Why do we use Social Media?

In case you missed it, Pew Research just cam out with a pretty impressive study on our Social Media habits. More specifically, this study is less about how we use social Media and more about why we use it.

You can see the complete study here but some of the highlights have a bearing on how you approach your Social Media marketing:

Two-thirds of Americans on-line are involved with at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace. (Why MySpace is included is beyond me…wait, because Justin Timberlake is bringing MySpace’s sexy back). Perhaps the next study will include Google+. All this does is reaffirm the ubiquity of Social Media.

67% say the main reason they use Social Media is to stay in touch with friends. This is followed by 64% who are stay in touch with family and 50% who are looking for old/lost friends. Clearly, Social Media is all about the “me”  – but we knew that.

How does this affect your Social Media Marketing?

First, recognize the power of friendship. If you can get people to follow your business or non-profit you are exposing your message to their friends and family. That is the absolute root of this exercise. If I see your message on my friend’s feed I am much more likely to check you out. It is much more powerful than any Facebook ad or promoted Tweet. If my friend finds you interesting or “like”-worthy, I am more inclined to give you some consideration.

Second, create the kind of content that your followers will care about. Ideally, you are creating content that piques their interest – stuff they will share. At the very least, your content needs to meet a minimum threshold – the one that prevents them from blocking or un-liking you.

Third, you are ALWAYS talking to one person at a time. We may share in this social experience but we do it as individuals. All our Social Media engagements are done as one-to-one. That is a key point to consider when creating content.

You constantly hear about “humanizing” your brand. The only way you can do that is to speak as an individual to an individual. Never address your followers as a collective “they”.

Finally, deliver on expectations. When I allow you into my circle of family and friends I am trusting that you will deliver content and information that fits my perception of you. Do not violate that trust! Stay true to who you are, be consistent and find out what your followers want from you.

Beyond the big three reasons in the study, Pew found that only 14% are looking to connect with people of similar hobbies or interests. Apparently, we are not looking for fellow knitters on Facebook. That doesn’t mean knitters aren’t looking for content from a Knit Shop. They just don’t care to find knitting strangers.

Only 9% are looking for new friends. Seriously, how many people troll Facebook looking for new people to friend?

A mere 5% are looking for comments by celebrities, athletes or politicians. So much for the celebrity influencer theory. The people who are really looking for those comments are journalists and foes. We don’t have the time to track Herman Cain or LeBron James. However, if either says something stupid or newsworthy we can be sure to hear about it from other sources. It is interesting to note that African-Americans and Hispanics are slightly more interested in this – for what its worth the percentages are still very small.

Information like this helps us gain a better understanding on how to use the Social Media space to reach potential customers and donors. It is – at best – an inexact science. However, every bit of knowledge makes us better marketers.


Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist


About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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11 Responses to Why do we use Social Media?

  1. Michael Leri says:

    I think I might use this for my Sociology paper. Thanks!

  2. ricca says:

    is social media the kind of media we need to use ?? Im just curious ..

  3. Katherine says:

    Though debating over the merits of social media (ironically, through scoial media) is not an original things these days, see http://www.facebook.com/notes/katherine-oneile/social-media-vs-face-to-face/10150939804389135

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