Picking the Right Social Media Platforms

Picking the Right Social Media Platforms

Choosing Appropriate Social Media Platforms

By Emily Garman

Millions of Americans use social media every single day. Though the platforms and devices will change over time, there’s no getting around the fact that social media has fundamentally changed the way people communicate with each other. We must join the conversation, but how? With limited resources, how do you know in which platforms you should invest your valuable time and energy?


One way to make those decisions is to look at the goals you want to achieve. For example, if you’re working on a fundraising drive, it wouldn’t make sense to focus all your energy on Snapchat as a social media tool, because most Snapchat users are under 24 years old—not a big donor demographic. Likewise, if you’re trying to recruit college students for a volunteer day to rebuild fencing at your shelter, Facebook is probably not the best place to promote it, because that age group is not using Facebook much anymore (even though it was invented for them!).


Think about the ideal person you’re trying to reach, and be specific. Male or female? Where does he/she live? How old? You might need to create several personas, depending on your goals (obviously, we don’t want just one type of person to adopt pets, or spay/neuter their animals). Once you know your target audience, you can choose the social media tools that will best reach them.


The data presented here will give you an idea of what kind of person, very generally, is using the different major social media tools available today. Use this to align with your goals and audience to decide where to focus your resources online. Overall, 90% of adults are Internet users and 81% are smartphone users. (Is your website mobile-friendly? What about your donate page?)


  • 68% of American adults use Facebook. 74% of those say they log in daily.
  • More women than men, but only slightly: 62% of American men are on Facebook, and 74% of American women are.
  • The “typical” user is female, white, around 29 years old, a college grad making around $40,000 a year, living in a suburb of a medium-sized city.
  • 81% of adults ages 18 to 29 years old use Facebook, along with 78% of those ages 30 to 49 years old, 65% of those ages 50 to 64 years old and 41% of those 65 and older.


  • 24% of all online adults have a Twitter account; of those, 46% say they are active users.
  • Approximately the same across gender lines; 23% of American men use Twitter, and 24% of American women do.
  • Approximately the same for whites and nonwhites; 24% and 23%, respectively.
  • Highest percentage of users are under 29 years old.
  • The “typical” user is male, 25 years old, college grad, making approximately $50,000 a year, living in an urban area.


  • 35% of all adults use Instagram
  • 60% are active users
  • More women than men (39% of women and 30% of online men)
  • Higher usage among nonwhite users (42%) vs. white users (32%)
  • The “typical” user is female, early 20s, in college, employed part-time and living in a medium-sized city.
  • Highest % of users are under 29 years old.


  • 27% of American adults use Snapchat; 69% of teens do.
  • 78% of users are under 24 years old.
  • 32% of users live in large cities.
  • 38% Male, 61% Female


  • YouTube’s metrics are different because you don’t have to have an account to view videos.
  • 73% of adults have viewed videos on YouTube.
  • 40% of adults over the age of 65 visit YouTube.
  • 49% are between 25 and 44 years old.
  • 62% Male, 38% Female

There is no typical user for YouTube in general—it varies widely by gender and age. The most-viewed categories for females are style/makeup tutorials; for males it is video game content.

Interestingly, videos featuring pets and animals have a more even gender split. Animal videos attract viewers of all ages, but the top 100 channels in the category (which collectively generate 259 million monthly views) are most popular among millennial men (23-38), who account for 30% of viewership. In contrast, millennial women represent around 24% of viewership in the category.


  • 29% of all online adults have Pinterest accounts; 13% are active users.
  • 41% of online women are regular Pinterest users; only 16% of men are.
  • 73% of users are between 25 and 49 years old.
  • The “typical” user is female, 35 years old, white, earning $50,000 per year and living in a suburb of a medium- or large-sized city.



Emily Garman has been a foster mom and animal welfare volunteer for 20 years, and founded TheSocialAnimal.com in 2008 to teach animal advocates how to use social media to raise money, recruit volunteers and save more lives. She presents on next-generation fundraising, social media and internet marketing all over North America.