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Demographic trends in Social Media you can use!

We live in an unprecedented age where we can spend our brief time on earth sharing photos of our food or making valuable contributions to society by repeating our moral and intellectual superiority to those who live in darkness.

As our ancestors once roamed the plains seeking to hunt and harvest to provide sustenance for their brood, so does the digital marketing maintain a vigilant eye on the migratory patterns and next habits of humans on those great livestock yards known as social media.

Our good friends at the Pew Research Center once again provide insights into the 'winners' and 'losers' and provide valuable insights for marketers to identify their best fields for harvest.

And it is a good time for harvesting indeed, but are you harvesting in the right place?

Despite the efforts of traditional media outlets to portray it as the Mos Eisley of the Internet, YouTube has continued to move forward as one the social media platform with the highest reach, reaching a profound 81% of all US adults. Let that sink in: 81% of adults in the US use YouTube. This is the reason why there are many YouTube channels and creators with far more viewers than most network or cable programs.


Overlooking YouTube:

I've observed something of a patter in regard to local marketers and their prioritization of social media advertising, particularly as it relates to how they seem to overlook YouTube and tend to jump to the #2 and #3 Social platforms (Facebook and Instagram). This is understandable (its far easier and less expensive to create a post on Facebook/Instagram than a video for YouTube), yet I cannot be a little surprised how many effort some advertisers put into their social media content, with little effort towards YouTube.

The New Kids:

TikTok and NextDoor make their debut in the Pew data in 2021.

If I had to make a forecast, I expect to see NextDoor continue to make annual gains and will become a mainstream platform, whereas I suspect that TikTok (like Snapchat) will continue to add some marginal growth with younger audiences, but it will plateau in the mid 20% range. To support this, NextDoor is aggressively pursuing local advertisers and building tools to help them reach potential customers near their place of business, while TikTok is content to be...whatever it is trying to be.

Nice Growth:

Pinterest and LinkedIn have demonstrated some impressive gains in the past few years. A few years ago, the audience reach of both Pinterest and LinkedIn was in the low 20% range - essentially tied with Twitter in this lower tier of reach. But in the past several years both LinkedIn and Pinterest have started to grow their lead. If you've used either platform, you may see the appeal and unique benefits that each provides, and if you haven't, you may want to invest the time and become more comfortable with them - particularly for local advertisers and marketers. WhatsApp has grown in the US as well, which is no surprise given the generous support it receives from its owner Facebook, although one can't wonder if its a bit underwhelming given that it is driven by Facebook - shouldn't its reach be higher?

Stagnation Nation:

Snapchat and Twitter don't seem to be going anywhere: They both have about the same level of reach with adults as they did several years ago. Our analysis of Twitter users seems to indicate it has much higher usage in more densely populated metro areas than it does in smaller cities and less urban areas. Snapchat will likely continue to be the social media 'hideout' for teenagers attempting to avoid the watchful eyes of their parents.


For local marketers, the takeaways from this may seem obvious, however some important considerations should always be factored into any understanding of social or digital marketing platform reach numbers:

REACH IS POTENTIAL REACH: Unlike the reach numbers associated with broadcast media, 'reach' in the context of digital media should be understood as potential reach: Your ad only reaches as many people as your targeting and budget allow (whereas with TV or radio, your 'reach' can be understood to be all the viewers/listeners of a program).

NICHE MAY BE GOOD: On the surface, logic would dictate that marketing priorities and budgets be focused on the largest reach platforms, but there are several reasons this may not be accurate:

Targeting: As Facebook/Instagram continually removes a significant share of attributes available to target potential customers (and institutes a surprising range of new 'automated' policy restrictions which seem comedic in their application and ultimate efficacy), other platforms seem more interested in providing marketings with accurate and meaningful targeting capabilities.

Interests: Its important to consider more than purerly demographics when evaluating social media platforms: While Facebook and YouTube have amazing reach, they may not have the most engaged, passionate, or influential customers available. This is why evaluating the '2nd tier' networks - Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, etc... - is so critical. While they may not have the quantity, they may well make up for it with quality.

EVERY MARKET IS DIFFERENT: The Pew Research data should be seen as national data, and the degree of use or reach of each platform will vary by geography.

Having made some basic caveats, our guidance to marketers is to continually evaluate platforms that you may have overlooked or ignored in the past. I have had enough experience with local marketers to generalize that many have similar priorities and investment into the same sort of digital marketing that your company or organization, so it may be worthwhile to seek pastures where you may be able to dominate. Pay close attention to the growth demonstrated by Pinterest and NextDoor - consider your own experience and feelings about social media in 2021 and speculate as to whether or not your customers values, beliefs, interests may be shifting towards other areas.

The digital landscape is never static, and every marketer should always be self aware of the relevance of their message and the trends that impact their advertising effectiveness.


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