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Social Networking to Reach Half the UK Population This Year

Women lead social networking in the UK and access sites more often

eMarketer estimates that half of the UK population will use social networks in 2013, with this percentage climbing to 55.6% by 2017. The country remains a leading market for social media, and although overall growth in user penetration is starting to slow, there is still room for significant increases among niche user groups and demographics, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Social Network User Trends: Social Is the New Normal.”

To date, social networking in the UK has been largely the preserve of younger demographics. Through 2017, those ages 12 to 44 will continue to claim the greatest penetration rates, but takeup will also increase among other age groups.

By the end of 2017, 71% of UK internet users will access social networks. The only age group to not reach 50% penetration by then will be adults 65 and older.

All age demographics in the UK will continue to see growth in the number of social network users through 2016, with adults 65 and older exhibiting the greatest increases. The number of social networkers ages 0 to 11 will also rise substantially, by 9.9% in 2013.

Importantly, in 2017, the 18-to-24 age bracket will begin to shrink, falling by 1.1% that year. This contraction—the only point during the forecast period when any age demographic of social networkers will shrink—will be due to a decline in the group’s overall population.

There is also a clear skew toward women when looking at social networking use in the UK, with females accounting for 52.7% of social network users in 2013, a figure expected to rise to 53.0% by 2016, according to eMarketer estimates. Nearly 73% of the country’s female internet users—16.9 million—will be active on social media this year. The tally will swell to an estimated 19.5 million in 2017.

This female slant for UK social network users runs contrary to the gender ratio among all internet users in the UK, where males will represent 51.3% of all users in 2013.

There are further differences in how males and females use social networks. According to data from the UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom), 54% of female social network users in the UK accessed social sites more than once a day, compared with 46% of males, indicating that more females are avid social media users.

Mobile social network use will also see substantial growth during the forecast period, eMarketer predicts. The total number of UK social network users who access the networks via mobile devices will increase by half between 2013 and 2017, jumping from 20.8 million to 31.1 million.

While the greatest proportion of the UK’s social network users comes from those ages 25 to 34, mobile social user penetration is highest among 18- to 24-year-olds using a mobile phone. The sharpest increases, though, will come from the youngest and oldest residents. Mobile social user penetration among those under 17 and 55- to 64-year-olds who use a mobile phone will double between 2013 and 2017. Moreover, rates among adults 65 and older will more than triple, growing from 6.0% to 22.0% between 2013 and 2017.


The full report, “UK Social Network User Trends: Social Is the New Normal,” also answers these key questions:

  • How many social networkers are there in the UK?
  • How do social networking trends in the UK compare with those in other Western European markets?
  • Which social networks are growing the most rapidly in the UK?
  • How do Twitter and Facebook usage patterns differ?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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