Social Media Statistics that May Surprise You

Social media began with a trickle in the 1990s and exploded in the years following the turn of the century. The 2000s saw the invention of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and numerous other social websites, and the 2010s have since seen social media become a platform for people of all ages to connect, for news to be shared, and for businesses to grow and promote themselves. According to the Pew Research Center’s statistics about social media, some 73 percent of all adults who use the internet also use at least one social media website, and the number is growing.

Here are some more statistics on social media that may surprise (or even scare) you:

The Majority of Marketers Believe Social Media is Crucial

This may not actually surprise you that much, but what is a bit unnerving is just how dependent modern marketing has become on social media. Whereas in the past marketing used to focus more evenly on all forms of media and broad marketing campaigns, it is now built firmly on online social platforms. In fact, social media marketing statistics from Digital Insights show that more than 74 percent of today’s marketers believe social media (particularly Facebook) is important for their lead generation strategies

This is likely due to the fact that there are now billions of people across the world who use a phone on a regular basis to access social media, and every second user is retweeting Twitter posts, liking and sharing photos on Instagram and commenting on Facebook news feed posts. Modern marketers are now covering all of these areas with tweets, photos and planted “news” articles.

Social media advertising statistics have also shown that the amount of sidebar and news feed ads has increased greatly since the website’s founding, but interestingly, the jury’s still out on just how effective these advertisements are. Even so, recent years have seen these advertisements become much more personalized, often being shown in accordance with a user’s search engine use (that’s why you’ll suddenly start seeing ads for cameras all over your social media accounts if you recently did some online shopping for one).

There are About 20 Million ‘Fake’ Twitter Accounts

Now while 2013 social media statistics have strongly suggested that social platforms are key for businesses and marketers to reach the public, the truth is that this online “public” is not necessarily full of real people. Social media statistics for businesses show that companies will sometimes create their own fake Twitter accounts (users are allowed to create multiple accounts) in order to promote themselves, and other times they will even “buy” fake accounts made by others. According to the New York Times, the average selling price for 1,000 fake Twitter followers is a mere $18. Yes, there are actual “companies” that create fake Twitter accounts and will sell them in bulk for profit.

Politicians have also been known to “buy” fake followers in order to make themselves look more popular and successful during campaigns. Mitt Romney was accused of doing exactly that when he ran for president in 2012, and Newt Gingrich came under fire for allegedly doing the same thing just one year earlier.

Most of these fake accounts are used to retweet posts and to add to the number of followers an individual or company has. So naturally, these are seen as deceptive and misleading to the actual public. As of 2013, Twitter has sued five of these companies that create and sell fake user accounts for profit, but so far, they’ve admitted there isn’t all that much they can do to stop the situation.

Sex Assault Cases Related to Social Media Have Skyrocketed

It’s scary for sure, but modern technology does have a huge impact on even the darkest realities of life. A 2013 journalistic investigation from the United Kingdom found that sexual assault cases linked to social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter) had more than quadrupled over the previous four years. The most common assault cases involved the perpetrator posing as someone else online and befriending their victims via social media before luring them out into dangerous situations. Sometimes, the attackers even gloated about their actions later on via online posts.

Even worse, the modern era has also seen incidences of assault actually filmed and shared online via social platforms. Just earlier this year, two male juveniles and two of their 18-year-old friends were arrested in Illinois after someone filmed their alleged rape of a younger female peer and shared it online. Thankfully social media growth statistics don’t show much of a rise in cases like this, but the fact that it is happening can nevertheless be viewed as alarming.

Facebook Users are ‘Addicted’

Do you find yourself checking your profile regularly without thinking too much about it? You’re far from alone. A 2012 study from Chicago University showed that Facebook is more addicting than cigarettes and many other vices, and in fact, the only urges that factored in as being stronger were that of sex and sleep. This information was supported by a Pew Research survey the following year that showed a majority of the site’s users checking in every day (many multiple times a day).

Social media usage statistics from 2013 (and from 2014 so far) also show that Facebook is the most popular social media website by a landslide, and despite previous reports of younger people leaving for newer platforms, its overall amount of users continues to grow. So, this could mean even higher rates of Facebook addiction in the future (Facebook Addicts Anonymous, anyone?)

Other Social Media Addiction Statistics Are Just as Frightening

Facebook may be the Queen Bee of addictive social platforms, but it is far from being the only culprit. As smartphones have become mainstream and increasingly common among people of all ages, so has social media addiction in general. A 2012 study in China (first published in Plos One) saw researchers scanning the brains of 17 men and women who had been diagnosed with “Internet Addiction Disorder” (yes, it’s a real thing). What they found was shocking– the participant’s brains reacted to internet use, particularly social media, in the same way, a human brain reacts to cocaine.

What’s more, is that their brains showed abnormal white matter when compared to the healthy human brains of the control group. Sadly, these abnormalities indicated disruption in emotions, impulse control and decision-making abilities.

Social media users’ statistics show that the group most affected by social media addiction is, unsurprisingly, teenagers. Today’s teenagers are the first group in history to have spent their childhood and their current teen years surrounded by such an array of electronic devices and internet options. By comparison, most 20-somethings did not get their first cell phones until their teen years, and many did not open Facebook accounts until late high school or college– comparatively late to the generation just behind them.

A national teen survey in 2011 found that 70 percent of teens spent time on social media every day, and the number has only grown since then. The survey also found that increased social media use also puts teens at a higher risk for illicit drug use.

Food is the Most Popular Category on Pinterest

To end on a lighter note, there are statistics on social media use that are more interesting than they are upsetting. For example, over half of all posts on Pinterest are about food. Yes, if there’s one place in the social media world where a user can go to indulge in their obsession with new recipes and their cravings for tasty new ideas, it’s Pinterest.

What’s also interesting is that the vast majority of Pinterest users– 69 percent to be exact– are women. Of course, this information can be particularly useful to marketers, specifically those working in a culinary-based industry.

What Does All of This Information Mean?

Basically, if you’re an adult living in the 21st century, these are all very good reasons you should be on social media (if you’re not already). Knowing what kind of content the average social media user is interested in and which websites they’re using is also important if you work in marketing or are trying to promote your fledgling business. That said, these statistics also mean that because social media is now so extended and open, it is all the more important to know how to use it properly and stay safe.