Where is my audience?

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Selecting the right social media platform is just as important the content you post on it

“We’ve gotta be on social media!” Raise your hand if someone has uttered this phrase during a staff meeting. No longer dismissed as a flash in the pan or millennial trend, cultivating a social media presence is something that all companies – from mom-and-pop bakeries to Fortune 500 enterprises – need to do.

It’s a strategy that makes sense. According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Americans use the Internet. Given that statistic, social media can be an ideal way to reach millions of people and tell them how great your business is. Where companies get tripped up is when they view “ideal” as a synonym for “quick and easy.” Today, some firms invest countless hours and dollars to develop original content to share on social media. However, the coolest photo with the catchiest hashtag is only effective if the intended audience receives it, so choosing the correct social media platform is important. Knowing the demographics of various social media options can help you make better decisions on where to post certain content.

Chart of Social Media Platform by Age

Facebook

The senior of the bunch. Still the largest and most synonymous with the phrase “social media,” Facebook boasted 1.4 billion daily active users at the end of 2017. Among Internet users in America, 75 percent of men and 83 percent of women say they engage on Facebook. Additionally, 81 percent of those online and living in rural areas report using Facebook. When looking at Internet users by age, 88 percent between the ages of 18 and 29 are on Facebook, and 62 percent of Internet users ages 65 and older are a part of the network. While it is important for companies to have a presence on Facebook, it is often viewed as the most personal of the social networks with many people choosing to share family photos, videos and other updates, in addition to news of interest to them.

Twitter

So much to say, so little space. Twitter has evolved from a 140-character joke factory upon its release into one of the most important networks. The company doubled the length of tweets to 280 characters in 2017, making it easier for users to get their messages across. Twitter does skew younger, with 36 percent of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 23 percent of users between 30 and 49 having a Twitter account. By location, there are fairly even percentages among demographic groups as 24 percent of rural, 26 percent of urban and 24 percent of suburban Internet users are checking their Twitter feeds. By income level, of adults who use the Internet, 18 percent making between $30,000 and $49,999 use Twitter, while 30 percent of online adults earning more than $75,000 use this social media platform.

Instagram

Pictures, videos and filters – oh my! Despite giving users the ability to post only pictures and videos – although adding hyperlinks to other websites is possible in a user’s bio – Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms today. In a six-month span in 2016, Instagram saw an increase of 100 million daily users. It has roughly 600 million active users in total, and its success is tied to its popularity with the younger demographic. Fifty-nine percent of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 have an Instagram account. Compare its usage by other online adults – ages 30-49 (33 percent), 50-64 (18 percent) and 65 + (8 percent) – and it’s clear that Instagram is most popular with younger adults.

LinkedIn

The professional network. LinkedIn continues to cement its reputation as the network of choice for business professionals and reports more than 546 million registered users from more than 200 countries and territories. Users post significantly less “fluff” on LinkedIn, instead fiercely adhering to a set of unwritten rules that keep the site a functional and efficient social-media tool for professionals. One bonus of the platform is that content geared for this space is more likely to get noticed. Its user demographics reflect the stick-to-business image, with 45 percent of adult Internet users with incomes of $75,000-plus managing a LinkedIn profile, and half of online adults who have earned a college degree staying connected on this platform.

 

Chart of Social Media Usage by Gender

Information for this post comes from Pew Research center’s Social Media Update 2016, the About Pages for LinkedIn and Twitter, the Instagram Press Page as well as self-reported information from more than one billion Facebook profiles of users over the age of 18, which was obtained from the Facebook Audience Insights tool.
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