New report showcases evolving social media habits and trends in the UK and US

  • A new report by communications consultancy We are Flint reveals usage trends for the over 80% of adults across the UK and America who use social media
  • In its third year, the only publicly-available report of its kind shows that Facebook-owned channels dominate with 61% of online adults in the UK and 66% in the US using Facebook daily, with Twitter falling in popularity
  • Data shows contrast in networks used by millennials vs. baby boomers alongside growth in popularity of alternative social networks
  • Eight of the top ten networks are owned by the Facebook, Microsoft, Google oligopoly, with use of Instagram on the rise

A new study released today provides in-depth analysis of social media use, highlighting how adults in the UK and US interact with networks. The research, carried out by creative communications consultancy, We are Flint, tested the use of 19 of the most widely visited social networks. Over 2,000 adults in each of the UK and the US were interviewed online about their use of social media, providing a clear picture of current usage, habits and trends.

According to the study, and despite negative social media attention including cyber-bullying and politicisation of certain networks, the number of people using online networks has stabilised in the past three years, with over eight in ten online adults in the UK and the US currently using social media.

Usage trends emerge

Topping the list of most widely used social media networks are Facebook, YouTube and Facebook Messenger. Facebook dominates social media use with over three in five (61% of UK and 66% of US online adults) using Facebook every day. Staggeringly, almost half (45% in the UK and 50% in the US) admit that they log in to check Facebook several times a day. Facebook’s instant messaging service, Facebook Messenger, emerged as one of the most widely used platforms with 68% in the UK and 72% in the US using the network. For those who use the Messaging platform, a quarter (26% in the UK and 27% in the US) admit that they check the network several times a day.

However, while high percentages of online adults say they use networks including YouTube and LinkedIn, far fewer are using the networks on a daily basis. In the UK, over three quarters (79%) say that they use YouTube but only a third (33%) are doing so daily. Similarly in the US, a staggering 83% use YouTube but only 37% use it daily. This trend continues outside of the top three list, with a third (33%) of UK online adults using LinkedIn but a mere 7% checking the network daily.

UK vs. US

The report shows that certain networks are more widely used in each market. In the UK, online adults tend to use social networks for more functional communication. In the US, networks that are more visual and content-led with the option for public sharing are more popular. WhatsApp usage in the UK is far higher compared to the US, with over half (58%) of UK online adults using the network with a quarter (26%) admitting that they check the app several times a day. By comparison, in the US less than a quarter (24%) of online adults use the messaging and calling app.

The study shows that image-based Pinterest is far more popular in the US compared to the UK, with over half (52%) in the US using the app compared to 36% in the UK. Business-orientated and content-led social networking service LinkedIn is more widely used in the US at four in ten (40%) against a third (33%) in the UK.

Millennials vs. Baby boomers

The report reveals disparity between the networks preferred by millennials and the baby boomer generation (those aged 55 plus) with the younger age bracket embracing newer, niche apps. Use of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest has been rising over the past three years thanks to the millennial age bracket. By contrast the baby boomer generation favour Facebook with 82% of US and 70% of UK online adults aged 55-64 using the social network.

Certain networks including Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Giphy, Tinder, WeChat, Grindr and VKontakte are almost entirely dominated in usage by millennials, with less than 5% of baby boomers using any of these networks.

Decline of Twitter?

Against the backdrop of a negative narrative around Twitter as a result of fake news, sexual harassment and online bullying stories, the research highlights a contrast between Twitter use and frequency that users check the network. Despite the fact that almost half (47%) of UK and 44% of US online adults say they do use Twitter, when it comes to checking the social network on a daily basis, only around a fifth (23% in the UK and 20% in the US) said that they do so. Due to the short life span of posts on Twitter, checking the network is central to its use. When it comes to frequency of Twitter use, over half (52% in the UK and 55% in the US) admitted that they never check the social network.

Facebook owned channels dominate

The current social media landscape is such that regardless of what apps prove to be most popular, eight of the top ten networks are owned by the oligopoly of Facebook, Google and Microsoft. In terms of popularity, corporate owner Facebook comes out on top in the usage ranks, with its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram.

With use of Facebook and Facebook Messenger coming out top in usage ranks, Instagram use amongst online adults has been steadily rising over the past three years with 41% of UK (up from 29% in 2016) and 47% of US online adults using the app. Proving that the network still has growth potential, in the US only a quarter (25%) use the app on a daily basis.

Tom Hashemi, Director, We Are Flint, said:

“Our report shows that the way we use social media is changing and overall we are becoming more savvy about when and how we spend our time online. It’s interesting to see the comparison between how users in US and UK use social media as well as the differences in networks favoured by different generations. The tide is turning for social media companies and the industry is under increasing pressure with reports of fake news and the negative impact of social media on youngsters, the next few years will be pivotal in determining how we use social media.”


Notes to Editors: 


We are Flint interviewed n=2,007 US adults and n=2,008 UK adults aged 18+ between the 20th and 22nd January 2018 via online panel survey on their social media usage. Each market’s respondents were screened and weighted to be nationally representative of age, gender and region. The margin of error on the study is +/- 2.2%.

The 19 social media networks tested this year were Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Foursquare, Giphy, Google+, Grindr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Skype, Snapchat, Tinder, Tumblr, Twitter, VKontake, WeChat, WhatsApp, and YouTube.

About We are Flint:

We are Flint is a creative communications consultancy. We partner with experts to help them communicate to the audiences that matter. Our services include communications research and strategy, campaign development branding and visual identities, and website design and development.

Our website is

Link to Report:

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