HIGH NUMBERS: The UK social media and messaging user data you need for 2021

God bless you, Ofcom. God bless your freely available data that helps to make the life of communicators better.

Ofcom’s Adults Media Use and Attitudes report has been published and a rich treasure trove of numbers it is too.

These statistics were gathered during the second and third UK lockdowns of late 2020 so reflect the turbulence of the first year of the pandemic.

TLDR: 2021 in summary

As a country, older people gravitate to Facebook and WhatsApp while younger people can be found on a wider array of platforms.

Messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype collectively are more popular than social media accounts.

Every age demographic has its distinct preferences.

Surprisingly, 35 to 44 year olds are now narrowly the single biggest users of social media.

TikTok is climbing but hasn’t reached the top four for under 24s with 54 per cent using it.

Most favoured social platforms, source: Ofcom, 2021

What platforms do 16 to 24-year-olds use in the UK?

Instagram tops the list with Snapchat and YouTube following. TikTok hasn’t reached the top four. For messaging, its WhatsApp. A total of 88 per cent use social media and the same number with messaging.

Social media
  1. Instagram 69 per cent
  2. Snapchat 64 per cent
  3. YouTube 63 per cent
  4. Facebook 61 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 69 per cent
  2. Messenger 54 per cent
  3. Discord 28 per cent

What platforms do 25 to 34-year-olds use in the UK?

For this age group, Facebook and WhatsApp with 90 per cent messaging use pipping 89 per cent social media.

Social media
  1. Facebook 72 per cent
  2. Instagram 68 per cent
  3. YouTube 48 per cebnt
  4. Snapchat 39 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 78 per cent
  2. Messenger 65 per cent
  3. Skype 27 per cent

What platforms do 35 to 45-year-olds use in the UK?

This age group messages the most of all (93 per cent) and also uses social media the most (91 per cent).

Social media
  1. Facebook 75 per cent
  2. Instagram 57 per cent
  3. YouTube 47 per cent
  4. Twitter 37 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 83 per cent
  2. Messenger 72 per cent
  3. Skype 31 per cent

What platforms do 46 to 54-year-olds use in the UK?

Facebook is used most by this demographic with 77 per cent.

Social media
  1. Facebook 77 per cent
  2. Instagram 41 per cent
  3. Twitter 33 per cent
  4. YouTube 33 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 83 per cent
  2. Messenger 72 per cent
  3. Skype 26 per cent

What platforms do 55 to 64-year-olds use in the UK?

Almost three quarters use social media and messaging apps.

Social media
  1. Facebook 65 per cent
  2. Twitter 23 per cent
  3. Instagram 23 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 62 per cent
  2. Messenger 55 per cent
  3. Skype 20 per cent

What platforms do over 65-year-olds use in the UK?

The majority of this age group use social and messaging platforms with 59 per cent and 64 per cent users. Facebook is favourite.

Social media
  1. Facebook 54 per cent
  2. YouTube 16 per cent
  3. Twitter 13 per cent
  4. Instagram 11 per cent
  1. WhatsApp 44 per cent
  2. Messenger 43 per cent
  3. Skype 13 per cent


Wise communications and PR people will read this data and reflect on how it affects them day-to-day. This represents a subtle year-on-year shift. Ten years ago, the tide was showing signs digital comms was going to be important.

The tide has washed in the direction of social media but has also brought with it messaging apps which have now overtaken social as a way to keep in touch.

For public sector communicators, this data can be a powerful tool in your armoury.

Picture credit: istock.

COVID COMMS #17: If you’re trying to reach people with COVID-19 messages this research is absolutely essential

There’s this footage of a tsunami sweeping through a Japanese port that’s both horrifying and mundane.

It’s shot from a hill that looks down on the port. You see the wave slowly sweep in. At first what’s odd is the boats it brings with it. Great big trawlers as well as little pleasure boats crunching into seafront streets.

Then as the wave barrel;s through the town the wooden buildings begin to detach and move too swept bu the force of the slow-moving wave. What was a fixture is now moving in front of your eyes.

A similar effect is happening to the media landscape over three months of pandemic. People’s habits have changed and fluctuated.

Ofcom have published magnificent work that traces through the last three months. For public sector communicators this research is life saving in every sense of the word and I suggest you spend a bit of time with it. The most recent research dates from mid-June which makes it helpfully contemporary.

Key points from the Ofcom research

People are voracious in their consumption of COVID-19 news but how much depends on how old they are. Ofcom stats show 89 per cent access news daily. Over 55-year-olds consume the most at 94 per cent. The lowest being 16 to 24-year-olds with 84 per cent.

A big minority of people try to avoid the news. Just over 33 per cent will try and avoid the news. I’m sure some are successful but others I think rather like the episode of ‘The Likely Lads’ end up accidentally accessing it.

Traditional media is trusted most. Over 55s at 96 per cent trust traditional media brands. Aged 25 to 34-year-olds trust traditional media least at 51 per cent.

Social media is getting used for news less as the pandemic has worn on. At the start, 49 per cent used networking sites which has dropped to 38 per cent after three months.

But hang on, social media use for younger people tops any other channel. For 16 to 24-year-olds social is where they’ll go to find out COVID-19 information. In that demographic, 63 per cent will go to social media that’s three times as many as over 65s.

People are sharing fewer COVID-19 messages. At the start of the pandemic 25 per cent were sharing NHS, public health or government messages. This has halved in 12-weeks. This on the face of it is alarming to public sector communicators. But for me, this flags up the need to be more creative in your communications. The straight forward share of the Government poster feels as though its less effective. So think of ways to engage. Would the message be more effective coming directly from a nurse? The town Public health officer? A doctor?

People are getting COVID-19 information less from closed networks like Messenger and WhatsApp. This has fallen from 34 per cent at the start to 18 per cent after three months.

Misinformation is rife but falling. At the start, 46 per cent saw falsehoods but this has dropped to 30 per cent after 12-weeks.

Confusion is on the rise. As things get more complicated and there is more noise and more rules across four nations of the UK its understandable that confusion grows. At the start this was 17 per cent and this has risen to 24 per cent.

We trust the NHS even more now than we did at the start. At the beginning, 90 per cent trusted the NHS and now 91 per cent do. This is significant.

So, what does this all mean?

It means that what was working 12-weeks ago may not be working now. It also means that a one size fits all approach is doomed. We kind of know that but here is the evidence for you to argue against that.

It also means that traditional news brands such as the BBC or the local paper are places where people go for trusted information. Except if you are younger. You’ll go to social media.

Public sector communicators are really earning their money at the moment. But long hours doesn’t necessarily mean effective communications.

There is need for a constant re-boot and re-assessment of what is being done locally. These national figures should be a canary in the mine. Use them as an indicator of a broad direction of travel but test them locally too.

Try and measure how effective things are and adjust as you go. But what’s most powerful in the figures is that the point to the fact that different demographics use different channels.

Picture credit: US Government National Archives

OFCOM 2019 STATS: This is how people in the UK are consuming video


Ofcom’s ever useful media nations report was published this week with a usual trove of useful data.

There’s been extensive coverage of the wider findings of the TV industry but for me the value is drilling into the data on how video is consumed. This is the gold that can inform how comms people look to communicate.

‘Without data,’ data scientist W. Edwards Deming wrote, ‘you’re just another person with an opinion.’

So, here’s the data.

The Ofcom report focuses on TV, radio and YouTube without looking in detail at wider social media data. There is nothing, for example, on how much time people spend watching video on Facebook, for example.

I’ll blog the radio data separately but in the meantime, here’s plenty to get on with on video.

The most popular YouTube content of 2018? Paul McCartney’s carpool karaoke with 44 million views.

Now, here’s the data…

The average UK adult watches almost five hours of video a day


Dominated by live TV, the average UK adults is burning through almost five hours of video screen time every day. That’s around 35 hours a week.

The eye-catching figure for public sector communicators is the 34-minutes a day spent watching YouTube.

Conclusion: YouTube remains an important place to put content. There is a healthy appetite for watching content on the channel.


There is a split between younger and older demographics on how they watch video


Older people tend to watch their video content as live TV while younger people gravitate to watching video as YouTube.

For 18-to-34-year-olds, YouTube is the most popular means of watching video with an hour and four minutes watching the platform every day. That’s well ahead of second-placed Netflix on 40 minutes.

Elsewhere, the data points to eight to a majority of 15-year-olds preferring YouTube to TV.

Conclusion: If you are looking to reach an older or younger audience you need to tailor your content accordingly. 

The most popular YouTube channels have been created by digital natives rather than traditional audiences


YouTube as a place is dominated by people making content that probably wouldn’t have got an audience twenty years ago.

Digital natives is the catch-all expression for vloggers and non-broadcasting industry content. Lean over your child’s shoulder while they are watching a screen and the chances are its the content that they’re watching.  They’ve built an audiences based on generating engaging content and slowly building trust. They may not have the same slick production values as traditional broadcasters but that’s okay.

The learning point for this is that the traditional gatekeepers of video content – TV stations – have become not the only show in town.

News at five per cent is a small part of the pie and it leads to a question as to the effort chasing the traditional opinion formers.

Conclusion: Channels made by digital natives are the most popular channels on YouTube.

Young people are watching YouTubers


Children are often known as a hard-to-reach audience as they don’t consume traditional media in a way that we are at home with.

The Ofcom data drills down into exactly watching on YouTube with some useful data for three to 11-year-olds and then the older 12 to 17.

YouTubers are significant. These are vloggers who are creating their own content and often speak to the camera directly. It’s rough and ready content built because its the content that best reaches an audience.

Conclusion: Young people are unlikely to be on your organisation’s YouTube channel but you could reach them by going through channels that are popular.

The Media Nations report published by Ofcom can be found here.

Picture: istock

STATS 2016: A pile of things every comms person needs to know from the Ofcom communications market report

Here’s a thing. Everybody apart from maybe your Gran should know what’s in the Ofcom Communications Market Report.


Everybody who is interested in communicating as part of their jobs should know it.

Press officers, comms people, social media mavens, marketing people and internal comms too. You all should know it.

Why? Because quite simply, this is a report filled with data that you can hang your hat on and use as a reference point for what you do. Cricket has Wisden. Comms people have the Communications Market Report. It’s that good.

If you are a communicator in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there’s also a national breakdown of your nation’s media use too. How useful is that?

So, here is a quick summary so you all go off and read all of its 266 glorious pages.

Internet connectivity

4G now reaches 97.8 per cent of the population.

86 per cent of homes have an internet connection.

66 per cent of people use their mobile phone to access the internet.

41 per cent think they spend too much time on the internet.

11 per cent check the internet 50 times a day or more.

15 per cent say they are ‘hooked’ on theiir favouriote device.

34 per cent say they have difficulty disconnecting from the internet.

51 per cent go to bed with their mobile phone within reach.

ofcom more

Smartphone Britain

71 per cent of adults have a smartphone.

Over two hours a day on average is spent using smartphones.

59 per cent of households have a tablet.



26 per cent use video on demand sites like Netflix.

91 per cent watch live TV.

25 per cent watch online video clips



70 per cent use email.


Instant messaging is rising

43 per cent use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp

63 per cent send SMS texts.

21 per cent use photo messaging

ofcom2016 3

The Digital Day

An adult will consume the media for eight hours 45 minutes a day – 27 minutes more than sleeping.

An adult will be second screening for two hours and seven minutes a day to consume extra media.

SMS text messaging and email are dropping.

Instant messaging is increasing.

The Digital Day: Activity and time spent

Live TV 2 hours 55 minutes Live TV

Live Radio 1 hour 54 minutes

Recorded TV 1 hour 12 minutes

Video games 1 hour 9 minutes

Paid on demand video 1 hour 2 minutes

Email 1 hour

Other websites or applications 55 minutes

Instant messaging 48 minutes

Social networking 45 minutes

Streamed music 44 minutes

Books (print and digital ) 44 minutes

Personal digital audio 39 minutes

DVD and Bluray 37 minutes

Newspapers print and web 31 minutes

Short online video 29 minutes

Phone calls 27 minutes

CD and vinyl 26 minutes

Sports news and updates 25 minutes

On demand radio 24 minutes

Texting 21 minutes

Video calls 16 minutes

Other online news 14 minutes

Magazines print or digital 13 minutes

Online shopping 12 minutes

Photo or video messaging 9 minutes

Other activities 1 hour 16 minutes

ofcom2016 1

How much media we consume


People consume eight hours and 45 minutes media a day.

The majority of those under 65 use social media at least weekly.

50 per cent of time on social media is spent on a phone.

Those aged four and above watch three hours and 36 minutes watching TV.

Those who listen to the radio listen to three hours and three minutes a day.

19 per cent of media is consumed while multi-tasking.

40 per cent fceel ignored at least once a week by someone engrossed in a smartphone.

34 per cent say they had taken a digital detox.

16 per cent choose a holiday dfestination that  has no internet.


Popular social media and instant messaging sites


In 2016 64 per cent of adults use social media

The popular sites by users

38.9 million Facebook

22.5 million Facebook Messenger

21. 8 million LinkedIn

20.9 million Twitter

16.7 million whatsapp

16.5 million Instagram

12.8 Google +

11.5 million Pinterest

7.1 million Snapchat



15 per cent said that they were most likely to keep in touch with friends through social media.

69 per cent said that if they could not access the internet their life would be boring.

49 per cent said that they have communicated with someone who was in the same room by using the internet.

60 per cent think its unacceptable to communicate using the internet with someone who is in the same lesson.

61 per cent have had a device taken off them as a punishment.


16 to 24 year-olds

99 per cent use social media weekly spending 2 hours 26 minutes.

They spend more of their time communicating (32 per cent) than watching 29 petr cent.

Instant messaging is more important than any other means of communication.

Playing video games is as important as watching live TV.

The smartphone is used five hours a day.

87 per cent said they kept up to date with current affairs or social issues

Watch 55 minutes less TV a week than they did since 2014.

Watch 43 minutes more on demand TV than they did in 2014.

25 per cent say they feel nervous or anxious without the internet.

60 per cent say they spend too much time online.

72 per cent say that they missed out on sleep to use the internet.


25 – 35-year-olds

84 per cent use social media spen ding 1 hour 1 minute

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes.


35 – 44-year-olds

77 per cent use social media spending 1 hour a day.


45 – 54-year-olds

64 per cent use social media spending 1 hour a day..

Watching live TV has dropped by 37 minutes


55 – 64-year-olds

Listening to the radio has increased by 23 minutes spending on average 58 minutes.


24 per cent use social media spending 35 minutes on average.


Picture credit: US National Archives / Flickr

MEDIA DATA: 83 gems you’ll need on the UK media landscape from Ofcomm

3100034818_14fe8f64dd_oFour times a year UK media industry watchdog Ofcom publishes a report on the media landscape.

Packed full of insight it is that rare thing of a free report that will help you if you work even just a little bit in digital communications.

It’s also a document that we often keen going back to so this time around we thought we’d fillet it and, because we love you, we thought we’d publish it in bite-sized chunks so it can help you too.

Much attention has been focussed on the fact that adults spend more time engaged with the media – eight hours 41 minutes – than they sleep which accounts fr eight hours 21 minutes.

More hidden in the report is the conclusion that the differing types of communicatin is leading to a generation gap. Where once post and the telephone was universal now young people only send a letter when they absolutely have to while the habit remains with older people.

The figures cover the first quarter of 2014.

An average day for a UK adult aged 16+ (selected)

2’58” watching live TV

1’19” listening to the radio.

0’47” email

0’40” recorded TV

0’36” websites or apps

0’29” phone calls

0’25” social media

0’15” newspapers (print or news website)

0’04” online news but not a news site

0’03” magazines

0’02” photo or video messaging


Popular UK social media sites

40.0 million YouTube

35.1 million Facebook

11.9 million Twitter

11.3 million LinkedIn

8.8 million Google Plus

0.9 million MySpace

0.4 million Friends Reunited

eBay overtook Amazon as the most popular retail site with 27.3 million users


Social media use by adults

2009 – 30 per cent

2010 – 40 per cent

2011 – 46 per cent

2012 – 50 per cent

2013 – 53 per cent

2014 – 54 per cent


News consumption

Television 75 per cent

Internet 41 per cent

Newspapers 40 per cent

Radio 36 per cent


General stats

Adults spend more time – eight hours 41 minutes – engaged with the media than time spent sleeping (eight hours 21 minutes.)

We are getting used to following two things at once. We may watch television and use the internet at the same time as 11 hours seven minutes worth f media is consumed in that eight hours 41 minutes.

We watch two hours 58 minutes of TV a day.

There are 83.1 mobile phones in the UK.

8 hours a month is spent on Facebook

Mail has fallen 5 per cent in 12-months

20 per cent of adults didn’t get an item of post in the last week.

77 per cent of all UK households have broadband.

79 per cent of homes have a PC or a laptop.

61 per cent of all adults own a smartphone.

57 per cent of all adults use their mobile phone to access the internet.

44 per cent of all UK households have a tablet.

60 per cent of adults say that technology confuses them.

49 per cent say technology isn’t making a difference to their lives either way.

24 per cent say technology is harming their lives.

16 per cent live in a mobile phone-only home.

Radio remains popular but is falling from 24.3 to 21.5 hours a week.

71 per cent of audio activity is radio.

2 per cent have used 3D printers.

82 per cent of households have an internet connection.

66 per cent say that they rely on the post.



46 per cent say they email fr work purposes out-of-hours.

23 per cent say they email about work while they are on holiday.

80 per cent say flexible working makes it hard to switch off.

51 minutes a day is social media use.

37 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

2 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

16 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

94 per cent watch live TV.

77 per cent use email.

71 per cent send SMS messages.

18 per cent of their time spent with the media is spent on social media.

41 per cent of adults use the internet to consume news.


Adults over 65

50 per cent overall have internet access at home.

66 per cent of adults 65 to 74 have internet access.

6 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on print media.

49 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on watching TV.

7 per cent of their time spent using the media is spent on text.

19 per cent play games on social media – the highest of any age group.


Young people aged 16-24-years-old

74 per cent use a social network.

4 and a half hours is the time they spend on media activity every day

If they use it they’ll spend one-and-a-half hours using social media a day.

They are watching less TV a day than they did. This has fallen to 148 minutes a day from 154

60 per cent get their news online – three times the amount of other adults.

1 per cent of their time spent using media is spent on print media.

24 per cent of their time spent using media is spent watching TV or films.

23 per cent of time spent using media is spent using text.


Young people aged 12-15

30 per cent are likely to use print media – half the adult average.

36 per cent of their media time is spent on social media – double the rate of adults.


Young people aged 6-15-years-old

60 per cent use a tablet.

75 per cent say they wouldn’t know what to do without technology.

70 per cent say they tell friends and family about new technology.

18 per cent use Snapchat.


Young people aged six-11-years-old

26 per cent of their time using the media is spent using social media.


Television stats

Digital TV take-up has risen from 84 per cent in 2008 to 95 per cent.

Smart TVs – web enabled TVs – have risen by five per centage points to 12 per cent in 12-months.

Smart TVs account for 45 per cent of TVs sold in the UK.

Picture credit

TV set 


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