Differences in Social Media Use Between the UK and USA

Geography, access to technology, national culture and the popularity of different platforms all have an impact on social media use. For that reason, no two countries will use social media in exactly the same way. For example, people in one country may prefer to engage with social media at different times of the day. They have varying motivations that drive their social media use.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the differences in social media use between the US and the UK. On the face of it, there are plenty of similarities between the two countries. But, dig a little deeper… You’ll soon find significant cultural discrepancies which shape our behaviour and the language we use online. That’s why you need to be aware of differences between US an UK consumers.

Social Media Penetration in USA vs. UK

Perhaps not surprisingly, the level of social media penetration in both the US and UK market is extremely high. According to research by eConsultancy, 56 percent of the US population and 57 percent of the UK population are users of the most popular social network in each country.

Like the penetration figures, the level of popularity of each of the social platforms is also very similar. With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn leading the popularity stakes in both countries. The fastest growing social networks in both countries are Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, with user numbers increasingly significantly.

Social Media Usage in UK and USA

There’s very little to choose between the two countries in terms of personal social media usage. With 87 percent of internet users having a social media account in the UK compared to 92 percent in the US. However, there is a distinct difference between the countries when it comes to business use. In the UK 40 percent of small and medium enterprises are using social networks. In the USA it comes up to 81%.

The social media use of smaller US companies is also mirrored by the multinationals. The social media spend by global companies by region is shown in the table below:


Differences in Social Media Use in UK and USA

Source: TCS

Twitter use  differences – Top 5 Discrepancies between USA and UK in Twitter use

A study of a randomised sample of 400 Twitter posts revealed some interesting differences between the ways the users in UK and US use Twitter. Getting smarter with Social Media Analytics will make your mark

  • Motivation

In the UK, users flock to Twitter to seek connection and conversation. 67 percent of the conversations sampled in the UK were part of an ongoing back-and-forth with another Twitter user.On the other hand, US users are 82 percent more likely to re-tweet content from a friend, a celebrity or a content curator. The primary motivations for US Twitter users are validation and self-expression. As such, they are more likely to share their opinions about anything – it really doesn’t matter whether they’re prompted or not.

  •  Behaviour

There are also big differences in the usage behaviour of the two countries. In the UK, Twitter users tend to be most active in the late morning or early afternoon, peaking between 10am and 1pm.In the US, Twitter usage peaks in the evening, after 6pm, which seems to indicate that American Twitter users have more free time in the evenings, and are less likely to tweet throughout the day.

  • Emotion

Perhaps unsurprisingly, UK Twitter users are less comfortable expressing raw emotions such as anger or disgust. Instead, most users tend to stay pretty neutral and are actually more positive than their American counterparts.As American users see Twitter as a tool for self-expression, they are more inclined to ‘let it all hang out’. This can manifest in feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment.

  • Brand mentions

Brand mentions make up a relatively small proportion of the Twitter conversations in both markets. However, in the UK, when a brand is mentioned it is usually to share a specific experience the user has had in relation to quality, customer service etc. In the US, brands are more likely to be mentioned in a negative context, when a user has had a bad experience. This is mirrored by the overall trend for more negative Twitter usage in the US.

Differences between UK and US consumers in social media use

The findings show that despite the fact that UK and US consumers are often viewed as one and the same, there are actually very distinct differences in social media use between the two. Social media marketers will need to carefully consider how they target users in each market. A well-thought out, strategic plan that’s localised to meet user behaviour is the most reliable route to success.

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