Countless articles have been published about the motives of using social media. The general idea is that people use those media for social interaction, personal networking, and empowerment.

But does this count for all social media? 

Of the eight social media platforms studied, Twitter had the most in common with news media companies.
Of the eight social media platforms studied, Twitter had the most in common with news media companies.

New academic research from Amsterdam-based SWOCC shows how consumers experience social media usage and the advertising on these platforms. The new insights can be used for developing better cross-media strategies. Interesting for news media is the strong parallel with one of these examined social platforms.

Experience of social media

A lot of research has been conducted about the effects and popularity of social media. However, research on how consumers actually experience social media usage and advertising on these platforms is rare.

That’s why SWOCC put a lot of effort in describing the experience of eight of the most common social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.

For this purpose, the scientists used the famous and validated research model of “Media Experience.” With this research design, traditional media have already been described a number of times. This expansion enabled the comparison between these new media and the traditional media.

In this study, respondents were questioned about last week’s media experiences and asked to describe this experience using 12 dimensions like stimulation, pastime, identification, and practical use.

News media companies, for example, are perceived as informative, up-to-date, and conversation-provoking, while television appeared to be mainly relaxing.

How are social media experienced?

The SWOCC study shows that every social media platform is experienced uniquely. There is no overall winner. Every platform is scoring clearly on different dimensions.

Many platforms are seen as up-to-date, while some are experienced as enjoyment. Pinterest appears to have the most distinctive experience and is described as useful, stimulating, and innovative.

Not all social media are perceived as sociable: Mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are used for social interaction. YouTube and Pinterest are not experienced as social at all.


On the whole, consumers seem to accept brand advertising on social media. The most reluctant to advertising are users of YouTube and Facebook, while ads on Google+ are seen as quite acceptable.

Remarkably, the examined social media platforms differ as drastically as day from night. Some platforms even have more in common with traditional media channels than other social media.

Pinterest, for example, scores on similar dimensions as magazines as a medium, while YouTube has many dimensions in common with conventional television with motives like transformation and pastime.

Twitter and news media

Noticeable for news media is the strong parallel with Twitter. Both channels are seen as current and informative. Just like news media companies, Twitter is serving its users by providing topics to discuss with friends and family. Though newspapers tend to outscore Twitter on many dimensions, Twitter is perceived as far more up-to-date.

General conclusion

There is no general media experience for social media platforms. The eight media are all perceived differently. Some social media are not even considered social by its users.

For media brands, these insights can be used to pick the right channels on which to be present. For news media, the Twitter platform is an obvious one. Pinterest appeared to be a positively experienced platform that connects well with the qualities of magazine brands.

About the study

Media Experience is defined as the emotional and affective experience that consumers are having while using a medium. Those experiences can be positive or negative. The study is all about the subjective experience. That makes it a real enrichment to existing audience measurement or impact studies.

SWOCC’s social media experience study is conducted by researcher Hilde Voorveld. The research organisation is linked to the department of communication studies at the University of Amsterdam.

A sample of 1,346 consumers were questioned for the field work that was carried out by TNS NIPO (Kantar Media). The respondents selected have used at least one of eight social media and have reported last week’s experience by using 12 “dimensions” for 2,922 moments of media consumption.

More interesting facts can be found in the online report published by SWOCC (available in Dutch).