Social Media Users: Getting To Know You

We published a blog post last month that identified Heavy Social Media Users and then looked at their purchase behavior. With marketers spending substantial portions of their budget on social platforms we thought it was worthwhile to understand how, or if, this investment would pay off in product purchases.

The goal of the piece was to share our insights into people who spend a large portion of their online time on social media sites. Surprisingly, we found that Heavy Social Media (SM) Users are less likely to buy products and services online (than Medium SM Users and Light SM Users), spend less for products and services and are less likely to be involved in political activities.

This information generated a lot of questions. Some were about methodology and others were about the questions we were asking. Was it even important to know if Heavy Social Media Users bought products? Isn’t an investment in social media really an investment in people who influence other people?

Both questions are valid. Let’s address the first one. Some readers asked us if age skews were driving the reported differences in behaviors. The table below shows the age distributions of the three groups.

As the chart indicates there are no major differences between the Heavy Social Media Users and the Medium Social Media Users.  Light Social Media Users are significantly older than the other two groups, but as Nielsen recently noted, they are also the fastest growing group of Social Media Users. The largest difference between the two groups is 4 points for the 25-34 year old age group. This doesn’t seem large enough to explain why Medium Social Media Users spend more money online and are more politically engaged than Heavy Social Media users.

What may be worth questioning is the amount of time Heavy Social Media users spend online on non-social media sites. We discovered they represent 9% of all time spent online, and thus they are not heavy online users in general. Suggesting they are online predominately to be social. That however, does not mean they don’t buy the brands they “like” on social sites offline and this is definitely an area for future exploration.

Surprisingly, Light Social Media Users consume more than their fair share of online minutes, suggesting they are using other sites to read other content, research and purchase products.

So what about Facebook in all this? There is no denying it is the premier social destination. Heavy Social Media users represent 20% of all online users yet they consume 53% of all the time spent on Facebook. These consumers, Heavy Social Media Users, receive the majority of ad impressions on Facebook. Understanding what they do or don’t do, should be important to marketers investing in Facebook advertising.

This returns us to the two questions we were asked. Does it matter if Heavy Social Media Users purchase products and aren’t advertisers interested in them for their influential power?  These are great questions and ones that needs to be better understood. We are now turning our focus to finding ways to refine our understanding of what and who is influential online. In our next wave of research, we are collecting information about how often Heavy Social Media Users perform the following activities:

  • Update their status
  • Respond to friends’ status updates
  • Check-in at shops, restaurants, events, etc.
  • Use social media to share something important in their lives
  • Use social media to talk about important societal or political issues
  • Use social media to talk about products and services they use
  • Post pictures or video
  • Post links to articles or websites

As soon as we have our results we will be sharing them. Marketers are spending advertising dollars on social media. They have a right to understand how consumers use it and if social media influences purchases decisions and the ROI on making friends.

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