A Research Study About Social Media Use in Iowa
In 2017, Blue Compass needed reliable data about social media usage in Iowa, specifically among three younger demographics: 18 to 24-year-olds; 25 to 34-year-olds; and 35 to 44-year-olds. One of the main goals: find out if Iowans were abandoning Facebook at the rate news stories claimed - so we conducted our first social media study. In November 2018, we found ourselves faced with the same need for data on social media use in Iowa. So we surveyed residents about their social media preferences and released a free report on our findings. Download the full 2018 report with answers to questions, methodology and advertising insights.
The Motivation for the Second Research Study on Social Media Usage in Iowa
What motivated us to repeat the 2017 study, albeit with a few modifications to the questions? Almost one year later, we were faced with more news outlets claiming people were leaving Facebook and Twitter - a similar situation to what spurred our 2017 study. Stories with headlines like the following were being published and shared across the Internet:
- The New York Times released an article titled, “For Many Facebook Users, a ‘Last Straw’ That Led Them to Quit” covering the #deleteFacebook movement in March of 2018.
- Investopedia cited a poll from Pew Research Center where people reported deleting the Facebook app in its article, “Facebook App Loses a Quarter of Americans.”
As digital marketers, we monitored these stories of people leaving social media very closely. Our clients had questions about the validity of such news stories and rightfully so. After all, we use social media - and almost always Facebook - to reach clients' audiences. It’s only natural we turned to research to answer our questions for a second time.
We needed to get to the bottom of the claims and understand if people were staying away from Facebook permanently. It’s easy to delete a social app (and even your profile), but just as easy to log back into a profile, picking up right where you left off. It's also easy to report large numbers of people leaving Facebook - without it putting a dent in overall subscribers. For example, Facebook could lose a massive portion of its 185 million U.S. and Canadian users and still be the dominant social channel. Finally, we know Iowa doesn't always follow national trends. These ideas and others formed the mindset we had as we approached our survey design:
- Maybe people have grown weary of Facebook or don’t like what they hear about it - but are they spending less time with it?
- Facebook and Twitter executives made more than one appearance in front of Congress in 2018, but how engaged was the public in what’s happened and do they think social media companies were trying to do the right thing?
- Has the Congressional spotlight, the wave of fake news claims, data concerns and election meddling had enough of an effect to change people’s lasting opinions toward social media?
From these thoughts, we formed the following set of questions:
- Please tell me if you ever use any of the following social media sites online or on your cell phone. Do you ever use: [randomized and select all that apply]
- What’s your favorite social media site? [randomized and select one]
- Which social media site do you like to spend the most time with? [randomized and select one]
- How trustworthy is the news you read on social media?
National Social Media Statistics Compared to Social Media Statistics From Iowa
We asked the same social usage question as the Pew Research nationwide poll, “Please tell me if you ever use any of the following social media sites online or on your cell phone. Do you ever use …[Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn].” Asking this gave us the ability to look at how Iowan’s behavior compared nationally.
As we compare nationally, it’s important to remember that the responses aren’t apples to apples - the Pew Research study included the entire country, all age groups and was conducted via phone - where ours was conducted online, among those 18 to 44. Despite these differences, we can make a few generalized comparisons:
- Facebook was the most popular social channel both nationally and in Iowa at the end 2018.
- More respondents from our study reported using Facebook, 14% higher than nationally in the Pew Research study (82% vs. 68%).
- Instagram was one of the most used social channels after Facebook both nationally and in Iowa. But in Iowa, Snapchat was the second most used - with 1 percent more reporting they use Snapchat than Instagram (Snapchat: 45% vs. Instagram 44%).
- Nearly identical percentages of the population in Iowa reported using Pinterest (29%) and LinkedIn (23-25%) as in the rest of the country.
- Twitter use was more prevalent in the Blue Compass study (36%) than in the Pew Research poll (24%).
More Iowans Spent Their Time on Facebook
Iowans were asked, “Which social media site do you like to spend the most time with?” More than half of them selected Facebook (59%). The majority of all age groups reported spending the most time with Facebook; however, this was lowest among 18 to 24-year-olds (36%). Nearly a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds (24%) reported spending the most time with Snapchat - the second highest among the age group. We learned Facebook is still the best way to reach the majority of audiences, but the youngest generation has branched out to different platforms. We hypothesize that Facebook usage will continue to decline with younger age groups (i.e., those 13 to 17).
The most important takeaway from this question is, preferences for social channels differ among generations, even if it is only slightly. As long as we keep an eye on where shifts occur, and know where Iowans report spending the most time, we’ll have a better idea of how to reach these target audiences for our clients.