Corporate Eye

Yes, Your Customers Are Using Social Networking

social networking mobile iconsUnless your target consumer audience is over the age of 64, the majority of them are using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. In fact, 67% of online adults use social networking sites according to a December 2012 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, so there are few (if any) businesses, brands, or industries that can claim their customers aren’t online and active in social media.

Brands need to follow consumers. When consumers shifted from listening to the radio to watching television, brands had to follow them by shifting marketing budgets away from radio and toward television. The same thing is happening now, and budgets need to shift from television and other media to online advertising and social media marketing.

Research shows that shifting 15% of the marketing budget to online drives significant results in terms of brand awareness, recall, and reach. Couple those statistics with the data from Pew Internet, and it’s hard to justify not prioritizing social media ad spending. Take a look at the breakdown of social media penetration by age below:

  • 18-29 = 83%
  • 30-49 = 77%
  • 50-64 = 52%
  • 65+ = 32%

It also doesn’t matter how much education a person has. The likelihood that they use social networking sites is similar across the board:

  • Less than high school graduate = 66%
  • Some college = 69%
  • College+ = 65%

Furthermore, household income makes little difference in social networking usage:

  • Less than $30,000 per year = 72%
  • $30,000-$49,000 = 65%
  • $50,000-$74,999 = 66%
  • $75,000+ = 66%

The only demographic characteristics that showed a significant difference in social networking penetration were urbanity where 70% of people who live in urban areas and 67% of people who live in suburban areas use social networking sites versus just 61% in rural areas. Of course, rural areas have less internet connectivity, so this statistic really isn’t surprising. The one area that might surprise you is gender. According to the Pew Internet research report, 71% of women use social networking sites but only 62% of men use social networking sites.

A few more interesting statistics from the Pew Internet study follow:

  • 40% of cell phone owners use social networking sites on their phones.
  • 67% of online adults use Facebook.
  • 20% of online adults use LinkedIn.
  • 16% of online adults use Twitter.
  • 15% of online adults use Pinterest.
  • 13% of online adults use Instagram.
  • 6% of online adults use Tumblr.

It’s hard to believe in 2013 that some brand marketers still have to fight to gain social media marketing budget dollars against executives who claim, “Our customers aren’t using social networking sites.” Next time you face that road block, cite some of these statistics. The question in 2013 shouldn’t be, “Who is using social networking sites,” but rather, “Who isn’t using social networking sites?” Unless your target audience is part of that 33% minority, your customers are using social networking sites, and your brand should be there, too.

Image: Social Media HQ

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.