What Your Favorite Social Network Says About You

Anderson Analytics Survey Reveals Consumers' Likely Interests, Buying Habits, Media Consumption

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Do you Twitter? Then you are more interested in sex than the average Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn user. Like LinkedIn? You're more likely to watch soap operas. Favor MySpace? You're probably not into exercise.

Social networking
Photo: AP

Which social network you favor says a lot about you -- and you might be surprised just what it says. A new study by Anderson Analytics is helping identify users' likely interests, buying habits, media consumption and more for marketers. The survey studied the demographics and psychographics of both social networkers and non-users and found that "there are definite data-driven segments in the social-networking-site market, both for non-users and users," said Tom Anderson, founder and managing partner.

Today 110 million Americans, or 60% of the online population, use social networks, and that number is fairly conservative, because instead of counting unique users or everyone who has an account, as many estimates do, the Anderson study counted only people who have used a social network at least once in the past month.

Users tend to spend a lot of time on social networks. The average social networker goes to social sites five days a week and checks in about four times a day for a total of an hour each day. A super-connected 9% stay logged in all day and are "constantly checking out what's new."

Social networkers' feelings about brands online in general are more positive than the researchers thought they would be. Some 52% of social networkers had friended or become a fan of at least one brand. When asked if seeing a brand on a social network makes them feel positive or negative about that brand, an almost-equal 17% said positive and 19% said negative. The other 64% were neutral or didn't care. When asked if they would like more communications from brands, 45% were neutral, while 20% said yes and 35% said no.

Anderson conducted the study online in June with 5,000 demographically representative respondents, and then went in-depth with 1,250 of them. With the help of Mr. Anderson and his team, Ad Age dug into the reams of stats to create the mini profiles below.

Social-network users overall
Social networkers get a bad rap for using social media to pump up their egos and reputations with "fake" friends. But the truth is, in general, they're not super-aggressive about building networks. Almost half (45%) said they will link only to family and friends, and another 18% will link only to people they've met in person. That means almost two-thirds associate only with people they know offline. The fake-frienders are still out perpetuating the myth, though -- 10% of those surveyed said they will connect with anyone who's willing to connect with them.

And another myth blown: Most users are not wasting company time. Only 15% said they go on social networks at work.

Their top three interests are music, movies and hanging out with friends, and they use social media most to stay in touch with friends, family and classmates. Not surprisingly, they do more online than non-users of social media, from watching videos to reading blogs to making purchases. They are four times more vocal than non-users when it comes to commenting on discussion boards, posting blog entries and uploading videos.

Anderson's research breaks down general social-media users into four categories: business users, fun seekers, social-media mavens and late followers. Of those, social-media mavens are the key group, not only because of their high incomes and decision-making power at companies but also because their large social-media footprints can make them brand allies and evangelists, Mr. Anderson said. Fun seekers are also an important group because they are the up-and-coming mavens as they transition from students to employees.

Non-users of social networks
Contrary to what some might think, people who spurn social media aren't tech haters. In fact, they spend as much time as social-media fans surfing the web. But they say they don't use social media for three basic reasons: They don't have the time, they don't think it's secure or they think it's stupid. While the first two groups -- which Anderson labels "time-starved" and "concerned" -- may be swayed to join eventually, don't hold out much hope for the last group: 94% said they will never use social media.

About 22% of time-starved people said they'll be using social media within three months, and another 27% said they probably will within a year -- when they get the time that is; they're more interested than all others in pursuits such as exercise, entertaining, music and movies.

The concerned non-users are an older demographic (one-third are retired) who don't use social networks because they're worried about their privacy. However, they do recognize value in social media and may join as they become more comfortable with it.

Non-users in general don't shop online as much as social networkers, but they are much more likely to visit online retailers Amazon and eBay. They also named IAC's IWon and HGTV as favored web destinations.

There are 77 million Facebook users, according to the study, and Facebook users were almost completely average in their level of interest in most areas when compared with users of Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. Out of 45 categories, only national news, sports, exercise, travel, and home and garden skewed even slightly higher than average, and then by only one or two percentage points.

"Facebook is average because it has the most users. When stat testing, anything near the average is less likely to be significant," Mr. Anderson said. "They are also capturing a wider range of users for various reasons, from high-school and college fun, leisure user to business and parents and grandparents."

They are more likely to be married (40%), white (80%) and retired (6%) than users of the other social networks. They have the second-highest average income, at $61,000, and an average of 121 connections.

Facebook users skew a bit older and are more likely to be late adopters of social media. But they are also extremely loyal to the site -- 75% claim Facebook is their favorite site, and another 59% say they have increased their use of the site in the past six months.

This is the super-user group. Twitterers are more interested than the others in many subjects but skew particularly high in all news categories, restaurants, sports, politics, personal finance and religion. They also especially like pop culture, with music, movies, TV and reading, ranking higher than average. And their buying habits mirror that. They're more likely to buy books, movies, shoes and cosmetics online than the other groups.

Twitterers are also entrepreneurial. They are more likely than others to use the service to promote their blogs or businesses. How do they keep going? Coffee, apparently. Some 31% buy coffee online, far above the average 21% of other social networkers.

They're more likely to be employed part-time (16% vs. 11% average), have an average income of $58,000, and average 28 followers and 32 other Twitterers they're following. They're not particularly attached to the site, though -- 43% said they could live without Twitter.

They are the young, the fun and the fleeing. While MySpace users skew younger, they also said they'd used the site much less in the past six months.

The 67 million who are still there are into having a good time. They're more likely to have joined MySpace for fun and more likely to be interested in entertaining friends, humor and comedy, and video games. They're less into exercise than any other social group but seek out parenting information more than any other.

The content MySpace users put up is most often about specific hobbies, or pictures of family and friends. Their average income is the lowest, at $44,000, and they have an average of 131 connections. They're more likely to be black (9%) or Hispanic (7%) than users of the other social sites. They are also more likely to be single (60%) and students (23%).

LinkedIn users
It's probably no surprise these guys are all about business. We say guys because LinkedIn has the only user group with more males than females (57% to 43%). They have the highest average income, at $89,000, and are more likely to have joined the site for business or work, citing keeping in touch with business networks, job searching, business development and recruiting as top reasons.

Their interests reflect that as well. They like all kinds of news, employment information, sports and politics. They also more likely to be into the gym, spas, yoga, golf and tennis.

Excluding video-game systems, they own more electronic gadgets than the other social networkers, including digital cameras, high-definition TVs, DVRs and Blu-ray players.

How do they unwind? Here were two surprises among the things they're more interested in than the others: gambling and soap operas. Some 12% seek gambling information online (vs. an average of 7%), while 10% go online for soap-opera content (vs. an average of 5%).

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