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NA vs WE: What Social Media Platforms Do Gen Z and Millennials Use?

Group of young Europeans taking a selfie on social media

The differences between the social media platforms young consumers in WE and in NA use, in one chart…


  • The vast majority of young Europeans use WhatsApp, but only a quarter of young North Americans turn to the messaging app
  • Gen Z and Millennials in North America are more likely to use Snapchat than young Europeans
  • TikTok is becoming one of the most used social platforms in both regions, especially among Gen Z

YPulse’s research shows that young Europeans spend nearly four hours on social media every day, underscoring just how omnipresent these apps are in their lives. YPulse surveys young consumers in North America and Western Europe on their social media consumption habits multiple times a year, asking about the reasons they use social platforms, and the platforms they turn to the most. That’s how we know that their media habits aren’t exactly aligned.

In YPulse’s most recent Social Media Behavior survey, we asked young consumers in North America and Western Europe what social media they use, and found major differences between the two regions:


WhatsApp is hugely popular among young Europeans, not young North Americans

In Western Europe, 70% of young consumers use WhatsApp, but in North America, only a quarter do so, which is the biggest difference in social platform usage between the two regions. WhatsApp is the most used social media in Western Europe, and the app that recently celebrated its 100bn messages is incredibly popular in many other regions, too. While the fact that Europeans are using WhatsApp more than their North American peers is not a new finding, it is interesting to note that the divide remains over the years, and that young North Americans are far from catching up with young Europeans’ usage of WhatsApp.

Among the reasons to explain why WhatsApp appeals to young consumers in Western Europe is the app’s end-to-end encryption feature for messages and calls, meaning a higher level of data protection is made available to users. Young consumers in the region are especially sensitive to data privacy concerns, and this is reflected in their higher use of Telegram—another messaging app known for its high level of encryption—compared to North America. The European Union is also constantly scrutinizing social media companies in search of potential data breaches, and even WhatsApp was recently fined more than five million euros over privacy issues. WhatsApp is also staying relevant among young consumers by innovating: the app launches its “Community” feature just a few months ago to allow organizations such as clubs, or schools to better stay connected.

Brands wanting to reach young consumers in Western Europe should take note of the importance of the app in the region: in Spain for example, YPulse’s data shows that 80% of young consumers report using WhatsApp. Many brands in the region are now fully integrating WhatsApp as part of their conversational marketing, allowing them to be in contact with Gen Z and Millennials in a direct and authentic way. Domino’s UK started a WhatsApp campaign two years ago to recruit new delivery drivers, and saw an increase of 40% in the number of applications. It’s just one example of the ways brand could be tapping WhatsApp to uniquely reach Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe.

Young consumers in Western Europe are also more likely to use YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok more compared to North Americans

While YouTube is the most used social media platform among young North American, young people in Western Europe are slightly more likely to be using the app (+4pts difference). Although the difference is not huge, it does underscore how well-established YouTube is in the old continent, and that the Google-owned platform is a real staple in the most-used social media platform among young Europeans.

Instagram is also used by young Europeans more than their North American peers: 68% of European Gen Z and Millennials report using the app, a +12pts difference compared to North America, where a slim majority of young consumers (54%) say they use the app. Some argue that Instagram is now entering the age of irrelevance among young consumers, mostly because these gens are turning to TikTok en masse—remember the Make Instagram Instagram Again viral protest urging the platform to stop trying to be TikTok? But brands should not abandon their Instagram presence and marketing, especially in Western Europe where Instagram is still widely used among young consumers. Data from YPulse’s Fits For The Feed trend report even shows that it is the top platform where young WE consumers say they’ve discovered a fashion brand, above TikTok.

Speaking of TikTok, it’s no news that the app has become extremely popular in recent years among young consumers across the globe. The use of TikTok has skyrocketed among Gen Z and Millennials in the past two years, and has propelled the app to the top of the world: TikTok is now bigger than Facebook, Snap, Twitter, and Insta combined in terms of ad revenue. YPulse’s research shows that TikTok has managed to become the most-used social media platform among Gen Z in North America as well as in Western Europe.

While Snapchat is favored by North Americans, more so than their European peers

Among 13-39-year-olds, Snapchat is not as popular in Western Europe as it is in North America: almost half of young North Americans use Snapchat (46%) compared to 38% of young Europeans, an -8pts drop. That being said, Snapchat is an app that appeals mostly to Gen Z, and looking more closely at the data reveals that the use of Snapchat among Gen Z in both regions is fairly similar: 49% of European Gen Z use Snapchat, and it’s 52% in North America. Usage of Snapchat among Millennials is still much lower than Gen Z (-16pts difference in Western Europe for example), and the app doesn’t seem to be growing much these days, especially compared to the exponential growth of TikTok. But Snapchat is trying hard to stay in the race, testing a premium feature that gives users exclusive privileges, and introducing an in-app AI assistant. We’ll see what happens to Snapchat, which its chief creative officer is describing as ‘the best known, [but] least understood’ social platform,” but brands trying to reach Gen Z in Western Europe shouldn’t ignore it.