Synthesio’s Social Media Usage Series, Part 1

The number of global social media users is expected to reach 3.1 billion by 2021. That’s nearly half of the world’s population! For marketers, researchers, analysts, or anyone who’s curious, we thought it would be helpful to round up key social media usage statistics in one place – by country and by platform. How do the posting habits of each country’s “netizens,” or online citizens, differ from the other? On what platforms and in which country do people prefer to post privately – or not at all? What does this mean for the future of businesses, social movements, and the population in general? To answer these questions, Ipsos, our parent company, surveyed over 9,000 people in 10 countries in November 2018. Here’s a brief overview of the social media usage statistics they found.

Social Media Usage Statistics By Country and Platform

Social media usage statistics by country are telling of each country’s lifestyle and habits. Mexico, Brazil, and China were found to be the most “social” countries, with a high rate of usage on a wide range of social media platforms. On the other hand, Japanese netizens participate in social media the least often. So, which platforms do people like to go on?

The World’s Most Popular Platform: Facebook

After analyzing the habits of netizens worldwide, Ipsos identified the king of social media: Facebook. Around the world, 49% of participants post content on Facebook at least once a month. The second most popular platform was Instagram, with 27% of respondents posting once a month. In third place was Twitter, on which 17% of people post monthly.

Top 3 Social Media Platforms With Highest Usage

  1. Facebook (49% of participants post at least once a month)
  2. Instagram (27%)
  3. Twitter (17%)

Most Popular Platforms in Each Country

Here are the quick facts on the top platform in each of the 10 countries surveyed by Ipsos. The percentages below represent the number of people who use that platform to post at least once a month.

Social Media Platforms with Highest Usage Rate

United States: Facebook (62%)

United Kingdom: Facebook (52%)

France: Facebook (54%)

Germany: WhatsApp (66%)

Australia: Facebook (62%)

Japan: Twitter (28%)

Brazil: WhatsApp (77%) and Facebook (77%)

Mexico: Facebook (84%)

Russia: Vkontakte (58%)

China: WeChat (90%)

How many people only post privately? Which platforms are the most private?

We’ve talked about people who never post, but what about people who post, but only so that friends or followers can see? All social media platforms allow you to choose between making your profile available to the public or only to users you approve. Almost all celebrities and influencers have public profiles, but what about the everyday person?

Turns out, 18% of people across the world never post things publicly. Only friends can read posts from this group. But which platforms are the most private? Turns out that, even though Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular platforms worldwide, they’re also the most private.


Overall, Ipsos discovered a general tendency toward private posting in developed markets compared to emerging markets. In emerging markets, like those of Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and China, people are less protective of their posts.

Are there differences between the social media usage of older and younger groups?

Social media usage statistics by age vary from country to country. In developed markets, Ipsos found a noteworthy generation gap in posting habits. For example, 16% of U.K. participants aged 16-35 never post on social media. Compare that with 45% of U.K. participants aged 50-64 who never post online. That’s nearly three times as many people!

Interestingly, social media users in emerging markets did not exhibit this generation gap. For example, while 3% of Chinese participants aged 16-35 never post online, a similar 2% of Chinese participants aged 50-64 never post on social media. In emerging markets, young and old alike actively post on social media.

Dark Social

Even though social media is a ubiquitous phenomenon, there’s a difference between having a social media account and actively using it. You can easily create a Twitter account to keep up with current events or retweet funny videos without ever tweeting yourself. The same goes for any other social media platform. This phenomenon is so common that a term has been (informally) coined for it: lurking. Simply put, a lurker on social media reads and observes activity without participating. So, just how many people lurk?

There’s a popular 1-9-90 rule on Internet participation, which suggests that 1% of people on the Internet create content, 9% actively engage or add to content, while the remaining 90% merely observe. However, this idea was based on habits seen on Internet forums in the 1990s and early 2000s. While the 1-9-90 rule may have been accurate at one point, it’s outdated for understanding modern social media usage habits.

Around the world, Ipsos found that 23% of participants never post on social media. A more recent 2012 BBC report confirmed this number. 


Are there differences in the so-called lurking habits between emerging and developed markets?

Turns out, yes. In developed markets (Australia, UK, US, France, Germany, Japan), 26% of people never post on social media. (In Japan, interestingly enough, that number skyrockets to a surprising 60%.) However, in emerging markets, on the other hand, like those of Mexico, Brazil, and China, only an average of 5% of people never post on social media. 

Today, understanding social media means understanding how we live, how we interact, and how we make decisions. Everyone should be paying attention. Much more lies behind just the numbers. Take a look at the 26-page report on social media usage habits across 10 countries, including comprehensive usage statistics on nearly every platform.