Social Media Consumption Differences

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Social Media Consumption Differences

Our research found that people in China, the U.S., and Europe spend very similar amounts of time on social media. We also found that a similar percentage of citizens in each country uses social media. Despite these similarities among the countries, the popular social media channels used in each country noticeably varied.

Social Media Use in China, the U.S., and Europe

Most-Popular Channels

1. China

  • WeChat, China's version of Facebook, is the most-popular social media channel in China.
  • The four most-popular social media channels used by people in China are (in order of descending popularity) are (1) WeChat, (2) QQ, (3) Youku, and (4) Weibo.
  • WeChat, which is comparable to Facebook, had 1.097 billion users in 2018.
  • QQ, which is comparable to WhatsApp, had 803 million users in 2018.
  • Youku, which is comparable to YouTube, had 580 million users in 2018.
  • Weibo, which is comparable to Twitter, had 440 million users in 2018.

2. U.S.

  • The most-widely used social media channel by U.S. adults is YouTube. The most-frequently used social media channel among Gen Zers in the U.S. (ages 13-21) is Instagram.
  • The following are the percentages of U.S. adults who use the respective social media channels: YouTube (73%); Facebook (69%); Instagram (37%); Pinterest (28%); Linkedin (27%); Snapchat (24%); Twitter (22%); and WhatsApp (20%).
  • The following are the percentages of U.S. Gen Zers (ages 13-21) who check the respective social media channels daily: Instagram (65%); YouTube (62%); Snapchat (51%); Facebook (34%); Twitter (23%); and Pinterest (14%).

3. Europe

  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media channel in Europe.
  • The following are the percentages that each social media channel accounted for among net social media usage in Europe in October 2019: Facebook (73.92%); Twitter (8.87%); Pinterest (7.97%); Instagram (5.58%); YouTube (2.01%); and Tumblr (0.65%).

Time Spent

1. China

  • In 2018, the average person in China spent "two hours and six minutes . . . on social media" each day.

2. U.S.

3. Europe

  • In 2019, the average person in the U.K. spent one hour and 50 minutes on social media each day. That average is down from the 2018 mark of one hour and 54 minutes in 2018.
  • In January 2019, the average person in Ireland spent one hour and 53 minutes on social media per day.
  • In January 2019, the average person in France spent one hour and 17 minutes on social media per day.

Content Preferences

1. China

  • Video content is popular among people in China. A survey found that filling time is the main reason why people in China watch live streams and online videos, as 51% reported such.
  • Shopping-related content is popular among people in China.
  • Among those surveyed in 2019, 50% of people in China said they "use social platforms to gain awareness" about products or services.
  • Among people in China, 48% use social media to evaluate products or services that they are interested in.
  • Among those surveyed in 2019, 25% said they use social media to buy products.

2. U.S.

  • News is a main content preference on social media among Americans.
  • In 2018, 68% of adults in the U.S. accessed news content through social media.
  • Of those 68% of adults, 20% did so often, while 27% did so occasionally, and 21% rarely did so.
  • Product information is another main social media content preference among Americans. Video content is the most-preferred type of branded content among U.S. consumers.
  • A survey found that "76% of U.S. consumers have purchased a product they saw in a brand's social media post."
  • User-generated content is another type of content preferred by Americans.
  • A survey found that 50% of people in the U.S. "said that user-generated content would make them more likely to buy products through a brand's social channels."

3. Europe

  • News is a preferred type of social media content among Europeans.
  • In Italy, 50% of people surveyed said they accessed news on a daily basis via social media.
  • Other European countries where news is a popular type of social media content include Denmark (46% obtained news through social media daily), Sweden (44%), and Spain (43%).
  • Video and picture content is popular in Germany. For example, Twitter never became popular in Germany, while Instagram did. Furthermore, YouTube has experienced tremendous growth in Germany, as 59% of Germans watched video content on a monthly basis back in 2017 and by 2019 that percentage rose to 81%.

Online Interactions

1. China

  • Of China's over 800 million internet users, 98% access the internet through a mobile device.
  • People in China spend an average of 27.6 hours online per week.
  • Among Millennials in China, 70% said that "[s]ocial media is the[ir] main source [for] information."
  • Millennials in China spend approximately twice as much time viewing videos online compared to American Millennials.

2. U.S.

  • A survey found that 37% of Americans said that smartphones are the main device they used to go online.
  • People in the U.S. spend an average of 24 hours online per week.
  • Americans use the internet a lot and often. Among people in the U.S. ages 18-29, almost half (48%) said "that they 'go online' almost constantly." Among adults in the U.S., 28% said "that they 'go online' almost constantly" followed by another 45% who do so several times throughout a single day.
  • Among U.S. teens ages 13-17, social media was cited as the preferred way to talk to friends by 16% of them followed by video chat at 10%.

3. Europe

  • On average, a person in Europe spends 24 hours online each week.
  • In 2018, 60% of Europeans used the internet to order services or goods for personal use.
  • Europeans were quick to access the internet via mobile in large volumes. Back in 2016, 80% of people in Europe accessed the internet via a mobile device.
  • Millennials lead the pack in Europe for using the internet to make purchases, as 60% do so, followed by Gen X at 53% and Baby Boomers at 29%.
  • The use of the internet for researching services and products varies among the generations in Europe. Among Millennials, 80% use the internet for such, followed by Gen X at 72%, and Baby Boomers at 47%.

Percentage of Population That Uses Social Media

1. China

  • Among people in China, 71% are deemed active social media users.

2. U.S.

  • Among Americans, 70% are active social media users.

3. Europe

  • Among people in the U.K., 67% are active social media users.
  • Among Belgians, 65% are active social media users.
  • Among Italians, 59% are active social media users.
  • In France, 58% of people are active social media users.

Research Strategy

We gathered information about the most-popular social media channels used by people in China, the U.S., and Europe by looking for recent surveys and data publications on that very topic. Examples of sources we cited to for that information were StatCounter and Pew Research. To find information about content preferences on social media, we looked for articles about types of content that people in each country have expressed a preference for across a few different categories, such as shopping and news. Examples of sources that we looked at for that information included Kantar Media and Oberlo. The information that we found about online interactions in each country came from articles and statistical reports about how people use and access the internet, plus how often they do so. The data we found about the percentages of the populations that use social media was published by Smart Insights. Some of our research findings presented above pertain to specific European countries, compared to Europe in general. We provided that information when we didn't find the data points we were looking for with regard to Europe in general. We looked for information about Europe as a whole in articles published by sources such as Forbes and World Bank. We also checked databases such as Statista for that information, but we didn't find the information we were looking for through those sources, which is why we provided information about a few European countries.
Sources
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