Social Demographics Report: More Data, More Questions

I was intrigued by the recent BusinessInsider chart showing the demographic percentage age distribution at the top social networks.  The chart gives Snapchat a 71% composition of the 18-34 age group, intimating a 33 point lead over Facebook.  In fact this chart shows Facebook and Linkedin at the bottom the heap for 18-34.  But, something felt misleading about this chart.

BusinessInsider Chart on Social Media Age Distribution

When Brandon Friesen, President of technology media agency Just Media, posted the chart to Linkedin for comment, I was concerned.  Like a Van’s sneaker worn on a long hike, there was something uncomfortable about the information.

Then Sankar Patel, VP of Ad Solutions at LiveFyre stated what was so obviously misleading with the chart.  Said he: “…45% of Snapchat’s MAUs is smaller than Facebook’s 16% MAUs.”  MAU stands for Monthly Active Users.

Right.  Of course.  And, while there’s definitely value in the view of the composition of these individual audiences, what I find more interesting is how do they compare in the context of entire audience numbers as opposed to percentages of each individual service.

First, I researched and found relatively recent information about each of the cited services MAUs.  Using the percentages in the chart above against the actual size of the overall audience, here’s what I got (all numbers are millions):

Yikes, look at all that empty space!

Wow.  With the context of Facebook’s audience in the picture,the numbers paint a far more sobering picture than the original chart’s percentages.  Snapchat’s commanding 33 point lead over Facebook?  It’s a false comparison because the entire Snapchat audience is smaller than Facebook’s 18-24 demographic.  Vine and Pinterest don’t even register.  Even Twitter’s entire audience barely exceeds Facebook’s single 18-24 demographic.  Let’s zoom in a little by taking Facebook out of the picture.

Exclude Facebook

Vine and Pinterest are still gibberish but we can start to see some detail.  Now we can start to make some real comparisons.  With Tumblr clearly in the lead, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Google+ are running neck and neck but .

Let’s look at the numbers for Vine and Pinterest.  Finally some details emerge.

Just vine and pinterest

Still, these numbers leave a lot of unknowns and open questions.  For instance, how engaged is each of these audiences?  It’s certainly possible that Pinterest’s users are so much more engaged than Facebook’s that it makes up for the difference.  Conversely, how fragmented are these audiences?  Tumblr, with 420 million MAUs seems like it’s the only credible threat to Facebook, but it’s the result of 90 million separate blogs.

All this really goes to the theme of any analytics inquiry: More Data = More Questions.

Here’s the data:

18 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 44 45 to 54 55 to 64 65+  MAUs
snapchat 90 52 26 20 12 2 200
vine 11.2 9.2 6.8 6 4 2.8 40
tumblr 159.6 105 75.6 54.6 46.2 25.2 420
instagram 69 78 57 45 36 12 300
twitter 57.38 66.44 63.42 54.36 39.26 21.14 302
google+ 48 75 66 54 39 21 300
facebook 230.4 316.8 273.6 259.2 216 144 1440
pinterest 10.95 18.98 15.33 12.41 10.95 5.11 73
linkedin 49 73.5 77 63 56 31.5 350

What are your questions?

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