The Lares Institute Blog

Study on Social Media

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The Lares Institute just completed its first study on social media, and the full white paper can be found here.  The study examines use patterns for social media and compliance issues, and makes a number of findings.

Who Uses Social Media?

Overall, 79 percent of those surveyed used some form of social media. While this was a high percentage, there was a statistically significant variance in the data based upon the age of the respondent.  The overwhelming majority of people use some form of social media, but we do see some age differences, with one hundred percent of those less than 18 using social media, and sixty-three percent of those 66 to 75 using social media.  Facebook’s market dominance was also confirmed by the study—over ninety-four percent of respondents reported using Facebook.

How Much do People Use Social Media?

While just under fifty percent of respondents used social media less than one hour a day, twenty-seven percent reported using social media between one and two hours, and twenty-five percent reporting using social media two hours or more.

Why Do People Use Social Media?

While personal use of social media remains the predominant reason for logging in, business use of social media is also a significant factor in social media use.  Seventy percent of people use social media for personal reasons, with four percent using social media primarily for business purposes, and twenty-six percent using social media equally for business and personal reasons.

The increasing role of social media for business was also confirmed by this study.  Almost fifty percent of those surveyed reported that their employer used social media to promote its goods or services.

How is Social Media Changing Relationships?

The study also examined the nature of online relationships. Fifty-five percent of respondents had “friends” from social media they had not actually met, and seventy seven percent of those respondents had five or more friends they had not met, with twenty-one percent reporting that they had 50 or more friends that they had not met.

Ten years ago the idea of having more than 50 friends you had not met would have been a foreign concept to most people, and this finding shows one of the ways that social media is transforming our societal relationships.

Compliance Issues and Societal Concern About Privacy.

Compliance issues were also examined in the study, as were societal ideas about privacy. Respondents were asked if they had read the privacy policies for the social media services they use. Thirty-one percent reported that they had read the policies, forty-two percent reported that they had read some of them, and twenty-seven percent reported that they had not read any of the policies. Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported that they felt people disclosed too much information online, though only thirty-nine percent felt that inappropriate information about them had been posted online.

Respondents were also asked to rate their privacy sensitivity on a scale from one to five, with one indicating that the respondent was not concerned at all about online privacy, and five being extremely concerned about privacy. Overall, the mean value of the responses was 3.6382, and only two percent reported that they were not concerned at all about online privacy. Fourteen percent evaluated themselves as a two, thirty-one percent as a three, twenty-three percent as a four, and thirty percent as a 5. There were a number of statistically significant findings regarding this rating.  Privacy sensitivity can be predicted by certain variables, and it is indicative of certain use patterns and beliefs regarding the Internet. As an example, as Chart 17 of the study shows, there was a statistically significant correlation between how concerned you were about online privacy and a belief that people voluntarily disclosed too much information on the Internet. The other findings regarding privacy sensitivity will be explored in future white papers by the Lares Institute.

This study was based upon random sample of 802 individuals in the United States who received an online survey. The Lares Institute received 741 responses at a 92.4 percent response rate. The margin of error of this survey is 5%. The error for subgroups is higher.

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