Social Media Strategy

9 Surprising New Facts About Social Media in America

(Happy Holidays! I analyzed my Top 6 blog posts for 2011 by total page views, and am re-running them this week as a “greatest hits” compilation. This is #2. Outstanding research from Tom Webster that debunks some common myths about social media. Emjoy! – Jay)


Social media is growing up fast. No longer a niche plaything of the digerati, social media is firmly entrenched as a societal game changer of historical importance. For many, social media and social networking are so ubiquitous and pervasive that we presume we have it figured out, that we have a finger firmly on the pulse. But we don’t. Data about how social media really works, who uses it and how, continues to surprise.

This point was driven home in The Social Habit II, a new report from Edison Research and Arbitron that follows up on their landmark study in 2010 (and their 19th study about the Internet overall).

My friend and the architect of the study, Tom Webster, was kind enough to give me a preview of the report (I also very much recommend Tom’s blog BrandSavant), and here are my personal highlights – the pages that made me say “hmmmm”.

I encourage you to peruse the entire report, which you can access for free in a day or so. Tweet me or Tom (@webby2001) to get the URL. It’s a 50+ page orgy of data based on 2,020 telephone interviews of Americans ages 12 and up, conducted in February, 2011.

9 Surprising New Facts About Social Media in America

1. More People Are Active on Social Networks Than Are Not
52% of Americans have a profile on Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace or elsewhere. This may be a tipping point for social adoption overall.

2. Twitter is a Tiny Sliver
As discussed in “Is Twitter Massively Overrated” a few weeks ago, Twitter’s cultural impact is not driven by the size of its user base, but by its real-time nature, and the types of people who use it. Twitter is used by just 8% of Americans (compared to 51% for Facebook).

The Social Habit 2011 by Edison Research3. Twitter is Incredibly Diverse
Just 55% of Twitter uses are White, followed by 22% African-American, 15% Hispanic, and 3% Asian. This is of course substantially more diverse than the population overall, and markedly more diverse than Facebook. I have read that African-Americans use the mobile Web at a much higher rate than the population at-large, and given the propensity of Twitter users to participate via mobile device, I wonder if that’s part of the correlation? Or perhaps I’m confusing cause and effect? Either way, I found it to be a very interesting statistic.

4. The Emergence of the Super Socials
One-third of Americans with a profile on a social network, use those sites several times per day or more. This group of “super socials” (my label, not Edison’s) numbers 46 million, and increase of almost 20% in one year.

The Social Habit 2011 by Edison Research5. Super Socials Love Twitter
Partially an explanation of Twitter’s popularity and role in the culture despite it’s relatively small user base, 23% of the “super socials” use Twitter, which is almost triple the rate of Americans overall. (98% of super socials use Facebook, and 45% use MySpace)

6. Super Socials use and Worship their Smartphones
56% of the super socials use smartphones, compared to 31% of the U.S. population surveyed; and when presented the choice of abandoning their smartphone or television, 64% of super socials would choose to keep the phone.

7. Super Socials Interact with Brands
Among habitual social networkers, 43% follow companies on social networks, compared to just 25% of all social network users.

The Social Habit 2011 by Edison Research8. Brand Interactions Occur Predominately on Facebook
Among the 25% of respondents that have followed a company in social media, 80% have done so via Facebook. Just 6% have done so on Twitter. This raises an interesting question about companies’ efforts to attract followers on Twitter vs. similar efforts to acquire “likes” on Facebook. Based on this data, it would seem that consumers are perhaps most interested in that type of interaction via Facebook, reserving Twitter for customer service issues (as other research has suggested, most notably from ExactTarget – a client).

9. Facebook is Where Consumers are Influenced about Buying Decisions
72% of respondents said that no social network has influenced their purchase of products and services. Personally, I doubt the veracity of that statistic, as people routinely overlook the subtle ways in which their friends and family (to whom they are probably connected on Facebook and elsewhere) influence their purchases. However, among the survey participants who acknowledged social media’s role in this regard, they cited Facebook overwhelmingly as the source of that influence.

Which of these strikes you as the most interesting? What do you take away from these findings?

Facebook Comments


  1. laurenray7 says

    @oktay_sari Be your own boss. Make your own hours. Make 4k a month in as little as 3 months time. mymoneyjournalsite .com

  2. letablair says

    @PeterMinkjan Want to be your own boss? I became mine 3 months ago and now I make 4k a month working fro home mymoneyjournalsite .com

  3. tillypick says

    Thanks for re-sharing the insights. All too often we move from one finding to the next all too quickly without really processing what it means and where it can lead us. I appreciate the fact that you contemplate your work rather than speed through it.

  4. ShanxiO says

    @jaybaer Thanks for an excellent article. Could I please have the URL to the full report when it comes out? Thanks again!

  5. BgKahuna says

    @tkographix @jaybaer I am emceing the #IN_SM11, can you tell me something about yourselves? What will you do if you win?

  6. dylanduong says

    @jaybaer Hey Jay! Would you mind sending me the URL of that report? Thanks and Happy New Year! To greater succcess in 2012.

  7. waynemaceyka says

    @jaybaer interesting stat re: racial diversity on the different networks. Would love to check out the rest of the report

  8. taunitweets says

    @centsationalgrl Great article. It’s nice when everything is put into perspective isn’t it?

  9. lynne.melcombe says

    Re #3, I read some time ago that Twitter had caught on much bigger in India than Facebook, largely because the average Indian (and particularly Indian university students, if I remember correctly) was more likely to own a mobile phone than a computer. I wonder if that’s part of the correlation on this continent. But perhaps that’s the correlation you already had in mind.

  10. Sara Sheikh says

    Twitter is a niche market. Fewer people use it, which plays into the “niche” of being a social media tool that is not mainstream, so to speak. True identities can still (at this time) be hidden on Twitter. People are free to just be… and to just be in 140 chars. Niche markets can easily be passed up by companies with a goal of mass marketing… and, while FB offers more of a massmarket strategy in business, twitter offers opportunities for businesses to connect via the “offbeat” or non mainstream social device… Tweeters are very loyal (reading @jaybaer post makes me think he gets paid by Twitter, but he is, in fact, a perfect example of a tweeter who is very carefully interwoven in the subculture provided by Twitter. He’s also the perfect example of why I feel spending time with twitter-only tactics is a good investment in time: in no other social media tool do I feel one has the opportunity to bond one-on-one with a boat of fans, followers, etc.

    Go team. This tweet’s for you.

  11. says

    Never considered myself as ‘super social’ I just really enjoy engaging and learning about new people and news – and in turn, help others. But Super Social really seems to fit! :) A lot of these I haven’t been conscious of, but now that I see them, like #8 where there’s more interaction on Facebook, that’s definitely true! I get way more interaction on Facebook than on Twitter. Facebook seems a lot more inviting and a lot more ‘personable’ than Twitter. Twitter can be filled with a lot of noise (that goes by very quickly) but it’s a lot easier to narrow down the news and friends to be more interactive on Facebook. Thanks for sharing! I’m really intrigued by these stats.

  12. scottybush says

    I think Facebook will be a great platform to follow over the next year or two, as businesses start to really realize the driving power of Facebook and the ‘word of mouth’ that takes place between family and friends on the platform. Your #9 fact shows that Facebook as an e-commerce platform has a tremendous amount of potential, that’s still completely untapped. Great list, Jay!

  13. says

    I think the most active users of the social streams are actually outside the US. I’ve read a recent piece on the social habits of the Chinese people, and it’s fascinating how active they are on them.

    • lynne.melcombe says

      That’s interesting, considering the Chinese government banned use of Facebook some time ago. I hate to sound out of the loop, but when was that restriction lifted? And what other streams are popular in China? @San Diego Marketing

  14. says

    Thanks for those twitter stats. I will remember those and use those in other blog posts and comments. The emergence of smartphones has certainly helped twitter. How often do you see people that have commented using “Web”?

  15. AskKim says

    @aurapolisher Hey Nancy thanks for RTing the post on “super socials” what did you think of those demographics?

  16. candymichael1 says

    @rorystirling Looking for a better job? If so you can be your own boss and work from home making 4k a month moneyjournalonline .com

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