I’d like to share a brief demographic analysis of social networks that helps explain who uses social networks, and for what purpose.
Before diving in, I think its best to discuss where our data comes from. Amzini is a directory of over 900 social websites that are visited over 7 billion times per month, by over 900 million visitors (Compete.com). We collect demographic information on each website from Alexa.com, who uses their toolbar to provide estimations of the audience's composition for each site. On an individual site level, these statistics often must be taken with a grain of salt due to small sample sizes and Alexa's bias towards the technologically saavy crowd. However, since our statistics are deduced from 900 websites that average 9 million visits/month per site, our demographic figures provide a unique and informative new look into the social networking industry.
The demographic averages for our entire data set tell a familiar story; social networking is dominated by younger generations with no children, and online networking activity picks up in college. Now that I told you what you already know, let’s look at a categorical breakdown and heat-map featuring demographic data separated into Amzini's 11 main categories.
As a whole, we see exactly what we expected... social networks are most popular among the youngest generation (18-34) and are used less frequently for each successive age group over 35. This trend is often attributed to an increased likeness for technology among youth. However, the heat map to the right highlights the important role generational differences in interests plays in creating such a young social networking demographic.
Youth ages 18-24 tend to use social networks to supplement social life, learning, and having fun. These happen to be the three strongest suits of social networking. The categories that are most popular among this age group are Friends/Dating (social life), info-sharing/education (learning), and creative arts/gaming (having fun). Combined, these 6 categories make up about 91% of the total visits per month among sites on Amzini!
The most diverse use of social networks comes from the 25-34 year old age group. This demographic tends to continue to use the services they used in college, but less often. However, as they start to have new interests (business, family), the data suggests this is the age group most likely to use online social engagement to benefit their business/career, discuss or plan travels, and share family-related experiences online.
For the demographic above 35, there is clearly some technological bias against social networking. However, the reasonably high likeliness of these age groups to use business, family, and dating networks suggests that social networking's popularity among youth may be not just be due to technological differences, but to a better fit of interests.
Social options are becoming available for more and more new interests... Do you think these networks are entering in response to a more diverse market? Or do you think the market is diversifying due to innovations that make social engagement valuable for a more diverse set of needs?
The participation rate for social networks across the board tends to be higher for people with college-level education. In college, your network expands beyond your hometown and there is a tremendous amount of information shared between students. As mentioned before, social networking is a great fit for these needs, so the high use among people with college education is not surprising.
Two categories break this trend. The first, Gaming, has an unusually high participation rate among people without college experience. With an extraordinarily young following, it is likely that a high percentage of gamers are simply too young to have college experience.
The second trend-breaker, Places, has a very high participation rate among people with graduate-level schooling. This statistic can likely be attributed to the positive correlation between graduate school and income, and between income and travel.
Does it surprise you that Gaming is the only category where social networks are used more often than other sites among people with no college experience?
Gender and Children
A social network's gender is probably the demographic most strongly influenced by the community's niche. Many categories present data in line with stereotypes... Gaming is strongly dominated by males, lifestyle and family by females. There are, however, some surprises here. Dating, Places, and Business actually are used more often by females while education networks are used most by males. Are these as you expected?
The dominance of a population without children is likely strongly influenced by the correlation between age and having children. It is also likely that older generations have a decreased need to meet new people as they settle down and have kids. The obvious exception to this trend is the 'Family' category, for which having kids is often the primary reason for participation in the first place.
The heat-map of browsing location reveals strong use of social networks in the workplace. This raises an interesting debate. On one hand, strong engagement with social networks at work may suggest social networking is becoming a distraction in the workplace. On the other hand, this engagement may be representative of the increasing application of social websites for practical purposes (beyond socializing with friends).
Social networking is becoming a growing asset to businesses as both a marketing and a communication tool. While extremely strong numbers for the Business and Places categories likely reflect this use, you have to wonder if lifestyle, friends, and interest networks are being used in a social context rather than just for marketing purposes.
What do you think about the use of social internet at work? Do these numbers reflect a growing importance of online communities for businesses? Or are social networks becoming a distraction for workers?
We've given some brief interpretations of this interesting data set, but there are many interesting topics of discussion that we have not covered. What story stands out to you?