What The Pew Social Media Usage Report Reveals To Communicators

Posted by on February 27, 2013

Last week the Pew Internet & American Life Project released its report on social media users for 2012.   The report’s findings detail the social media behaviors of different demographic groups, and provide some important guidance for communicators.

Here are some of the key take-aways for PR and marketing pros:

  • Align content (and calls to action) with your target demographics.  The Pew report reveals some strong differences in social media platform preferences between gender and ethnic groups.   If your brand has a narrow focus, such as a product specifically for African-American women, you’ll want to be sure that your brand has included a well-developed Instagram channel and Twitter presence.  Why?  According to Pew, Instagram users skew toward young adults, African-Americans and urban residents.  Twitter users show similar demographic characteristics.    However, if you want to reach women more broadly, you’ll need to throw Pinterest into the mix, to pick up its white female user population, and Facebook, which is used by women of all races.
  • Visuals, visuals, visuals.  Pinterest and Twitter are neck and neck in terms of user numbers, and Twitter has been around a lot longer.   The near-vertical arc of Pinterest’s growth tells me two things.  First, brands need to be on Pinterest.  Second, visuals need to be the cornerstone of communications, not an accessory.    While the popularity image-centric networks like Pinterest and Instagram is undeniable, it’s also important to note that Twitter and Facebook (Instagram’s parent) have made significant improvements on the display of multimedia content within their primary user experiences.
  • Social media is here to stay.   More than any strong differences in behavior among groups, the Pew report paints a picture of the ubiquity of social media.   Whether you live in an urban or rural setting, whether you have a high school diploma or an advanced degree – you’re almost equally likely to be using a social platform.   The usage statistics are all within a few percentage points of each other, and across the board, usage percentages all exceed 65%.   The one significant difference in user group behavior is age-related.  Younger people are significantly more likely to be using social media than their elders.

Here’s a link to the full Pew State of Social Media Users – 2012 report.  It’s succinct and does a great job of summarizing the data, and is well worth a read.

Once you’ve identified key demographics, your next step is to identify influentials among the group.  Here are some ideas for finding and building relationships with the connected insiders who are so important to successful brands today.


Previously published on February 22, 2013 on PRNewswire’s BeyondPR by author Sarah Skerik, PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.