According to estimates, the number of worldwide social media users reached 1.96 billion and is expected to grow to some 2.5 billion by 2018. On a global level, the market leader is the American social network Facebook, in fact the first social media platform to surpass 1 billion registered accounts on both its desktop and mobile versions. As of January 2016, Facebook has some 1.5 billion accounts and is followed by Whatsapp and QQ, with 900 million and 860 million users, respectively. The region with the highest penetration of social media use is currently North America, with 59 percent, followed by South America and West Europe. In the United States, an estimated 185 million people use social media in 2016, a number forecast to exceed 200 million by 2020. Facebook also leads the U.S. market, accounting for about 44 percent of all social media site visits in the country.
Although knowing how many people use social media is a powerful indicator of the tremendous influence such websites and apps have in our day to day life, who exactly and how people are using them is also telling. A Pew Research Center report on social media usage released in 2015 shows that, among Americans, age is indirectly proportionate with degree of penetration. As such, 90 percent of those 18 to 29-year-old tended to have at least one social media account, while the probability decreased the more respondents advanced in age. Furthermore, the study showed that social media usage is highest in suburban America and among those earning over 75 thousand U.S. dollars a year and those with the highest degree of education.
On a global level, user engagement continues to grow, with users in the Philippines spending the most time on social media – an estimated 3.7 hours. In the United States, 29 percent of inhabitants claim to log into their social accounts several times per day.