Although the number of adults who use social networking websites has grown rapidly over the last several years, adults as a whole remain less likely than teens to use these sites. As of September 2009, 47% of online adults used a social networking website, compared with the 73% of teens who did so at a comparable point in time. The percentage of adults who use online social networks has grown from 8% of internet users in February 2005 to 16% in August 2006 to 37% in November 2008. On a typical day in 2009, just over one-quarter (27%) of adult internet users visited a social networking site.
Just as with teens, usage of social networking websites by adults varies dramatically by age. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of online 18-29 year olds use these sites–similar to the rate among teens–with 45% doing so on a typical day. By contrast, 39% of internet users thirty and older use social networking websites. Within the under-thirty cohort, those ages 18-24 (73%) and those ages 25-29 (71%) are equally likely to use social networking sites. Men and women are equally likely to use these sites, as are whites, African-Americans and Hispanics. However, usage of online social networks among adults does vary by educational attainment—50% of online adults with at least some college experience use these sites, compared with 43% of such adults with a high school degree or less.
More adults on multiple social network sites
As the number of adults who use online social networks has grown, so has the percentage of social networking site users who maintain a profile on multiple sites. In May 2008, 54% of adults with a social networking site profile had a profile on just one site, while 29% had profiles on two sites and 13% had profiles on three or more sites.
As of September 2009, the percentage of profile owners with only one profile had fallen by nine percentage points to 45%, while the percentage with two profiles had grown from 29% to 36% of profile owners. The proportion of social networking site users with profiles on three or more sites has remained consistent over this time period—16% currently have profiles on three or more such sites. Profile owners ages 18-29 are slightly more likely to have multiple profiles than those over thirty. Just under six in ten (57%) profile owners ages 18-29 maintain a profile on more than one site, compared with half (49%) of profile owners ages thirty and up.
Among adult profile owners, Facebook is currently the social network of choice; 73% of adult profile owners now maintain a profile on Facebook, 48% of all adult profile owners have a profile on MySpace and 14% of profile owners use LinkedIn as of September 2009.
When it comes to use of specific social networking sites by different age cohorts, young adult profile owners stand out by being much more likely than those thirty and older to have a profile on MySpace. For adult profile owners under thirty, MySpace and Facebook are approximately equal in popularity, with LinkedIn a distant third—71% of profile owners between the ages of 18 and 29 have a profile on Facebook, 66% have a profile on MySpace and an additional 7% have a profile on LinkedIn. Three-quarters of profile owners ages thirty and older (75%) have a Facebook profile, similar to the figures for profile owners under thirty. However, MySpace is much less popular among older adults, as just 36% of profile owners in this age group have a profile on MySpace. LinkedIn, with its focus on professional networking, is also more widely used among profile owners thirty and older—19% of profile owners in this age group have a LinkedIn profile.
As with the usage of social networking sites in general, the specific sites on which adult users maintain their profiles also varies by educational attainment. Among adult profile owners with a high school degree or less, 64% have a profile on MySpace, 63% have a profile on Facebook and just 3% have a LinkedIn profile. Among profile owners with at least some college experience, Facebook and LinkedIn are much more popular—41% have a profile on MySpace, 78% have profile on Facebook and 19% have a LinkedIn profile. An analysis based on household income produces similar findings: compared with profile owners earning $50,000 or more per year, those with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 per year are significantly more likely to have a profile on MySpace (64% vs. 36%) and much less likely to have a profile on LinkedIn (6% vs. 22%). The proportion of high- and low-income profile owners with a profile on Facebook is similar—71% of profile owners earning less than $50,000 per year have a profile on Facebook, compared with 77% of those earning more than $50,000 per year.
Usage of different social networking sites also varies by gender and race. Among adult profile owners, men (18%) are more likely than women (10%) to maintain a profile on LinkedIn, while women (78%) are more likely than men (68%) to have a profile on Facebook. Additionally, white profile owners appear to gravitate towards Facebook and LinkedIn, while minority profile owners tend towards profiles on MySpace—however, due to the small number of minority profile owners in our September 2009 survey these differences are not presented in detail here.