As I have been out talking to CEO’s about why their company’s should be engaging on social networks, one of the first hurdles that I need to overcome is the mistaken belief that social networks are about college students and kids. It is easy to understand how they have arrived at this perception since it is likely that they first heard about it from their kids or grandchildren, or from early media accounts that focused on how college students were using MySpace and Facebook to stay in touch with one another. Well perception and reality do not always mirror one another.
According to the Census Bureau’s population clock, as of August 8, 2010, there were 309.9 million people in the United States, of which 50.7% are woman and 49.3% are men. According to , there are 128.9 million American’s who have Facebook accounts, of which 55.7% are woman and 44.3% are men. Therefore, 41.6% of the U.S. population has a Facebook account today. The U.S. population also accounts for 26.4% of the global Facebook population.
Not surprisingly, and part of what fuels the perception that Facebook is dominated by college students and kids, 44.6 million accounts are registered to individuals aged 24 and younger, just over 1/3 of all U.S. Facebook accounts.
Those between the ages of 25 and 34 account for 31.7 million accounts or almost 1/4 of all accounts. Based on poulation estimates, this age cohort has about 41.5 million members, which means that three quarters of them have a Facebook account. Therefore, it should come as no surprise why brands focused on Gen X and Gen Y are using social media channels to engage their consumers.
But what about brands and companies that want to reach an older population? Should they be focused on traditional communication channels? Clearly the data shows that they would be making a mistake to disregard Facebook as a place to reach out to their customers.
There are 22.4 million Facebook accounts registered to individuals between the ages of 35 and 44, compared to the estimated 44.3 million in that age cohort. If you do the math, 50.4% or 1 in 2 of those prospective customers are using Facebook. Of the 45.3 million Americans between the ages of 45 and 54, 16.1 million have Facebook accounts; 35.7% of the cohort.
As you would expect, the older the age cohort the lower the percentage of Facebook accounts. Nevertheless, 9.3 million Facebook accounts are claimed by those between 55 and 64, which translates into 27.7% of the 33.5 million people in that age category. Individuals 65 and older account for 7.2% of all facebook accounts, just 12 of every 100 have an account.
Given the costs of reaching these populations across each media channel, a P.R. or marketing strategy that fails to take advantage of facebook is missing an opportunity to reach a significant audience at a relatively low cost. Clearly the data validates the importance of using traditional communications channels, but if you are looking to reach those aged 34 and under, how would you spend your scarce advertising dollar?
If your trying to sell to the 45 to 64 cohort, you certainly would have to use traditional media, but how much could you save by focusing some of those scarce resources by advertising on Facebook.
On Friday, The Steve Miller Band used their Facebook page to let their 147,000 fans know that their new album, Bingo, was available for a limited time for $3.99 at Amazon. I missed that update in my news feed. This morning I noticed an ad on my home page:
Since I had already identified myself as a fan by liking the band’s Facebook Page, they directed an advertisement to me. I purchased the album this morning. Their first sales pitch incurred no cost, their second pitch had a relatively low cost.
According to the Nielsen Company, the average active social media user, logs in 19.2 times per month on Facebook, spending an average of 5 hours and 52 minutes on the site. If you are a CEO, or someone whose job it is to grow your business, the role that social media will play in your strategy is a function of who comprises your target audience, and where you can find and engage that audience. Clearly, a portion of that audience, regardless of age, are using social media channels. The key to a successful social media strategy is to identify your audience and determine which social media platforms are appropriate for that engagement.