Travel Weekly Consumer Trends 2016

Social media: Platform use keeps rising

Facebook is still the 10,000-pound gorilla of social media platforms, and just when you think it's reached the saturation point, it grows even more: The percentage of respondents who have a Facebook account is up 5 percentage points this year, to 89%.

And other social sites continue to grow, too. In 2013, when Travel Weekly broadened the survey question to include social sites beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, less than a quarter of respondents said they had an Instagram account. Four years later nearly 50% of respondents said they had one.

Given the growth in popularity of platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, it's almost no surprise to see that Snapchat, which was added to the survey this year, enters the fray with more than 40% usage.

Social networks are even more popular among respondents who use a travel agent. According to the survey, social media acceptance is higher for every platform among those who said they have used an agent in the past 12 months. In the case of image-heavy Instagram and Snapchat, the differential was 25 percentage points; for YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter it was around 15 points.

Consumers who have used a travel agent recently also tend to use social networks for travel-related activities more heavily than their book-it-themselves counterparts. For example, 42% of respondents who used a travel agent in the past 12 months said they used a social platform to get more information about travel experiences, compared with 31% of nonagent users.

That suggests that, much like travelers who supplement their agents' advice with info from TripAdvisor, agency clients are also conducting their own travel research on Twitter, getting vacation inspiration on Instagram or chatting up their friends on Facebook.

Another group that tends to gravitate toward social networks: those who spent more than $4,000 on travel in the past 12 months.

Ninety-one percent of these respondents have a Facebook account, 60% are on Instagram and 50% have a Snapchat account.

Not surprisingly, the demographics of social media users skew toward millennials. About three-quarters of respondents in the 21-to-34 age bracket have a Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram account, and 69% said they're on Snapchat.

By comparison, among those 55 and up 39% are on Twitter, 40% are on Pinterest and 25% have an Instagram account. And 19% have a Snapchat account, a number that could be either small or surprisingly large, depending on your perspective.

The one overarching platform is, of course, Facebook, which rules not only in sheer number of accounts and across all age and income groups but also how often respondents use the service. Nearly 60% said they use it "at least daily," and 13% said they check in "a few times a week."

The second most popular service is YouTube, but only 24% of respondents said they use it daily, and 21% said "a few times a week."

Other networks have grown slightly in regular usage over the past year. One platform worth noting, however, is LinkedIn: Even though 59% of respondents say they have an account, only 15% say they use it more than weekly, just one point higher than last year. 

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