Who are the biggest social media users, and, after top social site Facebook, what are the most popular networks? A new study from Pew Research Center looks at those questions.

"The Demographics of Social Media Users -- 2012" study found that the most frequent social media users are women aged 18 to 29. A whopping 67 percent of all Internet users employ Facebook, and Twitter is especially appealing to adults in the 18 to 29-year-old category.

Pinterest is used most by women, adults under 50, whites and those with some college education. Tumblr appeals most to adults in that prime 18 to 29 demo, as does Instagram. Tumblr also fares well with African-Americans, Latinos, women and urban residents.

Three-Way Tie

One of the key findings of the study is a fairly close three-way tie for second most popular social network. The king, of course, is Facebook, with two-thirds (67 percent) of all online adults using that service.

But second place is a different matter. Sixteen percent use Twitter, a rate which has doubled since November of 2010, and 15 percent are on Pinterest. Photo-sharing network Instagram comes close, with thirteen percent of respondents in this particular study saying they use it.

Women are about five times more likely than men to be on Pinterest, representing the largest gender gap revealed by the report. Thirteen percent of Net surfers share pictures on Instagram, which, with the margin of error, is essentially tied with Twitter and Pinterest. By contrast, the micro-blogging site Tumblr is used by only 6 percent of those online.

This is the first time that Pew Research has compared participation in the social networks by ethnic groups. Hispanics are the biggest users of social networks, with 72 percent of that group represented. Non-Hispanic African-Americans are second at 68 percent, while non-Hispanic whites are 65 percent.

Same by Education Level

Not surprisingly, the younger the age group, the higher the participation in social media. Eighty-three percent of 18 to 29-year-olds socialize, which drops by about twenty points for each major age group, until it hits 32 percent for those 65 and older.

Percentage-wise, more African-Americans and Latinos use Twitter and Instagram than do other ethnic groups. White women under 50 are Pinterest's biggest fans. Pew said it did not indicate percentages of Asian Americans because there were not enough respondents from that demographic to be statistically reliable.

Participation on social networks are about equal for all levels of education. It's also roughly equal for all income levels, except that about six percent more of those earning under $30,000/year use social media than the 65 percent of other income groups who socialize online.

Additionally, seventy-one percent of urban dwellers are socializers, compared to 67 percent of suburbanites and 61 percent of rural residents.

The study, while interesting, was based on a relatively small survey of just 1,802 Net users. The survey was administered in November and December 2012, in both English and Spanish, using both landlines and cell phones. Facebook stats were from a separate study, also performed in December.

Where's LinkedIn?

Business users may be wondering where LinkedIn falls on the social networking hierarchy. While LinkedIn is especially popular for professional networking, it seems not to have been included in the main findings for this particular survey in December 2012.

However, Pew does report that as of August 2012, 20% of online adults said they were using LinkedIn. That ranking could theoretically have put the business Relevant Products/Services networking site in second place, had it been included in the December survey.

Ranking Summary

  • 67% of online adults say they use Facebook
  • 16% of online adults say they use Twitter
  • 15% of online adults say they use Pinterest
  • 13% of online adults say they use Instagram
  • 6% of online adults say they use Tumblr
Additional details on the Pew Internet study "The Demographics of Social Media Users - 2012" are available online.