Morgan Goldstein

Social media has become an undeniable force in our lives. It has transformed the way we connect with others, consume information, and even shop. But how exactly are Americans using social media in 2024? A new study by the Pew Research Center sheds light on this topic by surveying nearly 6000 adults in the United States between May 19-Sept. 5, 2023 across diverse genders, education levels, income, etc. 

Dominant and Emerging Social Media Platforms in 2024 

The survey reveals that while YouTube and Facebook continue to reign supreme as the most popular social media platforms, TikTok has seen a significant surge in popularity, particularly among younger demographics. A third of U.S. adults say they use the video-based platform, up 12 percentage points from 2021 (21%). The findings also highlight substantial disparities in social media use across age groups and education levels.  

Understanding these trends and disparities is crucial for advertisers to allocate their resources effectively across different platforms. 


YouTube and Facebook’s Continued Influence 

The survey underscores the unwavering popularity of YouTube and Facebook. YouTube, the video-sharing platform, remains the go-to destination for entertainment, information and education. Facebook, the social networking giant, persists as a central hub for connecting with friends, family and acquaintances. These platforms have established themselves as ingrained habits in the daily routines of many Americans. 

Advertisers can leverage the established user base and engagement on these platforms to craft targeted advertising campaigns. 


The Rise of Emerging Platforms: TikTok 

The study unveils a noteworthy trend: the burgeoning popularity of TikTok, a short-form video sharing platform. Since 2021, TikTok usage has skyrocketed, particularly among younger adults. This trend can likely be attributed to TikTok's unique features, such as its emphasis on creative and engaging video content, its user-friendly interface, and its powerful recommendation algorithms that curate content specifically tailored to user interests. TikTok's ability to capture and hold attention spans in an age of information overload is undeniable. 

When diving into the TikTok's ecosystem, advertisers should keep in mind that it's more than just a platform for ads—it's a hub for entertainment. Craft content with the younger demographic in mind, focusing on authenticity over perfection and aiming for brevity and engagement. Take advantage of trending sounds and challenges, and ensure your videos are optimized for mobile viewing. Embrace both organic content creation and influencer partnerships to cultivate a dedicated audience, while continuously analyzing results to refine your approach for optimal effectiveness. 

TikTok has exploded in popularity in the US. But its future is uncertain. In April 2024, a law requiring a sale of the app from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, was signed due to data security concerns. ByteDance is fighting the ban, arguing that banning the platform would interfere with the First Amendment. As ByteDance will take their battle to the legal system, the platform will continue to operate as normal. It's recommended that advertisers looking to reach a younger audience continue to advertise on the platform for the foreseeable future.


Shifting User Demographics + Understanding Generational Social Media Usage 

The survey lays bare a significant disparity in social media use across different age groups. Younger adults, typically defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29, are demonstrably more active social media users compared to older adults. This disparity is likely due to several factors, including: 

  1. Familiarity with technology: Younger adults tend to be more comfortable and adept with technology, having grown up in a digital world. 
  2. Social needs and preferences: Social media platforms often cater to the social needs and preferences of younger generations, who may prioritize staying connected with peers and expressing themselves creatively. 
  3. Evolving content formats: The rise of short-form video content, popularized by platforms like TikTok, resonates more with younger audiences accustomed to consuming information in bite-sized chunks. 


Why Gen Z Uses Social Media 

Gen Z's use of social media is driven by a blend of factors intrinsic to their digital-native upbringing. Social media platforms serve as vital channels for connection, communication, and self-expression, offering Gen Z a space to forge relationships, explore identities, and engage with communities that reflect their diverse interests and values. For advertisers seeking to resonate with Gen Z, understanding these dynamics is key. Content creation must prioritize authenticity, reflecting genuine experiences and values that resonate with Gen Z's quest for authenticity and purpose. By embracing inclusivity, diversity, and social causes that matter to Gen Z, advertisers can foster meaningful connections and conversations, moving beyond traditional marketing approaches to cultivate genuine engagement and loyalty among this influential demographic. 


Successful Social Media Content Strategies in 2024 

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, staying aware of emerging trends is paramount for advertisers to maintain relevance and effectiveness. Advertisers can achieve this by employing a multifaceted approach that includes monitoring social media conversations, analyzing data and metrics, staying informed about industry reports and research, embracing agility and experimentation, and maintaining a strong connection with their audience. By staying vigilant and adaptable, advertisers can identify emerging trends early on and adjust their content strategies to resonate with their target audience, ensuring their campaigns remain impactful and effective in an increasingly competitive digital environment. 


Evolving Content Formats: What is the Next Big Thing in Social Media? 

One emerging trend that holds significant promise is the rise of immersive experiences and augmented reality (AR) within social media platforms. As technology advances, users increasingly crave interactive and engaging content experiences. AR filters, lenses, and interactive elements have already gained popularity on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, allowing users to enhance their photos and videos with playful and creative effects. This trend is likely to continue expanding, with social media platforms incorporating more AR features to provide users with novel ways to express themselves and interact with content. Additionally, the integration of virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies could further revolutionize social media, offering users immersive environments for socializing, gaming, and content creation. As these technologies become more accessible and seamless, they have the potential to redefine the way we connect and engage on social media platforms, ushering in a new era of digital interaction and communication. 


Optimizing Content for Audience Engagement 

Cracking the code involves understanding how different age groups consume information on their favorite platforms. Here's the cheat sheet: 

Think bite-sized videos with all the trending trimmings for Gen Z on TikTok. They're all about quick hits. Meanwhile, for the seasoned LinkedIn crowd, in-depth articles with industry expertise might be more their speed. Don't forget the language! Keep it casual and conversational for younger audiences, but switch to a more authoritative tone for established platforms. And remember, visuals are your universal translator. High-quality images and infographics break up text and grab attention across all ages. So, ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and speak their language, not yours. Your multi-platform content will thank you for it. 


The Pew Research Center's survey provides a valuable snapshot of the current social media landscape in America. By staying informed about these trends, advertisers can be more strategic with the ad dollars in order to reach their target audience on the platform that they use the most. 


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