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Hi, and welcome if you’ve not visited our site before – with the number of stats-hunters coming our way every year, it’s probable that you haven’t. We don’t do annoying popups begging you to subscribe to anything, as if you’re in the UK and needing any support with your social media, we’re sure you can figure out how to use the menus

So, on with the stats. This is the 2019 edition of our annual roundup of social media user stats for the UK.  We started these reports because most of our clients are UK focused, entirely or primarily, and Global data can hide pretty much all the useful details. So everything we’re quoting here is United Kingdom specific.

UK Social Media Stats – general thoughts

We’re very happy to report that this year’s post might just feature some of the most complete and up to date figures that we’ve been able to find in quite a while. That’s largely due to some smart use being made of the built in advertising audience tools that are now available from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – if they want us to be wowed by their ad capacity, they have to tell us who we might be able to reach, right?!  There are also one or two organisations in the UK who are doing their own regular research work which helps a lot, too. We’ve listed all our major sources at the end of this article, and we are grateful to all of them.

That still doesn’t mean the numbers are necessarily perfect (anyone who regularly deals with Facebook’s advertising stats will be choking on their tea right now at the understatement!) but they should at least give us a clear idea of the direction of travel.

Additional note – there’s too much detail in most of the graphics here to be easily read in the thumbnail, but click them and you’ll get a clearer view!

UK social media usage – overview

This is a really nice graphic to show both the relative rankings of the social media sites in the UK, and also where there are major differences from the US. What IS the thing about Pinterest that stops it being as loved by Brits as it is across the pond? Who knows, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting the traction over here.

We should also give a dishonourable mention to Google+, which was finally put to rest in 2018, to the distress of absolutely nobody and the delight of social media agencies who no longer have to explain to clients why it was largely a waste of time..

So, these figures are based on the percentage of adults surveyed who said that they used each of the platforms, and were released in early 2018:

Another interesting aspect that we saw for the first time this year, was a breakdown by Ipsos MORI showing not just age and gender propensity for social media use, but also social grade – look at that peak around the C1 class!

Now moving on to the individual platforms:

UK Facebook Users and Demographics, 2019

We were broadly convinced that Facebook had pretty much done with user base expansion in the UK, as the numbers have been fairly static for a few years now. But.  Figures from the advertising audience tool suggest a total UK base of 39 million users; this is something of an increase from the stats we’ve had in previous years.  Taking into account all the negative publicity around privacy and targeting, and with its “cool” period way behind it, could Facebook really be still taking on users?

As this is the first time we’ve measured the user base in this way what will be most telling is where than number goes in future years. But having said that, if we put the 39 million number in the context of the demographic figures below, maybe it IS correct.  This survey shows a strong level of usage (or perhaps just registration?) amongst the youngest interviewees, and of course a much higher proportion of that age group are online than the older age groups who will be experiencing, shall we say, natural wastage. So maybe, as time goes on and the “less connected” generation die off to be replaced by an “always on” younger generation, the ubiquity of Facebook means that it is still able to show user growth.

UK Twitter Users and Demographics, 2019

Twitter, however, is definitely in the user growth plateau phase. Statista gives us a figure of 13.7 million users for the UK, which is there or thereabouts what we’ve been seeing for years.

The platform has become ever more closely identified with campaigning, politics and causes, which in itself can cause issues around potentially off putting aggressive or inappropriate user behaviour. It has introduced easier ways to report this during 2018, and also reportedly made headways against blatantly spammy behaviour such as multiple identical tweets.

However, many of Twitter’s most prominent users have become frustrated with the way it seems to pick and choose the topics where threatening behaviour is taken seriously. General awareness of bot networks using Twitter to spread misinformation has also become more widespread in the last year or so. As yet it’s hard to tell how or if these issues will impact on user numbers.

In terms of the demographics, we have the below survey-based information from we are Flint;  perhaps the least intuitive figure is the relatively large proportion of younger age groups who are still reporting that they use Twitter, despite the huge inroads of Instagram into that space recently.

UK Instagram Users and Demographics, 2019

Based on Instagram’s stratospheric rise in 2017 and 2018, we might have expected this number to be higher…but we’re getting a monthly active users figure of 23 million for the UK here, which is still enough to place Instagram comfortably ahead of Twitter in the usage rankings:

The introduction of the Shopping feature must have gone a very long way to driving Instagram’s growth this year – from both a user and a marketer’s perspective, providing a direct link feature that (slightly) makes up for the inability to include links in individual posts. It’s still restricted to certain countries though, and has a number of potential barriers – including forcing the seller to load their inventory to the Facebook catalogue.

If you need your demographic fix, here it is: once again, the 15-34 age group is really dominant on Instagram, and it appeals to women significantly more than men.

UK LinkedIn Users and Demographics, 2019

And finally, LinkedIn. Good old LinkedIn, we can always rely on them to release some data straight from the horse’s mouth, and this year was no exception.  Here we have a lovely global dataset which was provided in August 2018, and gives us 25 million plus users in the UK – just pipping Instagram to the post for second biggest UK platform!

It’s also no surprise that LinkedIn are majoring on user registrations and not Monthly Active Users however, as we know from past years that LinkedIn has the highest gap between registered users and regularly active users – industry estimates tend to be between 10% and 25% of registered users who actually log in in any given month. It would be very interesting to know if LinkedIn is working on a cure for that…

There’s also been a major upgrade to LinkedIn’s advertising system in the last year, making it look much more like the google adwords / Facebook Ads manager setup and introducing some richer ad types such as carousel ads and video. Which is great, and would be truly epic if it was possible to increase the visit rate in certain sectors too, so that more of our intended target market would actually see those lovely fancy ads!

Sources

Ipsos MORI , Hootsuite, We Are Social, Statista, we are Flint .

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Is unprofessional the right word here? Partly, yes. But it’s more than that – there are a few little “tells” which undermine the credibility of your social media streams from a user’s point of view, particularly the more savvy users who have an innate understanding of how organisations tend to behave when it comes to marketing.  Things that suggest that just maybe, you’re ticking a box or desperate to fill a content void (an imaginary one – less is, increasingly, more in the social media space!), or just trying to cut some corners. Here are our Top 3.

First up: Retweeting without reading.

Always, ALWAYS click on the link of anything you’re about to retweet and at least give the content a quick read through. Of course, that should go without saying, because you’re only retweeting items you think are high quality and worth the time of your audience, right?!

Just this morning, I saw two eminently retweetable headlines pop into my feed, from two different very high profile social media-related content creators. Both of them already had multiple retweets, perhaps 5 or 6. I still clicked through to check that they delivered what I was expecting.  The first one lead to a broken link, giving a 404 Page Not Found error.  Oops. So immediately we know that the five previous retweeters hadn’t even got that far, or presumably they wouldn’t have bothered promoting a bad link.

The second was a slightly more subtle issue. The headline referred to “social media best practises” that need to be retired. Sounded interesting, if only as an indicator of how things have changed over the last few years. Clicking on the link, though…not so much. The article was both thin and very much phoned in – the tactics mentioned were about mass following, and automated messaging. These are things most of the industry put to bed years ago, if they ever went there in the first place.  So in that instance, retweeting would be both disrespectful of our audience’s time and intelligence, and also potentially make us look “behind the curve” – “oh look, this agency thinks these are great new ideas”!.

There are other issues that can hide behind those links though, ranging from misleading headlines introducing views you actually wouldn’t endorse at all, to phishing scams or similar.

Always. check.

Secondly: Cross posting to multiple sites – or just failing to customise content

If you’re serving the same audience with the same content on multiple social media sites, it can be very tempting to bulk schedule through one of the third party services, allow one site to cross post to another (eg “share to Twitter” when you create an Instagram post)  or even just copy and paste mindlessly between sites.

Some of the time, it’s possible that nobody will notice. But it’s a risky game, and can have results that will either irritate users or just make it look as though you’re not really that committed to the “afterthought” channel.

The worst example is direct cross posting from sites. Post from Instagram to Twitter, for example, and your users get an annoying link needing clicking, instead of being able to view your image within their Twitter timeline. But some of the bulk scheduling tools aren’t very helpful, either  – as things currently stand, that multi-image post you’ve set up on Hootsuite and scheduled for Insta and Twitter will lose all but the first image when it posts to Instagram. If you’ve referred to the other images in your text, you then have a dead giveaway that something’s gone wrong!

Creating content directly into the channel it’s going to be posted on, will always be the optimum approach. It also allows you to make use of the site-specific functionality – telling your Insta audience to Swipe Left on your post for your additional images (nonsensical in the context of any other site), or tagging other pages  in Facebook (doesn’t work if you try to do this from Hootsuite).

Thirdly: Hashtags on Facebook

A small one, but there are still articles knocking around on Google which suggest this will give you some advantage, so it refuses to die.

The reality is that most users don’t, and never have, use hashtags on Facebook – except occasionally as a joke, a subtextual commentary on whatever they’ve just posted. Nobody is using them for discovery in the way that they might on Twitter or Instagram, simply because most of the interesting content is behind privacy settings anyway.

So really, sticking those hashtags on just tends to suggest a scattergun approach to marketing techniques (chuck some mud, it might stick!) or perhaps that you’re bulk scheduling alongside Twitter and just haven’t bothered to delete the hashtags for the Facebook version of the post.

So those are our suggested areas for improvement – feel free to comment with yours if there are any huge bloopers we’ve missed!

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You may have heard in the news this week that Unilever have called out the amount of fraud within the social media industry, and Instagram in particular. Their Chief Marketing and Comms Officer, Keith Weed, has stated that none of their brands will buy followers, or work with influencers who do.

From a brand of this size, this is very significant, for a few reasons. Firstly, because they are acknowledging that misleading practices are widespread – and in our own experience, the beauty industry is at least as bad as any in this respect, maybe worse. Secondly, they are admitting that brands have a role in perpetuating that fraud, by creating the demand that “influencers” respond to.

From a marketing professional perspective, this is fantastic news. If more PRs and brand clients had been making educated decisions about who they pay for influence within the social media ecosystem, we would very likely not be having this discussion at all.

But here we are, and mainly because of the longstanding practice of setting influencer payscales mostly or entirely according to their number of followers, rather than, say, rewarding them with a proportion of any sales resulting from their work. As a consequence, it’s wise to regard any social media account with unaccountably large numbers of followers, or whose every banal uttering on Instagram is met with disproportionate enthusiasm, with great suspicion.

That has had a massive and toxic impact on the whole sector. Clients look at these (literally) unachievable numbers, apparently generated by doing nothing particularly clever or out of the ordinary, and they demand that marketers achieve the same thing for them. Potentially, marketers are put in a position of choosing whether to pay their own mortgages or stick doggedly to doing things the right way – which will pay dividends eventually, but often well after a client has lost patience.  Other social media users ( your would-be Influencers) have to choose between a lucrative push-button option to bulk buy followers, and the slow and arduous route of building a genuine following through creating great content.

Everything gets distorted by those “dishonest business practices” that Keith refers to.  I know we as a business will have lost potential clients in the past, because we don’t have an enormous Facebook following. The reason for that is that we have chosen not to invest in the resources required to build one honestly – ie, ongoing high quality content creation in the social media space. That takes time from good people, and those good people need to be paid, and those costs would have to accrue to the fees we charge our clients. We hope that our potential clients will look beyond those particular numbers, take time to chat with us and evaluate our expertise and approach in a more meaningful way – but there’s no doubt that somewhere along the line, some won’t have done. Is there a temptation to cheat the numbers? Of course there is!

The illusion of widespread but inexplicable popularity on social media itself spawns other scams. People who want it to work for them can’t see any explanation for others’ success, which makes them easy prey for practitioners who claim to have a “secret formula” that they can either teach or deploy at will – for a price.  The truth is, there is no secret formula, and success depends on the same basic factors that have been around since God was a boy – understanding your audience, having a great product, consistently generating good quality content that your audience enjoy, and ensuring that you take best advantage of the opportunities for visibility that each platform offers.  Quite often, this news is surprisingly unwelcome…

So where does this leave social media marketing? The thing is, that none of this changes the fundamental uniqueness of what social media marketing can do. There has never been a single, unified communication platform of the size of Facebook or Instagram, since time began. There are real opportunities for effective marketing and laser focused targeting that can’t be found anywhere else, and at a cost which is very hard to equal through other channels.

BUT

As marketers and as clients, we have to be satisfied with “just” those unparalleled opportunities. Stop trying to believe in the unicorns, and take the word “viral” out of your vocabulary (in most cases, at least).

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So, obvious upfront declaration: we offer managed social media as an organisation, so we’d expect you to take this article with a “you would say that” – and that’s just fine. But here’s the thing: we also do a lot of other stuff, and in fact only take on a very small number of carefully chosen outsourced clients at any one time, because we understand that it’s hard to make outsourcing work really well for both sides.  So, we like to think that what follows is a balanced and informed perspective that would be useful to us if we were running any other kind of business.

We’d recommend that you start with a step back, and (if you didn’t already) take a good hard look at what you’d like social media to do for you, whether that’s realistically achievable, and an outline of how that might look – basically, you need a social media strategy. Without this, you are setting both yourselves and your outsourcing partner up for failure.

This process may involve a small investment on your part, to get someone in to work through that with you, but believe us when we say it’ll be a tiny amount compared with the cost of months of badly thought out and ineffective outsourced management.

The other thing you should do is articulate your own expectations and discuss them clearly with any potential provider. For example, you might think that any agency worth their salt would be tweeting for you at least five times a day. That may or may not be right, but if you don’t share that assumption with them, they’re unlikely to guess it.

When outsourcing social media can help you

We’ve also talked in the past about our firm belief that a capable and focused internal employee is, most of the time, going to find it easier to do a great job for your company than a third party. If you’re a very small business or sole trader, times that by ten – you *are* your brand, and you are the best placed person to represent it to the outside world. Unfortunately those are often the  businesses who struggle most to manage their social media presence – consistently.

So that’s our first reason for outsourcing:

To create a consistent presence

Don’t underestimate the value of regular, consistent activity on social media. This is probably the number one reason to consider outsourcing. If you can’t make social media a reasonably core part of your (or one of your employees’) job role, it will get pushed to the bottom of the list and eventually neglected.

So many businesses set up their social media accounts in a flurry of initial enthusiasm, and then find it hard to keep up the activity.  Posts become really sporadic, with lots one week and then none for months. Peer or customer mentions go ignored because there haven’t been any for a while so everyone stops checking for them.  Your audience gets the message that social media is low priority for you.

This issue is easily cured by outsourcing. Provided you have agreed a good range of content topics and sources with them, they should be able to keep things moving even during periods where you aren’t able to give them “live” news from within the business. It may not be wildly daring or creative, but the job will get done, and that alone is more than half the battle!

To maintain professionalism / brand standards

If you have the slightest doubt about your grammar / spelling / writing skills, and / or have issues creating respectable graphics, that will reflect really badly on your brand on social media.

In our experience this can be a tricky issue for business owners to recognise, so if you’re in any doubt – ask your most critical and creative friends whether what you’re putting out there enhances or detracts from a prospective customer’s perception of your business. Again, easily cured by outsourcing, as those skills are fundamental to anyone working in social media.

To keep you current and taking advantage of new developments

This one’s a bit harder, and less of a guaranteed fix, because with the best will in the world just outsourcing won’t necessarily allow an agency to maximise everything they could do for you on social media unless you’re able to contribute significant time, money, or both.

But we will say this: even working full time on social media, we sometimes struggle to keep up with the technical changes on the major platforms. Especially now that the advertising aspect has become more central and complex, and there are new bugs / features / workarounds constantly needed.

Combining that particular challenge with another job role is going to be really tough, if you’re doing your own social media.  That may or may not be a big deal for you, as you may just want to accept that you’re going to be working at a more limited level – but be aware that it will be a limitation.

Creativity

Not everyone has the right mindset for creating original and creative social media content, for sure. But equally, not all businesses need it – for many, just doing a good, consistent, engaging job of creating content, and being responsive to customer engagement, is absolutely fine.

If you do feel that your business demands a high level of outstanding content though, and you don’t feel able to come up with the concepts yourself, outsourcing may help you.

We’re only going with “may” here, because there are so many variables which can affect whether you’ll get what you want. Top of the list is that you’re likely to need to invest significant time in working with your social media agency to shape their concepts, because one person’s “original” is another person’s “travesty” – for reference, take a look at the Poundland Elf campaign from December 2018. It’s undeniably original, and equally undeniably we’ve worked with many brands who would be utterly horrified if something similarly risque / crude (depending on your opinion!) was published in their name.

We hope that helps – at the very least, do think through all of those issues before getting in touch with a potential outsourcing partner, and you’ll start out on the right track.

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UK Social Media Statistics for 2018

Welcome to our annual roundup of UK specific social media statistics, for 2018.

2017 was the year of Fake News, and a wake-up call for “establishment” media and regulatory agencies that they need to get to grips with the reality of targeting on social media, fast. It remains to be seen how that will affect businesses; in the US, Facebook has already trialled a function which allows users to see all ads related to a Page, which could prove interesting for businesses as well as questionable political users!

And targeting and advertising is likely to be where most of the action is in 2018, with enormous leaps forward in the complexity and power of what the major social media sites are offering….unless it comes to grief around the implementation of the General Data Protection Review, which we feel has the potential to really put the cat among the pigeons for social media marketers.

UK Social Media in 2018: general thoughts

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at where the main social media sites stand at the start of 2018. Let’s begin with a really interesting graph from Statista. We opened last year’s UK stats article by talking about “Users” vs “Usage”, and how it’s possible to have a huge number of registered accounts on a site, but very little active usage – and vice versa.

Obviously this has huge implications for the impact and effectiveness of any marketing.

Take a look at the graph below, which is captioned as “Market Share held by the leading social networks in the UK” and once again highlights that the devil is very much in the methodology detail.

This is based not on user accounts, but on actual activity – page hits – on the site: “Data was gathered based on more than 15 billion hits online per month onto more than 2.5 million tracking Statcounter member sites worldwide“.

And this is what you get:

Interesting, eh? The first thing that really hits you is, surely….wooah, how did LinkedIn end up so far down?!  Followed very rapidly by the startling comparison between Instagram and Twitter hits, or Instagram and the (still relatively small in user terms, last we heard) Pinterest.

Make of it what you will – maybe there is a methodology issue here (not in terms of its validity, but in terms of the suitability of measuring market share by hits)? Wise statisticians, feel free to comment!

UK Facebook Users and Demographics 2018

Globally, Facebook broke through the 2 billion Monthly Active User mark last year, and there’s a fun widget here which lets you see the user count going up by the second.

They’ve not given us much in terms of details below that, although they casually mentioned a figure of 30 million UK users per day on mobile alone, in this infographic pushing the benefits of advertising. That seems to fit in reasonably well with what we know from the past – around half of the UK population has a Facebook account, and the vast majority of registered users are actively using the site.

In terms of the demographics, survey-based data from IPSOS Mori conducted in late 2017 gives us this:

Again, no sign in a significant decline in the youngest group, with around 70% of 16-22 year olds reporting that they use Facebook.

UK Business use of Facebook

Facebook’s advertising offering continues to develop in leaps and bounds, with barely a month going by without another new targeting option or refinement being released. As the advertising environment becomes more competitive (and therefore costly) and more complex, it gets harder and harder for smaller businesses to manage their own advertising effectively. Simply Boosting a post, in many circumstances, just won’t do it any more, and we know that the US and UK are amongst the most expensive markets to target, as more and more businesses make Facebook advertising a core part of their marketing mix.

Although it’s been widely reported that Google and Facebook between them are responsible for almost all of the growth in advertising spend recently, there aren’t many stats available about what an average UK SME is now spending on Facebook – that would be a very interesting piece of research to see!

What we do have some numbers for, thanks to SocialBakers, is the sectors which are thriving the most on Facebook. This is likely to be a combination of the Facebook environment being favourable to these kinds of topics (fun, leisure, visual) and brands within these sectors grabbing the advertising opportunies offered by Facebook with great enthusiasm:

 UK LinkedIn Users 2018

At the start of last year, the Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn was fresh off the press and we were all waiting to see what difference it would make. The answer so far seems to be “er, not much” – certainly as far as user recruitment is concerned. There’s been yet another of LinkedIn’s periodic redesigns, in which half the menu items you’re used to using randomly vanish (“simplification”, apparently) and the other half move around a bit, but that’s about all.

The most recent big milestone was half a billion users globally,(and that’ll be “registered accounts”, because LinkedIn wouldn’t want to make too much noise about it’s actual MUA figures!), reported during 2017.  That same announcement told us that London is the “most connected city”  – ie, London-based users have the highest average number of connections on LinkedIn, of anywhere in the world:

We didn’t get any update on the previously provided UK user base figure of 21 million from LinkedIn themselves, but the numbersfor the graph below came from the IPSOS Mori research mentioned above.

What’s somewhat odd about this is that IPSOS give a total figure of 13% of all respondants saying that they use LinkedIn – which based on UK population figures, would be closer to half a million than 21 million. We can only guess that perhaps the research question was worded to suggest *recent* usage, rather than having an account, or that the respondants interpreted it that way!

UK Instagram Users 2018

Instagram continues to take on users at an impressive rate globally, hitting 700 million *monthly* users during 2017, which is more than double the total figure from two years ago. The chart below shows just how that solid exponential growth is continuing:

For the UK, the most recent figure we could find came from an eMarketer study, which credited Instagram with 16.7 million monthly users in the UK, up by almost 35% on the previous year.

Oddly named Instagram stats app Napoleoncat gives a figure of 17.2 million, along with the demographic breakdown below:

That chart also really emphasises the dominance of the 18-34 age group on Instagram, once again. It looks as if Instagram advertising will be making a big contribution to parent company Facebook’s revenues very soon – particularly if they increase the “privileges” available to advertisers, such as easier access to link inclusion.

UK Twitter Users 2018

At last! We have a number! For the first time in several years, on of the major stats organisations has pinned a figure to the mast for UK Twitter users. In the same report as above, eMarketer suggests that the UK user base for Twitter is 12.6 million users.

So there we have it – finally confirmation that Twitter has thoroughly lost its place in the Big Three social media sites for the UK. Also, notably, lower than the last official figure provided by Twitter in 2013 (!) of 13 million – so that’s a very long time that Twitter has gone without increasing the user base.

Having said that, it’s still almost 20% of the population, which must easily compete with any of the big daily papers, remains the public discussion platform of choice particularly for “non-visual” topics – politics, science, etc.

The relevant IPSOS Mori data for the demographic breakdown is below. It suggests surely a startlingly high proportion of the youngest age group using Twitter, challenging the common view that Twitter is for older people – and that agrees with the research report we talked about in last year’s roundup.  Is there really a significant cohort of teens using Twitter heavily?!

While Twitter didn’t see fit to give us much more direct information about its UK users, it did let us know what the most retweeted Tweets were for the UK in the last twelve months. Somewhat dispiritingly, first place goes to a plea for free chicken nuggets…

UK Pinterest Users, 2018

So here’s a thing…Pinterest seems to be the only other one of the “established” social media sites that’s still showing strong growth. And it seems to have had a spurt in the last 12 months (unlike Instagram, whose user growth rate has been pretty steady for years).

After quite a while of radio silence, Pinterest broke cover in late 2017 to announce 200 million users worldwide. Which is interesting in itself, but in some ways not as interesting as the comment in the same announcement that this is up “nearly 40%  since last year”.  That’s pretty remarkable.

Pinterest themselves didn’t give much detail about where this growth is coming from, except that it appears to be mostly outside the US (“75% of signups are outside the US”). Gotta love how social media companies divide the whole world into “US” and “everything else” – it’s very common to see stats expressed this way in their announcements!

Graphing up the demographic results from IPSOS again, it’s striking how evenly Pinterest use seems to be spread across all age groups- something unique to this platform.


And that’s it for now, folks! Happy strategy planning for 2018, and if you need help figuring out how to use social media for your business, get in touch!

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