social media demographics

Which Social Networks Should Your Campaign Focus On? Social Media Demographics

According to Pew Research, 85% of U.S. adults use the internet?  You may not be surprised by this statistic (and you probably shouldn’t be).  I’m not surprised either.

What does surprise me is some of the politicians I’ve talked to claim that voters aren’t on social networks.  

The result of this belief is that they refuse to join any social networks.  

This article will dispel this theory by clearly breaking down and comparing the voter and social network demographics.
 
A political campaign is like a company that goes public, raises a bunch of funds, and then attempts to go bankrupt before the election is over.  Campaigns have limited funds, time, and volunteers….and everything has to be executed just right for maximum effect.
 
The goal of this article is to help you understand who is on what social networks, and whether or not you should invest in participating in certain social networks.  This will allow you to maximize the use of your limited resources the way you see fit.

In General

Pew Research shows that 67% of internet users are also on some kind of social network.  That’s roughly 178 million Americans.  
 
So what does the overall demographics for internet users who also use social media look like?  Here you go:

The above graph illustrates the percent of internet users in each category who are also social media users. 
 
A couple of things worth noting:
  • Internet users under 50 are very likely to use a social networking site
  • Social media usage has increased ~37% across all age groups between July 2011 and July 2012
  • More than half of internet users 65 and older are still not using social networks…but keep in mind…their age group usage is growing at ~37% annually too
Now let’s add voter data to the mix:

The above graph shows the demographics of internet users who also use social media, against individuals who voted for Romney and Obama.

Positive points for Democrats:
  • Females voted for Obama more than they did for Romney, and they also use social networks more than males 
  • Obama got a lot more votes from minorities relative to Romney, and minorities are more active than Caucasians in social networks
  • The younger demographic tended to vote more for Obama, and they are also the biggest users of social networks
  • People living in cities use social media more than individuals living in other areas, and they also tended to vote for Obama in the 2012 election
Positive points for Republicans:
  • People living in suburban areas voted slightly more for Romney, and they are also heavy social media users
Positive points for Libertarians:
The only category that isn’t favorable for the theory that voters are on social networks is the 65 and older age group.  But wait…how many votes did the 65 and older age group cast in 2012?  Let’s check it out.


It appears that the least active age group in social networks…the 65 and older demographic…happen to also only account for 16% of the votes in the 2012 election.  

This is amusing because most people who point at social networks as not being a place for voters say it’s for young people.  
 
And…they’re right…kind of.  
 
Yes…that young demographic comprising of individuals between the age of 18 to 29 years old…in which 83% of them supposedly use some kind of social network…who also happen to account for 19% of the vote in the 2012 election do actively participate in social networks, but so does the rest of the potential voting population which makes up 84% of the vote.  

In fact 52% of internet users between the age of 50 to 64 report that they use social networks, and they’re the biggest voting age group.

Which Ideology Has The Advantage?

 

 

When looking at the data from a general perspective, it appears that social networks tend to skew in favor in of liberals over conservatives.  Even though social networks seem to skew towards the left in general, individual social networks tend to have different demographics.

Averaging out all of the demographics of all the major social networks hides opportunities that may exist for specific ideologies.  So read on non-liberals…
 
The data shows that the vast majority of the voting population is likely to be on some kind of social network.  

Let’s take a look at some of the major social networks to figure out which ones are likely to generate the highest return.

Facebook

Let’s start with Facebook because it’s the most commonly used social network, in fact 67% of U.S. internet users are on Facebook.

Demographic Data
 
Looking at the most common demographics separately…Facebook users tend to be female.  They usually have some college education.  They also generally make over $75,000 a year, and can be found living in Urban areas (Pew Research 2012).  
 
Here’s a look at Facebook’s demographic data:

Now lets include the voter demographic data:
Positive points for Democrats:
  • There are more females using Facebook relative to males, and Obama got more votes from women in the 2012 election
  • Facebook tends to skew towards younger age groups namely individuals between the ages of 18 to 49.  Obama got more votes from this age group relative to Romney
  • More Facebook users live in urban areas.  The vast majority of urban voters cast their ballot for Obama in the election
Positive points for Republicans:
  • 57% of internet users between the age of 50-64 are using Facebook.  This same group voted more for Romney, and they happen to vote more than any other age demographic
  • 63% of rural internet users are on Facebook.  The vast majority of rural voters cast their ballot for Romney.  Rural internet users aren’t as prevalent in other social networks so this may be an interesting network to use if you’re targeting them
Positive points for Libertarians:
General points for everyone:
  • 67% of internet users report that they’re on Facebook.  That’s a lot of people.  Lot’s of people means lots of votes regardless of your party
Voter Trend

Even though most users tend to be younger, Facebook’s 45 to 55-year-old age bracket is the network’s fastest-growing, increasing 46% since 2012.  If this trend continues the amount of voters using Facebook will likely increase due to this age bracket being more likely to vote relative to younger age groups.


Facebook Reach
 
If you share content on Facebook and someone engages (“likes”, “shares”, or “comments”) with it then your post has a chance of being visible to the person who engaged with your content’s network (friends in this case).  The total number of people that see your post on social networks is commonly called reach.

An impression is each time a person is exposed to your content.

How much reach is generated when Facebook friends or fans engage with your content?  
 
To answer this let’s look at how many friends each age group has on Facebook.
 
The bar graph in the upper right corner came from a research report produced by Arbitron/Edison Research.  This graph illustrates how many friends the average Facebook user has according to age groups.
Winning an election takes votes.  Part of getting votes is name recognition.  More people seeing your name equals more votes for you.
 

Taking this into account when looking at your social media strategy will impact who you target on social networks.  

In traditional political science a mailer would probably only be exposed to a few people.  Reach is therefore determined by how many mailers you send out, and the open rate of those mailers.
 
In social networks good content typically gets re-exposed through individuals engaging with it, ultimately causing it to be potentially be visible to thousands, or even millions of people.

Example Of Viral Content

When reach is taken into account it changes the value of a voter on Facebook.  If someone shares your content with their audience then that exposure could result in additional votes.

For example…let’s assume that for every post shared one person will engage with it.  When that person engages with it one of their followers will engage too.  We’ll go five levels deep, and we will pretend we have a friend in each age group sharing our content.
From a reach perspective, the 18-24 friend provided the highest value.  After five levels of sharing she provided us with a reach of 16,320 people while our two friends in the 45 – 54 and 55 – 64 age groups got us a combined reach of 9,427.

On Facebook, getting fans that are younger who engage with your content will result in more exposure.  This is probably true of every social network.

One thing you need to keep in mind though is that people in social networks tend to connect with individuals who are similar to themselves.  This means that most of a young person’s connections are probably other young people.

This means that our young friend who shared our content in the example above probably exposed our message to a lot of other young people.  Keep that in mind.

Unfortunately, reach on Facebook is a little more complicated than other social networks because of social discounting.

Social Discounts Impact On Reach

One thing that needs to be accounted for when talking about reach on Facebook is social discounting.  What is social discounting?
 
Social discounting is when a social network dictates what content becomes visible to your friends.  The reach numbers discussed in the example above are actually potential reach because Facebook applies social discounting to content shared on it.
 
EdgeRank Algorithm: Facebook’s old social discounting equation.

Social discounting will reduce the exposure of your post by not making it visible to some of your friends even if you share it when your followers online.  

To help clarify this…let’s do a quick example.  

You have ten friends on Facebook.  All ten are online at 10 a.m.  You share a post on Facebook at 10 a.m.  Before your post appears in any newsfeeds it goes through the Facebook’s social discounting algorithm.  

The algorithm looks at each friend individually to see if it should show your post to them.  What variables does it consider?  

It’s going to look at how close your relationship with that person is, how many people have interacted with it, how recent the post is, and over 100,000 other variables.  

After applying each variable it decides to only make your post visible to two of your friends (even though all of them are online when you post it).

Social discounting makes Facebook a less effective social network for getting your content out.  How do you overcome it?

There are two ways to overcome this. 

The first way is to share content that your followers are going to engage (like, comment, share).  This is called quality content.  

I would also suggest getting a few core volunteers to connect with as many of your fans on Facebook as possible, and to get those volunteers to like your quality content.  

Doing this will prime the pump for reducing social discounting and consequently improving the likelihood that your content is visible to your fans.

The second way is probably the easiest.  Pay for exposure.  This means Facebook ads or suggested posts.  Paying for exposure completely gets around social discounting.

Potential Number Of Voters

Roughly 117 million people voted in the 2012 election.  If 84% of U.S. adults are on the internet, and 67% of those on the internet are on Facebook than that means that there are potentially 65.8 million voters on Facebook.


Why Facebook Is Good For Your Political Campaign?

There are several reasons why Facebook is good for your political campaign:

  • More than half of the voting population is probably on Facebook.  Having a presence will allow you to communicate with them
  • You can use Facebook’s built in event feature to create events around your campaign.  Most Facebook users will use the event feature to inform their friends about things that are going on.  You can use this feature to organize volunteers for your events
  • An impression is worth more on Facebook due to the fact that there are more voters on this platform than any other social network
  • Not having a Facebook presence could make voters perceive you in a negative light
  • Your competitors are probably on Facebook.  If you choose to not be on Facebook you are essentially giving your competitors the ability to dictate public sentiment regarding you when people talk about you on Facebook.  Regardless of your participation…conversations are happening on social networks about you.  Choosing to not be part of it lets other people control your online brand

Twitter

(Update on Twitter’s user demographics for 2014)

According to Pew, 16% of internet users are on Twitter.  What are the demographics of these users?  Are any of them voters?  Let’s take a look.

Demographic Data

Looking at the most common demographics separately…Twitter users tend to be male,  many of them are minorities that have gone to college, and they generally make over $75,000 a year.  Most users can also be found living in urban areas.   
 
Here’s a look at Twitter’s demographic data:

 Now lets include the voter demographic data:

 

The above graph shows the demographics of internet users who use Twitter, against individuals who voted for Romney and Obama.
 
Positive points for Democrats:
  • Obama got a lot more votes from minorities relative to Romney, and many of Twitter’s user happen to be minorities 
  • Twitter biggest user group is individuals between the age of 18 – 29.  The vast majority of this age group voted for Obama in the 2012 election
  • People living in cities use Twitter more than individuals living in other areas, and they also tended to vote for Obama
Positive points for Republicans:
  • Individuals with some college experience voted more for Romney, and they also happen to be the most prevalent education demographic on Twitter
  • People with an income level higher than 75,000 are the most common income demographic on Twitter, and they also voted more for Romney
  • There are slightly more male users on Twitter.  Males voted more for Romney

Voter Trend

According to a GlobalWebIndex study the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is individuals that are over the age of 55.  Their usage increased 116% between Q2 and Q4 in 2012.  Individuals between the age of 45 – 54 increased 81% during the same period.


With such massive leaps of growth in the older age demographic politicians will need to consider focusing more efforts on creating a presence on Twitter.

Twitter Reach


The average Twitter user has roughly 208 followers.


We couldn’t find any data on the average number of followers by age group.

When Should You Tweet?

“Social media experts” claim that the days to tweet are Saturday and Sunday.  They also suggest that you tweet between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (source).


In reality…when to share content on Twitter is actually dependent on who your audience is, and what the nature of your post is.

            PoliticIt Campaign election software.

If you want to find out exactly when you should tweet then you should use the Twitter Analytics tool in PoliticIt Campaign.  

Twitter Analytics allows you to type in any keyword and it will tell you the best times to share content on Twitter.

How Many Voters Are On Twitter?


Roughly 117 million people voted in the 2012 election.  If 84% of U.S. adults are on the internet, and 16% of those on the internet are on Twitter than that means that there are potentially 15.7 million voters on Twitter.


If you want to know exactly how many voters are in your campaign area specifically then you should contact us.  PoliticIt Campaign has a tool that locates voters or donors on Twitter, and connects you with them.

Why Twitter Is Good For Your Political Campaign?

There are several reasons why Twitter is beneficial for any political campaign:

  • Twitter is an incredibly open social network.  Unlike Facebook, on Twitter you can literally interact with or follow any user.  This means that once you locate the voters in your campaign area you can easily reach out and connect with them   
  • Monitoring your competition is easy on Twitter.  You can do this manually by adding your competitor to a Twitter list or you can use handy software like PoliticIt Campaign’s Chatter tool
  • 59% of journalists are on Twitter.  This makes Twitter a great tool for getting earned media.  Here is an article that explains exactly how to do this “How To Use Twitter To Get Earned Media” 
  • Twitter impacts your search engine optimization.  People go to Google and other search engines to learn or find stuff online.  Showing up in search engines is critical for your campaign success.  Here are ten tips on how to use social media to improve your campaign’s SEO


Should You Use Twitter?

Yes.  Even if you feel your target demographic isn’t on Twitter the benefits of improving your SEO and getting earned media make it worth it.

Pinterest

 

According to Pew Research, 15% of internet users are on Pinterest.

What are the demographics of these users?  Are any of them voters?  Let’s take a look.

Demographic Data

The vast majority of Pinterest users are Caucasian females between the ages of 18 and 49.  Most users have a college education and make between $50,000 – $75,000 a year.  Unlike many of the other social networks, many Pinterest users actually live in rural areas.
 
Here’s a look at Pinterest’s demographic data:

Now lets include the voter demographic data:

 

The above graph shows the demographics of internet users who use Pinterest, against individuals who voted for Romney and Obama.
 
Positive points for Democrats:
  • The overwhelming majority of Pinterest users are female, and Obama got a lot more female votes relative to Romney
  • Most Pinterest users are between the ages of 18 and 49.  Individuals in this age group tended to vote for Obama in the 2012 election
  • Many of Pinterest’s users are college educated.  College educated individuals tended to vote more for Obama
Positive points for Republicans:
  • Most of Pinterest’s users are Caucasian. Caucasians voted more for Romney in the 2012 election
  • There are slightly more male users on Twitter.  Males voted more for Romney
  • Most Pinterest users make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year.  This income demographic voted more for Romney in the 2012 election
  • Most Pinterest users live in rural areas.  Romney got more of the rural vote in the election


Pinterest Reach

80% of pins on Pinterest are repins.  A repin on Pinterest is when a user shares someone else’s content with their followers.  This means that the vast majority of people on Pinterest share other people’s content (source).


Pinterest doesn’t have a discounting algorithm (unlike Facebook).  This means that your content is more likely to be seen.

It is estimated that the average monthly reach on Pinterest is 2.5X times higher than Facebook (source).

When Should You Pin?


The best times to pin in the afternoon is between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.  The best time to pin in the evening is between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. (source).


How Many Voters Are On Pinterest?


Roughly 117 million people voted in the 2012 election.  If 84% of U.S. adults are on the internet, and 15% of those on the internet are on Pinterest than that means that there are potentially 14.7 million voters on Pinterest.

Why Is Pinterest Good For Your Political Campaign?

  • Pinterest allows you to share visual content around specific issues.  This means you could create a board for every major aspect of your campaign platform.  Users could then view your boards.  Leveraging emotionally stimulating pictures could drive votes on election day
  • Pinterest users are overwhelmingly female.  If you’re trying to get the female vote you should definitely be using Pinterest
  • Pinterest was launched in 2011, but it’s exploded in popularity.  One of the problems with newer social networks is identity control.  People will often create fake accounts of celebrities or public figures on social networks.  Mature social networks, like Twitter, combat this by having authentication symbols that confirm that the account is really who they claim to be.  With new social networks these authentication systems don’t exist yet.  If you don’t create an account for yourself you run the risk of having someone create a fake account of you.  This happened to Mitt Romney
  • Pinterest is probably the most viral social network with 80% of it’s pins being repins.  To put this into context only 1.4% of tweets are retweets (source).  If you want to make content viral Pinterest could be the place to make that happen
  • Pictures posted to Pinterest can link to any website.  This means that you can use pictures shared on Pinterest to drive traffic to your campaign website


Should You Use Pinterest?

If you’re trying to reach out to female voters than you should definitely be on Pinterest.  

Instagram

 

 

According to Pew Research, 13% of internet users are on Instagram.  This makes Instagram the fourth largest social network.

What are the demographics of these users?  Are any of them voters?  Let’s take a look.

Demographic Data

The majority of Instagram users are female’s between the age of 18 – 29.  African American’s are the most common ethnicity on Instagram.  Users tend to have some college education.  Generally they make less than $50,000 a year, and live in urban areas.
 
Here’s a look at Instagram’s demographic data:

Now lets include the voter demographic data:


The above graph shows the demographics of internet users who use Instagram, against individuals who voted for Romney and Obama.
 
Positive points for Democrats:
  • The vast majority of Instagram users are young.  Young people tended to vote for Obama
  • There are more females than males on Instagram.  Females voted more for Obama
  • African Americans are the most prevalent demographic on Instagram.  Obama got the vast majority of the minority vote
  • Most Instagram users make less than $50,000 annually.  Obama got more votes from this income group relative to Romney
  • Instagram users tend to live in urban areas.  People who live in cities voted more for Obama
Positive points for Republicans:
  • Instagram users tend to fall in the some college bracket.  This bracket voted more for Romney
Positive points for Libertarians:


Voter Trend

Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012.  It’s possible that older users will start to adopt Instagram because of it’s integration with Facebook.  If this occurs then more voters will be on Instagram.


When Should You Post?


Posting content to Instagram during business hours is 6% more effective than off-hour posts.


How Many Voters Are On Instagram?


Roughly 117 million people voted in the 2012 election.  If 84% of U.S. adults are on the internet, and 13% of those on the internet are on Instagram than that means that there are potentially 12.7 million voters on Instagram.


Why Is Instagram Good For Your Political Campaign?


  • It’s a great way to personalize yourself, and visually tell stories.  Many national political candidates used Instagram during the 2012 election to showcase their work on the campaign trail.  They also showed pictures of their personal life which potentially helped voters relate to them


Should You Use Instagram?

If you’re targeting younger voters then Instagram may be a social network to invest in…especially if you’re a liberal candidate.


With Instagram being acquired by Facebook it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume that it’s user demographic will get older with time.  This will make this platform increasingly more important for voter outreach.  If you’re planning on staying in the political game for a while you’re probably better off getting on Instagram now rather than later.

Tumblr

 

According to Pew Research, only 6% of internet users are on Tumblr.

What are the demographics of these users?  Are any of them voters?  Let’s take a look.

Demographic Data

Males and females are equally common on Tumblr.  Hispanics are the most prevalent ethnicity.  People between the age of 18 to 29 are by far the largest represented age group.   Most Tumblr users are college educated, make more than $75,000 a year, and live in urban areas.

Here’s a look at Instagram’s demographic data:

Now lets include the voter demographic data:

Positive points for Democrats:

  • The vast majority of Tumblr users are young.  Young people tended to vote for Obama
  • Hispanics are the most prevalent race on Instagram.  Obama got the vast majority of the minority vote
  • Most Tumblr users have a college education.  Obama got more votes from than education level 
  • Tumblr users tend to live in urban areas.  People who live in cities voted more for Obama
Positive points for Republicans:
  • People with an income level higher than 75,000 are the most common income demographic on Tumblr, and they also voted more for Romney


Voter Trend

Tumblr was recently acquired by Yahoo!.  This acquisition may spur a change in it’s demographics.


When Should You Post?


The best day to post to Tumblr is Sunday.  Saturday is the second best day to post.  The best times to post are at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. (source).


How Many Voters Are On Tumblr?


Roughly 117 million people voted in the 2012 election.  If 84% of U.S. adults are on the internet, and 13% of those on the internet are on Instagram than that means that there are potentially 5.8 million voters on Tumblr.


Why Is Tumblr Good For Your Political Campaign?

  • Just like Pinterest…on Tumblr pictures can link to any website.  This means that you can use pictures shared on Tumblr to drive traffic to your campaign website
  • It can be used to engage your supporters.  Tumbr has a submission feature on it that allows people to submit content to your Tumblr blog.  Obama used it in his campaign to drive engagement with his supporters.  Here is Obama’s submission page
  • It’s a good story telling device.  You can use Tumblr to personalize yourself or even document your campaign efforts


Should You Use Tumblr?

I would only use Tumblr if I was running a big campaign that was interested in attracting young liberal voters.  The problem with Tumblr is it lacks a large user base, and most campaign just don’t have the funds or time to invest in it properly.


You could use Tumblr as your campaign blog though.  Every campaign should have a blog, but you’re probably better off using Blogspot or WordPress.

Google +

 

Google + has over 235 million active users (Twitter only has 140 million).

What are the demographics of these users?  Let’s take a look.

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information that’s available about Google + users, but frankly it doesn’t matter.  EVERY political candidate should be on Google +, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Positive points for Democrats:
  • Most Google + users are young.  Young people tended to vote for Obama
Positive points for Republicans:
  • Most Google + users are male.  Males tended to vote for Romney

Why Every Political Candidate Should Be On Google +
 
Google owns Google +.  Google gives content published on Google + preferential treatment as far as search engine results go.  An example of how powerful Google + is for your SEO is provided in this blog post.
 
Voters are going to use Google to help them get educated on who they should vote for.  Google answers over one billion questions everyday.  Being visible in a Google search will translate into votes.  
 
It doesn’t matter how big your campaign is…get on Google +. 

Are there any social networks you’d like us to add to this article?  What has been your experience campaigning on social networks?

(Photo Credit: Flickr via 10Ch)

Josh Light

Josh Light

Josh Light was CEO and Co-Founder of PoliticIt.
Josh Light

@joshuajlight

I enjoy tweeting about startups, and economics.
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6 comments

  1. Wow, talk about a comprehensive review Josh! Well done for putting all of this valuable information together.

    I hope those politicians who don’t believe voters are on social networks take their heads out of the sand!

  2. Hi Josh: Shared with all my social networks–profoundly powerful and useful article. You should do a post on making your posts pretty as well as informative. Best, Len.

  3. Adrian,

    It’s funny how some of them still don’t get it. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Isn’t it crazy how viral Pinterest is? I had no idea.

    Josh

  4. Leonard,

    Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Isn’t it crazy how different each network is? So many opportunities. What do you mean regarding doing a post on making posts pretty and informative?

    Josh

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