By Lucy Siegel | October 6, 2020

Social media networks today have immense power over people’s lives. They influence attitudes, emotions and even actions – they often spur people to act on key issues. They expand knowledge while at the same time misleading many people with fake news. This is a worldwide phenomenon, from countries with the wealthiest and best educated people to the developing nations.  Social media trends change with time: networks gain and lose popularity, and new platforms come and go. The platforms most popular with 15-year-olds are not necessarily used by 45-year-olds. The trends in how social media platforms are being used and their influence on users differ from country to country and have also been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic.

From a public relations perspective, it’s imperative to keep on top of social media trends so we know where and how to reach target audiences. We have therefore gathered information from PR Boutiques International member agencies around the world on current social media trends. In this post, we’ll examine social media in eight European countries.

The chart below is a summary of some key questions we asked. Following that is a summary of trends by country for the eight countries we studied.

Social Media Trends in Europe

U.K Netherlands Germany Switzerland Italy Latvia Estonia Finland
Are people worried about misinformation (errors) in social media? Somewhat Somewhat Somewhat to extremely A little Extremely Not much Not much Not a problem
Are people worried about disinformation (deliberately misleading errors) in social media? Extremely Somewhat Somewhat to extremely A little Extremely Somewhat Not much Not much
B2C marketing via social media? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
B2B marketing via social media? Some Yes Some Some Some Some Some Some
Which social media are increasing in popularity? TikTok Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok Instagram, TikTok, YouTube Instagram TikTok, Twitter Instagram, YouTube, Facebook TikTok
Which social media are decreasing in popularity? Snapchat Facebook Facebook, Snapchat Facebook Twitter Facebook Facebook
How much do social media influence consumer attitudes towards corporations? Some Some Some A little Some Some Some Some
How much do social media influence consumer attitudes & buying of products? Some Heavy Some Some Some Heavy Heavy Heavy
How much do social media influence consumer attitudes towards politics? Heavy Heavy Some Some Some Heavy Some Heavy
Has social media use increased / will it increase more during the COVID-19 pandemic? Yes, 82% increase Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, survey shows +2 hours/day Yes, especially children It was already very high
Do PR professionals use social media to contact journalists? Yes No Not much – doesn’t work If it’s the only way If it’s the only way No Yes

United Kingdom

Many thanks to  Flo Powell, joint managing director at Midnight Communications in Brighton, who reported on social media trends in the U.K. Here are highlights:

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in the U.K. (survey done in 2019)
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z) YouTube Facebook WhatsApp Instagram Snapchat Twitter
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Facebook WhatsApp YouTube Instagram Twitter LinkedIn
40-55 (Gen X) Facebook WhatsApp YouTube Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook WhatsApp YouTube Twitter LinkedIn
Over 75 38% of this age group had a social profile in 2018 (source: OfCom).

According to Powell, social media is used widely in U.K. marketing, mainly for marketing to consumers (B2C). Facebook and Instagram are the two platforms most widely used for consumer marketing. For marketing to businesses (B2B), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are most used. “Instagram comes in fifth, and is used mostly to showcase products visually,” says Powell. “However, my firm would always recommend LinkedIn for B2B for its targeting abilities.”

LinkedIn is turning into an aggressive sales platform, with a constant stream of service professionals targeting and contacting users, Powell notes. “We recommend that our clients use LinkedIn for B2B lead generation and promotion, but not use the InMail option for selling, because it’s annoying.” LinkedIn is also used in the U.K. for publishing articles and essays related to business, and for CEO profile-building. “The site Medium is used as well,” she says.

Powell says YouTube and Facebook regularly battle it out for the most visited social media platform in the U.K., but TikTok is the fastest growing, with 3.7 million active users in the U.K. “It still has a long way to go to beat Facebook, which has 32 million U.K. users,” she states.

Snapchat is losing influence, with some users moving to TikTok, Powell says, although Snap Inc. denies this. Usage of Snapchat fell by 2.3% in 2019 as compared to 2018.

In the U.K., people worry about the privacy of their social media data, but this doesn’t stop them from using the platforms. “U.K. consumers are somewhat concerned about misinformation (incorrect posts) but extremely worried about disinformation (deliberately incorrect posts – fake news) on social media,” Powell says. “The British are among the most cynical people in the world. They don’t trust a lot of what they see, including social media posts from brands.” She added that 39% of U.K. consumers don’t feel it’s acceptable to be targeted by news stories paid for by advertisers, something to keep in mind when considering paid/sponsored content.

Powell says shopping on social media is widespread (including on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok), and the pandemic has speeded up an already increasing trend.


Gijs Toxopeus, client & operations director at Amsterdam tech PR firm Lubbers De Jong, kindly provided information about social media in the Netherlands.

Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z) WhatsApp Facebook YouTube TikTok Snapchat Instagram
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) WhatsApp Facebook Instagram
40-55 (Gen X) WhatsApp Facebook
56 and up (Baby boomers) WhatsApp Facebook
Over 75 WhatsApp, Facebook

Toxopeus says Facebook is losing a lot of younger users. “In the younger generation, Facebook users declined from 88% in 2016 to 51% in 2020. They are moving to newer platforms like Snapchat and TikTok,” he explains. “At the opposite end of the age spectrum, senior citizens are mostly using WhatsApp (44%) but have also been using Facebook.”

According to Toxopeus, social media is being used by both B2C and B2B marketers. For B2C, platforms being used include WhatsApp, Facebook (Messenger), YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. For B2B, LinkedIn and Facebook are the most common choices.

As in the U.K. and other countries, LinkedIn is also used for publishing articles and essays related to business, and for CEO profile-building.

Regarding social media shopping, Toxopeus says, “Companies use social channels to promote sales of their products, but cannot yet set up sales in social media channels. But we believe that ability will play a big role in the near future.”


We are grateful to the two PR agencies in Germany that provided information on social media trends there: vom Hoff Kommunikation GmbH in Düsseldorf and Huss-PR-Consult in Munich.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Germany
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z)  Instagram YouTube TikTok WhatsApp Snapchat Facebook
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube LinkedIn
40-55 (Gen X) Instagram Facebook LinkedIn
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
Over 75 32% are active on social media, mostly Facebook, Instagram and Xing (a German platform). (source: Bitcom)

Social media is used widely by German businesses. Says Kai vom Hoff, managing partner of vom Hoff Kommunikation, “Social media is the place to be for marketing your product, strengthening your company’s reputation and engaging with stakeholders. B2C companies were the first to use it, but now nearly every company has a social media presence.  The question is not whether they use social media, but how.” The choice of social media platforms depends on the target groups a company wants to reach, he said. “Instagram is popular for B2C. Facebook and Twitter are quite popular for both B2B and B2C, and often used by B2B in particular to contact followers.”

LinkedIn is increasingly used in Germany for positioning CEOs and other executives. “Even CEOs of large companies such as Volkswagen present themselves regularly on LinkedIn,” notes Judith Huss, CEO of Huss-PR-Consult. Explains vom Hoff, “The previous use of ‘earned media’ for positioning, such as interviews in business media, is becoming increasingly difficult. On LinkedIn, however, your own content can be presented to a selected public in a targeted and unedited manner. To build a reputation successfully, the article should have current relevance, be relevant for the target group and also reflect the executive’s personal view.”

Huss states that Instagram and YouTube are on the upswing in Germany. Vom Hoff adds that TikTok is also growing very fast among younger generations.  As for which platform is losing traction, Huss says, “Definitely Facebook. The younger audiences are leaving it, and as for older people, hate speech and fake news are problems on Facebook, which drives them away.”  Vom Hoff adds that Snapchat is also losing users.

As for fears about privacy and use of data, Huss says, “Germans are very worried about data protection and suspicious about misuse of information.” Adds vom Hoff, “Fast spreading fake news via social media platforms is a huge problem. Social media education and information is very important here.”

Shopping on social media platforms is on the rise in Germany. “Instagram and Facebook shopping is growing among millennials and Generation Z,” Huss notes. “COVID-19 has increased online shopping.”


We appreciate receiving data on social media trends in Italy from Encanto Public Relations, headquartered in Milan, with offices in Milan and Rome.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Italy
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z) TikTok Instagram Facebook
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Facebook Instagram YouTube WhatsApp Snapchat
40-55 (Gen X) YouTube Facebook WhatsApp Instagram Twitter
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook Instagram
Over 75 Only 16% of households composed of only senior citizens have Internet access. (Source: Auser)

Veronica Carminati, PR account director at Encanto Public Relations, says that TikTok is growing like gangbusters in Italy. “From September to November in 2019 TikTok tripled its audience in Italy from 2.1 million unique users to 6.4 million, an increase of 202%, the highest growth in the Italian internet panorama,” she explains. “The explanation is simple: Generation Z prefers visual content to text.”

She adds that millennials (Gen Y) have grown up in the smartphone era and appreciate good user experience, so they interact on WhatsApp and constantly exchange images on Snapchat. “As for Gen X, YouTube and Facebook are almost equally popular.” 

Regarding baby boomers, Carminati says, “There is an incredible increase in use of Instagram (60%) and WhatsApp (44%). These dizzying figures are probably related to a change in a group that was traditionally unenthusiastic about digital, but recently has become more progressive.”

Carminati explains, “In Italy, 18% of the over-56 population actively uses Facebook and only 9% uses Instagram. This age group does not seem to be part of the digital revolution, and this is demonstrated by the fact that Italy has one of the lower connectivity rates in Europe.” (In Italy in 2019, 85% of households had internet access, compared to the European Union average of 90%.)

Carminati says social media is used by business mainly for B2C marketing. “Facebook and Instagram are mainly used for BTC, and LinkedIn for BTB,” she notes.

In Italy LinkedIn is the platform most used for publishing “owned content” to promote companies and their CEOs and top managers. According to Carminati, Medium is more used by journalists than for CEO and corporate branding.

Carminati says the COVID-19 pandemic has affected social media trends. “The quarantine in Italy opened new communication needs,” she says. “The most downloaded applications from app stores in the period between March and April were Google Hangouts (up by 11,957% in March compared to January 2020) and Zoom (usage was up by 5,000% in March compared to January 2020). TikTok is now among the most downloaded social media.

Carminati says the lockdown has led to an increase in online activity, however, notably, “A quarter of 18- to 24-year olds in Italy (Generation Z) have deactivated their social media accounts in the last 12 months.”

Carminati notes that the social networks with the most influence in Italy (and also most monthly users) are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. “However, in the first quarter of 2020, with the COVID-19 lockdown, TikTok and Twitter grew the most.” She says none of the social media platforms are declining in usage. “Twitter has fluctuated in usage in Italy, and the big surprise during the lockdown period was its 25.2% quarterly increase in usage, the second highest growth figure after TikTok.” Carminati adds, “Twitter is a platform that keeps you up to date with what’s going on. Twitter was the first, in collaboration with Italy’s Ministry of Health, at the beginning of February, to activate an area of certified information about everything related to the spread of COVID-19, precisely to avoid the growth of misinformation.”

Italians are becoming very wary of violations of privacy by social media and do not want their personal data used without their knowledge.

Carminati says, “It’s clear that social platforms have become a fundamental element of political propaganda and can make a difference during election campaigns. Italians are very worried about fake news.” She notes findings from the mass media research group at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa that 87% of Italians believe social networks no longer offer credible news, and 82% are unable to recognize fake news on the web. “As a result, Italians rely on the authoritativeness of newspapers for news and tend to be diffident towards other sources,” she notes.

Social media networks also have some influence on consumer spending on products. “However, the decision to buy a product or a service in Italy is influenced by several factors: 38% of people rely on social networks, 29% on influencers, 47% on television advertising, 57% on word of mouth, according to research by Blogmeter,” Carminati explains. “For 15 years, e-commerce in Italy has been growing by double digits. Unsurprisingly, in recent months there has been a sharp decline in transactions in sectors that were previously dominant online, such as tourism, in favor of others that used to be considered marginal, such as food, health and beauty products and publishing. Online purchase of electronics and small appliances has also grown. The fashion sector is suffering due to the lack of need for new clothes. However, social platforms are not yet that powerful for online shopping.” 


We are grateful to Rolf Schmid, advisor and senior partner at TEAG Advisors AG, based in Olten, for data on social media use in Switzerland.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Switzerland
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z)  Instagram Snapchat TikTok WhatsApp
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Instagram Facebook LinkedIn WhatsApp
40-55 (Gen X) Instagram Facebook LinkedIn WhatsApp
56 and up (Baby boomers) Twitter Facebook LinkedIn WhatsApp
Over 75 It is rare to find them on social media. Those who are using it are on Facebook.

According to Schmid, “Swiss businesses are using social media for marketing, but not widely, and mainly for B2C business. Facebook and Instagram are the B2C platforms of choice, and LinkedIn is the choice for B2B.”

The platform on the rise in Switzerland is Instagram, and Facebook is declining in popularity. Says Schmid, “While it’s hard to say exactly why, I believe Instagram’s stories feature is helping it, and Facebook’s content is seen as less relevant.”

The Swiss do worry about data privacy but that doesn’t stop them from using social media.

Schmid says that some of the new social media shopping products and tools are being used in Switzerland, and that retail shopping on social media will continue to use them more and more.


Our thanks go to Karoli Noor, project manager at PR Partner in Tallinn, for providing  social media trends in Estonia.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Estonia
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z)  Instagram TikTok YouTube Facebook
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Instagram Facebook YouTube LinkedIn
40-55 (Gen X) Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook YouTube Instagram
Over 75 Social media usage is rare but growing in this age group.

According to Noor, “TikTok is very popular with Estonian youth right now. However, Instagram has more accounts. YouTube is popular, but comes third after Instagram and TikTok. Most young people also have Facebook accounts, but they are rarely active there.”

Noor explaines that Russian speakers in Estonia also use the social media platform (vkontakte), based in St. Petersburg. “It is mainly used by people who are somewhat older. Younger people use TikTok, Instagram and YouTube more.”

Noor added, “Professionals of all ages use LinkedIn for work purposes – finding jobs, connecting with clients, talking about accomplishments, etc.”

In Estonia, businesses use social media mainly for B2C marketing, but B2B marketing on social media is slowly beginning to grow. “Facebook and Instagram are the main platforms for B2C,” Noor states, “but TikTok is also becoming popular. Facebook is also used for B2B marketing, and LinkedIn is used quite a bit, especially among start-ups.” She adds that use of LinkedIn for marketing is rather passive: “Mostly it is used for writing articles about important topics in a company’s sector or about developments within an organization, for sharing big victories or upgrades.” She says Medium is used a little in a similar way. “More and more Estonians are reading Medium, so soon our companies will discover its wonders.”

Noor notes that TikTok is growing strongly. “Young people really enjoy TikTok,” she says. “It is built so smartly that people just lose themselves in its short videos. It is mainly used by people under 21, but some older people are also finding their way there. Many commercial organizations are trying to find their voices there but very few have succeeded.” She points out a general trend in young people first starting to use a platform, then older people joining in. “However, one platform that has not become too popular in Estonia is Twitter. It is used by youngsters and older opinion leaders (politicians mainly) but not by many others,” she says. “The official data says there are 130,000 Estonians on Twitter, but I only know a few people who use it at least weekly.”

Noor says Facebook is losing influence among younger people but is doing better and better among older people. “Many Estonians participate in Facebook groups – for example a group for Estonian vegans is very popular and so are local district groups,” she explains. “There are also some groups being used very well as marketing channels – one of our biggest banks, Swedbank, has a group called ‘#Kogumispäevik’ (which translates to ‘savings journal’) that focuses on improving financial literacy (saving, using money wisely, etc). Some Facebook groups are quite large and growing. People share their experience, knowledge and advice there and they have replaced other popular forums. For example, there was one main online forum for mothers, but now it has lost most of its popularity to Facebook groups.”

She remarks that Facebook is losing popularity among young people because their parents and grandparents have joined it. “Naturally, they feel it’s not as cool anymore.”

Regarding privacy of data, Noor says, “People are really divided on that – there are some who are not worried at all (you could even say they don’t care about privacy, and just enjoy the benefits of social media) and there are also people who are really concerned. TikTok’s privacy issues have brought this question into the minds of many, but I don’t see young people worrying about it at all.”

Noor says Estonians attitudes towards corporations and politics are somewhat influenced by social media, but their product purchasing is heavily influenced by it. “It depends on the age group, and how much people use social media,” she notes, “but social media in general has a lot of influence on what kind of food, clothes, and other products people buy.” Noor notes that Facebook Marketplace has reached Estonia.


Input on social media in Latvia was generously provided by Linda Vitola, founder and consultant, Jazz Communications in Rīga.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Estonia
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z) TikTok Snapchat YouTube Instagram
Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Facebook Twitter Instagram Telegram
40-55 (Gen X) Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook
Over 75 Use of social media is uncommon.

Says Vitola, “There is a very mixed picture of social media popularity with very young people. The top social media choices for those under age 15 are TikTok first, then YouTube, then Instagram, and lastly SnapChat. However, from ages 15 to 24, the choices are Instagram first, then SnapChat, then YouTube, and finally TikTok.”

Vitola explains that with millennials – Gen Y, the popularity of Instagram is increasing, especially when it comes to following influencers and opinion leaders. Yet, she says, “The basis of content still is Facebook, and millennials often duplicate their Facebook content to Instagram.” She adds that Telegram (which was launched in 2013 by a Russian entrepreneur), a messaging app similar to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, is rapidly growing in popularity with this group.

With Gen X, Vitola says Facebook is the clear leader.

Vitola explains that, the first Latvian social media network (it translates to “”), was wildly popular about 15 years ago. Now, however, baby boomers are the only age group still very attached to it.

Seniors over age 75 use the internet at least weekly, but their main interests are news portals, online media and online banking, not social media.

In Latvia, B2C businesses are choosing Facebook as their choice for social media marketing, and B2B businesses are using LinkedIn.

Vitola says Instagram, YouTube and Facebook are the social platforms that are increasing in popularity (although TikTok is very popular with the youngest Latvians), and Twitter is decreasing. She says there are two reasons for the shifting popularity of the various platforms: “Mainly it is due to where local opinion leaders and media are most active. And this is dictated by the forms of communication each network is offering and developing that are making it easier to make videos, photos and other content.” She added that LinkedIn is growing very slowly in Latvia. “I would say LinkedIn’s popularity in Latvia is still to come. Currently it is not very active for sales or communication. It serves as a kind of online business card and self-presentation in the business community, and as a place to find employees.”

Regarding data privacy in Latvia, Vitola notes, “It is one of the top concerns. Yet it still seems to be more something to talk about and express opinion. When it comes to each individual taking care of their data security, facts show that Latvians are not taking even basic steps to protect our data.”

Finally, Vitola reports research that shows people in all age groups are using social media for two hours more per day since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions.


Taru Nikulainen, partner and managing director of Brunnen Communications in Helsinki provided information on social media trends in her country.

Highest popularity networks with different age groups in Estonia
Age group Top platforms /  Other Platforms used  
Teens to mid-20s (Gen Z) Snapchat Instagram YouTube TikTok

(with younger children)

Mid-20s to 40 (Gen Y) Instagram Facebook LinkedIn (professional use) Twitter (professional use)
40-55 (Gen X) Facebook Twitter (professional use) LinkedIn (professional use) YouTube
56 and up (Baby boomers) Facebook YouTube
Over 75 In general the use of social media is uncommon, but some seniors are discovering Facebook.

Nikulainen says, “Popularity of social media platforms with millennials, Gen X and baby boomers depends on users’ goals: do they use social media for professional reasons or only for private enjoyment. If for professional reasons, LinkedIn (#1) and Twitter (#2) are the most commonly used channels.”

For B2C marketing, companies in Finland are using Instagram, Facebook and You Tube. The choices for B2B marketing are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As for LinkedIn, Nikulainen says, “In Finland LinkedIn is a good tool for executives and management to profile themselves. And more and more executives are using it in their communications.”

According to Nikulainen, none of the social media platforms stand out as currently increasing in popularity, but many people are moving from Facebook to Instagram. She says Facebook is so commonly used that there are almost too many activities going on. “It is an information graveyard,” she noted. “Not everybody is good at using Facebook. So the active users are moving to more sophisticated platforms, like Instagram. People are also increasingly keen on sharing visuals, for which Instagram is ideal.”

Overall most Finnish people like social media and use it, but at the same time many worry about the privacy of their personal data.


Clearly, some differences in culture and geography show up in use of social media. Yet a look at trends in the countries we studied show some consistencies and a lot of similarities across the map of Europe.

Social media has some or heavy influence on product purchasing and attitudes towards corporations in all of the European countries we studied. No wonder that use of social media for retailing is growing in Europe. The influence of social media on attitudes towards politics varies.

In all countries we studied, social media is used for business-to-consumer marketing, and, although less so, for business-to-business marketing, too.

Worry about fake news on social media varies from country to country. In general, though, the British, Dutch, Italians and Germans are somewhat to extremely worried about it, while the Estonians, Latvians, Finns and Swiss are only a little, or not much worried.

A drop in the use of Facebook by young people seems to be happening while its use among older groups is strong. As Noor points out, young people don’t see platforms heavily used by their parents and grandparents as cool anymore, so they’ve moved on.

TikTok has been growing rapidly across Europe. Instagram use has also been growing.

In most countries we surveyed, Twitter is not popular with the younger generation and not a top choice among older people, either.

Many Europeans have been keeping busy during the pandemic by increasing their time on social media.

An upcoming blog post will focus on social media elsewhere around the world, including in Brazil, Korea, and down under, in Australia and New Zealand.