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10 Characteristics of Social Media Users site in 2010, which was double the proportion recorded just two years earlier. More than three of four teenagers and adults The characteristics of social media users are not yet well docu- aged 18 to 24 had an online personal profile in 2010, as did mented and questions remain about whether social media plat- 13% of those aged 65 and over (7) (see Figure 4). Based on forms can bridge the digital divide, or the gap between people statistics compiled for 19 social networking sites, the average who have access to information technology (IT) and those who social networker is 37 years old; adults aged 35 to 44 make up do not. Although not conclusive, research suggests that social the single largest group of social networkers (25% of site media attract users from multiple demographic categories, as visitors). Adults 45 to 54 and 25 to 34 are also major online summarized here. networkers, comprising 19% and 18% of site visitors, respec- tively (see Figure 5). Age and Gender Age distribution varies by site and tends to reflect each In 2010, 61% of online Americans used social networking platform's target market. The average Facebook user is said sites (e.g., Facebook and LinkedIn)--up from 46% just the to be 38 years old and the average Twitter user is 39 years year before--and 17% used Twitter. Although the vast major- old. Business-oriented LinkedIn attracts older users, with ity of adults aged 18 to 29 were social networkers (86%), so an average age of 44, and sites such as MySpace appeal to were nearly half of those aged 50 to 64 (47%) and one-quarter younger visitors (average age is 31 years old) (8). Most social of those 65 and over (26%). Moreover, older users are out- networking sites have more female users than male users. pacing younger adults in their adoption of social media. The Based on the same 19 social networking sites, the audience number of Internet users aged 50 to 64 who used a social net- is 53% female and 47% male. On average, Twitter has 59% working site grew 88% between 2009 and 2010, and the num- female users and Facebook has 57% (9). ber of users aged 65 or over doubled. In contrast, the growth rate for those aged 18 to 29 was 13% (6). Although part of However, it should be noted that these estimates are based the rapid growth rate for older users can be attributed to their on proprietary sources and no information is available about smaller representation in the social space, this trend is still the methodology used. Because social media sites do not noteworthy. generally require proof of identity beyond a valid e-mail address, account holders may not always be truthful about Consistent with these findings, nearly half of Americans characteristics such as age and gender. Indeed, they may not maintained a personal profile on at least one social networking be persons at all. As social media use expands to advocacy, FIGURE 4 Percent by age group with a profile on a social networking site, 20082010 (7 ).

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11 FIGURE 5 Age distribution across 19 social networking sites, 2010 (8). marketing, and entertainment, account holders may include as AfricanAmericans and English-speaking Hispanics) are organizations, family pets, and automated spambots. outpacing Caucasian Americans in their mobile access. Race and Ethnicity As Table 1 shows, nearly two-thirds of AfricanAmericans (64%) and Hispanics (63%) are wireless Internet users, and A recent study from the Pew Research Center looked at Internet minority Americans are more likely to own a cell phone than access by race and ethnicity (10). According to the study, 59% their white counterparts (87% of blacks and Hispanics own of Americans now use wireless technology such as a laptop or a cell phone, compared with 80% of whites). Additionally, cell phone to access the Internet, up from 51% a year before, black and Hispanic cell phone owners take advantage of a and minority Americans (defined by Pew Center researchers much wider array of their phones' data functions compared Table 1 Use of Mobile Data Applications by Population Group, 2010 African Hispanic White, Non- American, (English- Activity All Adults Hispanic Non-Hispanic speaking) Own a Cell Phone 82% 80% 87% 87% Activities among Adults with a Cell Phone: Take a picture 76% 75% 76% 83% Send/receive text messages 72% 68% 79% 83% Access the Internet 38% 33% 46% 51% Send/receive email 34% 30% 41% 47% Play a game 34% 29% 51% 46% Record a video 34% 29% 48% 45% Play music 33% 26% 52% 49% Send/receive instant messages 30% 23% 44% 49% Use a social networking site 23% 19% 33% 36% Watch a video 20% 15% 27% 33% Post a photo or video online 15% 13% 20% 25% Purchase a product 11% 10% 13% 18% Use a status update service 10% 8% 13% 15% Mean number of cell phone activities 4.3 3.8 5.4 5.8 Source: Smith (10).