The percentage of adults using social networking sites in advanced economies has reached a plateau and experienced very little growth since 2015, but the story is quite different in emerging markets.
Greater access to smartphones is clearly a factor. Pew said 42 percent of respondents in the emerging and developing countries it surveyed accessed the internet at least occasionally or owned smartphones between 2013 and 2014, with that figure rising to 64 percent by 2017.
Meanwhile, the needle barely moved in advanced economies, with 86 percent saying they used the internet at least occasionally in 2015 and 2016, creeping up to 87 percent in 2017.
South Korea was the most connected nation, with 96 percent of respondents reporting internet use, and other countries topping 90 percent were Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, the U.S., Israel, the U.K., Germany, France and Spain.
Pew senior researcher Jacob Poushter said there obviously is not much room to grow statistically in terms of internet usage for those countries that are at 90 percent and higher, adding that there is technically room for social media usage to rise, but it could also go in the opposite direction.
As for smartphone ownership, the pattern was similar: About one-quarter of respondents in developing economies owned smartphones in 2013 and 2014, with that figure rising to 42 percent in 2017. The rate in advanced economies was unchanged over the same time period, at 72 percent.
However, despite the overall momentum in developing economies, some still lag far behind: Only about one out of four respondents from India reported using the internet or owning smartphones, and sub-Saharan Africa is one of the least-wired parts of the globe.
Ditto for social media use, which Pew said “has generally been level” in several of the advanced economies it studied, while rising to 53 percent in 2017 from roughly 40 percent in 2015 and 2016 in emerging markets.
However, here’s a finding by Pew that social networks should be paying attention to: Despite the higher numbers for internet usage and smartphone ownership in advanced economies, respondents in developing economies were often more likely to use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to network.
More than two-thirds of respondents in the U.S., Australia, South Korea, Canada, Israel and Sweden use social networking sites. Meanwhile, that figure jumps to 75 percent in Jordan, and Pew also highlighted the Philippines, Indonesia, Lebanon and Tunisia as developing nations where social media use is prevalent.
Poushter said those countries have very young populations, with young people tending to use social networking sites more than older people, and he added that there are “massive age gaps” in social media use in many of these countries, singling out the Philippines, where 78 percent of people 18 through 36 are social media users, versus just 20 percent of those 37 and older.
In contrast, in Germany, although 87 percent of respondents use the internet, fewer than one-half reported using social media. Poushter said Germany has trended “consistently low” since Pew began asking about social media three years ago.
Pew added that on a country-by-country basis, factors such as age, education, income and gender factor in to who uses the internet in general and social networking sites in particular.