On Twitter, Are Reactions to Events a True Reading of the Public at Large?

Social media is maturing in many ways. Much of that maturity is being seen in how marketers look at each individual social media channel and make a decision aout whether they need to be there or not. After all, if your customers are not there why do you need to be? (Oh yea, that’s right because your local social media guru said you HAVE to be there or you’re not cool).

The Pew Research Center has put out some fascinating findings about the nature of Twitter responses to events versus the actual public opinion of the event. PLEASE NOTE: What you are about to read is research. It’s not a political position or anything else, it’s reporting of the facts. If you don’t agree take it up with Pew not us.

Essentially Pew found that Twitter’s interpretation of events is significantly skewed to a liberal point of view and is often not fully representative of general public opinion. An example from the report shows


This should come as little surprise since Twitter has a much greater concentration of users in urban areas which traditionally are more liberal in their social views. It also tends to skew younger which will serve a more liberal base. That’s not a social media phenomenon folks, it’s been that way forever.

There is more ‘evidence’ in the report of how Twitter might be representative of some but not all types of people. Read the entire report (it’s barely a page long so you have the time) and see if it impacts your thinking.

So what’s the marketing lesson here? It’s pretty simple. If you are a product or service that may not be attractive to a certain kind of person (in this case a company serving a more conservative base) you might want to think long and hard about how much time, effort and money you put into Twitter. That is unless you can isolate a group within Twitter that is your target market, prove that group is large enough to warrant your investment and then service them accordingly.

One of the most important things to remember in this new age of social media marketing is that the same basic principles apply that have applied forever. Just because there is a huge buzz about social media it doesn’t necessarily mean that your customers are everywhere you might think.

As marketers we need to be careful to not let our emotions and desires rule our decisions. Of course, we want to believe that our customers are in the coolest and hippest spots on the Internet. That’s because we want to work there, keep current and be on the leading edge. But here’s the problem, no matter what YOU as a marketer wants personally it doesn’t matter at all. If your customers aren’t there then why are you taking your company there?

So how do you solve this potential problem? It’s easy. Find a job at a company whose customers are on social networks. Simple. Problem solved.

Do you see a big difference in the general audience of the various social networks? Do you think we may be assuming that our customers are there because ‘everyone’ is? Do the numbers bear out that everyone is indeed there?

These insights into the nature of Twitter users are valuable and something we all need to be considering when making decisions about marketing spend. Are you?