daily Briefers and Casual Users.
Our data also show the type of activity regularly carried out in the three networks. Looking at the UK specifically we see that Twitter users are much more likely to be actively checking their feed for what’s new (69%) or clicking to view a professional news story (46%). Facebook users are more likely to discuss or comment on a story and YouTube is best for searching for videos.
Types of activity in social media – UK – Twitter
Types of activity in social media – UK – Facebook
Types of activity in social media – UK – YouTube
These differences help to explain the type of content that is shared and consumed in these networks. Twitter tends to work better for serious news brands like the BBC and New York Times. Facebook tends to favour more accessible content and brands that focus more on entertainment and lifestyle content such as PlayBuzz, the Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed. The next chart shows figures from NewsWhip blog’s analysis of shares and tweets of content published in January 2015.1
The news that is most read, shared, and discussed in social media is produced by professional news organisations. Journalists and news organisations together are directly followed by around a third of users in social media (32%) that we polled in the UK, US, Italy, and Australia. People in the US and Italy are most likely to follow journalists, while those in the UK and the US have the greatest tendency to follow politicians and political parties.
Following journalists and politicians on social media – UK
Following journalists and politicians on social media – US
Following journalists and politicians on social media – Italy
Following journalists and politicians on social media – Australia
In the US over a quarter of social media users (28%) have followed or subscribed to the feed of a politician or political party. That equates to roughly a fifth (19%) of the total adult population.2 In other countries, we find around a fifth of social media users are following politicians or parties.
This group tends to be male, shares news frequently, consumes news heavily (high proportion of News Lovers), and uses a large number of mainstream news sources as well. Political sources are supplementing not replacing traditional sources.
- NewsWhip tracks the sharing of stories across social networks, www.newswhip.com. ↩
- Calculation assumes 87% of US adults use the internet (Pew), 79% of internet users use social media (Pew), and 28% of news reading social media users follow politicians (RISJ). 87% * 79% * 28% = 19.2% news reading adults follow a politician. ↩