If your brand is not maintaining a strong presence on the major social networks at a bare minimum, your brand is missing great opportunities to achieve greater success. The majority of online Americans used social media in 2012, according to the Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project published last week. 67% of all Internet users are using at least one social media site (including 71% of women), and amongst those 18-29, 83% use. The Pew report measured social media activity on 5 social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr).

Certainly there’s some overlap, as there are many people who use 2 or more social networks. The user profile on each of the individual social networks varies. But when you are making decisions on where to be, the most important place to be for the majority of brands is going to be Facebook. This is illustrated well through the statistical mirror reflection of Facebook usage to usage of one social media site. Both figured registered at 67%. This does not mean that other platforms should be ignored, but rather it speaks to the potency of the Facebook brand and its ability to maintain a desirable user experience.

The primary trend observed on Facebook is that users tend to be reasonably young, female, more affluent and more likely to live to in a urban environment. 72% of women who responded to the survey indicated Facebook usage, as compared to 62% of men.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to be on Facebook, but all age groups under 65 are more likely to be on Facebook than not. Here are the user stats broken down by age:

  • 86% of those 18-29
  • 73% of those 30-49
  • 57% of those 50-64
  • 35% of those 65+

The most common educational attainment of Facebook users was Some College (73%), followed by College Grad or Higher (68%). Since Facebook usage is very high amongst young users, a big portion of those 18-29 Some College users (especially 18-25) are going to be current college students, many of whom will be college graduates within 1-4 years. This factor was not explicitly stated in the Pew Center report. But generalized knowledge about the cohort of 18-29 year olds as of Dec 2012 (born 1983-1994) is that they commonly have pursued higher education at rates higher than members of prior generational cohorts.

Higher household income was a relevant factor in Facebook usage. By household income, usage stats are:

  • 73% of those above $75,000 HH income
  • 69% of those between $50,000-$74,999 HH income
  • 62% of those between $30,000-$49,000 HH income
  • 68% of those below $30,000

With regard to household income, factors that were not examined is marital status and composition of household. For example, a 29 year old single woman who makes $80,000 per year lives a very different lifestyle than a 27 year old man earning $45,000 per year and 25 year old woman earning $35,000 who live together and have no children. Likewise, both of the aforementioned living arrangements would differ from an early to mid 50s dual income earning household with combined household income over $100,000  with a recent college graduate living at home who is unemployed or underemployed in a low wage service sector job, a common arrangement given recent employment statistics for new college grads.

In 2009, Harvard Business Review released a great article about the power of the female economy. In industries like insurance and financial services, there would be great relevance to this Facebook data. Female consumers often make budgetary decisions in households, regardless of the composition of the household. Particularly with women in urban settings, who quite commonly use Facebook, it is important to create marketing messages that will resonate with this cohort. There are various insurance products and services that will be applicable, as well as financial service products and services. The organizations that best craft messages to this cohort, regardless of medium, will be best positioned for success going forward.

Twitter is the secondly most common used social network amongst the social networks evaluated in the Pew Center report. Only 16% of those surveyed have a Twitter presence, and the gender split is near equal. Urban residents were more commonly on Twitter. Twitter usage did not vary drastically amongst various types of educational attainment levels and household incomes, a marked difference from Facebook. African Americans and Hispanics more commonly used Twitter than White, Non Hispanics. The aforementioned sentence also applied to Instagram usage. The Pew Center report did not offer a break down of Facebook users by race.

Amongst the other networks evaluated (Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr), there were not many major surprises. Pinterest data reaffirms its reputation as a hub for female activity. Pinterest was equally popular with 18-29 as 30-49 females. White, Non Hispanic women were the most common racial classification amongst Pinterest users and Pinterest users were more likely to have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

One of the biggest shortcomings of the Pew Center report is that amongst social networks evaluated, the report did not take YouTube, LinkedIn or Google Plus participation into consideration. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after parent company Google, and YouTube has a significant social component. It is a mistake not to have a YouTube presence. Even those without YouTube accounts are often watching videos on YouTube. There’s tremendous awareness and knowledge of it. LinkedIn is the hub of business networking conversation and B2B brands should be around the site. Google Plus has a place in the social networking conversation. It is also important to note that there are numerous other niche social networks that may have relevance depending upon a brand’s marketing objectives.

What is most apparent from this report is that there’s a greater number of places for any brand marketer to be. It is truly a multi-channel marketing environment. When there are multiple places to be at one time, there’s a greater need for marketing automation software, best utilized in the form of a Distributed Marketing Management solution. Without automation, marketing processes take more time, decreasing efficiency and puts a brand at greater risk for making a social media mistake. Social media mistakes have consequences, but there are also consequences for not maintaining a presence on social media sites. As a brand, it is vital to be where your target market is, and social media is one of the greatest conduits for achieving that, and reaping the financial rewards that can happen in an optimized social media presence.