Despite increased competition as well as experiencing a slight dip in monthly users in late 2020, Facebook still leads the pack as the most widely used social platform, according to a report conducted by audience research company GWI.

GWI’s flagship report, which highlights trends in the global social media landscape, found that Facebook still accounts for the lion’s share of social media activity worldwide among almost all generations. The lone exception to this comes from members of the Gen Z demographic, who cite Instagram as their favorite app by a significant margin. (Gen Z members are also by far the most likely to name video platform TikTok as their favorite app).

Facebook also enjoys the most usage overlap among users with social media accounts elsewhere. For example, 87 percent of LinkedIn users also have a Facebook account they use at least once a month. The same can be said among 83 percent of Twitter users, 83 percent of Snapchat users, 83 percent of TikTok users, 82 percent of Instagram users and 81 percent of Pinterest users.

The only other platform that comes close is Meta-owned property Instagram. 88 percent of Twitter users also use Instagram monthly, as do 88 percent of Snapchat users, 86 percent of Pinterest users, 84 percent of LinkedIn users, 81 percent of TikTok users and 78 percent of Facebook users.

GWI: Percentage of each social media platform’s users who said they also use a competing social media platform at least monthly
Percentage of each social media platform’s users who said they also use a competing social media platform at least monthly.

When breaking out people’s preferred uses for each platform and what content they turn to when they use these apps, Facebook once again proved itself to be a top performer for users’ favorite social activities. 69 percent of Facebook users said they primarily use the mainstay social network to message friends and family, while 61 percent said they use it to post and share photos or videos. Surprisingly, however, news gathering remains a big selling point for the site, as more than half (53 percent) said they use it to keep up-to-date with news and events occurring around the world.

Once again, Facebook’s photo-sharing cousin Instagram came in second place. The same number of Facebook users who use that site to message friends/family use Instagram to post and share photos or videos (69 percent), while two-thirds (66 percent) use it to find funny or entertaining content. Instagram remains especially popular with brands, as 58 percent of users said they turn to the platform to research and discover more information about products.

However, TikTok is closing the distance. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of that platform’s devotees use it to find funny/entertaining content, effectively placing it neck-and-neck with Instagram. The platform remains mostly unpopular when it comes to finding information about brands, however, as only about a quarter (26 percent) of its users use TikTok for that purpose. Scrolling seems to be a bigger pastime than posting on the site, as only 26 percent of TikTok users like to share photos or videos.

Twitter remains popular despite its myriad troubles under the leadership of Elon Musk. More than half of its users (59 percent) said they use it to keep up-to-date with the news and goings on around the world, while more than a third (37 percent) use it to find funny and entertaining content and 36 percent use it to research information about brands.

Messaging app Snapchat is most commonly used to post and share photos and videos (41 percent) or message friends and family (41 percent). But more than a third also said they use that site to find funny and entertaining content (36 percent).

Community site Reddit bottomed out the list. Finding funny or entertaining content is that site’s most popular attraction (38 percent), followed by keeping up-to-date with news (34 percent) or discovering information about brands (29 percent).

As countless other recent studies have discovered, the GWI report found that Gen Z’s social media habits are far different from other generations. For example, while older generations typically use social media to keep in touch with friends/family, fill spare time or read news stories, Gen Z bucks this trend, as they’re more interested in seeing what’s trending or being talked about, as well finding content and looking for inspiration for things.

A growing number of Gen Z respondents also said they use social media to discover products more than they use search engines.

Gen Z members are also more likely to be active on more social media platforms. The average Gen Z user has seven social media accounts, while the average Gen X user has six and the average Baby Boomer has five.

And it should come as no surprise that Gen Z is also online far more often their older counterparts. Across every region worldwide, Gen Z members spend more daily time on social media: an average of almost three hours (two hours and 51 minutes) every day.

Perhaps as a result of this, Gen Z are also 30 percent more likely to say they worry about the amount of time they spend on social media, as a third (33 percent) of these respondents said they now try to limit their time on social media, a 15 percent increase from last year.

GWI’s "Social: Behind the Screens" report was based on figures drawn from its internal annual research of more than 950,000 Internet users between the ages of 16-64 across 52 global markets.