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The right ‘social’ tools for the job

Posted by Edge of the Web on 6th August 2009

Social networks are playing a greater role in society, taking up more of our time and becoming increasingly influential in both our business and personal lives.

So, it’s important to bear in mind that each caters to a different group of users, who use them in different ways.

To highlight this and provide some top-level insight, we’ve put together an overview of the most popular social networks and highlighted some available research to see who’s using what:


Matthew Robson [link to H’s blog post] was right. Teenagers don’t use Twitter. Statistics show that only 7% of Twitter users are in the 13-to-17-year-old group, whilst 43% are 18-to-34-years-old, 30% 35-to-49-years-old and 19% are 50 plus.

However, overall Twitter usage is on the up. Amongst UK web users alone, there was a 3,226% increase in traffic to the site in the year to May 2009. And it’s not the usual 18-to-24-year-old age group that is driving the numbers; it’s the 25-to-54-year-olds that are making Twitter increasingly popular. Globally, Twitter’s year-on-year growth rate has just broken the 1000% barrier!

There are more granular details about these users too: 42% have kids, 51% earn over $60k and 57% have studied in tertiary education.


Despite only being open to the public for three years, Facebook is seen as the granddaddy of the social networking universe with over 250m users worldwide. And it is still growing; usage is up 57% in the UK, with older audiences being the fastest growing group.

But, in comparison to Twitter, Facebook is still most frequently used by the younger demographic, with 68% of its users aged between 13 and 34 years old. 44% don’t have any tertiary education.

Although there is some overlap with Twitter in terms of audience groups, usage stats show that people often use the two networks for very different purposes. Facebook is use most frequently for keeping up with friends and family while Twitter is popular for staying up to date with news and events.


The LinkedIn user is more educated and career-driven than both Twitter and Facebook. The average user here is 41-years-old with 80% being educated at tertiary level. A big 49% are also business decision makers.

Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn is used for professional purposes – e.g. finding jobs, networking and staying in touch with old colleagues. Because it is still a relatively ‘closed’ network compared to Facebook and especially Twitter, the challenge for brands is to reach this valuable audience in a way that isn’t intrusive or ‘salesy’.


Now overtaken by Facebook, MySpace remains the second largest social network in the world, drawing in excess of 60m unique users each month. However, MySpace usage is down in the UK from 8m total UK unique visitors in May 2008 to 6.5m in May 2009.

72% of MySpace users are between 13-to-34-years-old and 56% do not have tertiary education. MySpace is still a good target for a younger audience, but it looks unlikely to be able to win the war against Facebook. Recent reports suggest that MySpace has its sights set more on becoming an entertainment portal to differentiate itself from the Facebook and Twitter brands.

And the rest….

It’s worth adding that, in addition to these big guns, there are thousands of other social networks out there; some are growing, some are in decline. It’s anyone’s guess to see which ones will last.

The ‘niche’ network may well be the next big growth area, with services like Ning making it easier than ever for anyone to set up their own social network.

Keeping a finger on the pulse is not easy in this space. Thankfully it’s a challenge we relish so we’ll continue to monitor, explore and advise!

Edge of the Web