Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Pew Internet on adults and social media... notes for marketers

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You can't do any better than the Pew Internet & American Life Project research reports on how people are using the Internet. The most recent report on "Adults and Social Network Websites" was just released on 14 January.

After reading the report, some elements that seems to stand out for higher education marketers recruiting adult students and wondering how to best integrate social media into their recruitment communication plans.

  • 75% of adults 18-24 have social network profiles somewhere, as do 57% of adults from 25-34. Expect that last percent to grow steadily as some people age and others continue to join for the first time.
  • Participation falls off rapidly past age 34, declining to 30% for people 35-44 and less than 20% for anyone older than that.
  • As of last spring, MySpace was the place of choice for 50%, with Facebook at 22% and only 6% at LinkedIn.
  • Men and women participate at about equal rates.

Some possibly unexpected findings:

  • African-Americans (43%) and Hispanics (48%) participate at higher rates than Whites (31%).
  • Based on income, the participation rate is highest among families with annual incomes of less than $35,000.
  • Based on education, the participation rate is higher for people with less than a high school education (43%) than for those who have completed college (33%).

Twitter fans take note: the survey data is from spring and fall 2008, so it started well before the "boom" for Twitter. And the impressive growth rate for Twitter is based on a leap from a small beginning. LinkedIn still has far more users than Twitter.

Marketing notes from this report:

  • If you want to reach adults on the social networks, consider MySpace as well as Facebook. Demographics differ so this one depends in part on the profile of the person you are trying to enroll. According to a November report, Facebook has now passed MySpace in total users, but both are in the 14-15 million range.
  • MySpace users are more likely to be women, African-American and Hispanics without college degrees, while Facebok users are more likely men with college degrees.

Most adults use their social networks to stay in touch with the friends they already have. There's nothing in the Pew report about how open people are to advertising on the social network sites. Like any other form of advertising, done correctly you should expect good results.

LinkedIn is worth a special test to advertise to upwardly mobile young professionals looking for online degree opportunities. About 4 million people are using LinkedIn now and many if not most of them are very interested in advancing their careers.

My sense is that higher education marketers hold Facebook in higher regard than MySpace and thus don't pay quite as much attention to each as they should. Given the origins of Facebook, that's understandable. It might also be a marketing mistake. DIOSA Communications is one of the better places for frequent updates on both these sites and others as well.

That's it for now. Explore the Pew Report and you'll no doubt find more information of special value to your own adult recruitment plans.


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