social media researchAre you wondering how consumers are using social media?

Would you like some insights to help your business better understand people’s social habits?

In this article, I examine a report published by Edison Research focused on people’s latest social habits.

These findings provide useful insights about consumer behavior and how your business can respond.

Here are 9 of the most interesting findings from the study.

#1: Almost 58 million Americans Use Social Sites Daily

A social habit is the tendency to use social media sites several times a day. By mid-2012, the number of Americans with the social habit had risen to 22% (approximately 58 million people) from 18% in 2011.

use of social media in america

The use of social media in America has increased almost five-fold since 2008.

A similar study by NM Incite provides further insight as to why people use social media. 89% do it to keep in touch with friends and family, 67% for entertainment, 66% to learn about products and services and 48% for career networking.

Key Takeaway: As consumers invest more time on social media sites, try to find new ways to connect and engage with consumers throughout the day. For example, post a short question on your Facebook Page in the morning, a helpful article in the afternoon and an interesting photo or brief video in the evening. And don’t forget weekends.

Remember too that consumers are interested in learning about your products and services, so showcase them and use appealing images and keyword-rich descriptions. Also consider introducing an e-commerce experience on your Facebook Page.

#2: Twitter Driving New and More Engaged Users

Twitter continued to draw new users by impressive numbers. 23% of consumers surveyed joined Twitter six months before, 30% joined less than a year before and another 25% joined less than two years before. The study also showed that engagement levels among Twitter users rose from 69% in 2011 to 76% in 2012.

twitter draws new users

Twitter is a magnet for attracting new users.

Key Takeaway: New Twitter users will not know whom to follow right away. Make it easy for them to follow your business and tweet useful resources and thoughtful tips that answer their questions, rather than tweeting promotional content.

This will also help establish you as a thought leader in your industry, particularly if your tweets are focused mostly on a specific subject.

#3: 40% of Americans Exposed to “Tweets” from Traditional Media

The study found that 43% of Americans hear or read about “tweets” almost every day in traditional media. Another 16% hear this term regularly, but not daily. TV shows such as CNN’s AC 360 and Piers Morgan Tonight are known for promoting and extending conversations to their Twitter platforms.

40 percent hear about tweets

Americans are being exposed to Twitter terminology through traditional media.

Key takeaway: Every day, TV audiences are being heavily exposed to Twitter and the idea of tweeting. If your business advertises on TV (or is thinking about it), be sure to encourage your audience to take the conversation online in the form of tweets. Don’t forget to give viewers a unique hashtag to distinguish your brand.

To get your creative juices flowing, take a look at this stunning TV ad by American Express with numerous mentions of “tweets” and “Twitter.”

#4: Number of People Following Brands Doubles

This was an interesting discovery. Turns out that social media users are more interested in brands than ever before. In fact, brand-following behavior on social media sites increased by a respectable 17% in the last two years, and by 8% from 2011 to 2012. It’s likely that this trend will continue on the same upward path.

brand following behavior

Interest in brands is actually growing among social media users across the board.

Key Takeaway: According to Get Satisfaction, the top reasons why users follow brands are to get free offers and deals, because they are existing customers, for interesting or entertaining content and because their friends are fans of the brand. Make sure the offers you make on your website are also promoted on your social media channels. For example free research reports, webinars or product giveaways.

Be creative and change up your offers every so often to keep things fresh and your fans engaged.

#5: Facebook Dominates for Brands

A whopping 79% of consumers prefer to connect with brands on Facebook, while only 9% prefer Twitter for brand-following. Why Facebook?

  • Facebook is a familiar space. Consumers already spend a lot of time there connecting with friends and family; therefore, it’s a small effort on their part to connect with brands.
  • Secondly, Facebook users are heavily influenced by their friends. If a friend likes a brand, they too will like a brand (remember “birds of a feather…”!).
  • Finally, Facebook offers a more user-friendly and visually interesting interface than other platforms. This allows brands to leverage offers, giveaways, contests and other entertaining content in a more appealing way.
    consumers prefer facebook

    More consumers prefer to connect with brands on Facebook.

Key Takeaway: To increase the number of your Facebook fans, consider offering free gifts and entertaining content (or a combination of these). Otherwise you could also reward loyal fans and attract new ones by providing real value (i.e., 50% off or more—not 5% or 10%—according to Dave Kerpen of Likeable Media).

Again remember that contests and sweepstakes create a lot of excitement and energy, because the idea of shared opportunity spreads fast on Facebook.

#6: Young Facebook Users Have Lots of Friends

Notice from the graph that 18- to 24-year-old Facebook users have the highest number of friends, while more mature users have fewer friends. Keep in mind that “birds of a feather flock together,” so friends of fans tend to behave like actual fans on Facebook.

young facebook users friends

Younger users have more Facebook friends than mature users.

Key Takeaway: To increase your brand’s visibility on Facebook, don’t just target your fans, target their friends as well. Develop personas (or profiles) of your target audience and identify their demographics, interests, pain points, social behavior, etc.

This information will help you to create content that is highly optimized for them. Then create messages that are sharable, such as promotions that require voting (if a fan votes, their friends will be persuaded to vote as well). The idea is to get high visibility on your fans’ newsfeeds, thus encouraging interaction with their friends as well.

#7: Only One-Quarter of Social Networkers Use “Daily Deals” Sites

Generally the American population is not crazy about daily deals services such as Groupon or LivingSocial, and only 23% of social networkers are registered users of these sites. Numerous sources suggest that there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse associated with Groupon.

But now Amazon and Google have grabbed a piece of the daily deals business. It’ll be interesting to see how consumers respond to these brands over the next 12 months.

25 percent use daily deals

Daily deals are not drawing consumer attention as they did several years ago.

Key Takeaway: Unfortunately the entire Groupon business model has long been held in question. But from the consumer’s point of view, everyone still likes a good deal. If you’re using Groupon or Living Social, just be careful and make sure there is a profitable return for your business.

Otherwise you may want to reevaluate your goals to check whether this kind of model is still a good fit for you.

#8: One-Third of Social Media Users Do Not Interact

Most people like to engage (post status updates) on social media sites. However, 34% of users are silent for various reasons. According to TopRank Online Marketing Blog, some are lurkers (those who just sit tight and absorb information), while others are newbies who haven’t quite honed their online social skills.

one third do not intereact

A good number of social media users are listeners, not talkers.

Key Takeaway: Silent users such as lurkers and newbies may not interact with friends or brands, but they are listening and can be valuable connections for your business. If you notice lurkers among your followers, try to reach out directly to them via direct messages. They’ll be more likely to respond if you rouse them with a thought-provoking question or comment.

To draw out newbies, use the usual best practice of sharing tips, tricks and other helpful content. As they start to figure their way around, they’ll remember you for helping them along the way.

#9: People Are Checking in Less Frequently

Both Gowalla and Foursquare saw sharp declines in user activity in 2012. In fact, 57% of users said they “almost never” check in. Of course, Gowalla shut down in early 2012, but even with Foursquare still open for business, consumers started to opt out of the check-in craze due to privacy concerns, according to a study published on Mashable. Others did not consider badges or upgraded status to be sufficient motivation to check in.

check in frequency

The check-in craze is dying down due to privacy concerns.

Key Takeaway: If you use location-based marketing to promote your business, try using a combination of specials and discounts to encourage more clients. Because people are concerned about privacy and safety issues, your business will have to offer unrivaled deals for customers to give up their location. For example, “Check in with three friends and get four free drinks,” or “Mayor gets 35% off entire bill.”

Final Wrap-up

Marketers have a great opportunity to respond to these findings and develop strategies that appeal to changing consumer habits. Continue to focus on Facebook and Twitter as these platforms draw in new users. On the downside, be careful about using daily deals and location-based marketing because consumers are apprehensive about these services.

Over to you: What do you think? As a marketer, which of these social habits did you find most interesting? Please tell us why you think so and share your thoughts below.

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  • Interesting data Patricia, especially #5. I find I prefer to reach out to brands with Twitter. This may explain why I often do not get a response.

    Overall it seems this data points to the fact that businesses are going to have to work harder to engage consumers.

  • Brilliant research Patricia. The way Social media trends are changing these days, it is safe to say that Facebook and twitter will monopolize in their respective domains. Twitter will become the best source of information whereas Facebook will provide a story of an individual or brand in the form of the timeline.

  • predsicker

    Thank you David. I agree with you completely. I feel like Twitter hasn’t even reached its potential. As you say it is the best source of collective information and I think we’re going to continue seeing more influencers using it to establish their authority and confirming it as the ‘online source of intelligence.’ Can you tell I’m a total Twitter evangelist? 😉

  • predsicker

    Hi Jeff, thanks for reading my article 🙂

    I think for people like you and I who are so into Twitter it’s surprising that Facebook takes the lead on this one. But I guess if you put yourself in the shoes of regular consumers who often say they don’t ‘get Twitter’ it’s easy to see why they would choose the more familiar interface that is Facebook. Hopefully Twitter and G+ will become more popular even for brand following. I’m loving G+ right now by the way 🙂

  • Awesome insights on consumers’ Social Media activities and habits. I found #s 5 and 8 most interesting, since #5 confirmed that I am on the right track with regards to my social media marketing strategies, though it does not mean taking the other social media sites for granted. #8 one-third of Social Media users do not interact–this info gave me an insight as to what I need to work on–to turn those lurkers into actively engaging members of my community.

    Thanks for those great tips SME!

    ~John Lee Dumas

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  • I have no doubt there !

  • Great tips, and even in my country, consumers and the use of social media is a little different. The tips were very helpful to me too!

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  • How is it different, Iris? I would love to learn about that.

  • hm… “online social skills” <— can o' worms!

  • predsicker

    Thanks Iris. How is social media different in your country? Please share 🙂

  • predsicker

    Hello there John. Always great to see you!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The thing about lurkers is pretty interesting isn’t it? I have to admit I don’t give much thought to lurkers on FB and Twitter because I ASSUME they don’t want to communicate just yet. But isn’t that precisely why they follow me – because they DO want to keep in touch? So like you, what I’ve learned from this point is that it is important to reach out to them individually (particularly on Twitter where thought-leadership is so important!)

  • Celia Kelly

    Thank you for some great tips.

  • Dara Khajavi

    Social Media has continued to influence U.S. consumers’ lives. Social Media gives brands an unique opportunity to communicate personally with consumers. However, if used incorrectly Social Media strategies can also cause huge PR disasters. These Social Media trends are definitely important. I will keep them in mind while I improve my strategies.

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Dara…and for your wise words of caution 🙂

  • predsicker

    Anytime Celia. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  • What a well written article. I found it interesting that people are checking in less frequently. I’m guessing the big problem is, there is too much content that isn’t relevant to people’s real needs.

  • Caret

    Why no Linked In?

  • Success Path

    So true the info about Social Media Users. It is fact that Social Media, a networking tool is already accepted as a serious business tool.

  • Dimple Gupta

    What a lovely read! loved #6 and #8. Also the fact that FB is a whole page – good space and interface to do so much more.

  • Sarah Bauer

    Thank you for all these intriguing research findings. I hadn’t heard of the phrase “social habit”, but I see now how important it is for marketers to adapt their strategies for agile content production to suit the needs of this growing demographic of daily social users.

    Thanks again!

  • Yes, I tell my audiences that Twitter works, but it tends to be used by the power users (knowing that most of them do not have the time for that). Agree that G+ is becoming the place to be – at least that is what my traffic is telling me. 🙂

  • Angela C. Marsh

    I would guess that another factor that has reduced the “frequency of checking in” is increasing adoption of social media. As adoption increases among the total population, overall activity would be diluted by the social habits of the later vs earlier adoptors, which with technology is highly correlated with age. Earlier in my marketing career, I tracked the adoption of the Internet and mobile phone use, when I noticed when the fastest growing consumer segment, is the least likely consumer segment for that activity, the activity is well into the mainstream.

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much for your comments Dimple. So glad you enjoyed the read.

  • predsicker

    Thank you Sara. Social Habit is actually the name of the report used for this article 🙂

  • predsicker

    Because the insights from LI weren’t as interesting as the others 🙂 But here’s another research article I wrote (some time back) that talks more specifically about LI –

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  • Karsten

    I really love your straight at the point articles. But there is something I miss. Markteting evolves into a global matter of corporate engagement. But your research findings only cover the US. I would love to see empiric figures for other markets, too.

  • Great checklist here Patricia. Yet, your findings is very informative about these social media trends. This could have really a big impact for all the marketers.

  • Thank you for this article!

  • Jennifer Agrazada-Schreiner

    Thank you for the stats. I could definitely use them to determine what I should do next for my social media targets.

  • John

    Even though the findings are from the US market, we can clearly take a look what is going on globally. I found very interesting #6 as it shows where to target the next couple of years. Also the development of personnas is the next big thing in order to serve your visitors/fans in a more personal way .

    Thanks for the tips Pat

  • Tracy

    I love your suggestion regarding reaching out to lurkers, Patricia. You’re right, some people aren’t sure how to begin and it’s not only good practice, it’s kind to help “newbies” along. And I agree: some are lurking to gather info and learn more. Reaching out to them too can provide insight into how you are engaging others or presenting yourself online.

    Thanks for your post! Good food for thought!

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  • karenticktin

    the fact that 79% consumers prefer to connects with brands facebook v 9% twitter is striking. storytelling and real relationships v. headlines?

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  • predsicker

    Thank you for reading Christine!

  • predsicker

    You’re welcome Weronka 🙂

  • predsicker

    Happy to help Jennifer!

  • predsicker

    Thanks for your comments John. Yes some findings such as #6 are universal while #7 and maybe #9 and #2 might be more consistent with the U.S. And of course you’re right that personas are key for any social media strategy.

  • I just don’t understand why people from 18 to 24 tend to have so much Facebook friends. Is it really possible to keep in touch with all of them? I believe this is a rhetorical question. I don’t even know so many people on a personal level, so that I should have them as friends on Facebook. I guess, I’ll never be able to understand this. Or could you give me some reasonable explanation to this? Anyone?

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much for reading Tracy. Glad this helps 🙂

  • predsicker

    Hi Karsten. Thanks for your comment. This research was based on U.S. audiences only so I can’t speak about international implications. But I’ll keep in mind your concern and see if I can produce something next time with a more global resonance. Cheers!

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  • Matt Coffy

    Excellent insights and tips you’ve shared with us, Patricia! Being that social media is supposed to be huge this year, it would really help a lot of businesses if they were to gain some perspective about people’s “social habits” because then they’d be able to redirect their strategy to something that offers better advantage in a timely manner. Thanks!

  • MedTech Catalyst

    Great insights – To me it is straightforward – engage your customers and prospects on all platforms to enhance your brand’s relationship with your target. Add meaning and value to them wherever you can. We are working on doing this with our social ecommerce user-driven platform in beta at Flash Purchase.

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  • mherman31

    You put a lot of work into this article and it’s definitely “a keeper” on my end. I’ll surely reference it on client calls this year. Thank you for it, Patricia!

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  • Gloria

    Thanks for the article, like so much of the content I find here, it is practical and useful. I am based in Uganda and would agree that a lot of the content doesn’t speak to international markets.

    However, like I said the content is practical and most of it works here, especially with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Youtube. All the other sites you mentioned, foursquare, groupon etc… do not really apply here. However you find that LinkedIn is huge, perhaps due to the high unemployment rates.

    I can imagine it would require social media research from people based in international countries. Perhaps SME should consider becoming global…we could certainly use it.

  • Val

    The same here. Consumers in Europe use social media differently. But thanks for the great tips anyway.

  • Regarding those lurkers … not everyone wants to be publicly social, so provide those people with a way to contact you directly too. Businesses often set up a Twitter and Facebook account but don’t respond to private messages. Make sure you follow back, answer messages, or even better … enable direct contact features provided on Google+ or websites.

  • Ayesha

    Certainly, your findings depict a probing however market wants to emphasize on thought provoking issues which could help them solve their daily life issues through social media at the same time marketing need to be made more easy and scam proof.

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  • edean392

    I was curious about the impact Instagram is having on marketing behaviors? Is it too early to have sufficient data, or was it just overlooked as a whole?

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  • predsicker

    That’s a good question Edean. No, Instagram was not mentioned in the report.

  • predsicker

    Thank you for your kind comments Michael. I appreciate your reading and sharing these findings with your clients. Cheers!

  • predsicker

    Thank you for reading Michael. All the best with your new platform!

  • predsicker

    You bet! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective Coffy Group 🙂

  • predsicker

    Good question Michal! I don’t know about a ‘reasonable’ explanation…but from a marketers perspective this is a good thing! Many friends means that if target young people and optimize your content chances are your message will have a much, much wider reach on Facebook. So capitalize on that!

  • predsicker

    I think you’ve got a good point there! Facebook is better for storytelling and building relationships (from a consumer’s point of view, that is) Thanks for your input!

  • Sulakshna

    Hi Patricia,

    Great article! I have a question though…I’m on Twitter. Even though I don’t post much, I like reading marketing related content and follow people who are experts. However, the problem is that I get more tweets that I can ever possibly read. It’s kind of annoying when people/companies post multiple times a day…on FB or Twitter. Before I can finish reading a tweet, another 40 tweets pop up. I wonder from a consumer point of view, don’t tweets go unnoticed?

  • Sulakshna

    Hi Patricia,

    Great article! I have a question though…I’m on Twitter. Even though I don’t post much, I like reading marketing related content and follow people who are experts. However, the problem is that I get more tweets that I can ever possibly read. It’s kind of annoying when people/companies post multiple times a day…on FB or Twitter. Before I can finish reading a tweet, another 40 tweets pop up. I wonder from a consumer point of view, don’t tweets go unnoticed?

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  • Sorry to not answer before, guys! First of all Social Medias still a new thing here in Brasil, more like a Social Social network, people talk, share things, but buy and share informations about brands is something pretty new. Anyway we still a little far from have consumers looking for brands informations or things to buy.

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