Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stereotype Social Media Users at Your Brands' Peril

For brands to properly plan for and use Social Media, marketers must not evaluate their consumers' Social Media habits today but foresee those habits a year or two from now. The demographics of Social Media users are already becoming more diverse, as evidenced by recent studies.

Just last week in Social Media Demographics to Broaden, I posted a link to an Entertainment Trends in America study by The NPD Group that found that 41% of baby boomers have visited social networks. The commentary that accompanied the report warned about the risks of dismissing Social Media for older consumers, noting that while much of social media marketing today, "may be targeted to a younger audience... there are more older people who enjoy these services."

Here's more evidence: iMedia features an interview with Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra in which he notes, "Multiple studies... tell us that blogging is moving from early adopters into the mainstream."

Technorati recently released its 9th State of the Blogosphere report, and Jalichandra notes that 44 percent of bloggers surveyed are parents and 34 percent are female. He adds, "Right now, only 8 percent of survey respondents are more than 55 years old, (but) as the digital generation ages, we'll see a change there as well."

When evaluating the Technorati report on blogging, it's important to remember that while blogs are an important piece of the Social Media pie, they are just one slice of that pie. Still, as the one of the earliest and most widely recognized portions of the Web 2.0 spectrum, blogs provide an interesting barometer with which to measure the direction of all Social Media. Viewed from this perspective, the report contains some other fascinating information. Here are some examples:
  • Many blogs are started and abandoned--Technorati has indexed 133 million blogs since 2002 but just 1.5 million of these were updated in the last seven days...
  • ...but this doesn't mean that blogs are not a pervasive part of people's Internet experience. "Blogs have representation in top-10 web site lists across all key categories, and have become integral to the media ecosystem."
  • Bloggers are interested in sharing their perceptions of brands and products; Four in five bloggers post brand or product reviews, with 37% posting them frequently.
  • If you think that building relationships with bloggers is a new and unique strategy, you'll be surprised to learn that one-third of bloggers have been approached to be brand advocates. Of those, more than six in ten were offered payments of some kind.
  • U.S. bloggers are more diverse than in other countries. 57% of bloggers in the U.S. are male compared to 73% in Europe and Asia.
  • Bloggers are not impoverished students posting from their dorms. 58% of U.S. bloggers are 35 or older compared to 52% in Europe and just 27% in Asia. In addition, 74% of U.S. bloggers are college grads and 51% earn more than $75,000 per year.
  • Want to reach bloggers? Offer relevant content online and start your own blog! Twice as many bloggers look to other blogs compared to TV, print, or outdoor advertising. And bloggers aren't dedicating a lot of time with traditional media; compared to U.S. adults 18 to 49, bloggers spend two-thirds less time watching television and 70% less time with radio. (They do, however, spend slightly more time with magazines and newspapers--which is interesting considering 20% of bloggers don't think newspapers will survive the next 10 years.)
To envision the demographic penetration of microblogs, crowdsourcing, and other cutting edge Social Media tools in 2011, look at how blogs are being used in 2008. You'll find that more and more, the people who maintain and visit blogs look like the general Internet population, and this trend will continue in other Social Media categories in the future.

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