Blogpost: Facebook usage: a local perspective

This post has been re-blogged from Mark Braggins’ personal blog. Any views expressed are purely personal and do not represent that of any organisation.

Continued from last time…


In my previous post, I explained that I’m trying to gather data on the number of social media users within a geographic area.  I’m basically attempting to answer the question: “what is the actual take-up of social media in Hampshire?” (which is where I live and work).

All change

The Ofcom study in to Adults Media use and attitudes contains a huge amount of fascinating data and analysis. I’ve included an extract from Fig 44 of the report which shows the rapid take-up of social media:

Extract from Ofcom survey Set up own social networking site profile: 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, by  age
Adults who set up own social network profile: 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, by age 

Start with the biggest: Facebook

Facebook is generally recognised as the platform with the largest number of users, so I’ve started with that.  Mega-corporations with massive budgets can, and probably do, purchase very detailed data directly from Facebook.  I’m using the advertising search facility within Facebook, which is basic, but free. I’m noting the number of users for a variety of search parameters, and recording the results in a Google spreadsheet.

Averages and actuals

The average penetration for Facebook nationally is 48.6%which, for the whole of Hampshire, would equate to around 826,000 users in Hampshire. Towards the end of my previous post I noted that there are just over 700,000 users within 25 miles of Winchester (which covers the majority of hampshire), and 1.5 million within 50 miles. I couldn’t find a way to estimate the number for the whole of the county, but the numbers seem close enough to be believable.

Moving target

As mentioned last time, mobile devices seem to account for a very large proportion of users, which makes it tricky to pin down to a particular geographic area, particularly when we don’t know how Facebook determines location. For example, an individual might have a their own desktop at home, a PC at work, and also carry a mobile (and laptop or tablet). They might choose to update their status on any or all of these devices during the course of a day. Some of these devices might support geolocation, but the owner may or not have enabled it. Some devices might only be identified by ip address.

Passing Place?

When thinking about Facebook usage in Hampshire, large numbers of people move to-and-fro all the time. Factors influencing this include:

  • Several large universities (Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester).
  • Southampton and Portsmouth are both major ports and commuter centres
  • There’s an international airport near Southampton
  • The M3 carries a huge volume of traffic daily
  • There’s a significant military presence (e.g. Army in Aldershot and Navy in Portsmouth), so periodic troop movements
  • Both Portsmouth and Southampton are mainline rail links to London

It would be easy to get hung up on the detail.

Keep your distance

Keep your DistanceI keep having to remind myself to look from a distance and accept that people are increasingly mobile and will update their status in a variety of ways, and from a variety of places. In the second half this post, I take a slightly closer look at Mobile Facebook, and the types of mobiles device that people are using. I’m focusing on the number of users within 25 miles of Winchester, as that covers the majority of Hampshire.

As before, please don’t rely on any of the numbers, as it’s work in progress.

More data: Devices

The first chart is a bit of an experiment – it’s attempting to show the devices most used for Facebook Mobile within 25 miles of Winchester.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to see that Apple’s iPhone is the clear favourite for both men and women (hover the mouse over a bubble to see the gender split).

The next few charts show usage of different device types by age range.


Android is in second place, but quite a long way behind the iPhone.


I haven’t included a chart for ‘other’ devices here, but both the chart and data is in the Google Spreadsheet should you want to have a look.


RIM/Blackberry is interesting. It’s in fourth place overall, but with over 50,000 users aged between 13 and 24 within 25 miles of Winchester, making it a significant force amongst younger Facebook users.


In next place is the iPad, another Apple product. The iPhone and iPad combined gives Apple a huge lead. I haven’t had time to compare this with the national figures, but it seems to endorse the headlines that Apple currently dominates the mobile and tablet markets, at least as far as mobile Facebook usage is concerned.


Next in line is the Active Feature ‘phone, which has most of its user base in the 25-44 age range

I haven’t included the chart for Windows ‘Phone here as the numbers are very low compared to the others: it has its strongest base in the 25-34 age range with just under 1500 mobile Facebook users.

There’s still lots to explore on mobile usage, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll finish off this post with a couple more observations on general Facebook usage.

Tech interests compared

When I saw interest categories for Technology Early Adopters, Science & Technology, and Computer Programming, I rather assumed that the number of users would be very similar. They are, a bit:

There does seem to be a correlation between people who are interested in adopting new technology and computer programming, with interest in both peaking in the 18-24 age range. However, science and technology doesn’t appear to follow the same pattern at all. I wonder why that is.

I took a closer look at the gender split for the three interest groups. The link between early adopters and computer programmers is really close for men.

The pattern is similar for women, but the relationship between the two interests not as pronounced

I’ve not spent much time looking at the data within 10 miles of Winchester, but there’s a noticeable difference in the pattern for women computer programmers within 10 miles of Winchester. The numbers aren’t huge, and it’s pure speculation, but I did wonder if it might be something to do with IBM having a large site at Hursley near Winchester.

I’ve rambled on a bit and have run out of time to go back and prune. I think I mentioned last time that I could smell my supper burning, and I’m determined not to make the same mistake again. Sorry it’s a bit wordy – I hope you’ve found enough to have made it worthwhile reading this far, and thanks for persevering.

By Mark Braggins

Walking, usually with my two ex-racing greyhounds. Interested in lots of stuff. Work: Business Development and Research at Drawnalism