More than 70 per cent of UK adults who go online now have a social media profile, according to a recent Ofcom report – up from 66 per cent in 2013.

And Facebook’s digital audience in the UK is almost twice that of Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

The Ofcom 2015 Communications Market Report, released last week, revealed some interesting findings about the UK’s digital habits and behaviours, including social networks, mobile apps, and online news.

While sending and receiving email is still the most common internet activity, after general web browsing, almost half of UK adults (44 per cent) now go online to use social networks at least once a week, compared to 25 per cent in 2010.

Online video is also becoming more popular, no surprises there, with more than half of adults (54 per cent) watching TV or video on a computer or mobile in Q1 2015, and 37 per cent having done so in the week before Ofcom’s survey was carried out.

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents also said they had watched short video clips – commonly posted to social networks – in the past week, highlighting the popularity of video on social media.


Most popular websites and apps

Facebook may be hot on its heels, but for now Google still reigns supreme in terms of the UK’s most popular websites and apps.

Its services, including Google Search and YouTube, remained the most-visited across both computers and mobile devices, with 46 million unique visitors in March 2015, according to comScore data cited in Ofcom’s report.

Facebook’s websites and apps, on the other hand, received 41 million uniques – the second highest total audience in Ofcom’s report.

People also spent more time with Facebook services – 51 billion minutes in total, compared with 34 billion minutes on Google-owned sites and apps.

This is particularly poignant given Google executive Bradley Horowitz’s recent announcement that Google+, its latest ill-fated foray in the social media space, will now “pivot” to focus more on photos and streams (presumably after failing to gather enough momentum to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter).

Google continues to dominate the search engine space, however, with an audience of 39.6 million uniques across all platforms in March 2015, compared to 17.3 million for Microsoft’s Bing and 14 million for Yahoo Search.

BBC websites and apps were the third most popular internet properties in Britain, according to comScore, with 40 million uniques.


Two more of comScore’s ten most sites and apps in Britain were also UK-based organisations, belonging to Mail Online/Daily Mail and Sky, both with 28 million uniques.

Messaging and apps

Given the popularity of Facebook, it’s not surprising the social network was behind the UK’s three most downloaded iOS and Android apps – WhatsApp, the Facebook app, and the Facebook Messenger app – in March 2015.

The fact that two of the three most-downloaded apps are chat apps – Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, bought by Facebook for a reported $19 billion (£12.2 billion) in February 2014 – clearly demonstrates the ubiquity of instant messaging.

YouTube was the fourth most popular app, while Instagram came in sixth place, and Snapchat in at number nine.


The UK and social networking

Facebook continues to rule the social media roost in terms of sheer numbers, with an audience of 40.7 million unique visitors in the UK – equating to 86 per cent of Britain’s total digital population, according to Ofcom data for April 2015.

This is almost twice as many as Twitter, which has 21.6 million UK users, representing a 46 per cent active reach.

LinkedIn is the third biggest social network in the UK, with 20.7 million users and a 44 per cent active reach.

Meanwhile, Google+ still manages 20.2 million UK users and a 43 per cent active reach.

However, it’s important to note this is not representative of the actual number of active users, given that up until the end of last month users needed to have a G+ profile to access any Google-owned properties, including YouTube.

Instagram, bought by Facebook for a reported $1 billion in 2012, was visited by 30 per cent of the UK’s digital population, while Pinterest’s rather niche audience is even smaller, visited by just 20 per cent of adults online.

The order of the most popular social networks differs slightly for 12 to 15-year-olds, which is unsurprising given recent reports that young people are shunning “uncool” Facebook in favour of chat apps and Instagram.

While Facebook was still the most popular network for this age group, used by 72 per cent of the total digital audience, it was followed by Instagram (55 per cent), and Snapchat (53 per cent).

Overall, the majority of users accessed Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest on mobile devices rather than desktop and laptop computers.

Only for Facebook was the number of people accessing the platform via the app or mobile browser (30.5 million) similar to those coming via desktop or laptop (30.1 million).


When it comes to social networking, younger adults are still more likely to have a profile online than older generations.

The majority of internet users aged 16 to 24 (93 per cent), 25 to 34 (90 per cent), 35 to 44 (80 per cent) and 45 to 54 (68 per cent) have a social media profile, compared to half of 55 to 64s (49 per cent) and three in ten aged 65 or older (28 per cent).

Digital video winners

YouTube is still the UK’s most popular online video sharing service, with a total audience of 41.5 million uniques in March 2015.

And the popularity of mobile video, driven by larger smartphone screens and better connectivity, is no different here than anywhere else.

YouTube’s total mobile audience (which includes tablets) is, at 27.1 million uniques, 2.2 million higher than the number of people accessing the platform via desktop and laptop computers.

As Ofcom notes, one reason for this may be that the YouTube app is generally pre-installed on Android handsets.

However, despite only introducing native video fairly recently at the end of 2014, Facebook video views on mobile already exceed that of all other video sharing sites except YouTube.

Facebook has already revealed mobile video is one of its major areas of growth. In a Q1 earnings call, reported by Re/code, the social network announced its global video views grew from 1 billion a day in September 2014 to 4 billion a day by April 2015, of which 75 per cent were on mobiles.

As Ofcom points out, however, videos on Facebook and on other platforms may be set to autoplay, and so may “not be actively watched by the user”.

However, both YouTube and Facebook are leagues ahead of other video-sharing sites such as Vimeo, which has a total digital audience of 12.2 million uniques, 2.7 million of which are from mobile.

Although the report does not include data on live-streaming video services such as Periscope, it does show that Twitter’s other video offering, Vine, has a total of 4.4 million users in the UK.


Four in ten get news from a website or app

There have been a whole host of developments in online news announced over the last 12 months – Snapchat Discover, Facebook’s Instant Articles and the forthcoming Apple News, to name but a few.

And while the majority of UK adults (85 per cent) still get their news from television, in Q1 2015, four in ten adults (39 per cent) said they got news from a website or app.


People aged 16 to 24 were more likely to use online sources for news than the population as a whole, with almost half (46 per cent) telling Ofcom they did this compared to only about one in four (23 per cent) of over-55s.

A recent report from Pew Research Center suggests the number of people who get their news from social media is increasing.

Some 63 per cent of Twitter and Facebook users in the US told Pew they received news on each platform, compared to 52 per cent on Twitter and 47 per cent on Facebook in 2013.

Although Ofcom’s report does not offer a breakdown of news sources by social network, half of all Twitter users surveyed said they followed news accounts on the platform – the most commonly selected category above both friends (45 per cent) and celebrities (44 per cent).

Just over a third (33 per cent) of total users said they tweeted about news topics, although 16 to 24-year-olds were the age group most likely to do so (40 per cent).

In terms of the most popular news services in the UK, the BBC leads the way with 27.8 million unique users, according to comScore figures cited in Ofcom’s report.

The Daily Mail comes in second with 24.5 million uniques, and the Guardian is third with 21 million uniques.

Mobile traffic made up more than half of the total digital audience for all news services in the top ten.