UK social media use stalls as general Internet use increases

Social media use in the UK is holding steady even while general internet use increases, according to a new study by Professor William Dutton at the University of Oxford.

The report, which is due to be presented to the NextGen 13 Conference later this month, found that an additional five per cent of the UK population is now online as compared to 2011 – a rise from 73 to 78 per cent. Despite this trend, usage of social media has remained relatively constant at about 60 per cent over the same period.

"I think we can expect to see over 80 per cent of the population in Britain using the Internet in the coming years," said Professor Dutton. "Mobile and tablet devices seem to have boosted accessibility and we have noticed a real increase in lower income groups and those aged 45 and over who are now going online."

Despite this, social media appear to have reached a stable plateau. It's thought that by 2017, the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion, and that shares of social media usage by country will be proportional to their respective populations. This will see the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific regions representing an enormous chunk of social media usage. India, Indonesia, Mexico, China and Brazil are all expected to be the fastest contributors to global social media growth.

But do Professor Dutton's findings suggest that the UK has already achieved social media saturation?

"Internet penetration will never be 100 per cent because it varies with age, income and education level," said fellow NextGen 13 speaker Robert Bell. "Social media usage also varies with culture: in the US, Internet usage in the state of Louisiana is lower than the state of Minnesota, but Louisiana residents use social media more than their Minnesota peers. Usage will also vary from nation to nation."

But are we a nation of lukewarm social media adoption? The latest figures show UK Facebook accounts sitting at just under 33 million, up 3 million from last year. This sees the proportion of the UK population on Facebook passing the halfway mark for the first time, currently resting at 53 per cent. That makes up 62.49 per cent of the online population, putting the UK slightly ahead of the US among Internet users.

So why the slow growth? Some have suggested that the culling of duplicate accounts by Facebook in late 2012 might have skewed results. Our timid adoption of sites like Pinterest (only 200,000 UK users) and Instagram (representing only 1.46 per cent of social media activity) might also have played a part.

The report is due to be presented by Professor Dutton as part of his keynote address to the two-day NextGen 13 conference, exhibition and trade show. This year's agenda will have an emphasis on fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in new and existing developments, the services it will enable and what it will mean to various business sectors in the UK. The event is supported by the FTTH Council Europe. Other themes to be addressed will include open data, innovation and intelligent communities.

The event runs from 14-15 October, and ITProPortal will be in attendance.

Image: Flickr (Swansea Photographer)