PEW Research Shows a Shift in Social Media

Like all things, social media platforms age and as these sites develop and grow – so do their users. Users that were once frequent and active participants in a social media site either leave or become in active. In replacement of those users, new users enter a social media community and implement their own ethos upon it.  It is important for marketers to be aware of the demographic shifts that occur as a social media site develops over time, to insure that the proper channels are being used to reach target audiences.

Source: entmoney.com
Source: entmoney.com

A study published by Pew Research Center in February 2013, entitled The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012, surveyed 1,802 respondents in North America ranging in age from 18 to 65+ to uncover the patterns and demographic migration on social media. The study found that respondents who are 18 to 29 years of age are 83% more likely to be involved in social media, 30 to 49 year olds made up the second largest group using social media and 84% of those who were 50+ were active on social media sites. The social media sites profiled were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. When looking at the usage of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the activity and usage surrounding these social media sites were the most interesting, they are as follows:

  • Twitter had the heaviest users within the 18 to 29 age bracket with 16% using the site. This is a 10% decline from a previous study by Pew Research, conducted in 2011 where 26% of people in this demographic were active users.  Another Pew Research found in a study on teenagers’ (12 to 17) uses of social media and privacy that 24% of young teens use Twitter, which is an increase of 16% from 2011 in this age group. Marketers should be aware of this shift in young users on social media platforms such as Twitter, since much of the marketing on Twitter currently geared towards the 18-29 demographic.
  • Instagram is most popular with those who are under 50 years of age and its users are more likely to be women. Reinforcing the findings by Pew Research Center, a recent Nielson study, found that Instagram is the top photo sharing site for teens with over one million users in the 12 to 17 age demographic. With Instagram combining with Facebook, there is now an increase in teenagers using Facebook more than ever before (approximately 94%).
  • Facebook not only has new teen users but Pew Research had also found that two thirds of adults have and use Facebook, and that 92% of those adults surveyed are 50 or older. This is a huge demographic switch for a site founded and projected in the media a very “college based” audience. Older users in social media sites could allow for more opportunities to push e-commerce based marketing campaigns as these are the demographics with heavy spending power.

The demographics of social media seem to be switching to two main age groups the very young (12 to 17) and the more mature (50+). While those in the 18-29 demographic are still active on social media sites, they are removing themselves from them more frequently than any other demographic. Another study completed by Pew Research released in 2013, wrote about something called “Facebook Fatigue”, in which it was found that 61% of adult Facebook users would take a break from using the social media site. It is expected that in 2013, 38% of Facebook’s former core demographic, 18 to 29 year olds, would spend less time or remove themselves completely from the site. This extreme shift in Facebook user demographics is a clear example of how marketers need to be ready and be able to adapt to new demographics when using social media as a marketing tool.

Marketers must be mindful what their target demographic is using before spending large amounts of capital to reach out to an audience that is assumed to be using a social media site. It is also important to take advantage of the tools provided by social media sites to help marketers. For example, Facebook has an age feature that allows for ads to be pushed to specific age groups.  Most recently – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all taken steps to better cater to their younger demographic users by increasing their video capabilities and the ability for marketers to use video to reach video centric audiences. Remaining informed on who is using a social media site and using tools provided by  the social media sites to help you reach your target demographic – guarantees you won’t fall victim to a social media demographic shift or fatigue.

Goodbye Facebook

Today, I woke up and did my usual morning routine. Roll out of bed, feed cat, roll back into bed, grab smart phone, and check Facebook. Except for today when I logged onto Facebook I had sudden realization – Facebook is not for me. I’m tired of getting ads because somehow Facebook’s back end has determined what I like or the constant changing of UI without any user testing or choice. And as it turns out I am not the only one feeling the Facebook fatigue.f_logo

According to a “recent Pew Research Center project found that 42 per cent of young adults between 18 and 29 reported spending less time on Facebook in a typical day last year than in 2011. Their age group was also the most likely to anticipate decreased use this year” (Mills par 7). Facebook is a company built on this demographic – what happens now when it’s core set of users is depleting? Is Facebook the next MySpace? (I know MySpace made a “come back” but ask yourself – do you use it?)

Many of those surveyed many said they were too busy, weren’t interested or waste of time/bad content (Van Grove par 3). The key to a good site is rich content and Facebook’s changes have caused that content quality to go down. Even busy people will check a website filled with rich content. Granted we can’t change someone who posts all about what they have been eating but Facebook can change the kinds of ads we see and how our content is received. Quality is what Facebook seems to be forgetting. If the content of Facebook doesn’t improve how can things like Facebook Home truly be successful?

The Pew study also said that many users do end up going back to Facebook after a time. As one student put it, “They’re on Facebook, you sort of have to be. But there’s a subtle guilt associated with it, or a realization that it’s not a choice. Something that’s not a choice isn’t necessarily as cool as it used to be” (Mills par 10).  Let’s hope I don’t start feeling guilty to soon.

References:

Mills, Carys. “‘Facebook fatigue’ and the aging social network | Toronto Star.” thestar.com | Toronto Star | Canada’s largest daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Van Grove, Jennifer. “Study: Facebook fatigue — it’s real | Internet & Media – CNET News.” Technology News – CNET News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.