USA Social Media

The United States has an online population of around 190.7 million people aged 15 and over (which represents five per cent growth from Q1 2011). According to comScore’s analysis of worldwide internet usage in Q1 2012, the average US internet user spends 38.8 hours online per month (behind Canada at 44.3 hours, and ahead of the UK at 35.1 hours).There are roughly 32.2 million Hispanics online in the USA and this figure expected to reach 42 million by 2014.

  • The USA is the biggest market for most globally successful social media channels
  • Pinterest is the social channel experiencing the highest growth at 4377 per cent
  • The US Hispanic population was the fastest growing ethnic group on Facebook and WordPress in 2011
  • Facebook adoption is growing at a faster than expected rate
  • The majority of online video viewers use YouTube

The United States is Facebook’s primary market, with 155,551,340 users and a 50.14 per cent penetration. 55 per cent of Facebook users are aged 34 and under, and slightly more women than men use the social network. The site gets around 167 million unique visitors per month from the US, with an average monthly use of over six and a half hours. Although it’s still gaining users, at 4 per cent growth between May 2011 and 2012, its growth is slowing compared to other social platforms.

Semiocast analysis has shown that of the 383 million Twitter profiles created before January 1st 2012, 107.7 million were created by users in the US, making it the biggest user of Twitter in the world. It’s the fourth most active country on Twitter. Around 39 million unique users visit the site from the US each month, with an average monthly use per visitor of 39 minutes. Twitter experienced a 58 per cent growth in US users between May 2011 and 2012.

Unsurprisingly, the US also has the highest number of users on Google+. With 29 million profiles created in the US Google+ gets around 18 million unique visitors a month from the US, and they spend an average of six minutes on the site. Over 45 per cent of Google+ users are aged 18 to 24, and the majority of US users are male (60.37 per cent).

“Pinterest experienced a staggering 4377 per cent growth between May 2011 and 2012.”

Online video is very popular in the US. In June 2012, comScore reported that the top three video sites were: Google video sites (mainly YouTube) which had 154,507 total unique views and averaged 1,238.1 minutes of viewing time per viewer; Yahoo! sites at 51,453 unique views and 75.5 minutes per viewer; and Facebook, which had 49,003 views and 20.3 minutes per viewer. In March 2012, US internet users viewed 187 million minutes of video. Hours of viewing have increased from 14.7 per user in March 2011 to 21.4 in March 2012. Almost 23 per cent of YouTube’s traffic is from the United States.

Without doubt, the fastest growing social media site in the United States at the moment is Pinterest, which experienced a staggering 4377 per cent growth between May 2011 and 2012. It has 12 million unique visitors per month from the US and the average monthly use per visitor is one hour and 17 minutes. Blogging platform Tumblr is also growing quickly, its US user base grew 168 per cent between May 2011 and 2012. It has 17 million unique monthly users, who spend an average of one hour 38 minutes each on the site.

LinkedIn has seen a growth in US users of 67 per cent between May 2011 and 2012. As of January 2012, it had 147 million members worldwide, 58.5 million of them in the United States. LinkedIn has 33 million unique visitors a month from the US, who spend an average of 17 minutes per month on the site. MySpace may not be the force that it used to be, but it still has 19 million unique visitors a month from the US, who spend an average of 12 minutes each on the site.

United States: Hispanic population

Social media use by US Hispanics has grown by 38 per cent in the last year (compared to a growth of 16 per cent in the US as a whole). Social media is the second most popular online activity after email, with 77 per cent of those online using social channels. Nielsen reported that the three most used social platforms amongst US Hispanics were Facebook (16.7 million users), Twitter (3.4 million users) and LinkedIn (1.8 million users).

Blogging is also very popular, with 5.6 million people using Blogger, 2.5 million WordPress and 2.3 million Tumblr (in fact, of all the top social networks in the US, Tumblr has the highest concentration of Hispanic users). Hispanics were the fastest growing ethnic group on Facebook and WordPress in 2011.


  • US brands are running social media campaigns that involve multiple social channels
  • US brands are coming up with innovative campaigns which are tailored to the habits of specific social channels
  • The US Hispanic population are more likely to follow brands than the average internet user

In 2011, exacttarget reported that 65 per cent of US online consumers were active on Facebook, with 42 per cent of them having ‘liked’ at least one company. The top 10 most popular pages on Facebook in the U.S are all entertainers or TV shows. The three most popular pages belong to: rapper Eminem (over 60 million fans); popular cartoon series The Simpsons (nearing 59 million fans); and pop singer Lady Gaga (just over 53 million fans).

The three most ‘Liked’ brands in the US are: retailer Walmart (over 18 million fans); retailer Target (over 16 million followers); and fast-food brand Subway (over 15 million fans). Some brands have launched innovative campaigns on Facebook, often linking up with other social media channels. However, on occasion these campaigns have pushed the limits of Facebook’s policies. In 2009 Burger King launched a successful Facebook campaign called Whopper Sacrifice, which offered fans a free burger if they de-friended 10 Facebook friends. The campaign took off, with 234,000 people being virtually dumped for the sake of a free burger. However, Burger King stopped the campaign when Facebook asked it to make changes. The app sent the de-friended person an email telling them they’d been dumped for a free hamburger, and Facebook doesn’t notify people when they’ve been ‘de-friended’.

“Burger King launched a successful Facebook campaign called Whopper Sacrifice, which offered fans a free burger if they de-friended 10 Facebook friends.”

ExactTarget reported that 17 per cent on US online consumers have created a Twitter account at some point, and nine per cent of them are currently active Twitter users. Five per cent have followed at least one company. (It’s worth noting that the same report highlighted that 41 per cent of worldwide Twitter followers have followed a brand, only to unfollow the account at a later date, and that when asked why they unfollowed, over half listed the reason as the account’s tweets became too dull and repetitive.)

The top 10 Twitter accounts in the US are all entertainers, apart from the @BarackObama account, which comes in at fourth most followed, with over 18 million followers. The top three accounts are: @ladygaga (approaching 28 million followers); @katyperry (just over 24 million followers); and @britneyspears (over 19 million followers). It’s no surprise that the most followed brands have a fraction of the followers of these big names accounts.

Food retailer Whole Foods is the most followed brand, with over 2.8 million followers. It uses its main Twitter account @wholefoods, in addition to specialist interest, and many local store accounts to engage with individual customers. Coffee chain Starbucks is next with over 2.7 million followers: it uses social media campaigns (such as the recent #INDIVISIBLE campaign which asked people to highlight individuals making a difference in their local communities) to engage people about interests outside of its core product. Another popular brand is the Samsung Mobiles US account, which has over 2.4 million followers and is primarily a news feed (the brand has a separate customer support account @SamsungSupport which had just over 39,000 followers).

In December 2010, Mercedes-Benz asked its Facebook fans to volunteer as drivers in a ‘Tweet Race’. Once the drivers and teams were selected, the brand used social channels to build online buzz about the February 2011 race. The Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race saw each team driving a specially kitted out Mercedes-Benz in a race against each other. Each team had to generate enough support on Twitter to progress, and eventually win, the race (get four tweets, drive one mile). The campaign ended up having nearly 30,000 participants, and gained the brand 77,000 Twitter followers, 72,000 Facebook fans and around two million video views.

“Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race saw each team driving a specially kitted out Mercedes-Benz in a race against each other.”

As for YouTube, the three most popular channels are: entertainment brand, Universal Music Group which is approaching 43 million channel and 7 billion video views (it only has 34 video uploads, but most of the views come from its playlist page which features music videos by genre); gaming entertainment network Machinima (approaching 150 million channel and 3 billion video views – it uses the playlist tab to list videos by gaming title and has an events tab for live online gaming streams); and how-to channel Expert Village (over 32.6 million channel and 2.5 billion video views).

The three most popular branded YouTube channels in the US are: animation giants Disney Pixar (over 3.2 million channel views and nearing 179 million video views); drinks brand Red Bull (over 1.1 million channel views and 94.4 million video views); and gaming brand EA Sports (over 10.3 million channel views and almost 84 million video views).

One of the most popular recent YouTube campaigns was from Old Spice. The aftershave brand crafted campaigns around the characters Old Spice Guy and later Old Spice Guy vs Fabio. Although the first campaign was seen as more successful, the second run helped Old Spice gain 22 million YouTube views in a week, and the channel became the most viewed of the month. In another example of brands using multiple social channels, Old Spice also gained 68,000 new Facebook fans.

Pinterest is proving to be a brilliant channel for many American brands, with comScore research reporting that US Pinterest users follow more brands than Twitter or Facebook users. In February 2012, Mashable listed the top brands at the time as being: wedding blog Perfect Palette (at the time it had over 244,000 followers and 6925 pins, that had risen to over 265,000 followers and 8415 pins in August 2012); hints and tips magazine Real Simple (in February almost 35,000 followers and 1795 pins, increasing to over 145,000 followers and 3780 pins in August); and hair and make-up site The Beauty Department (which had almost 30,000 followers and 255 pins in February and almost 230,000 followers and 476 pins in August).

According to comScore, Pinterest buyers spend more money and buy more often than LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr users. With this in mind, brands have started making Pinterest part of their social media campaigns. Fashion brand Uniqlo’s Dry Mesh campaign created a moving image on Pinterest by creating and pinning from over 100 accounts. Honda has used Pinterest to offer top pinners a “Pintermission” – giving them $500 to take the day off pinning and get out and see some of the places or things they have been pinning.

Again, the top pages on Google+ are those of celebrities. Britney Spears still has the page with the most followers (nearly four million), meanwhile rapper Snoop Dog and Google CEO Larry Page are both approaching 3.5 million followers. The most popular brand pages are: Volkswagen USA (over 942,000 followers); Chevrolet (over 855,000 followers); and Samsung USA (nearly 772,000 followers). Google doesn’t allow contests, sweepstakes, special offers or coupons on Google+, so businesses looking to engage fans on the network need to be creative. Popular comic brand Marvel Entertainment uses its Google+ page to link to coupons and offers listed on other websites, which is allowed under Google’s terms of service.

United States: Hispanic population

In comparison to the average US internet user, Hispanic adults are 25 per cent more likely to follow a brand and 21 per cent more likely to post content. They’re also 17 per cent more likely to blog and seven per cent more likely to use one or more social network, according to Nielsen.


  • The US is mostly English-speaking with a strong culture of individual freedom, though has no official language
  • Fifteen per cent of the US population is Hispanic and tend to use English to converse online

The US has no official language – although there is an on-going debate about making English the national language. It’s estimated that over 80 per cent of the population has English as their primary language. Twelve per cent of the US population speak Spanish. In 2010 the US Census Bureau reported that there were 325 languages spoken in the United States. According to a December 2011 report 372,095 people in North America spoke a Native American language (the most popular being Navajo at 169,471).

“U.S. culture is strongly influenced by cultural values such as individualism and liberty.”

US culture is strongly influenced by cultural values such as individualism and liberty. Americans tend to have a more individualistic world view, believing that government should allow people the freedom to achieve their goals. This philosophy leaves those who cannot or will not seek to improve their own situations without the aid of the state, because state interference in the private lives of individuals would be seen as encroaching on personal freedoms. (Interestingly, research by Pew records the opposite attitude in the United Kingdom, where most would prefer more limited freedom so that those less fortunate could be supported by a stronger state.)

American culture is celebrated for being meritocratic. For example, the American Dream ideal is that anyone can grow up to be President of the United States if they work hard enough. Some argue that the inherent inequality of meritocratic societies effectively prevents this, as talented children from working class areas tend to grow away from their community rather than use their talent, intelligence, wealth and opportunity to benefit those they leave behind.

Privacy is taken extremely seriously in the United States, with the Bill of Rights detailing what the government needs to do before it’s allowed to investigate an individual’s body, houses, papers and personal effects. Some forms of modern communication are protected under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986), but there have been calls to include more modern forms of communication.

The most popular sport in the US is American Football, which is so popular that television networks CBS, Fox and NBC have said they will start paying $3 billion a year in total for the rights to screen it from 2014. The Super Bowl is probably the most popular event of the year, with the 2012 match being watched by 111.3 million viewers.

“15 per cent of the U.S. population is Hispanic.”

The ethnic composition of the United States is around 80 per cent white, 13 per cent black, 4.5 per cent Asian, 0.97 per cent Amerindian and Alaskan native, 0.18 per cent Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and 1.61 per cent of people are classified as being two of more races.

United States: Hispanic population

The term Hispanic refers to someone of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin and covers people from Central and South America as well as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and even Spain, but the US Census Bureau does estimate that around 15 per cent of the US population is Hispanic. Seventy-two per cent of Hispanic digital influences use English online, where many come together in communities to discuss their shared cultural heritage and interests.

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