Social networks

According to Internet world statistics for 2017 the UK shares the ranking of the third highest Internet penetration rates in the EU with the Netherlands at 94.8 percent. Only Luxemburg (97.5 percent) and Denmark (96.9 percent) have higher rates. ONS statistics for 2017 show Internet penetration at 92 percent with 89 percent of adults having used the Internet in the last 3 months. Only 9 percent of adults have never used the internet. Use is far higher among younger people with 99 percent of under 35s using the Internet regularly. The UK has the second highest number of users at 62m (Germany has most at 72.2 million). Slightly different measurements from Ofcom found that in 2017 88 percent of UK adults have Internet access at home via any device. A breakdown of access figures provides evidence for a continuing digital divide characterised by age and social class. 90 percent of under 55s have access compared to 78 percent of 65-74s and 53 percent of 75+. Those with a lower socioeconomic status are least likely to have access (DEs 74 percent).

At 46 percent in 2016 Internet advertising continues to be the largest category of advertising spend in the UK with a total spend of £10.3bn. Internet advertising has grown significantly from 2010 levels of £4.7bn. Online advertising is divided between a range of formats, many of which are rapidly emerging. It is dominated by paid for search advertising which accounts for 49 percent of the market. The remaining online advertising spend goes on display advertising (35 percent), classifieds (14 percent) and other (3 percent). Programmatic ad buying informed by algorithms powered by user data collected by cookies or log-in data accounted for 72 percent of all display advertising spend in 2016. In 2017 over half (54 percent) of online advertising spend went to Google and Facebook. Based on current growth rates predictions suggest that this share will rise significantly in the next few years.

People in the UK access the Internet via a range of devices with smartphones the most commonly owned. In 2017, 76 percent of UK consumers owned a smartphone, followed by laptops (64 percent) and tablets (58 percent). Smartphone ownership is very high among under 55s - 96 percent for 16-34, 88 percent for 35-54, and 47 percent 55-64. The total UK digital audience (on laptops, desktops or mobile devices) was 50.4 million in March 2017. This can be separated between 46.5 million who access via laptops and desktops and a mobile audience of 36.2 million. Monthly usage stands at an average of 83 hours online per person in March 2017. Much of this time represents work use or those who regularly use the Internet in a professional capacity.

The most used social media and messaging brands are Facebook (65 percent), YouTube (46 percent), Facebook Messenger (37 percent), Whatsapp (33 percent), and Twitter (25 percent). Focussing specifically on social media, Facebook attracts the largest audiences of 39.7 million (more than three-quarters of active Internet users). The next biggest sites are Twitter (21.9 million) and Instagram (19.4 million).