Inequality: from society to social media

In early September, Oxfam released a report on inequality and division, which found that the UK is one of the most unequal nations in the developed world.

The report referenced the EU referendum, noting that it exposed a clear divide within society, particularly between different social classes, localities and generations. With the richest 10% of the UK population owning over half of the country’s wealth, the publication concluded that there is a significant disconnect between those categorised as the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots.’

The social inequality that Oxfam acknowledged is also being reflected in social media activity across the UK, according to our new report on the demographics of social network users. The data revealed that while Facebook and YouTube are widely utilised by almost all adults with an online presence, there is a second tier of networks for which usage is dependent on factors such as education, geography, income and social grade.

For example the Haves (which we defined, based on a Kantar Retail definition*, as university-educated adults that are in stable relationships and live in a city), are far more likely to use the above secondary platforms than Have Nots. This group doesn’t have a university education, doesn’t live in a city and is either single, divorced, separated or widowed. The disparities in usage between the two categories are stark: LinkedIn (44 percentage points); Twitter (40 points); Instagram (28 points); and Snapchat (20 points).

Our report revealed a correlation between household income and likeliness to use these networks. The aforementioned platforms are most popular among people with high earnings, particularly those taking home £48k+. Most notably, 64% of LinkedIn users fall into this bracket.

It is clear that social media activity is heavily influenced by demographic factors, despite perceptions that second tier networks are becoming increasingly mainstream. With UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently pledging to address the gap between the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots,’ it will be interesting to see if her proposed efforts impact the way in which the UK population use social media. You can read the full 2016 report here.

* In July 2013, Kantar Retail delivered a report looking at the demographics of Haves and Have Nots. The report can be downloaded here