For all of the benefits that social media and marketing can bring to brands, the majority of social sites don't have enough history to accurately reflect their user demographics. This has left marketers at a disadvantage, though there are a number of tools available to track how users engage with brands and social-networking tools to communicate.
The Open Forum, American Express' small business community site, recently published an article that shows the relative relationships between constituencies of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
- 116 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009 (slightly more females)
- Average user age range 13-34
- 24 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009 (slightly more males)
- Most have at least a college education, 33% have a graduate degree, as compared to the Internet average of 21%
- 23 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009 (even male/female ratio) peak at the 18-34 age group
- Generally less wealthy than those on Facebook and LinkedIn
While none of these results are too shocking, there are some interesting tidbits. Facebook was recently revealed to be the social leader in the link economy, driving 44 percent of the social sharing on the Web. And Facebook clearly dwarfs the other sites in terms of raw visitors with a user base that scales affluence fairly equally.
However, one of the big challenges with Facebook is that it's easy to get lost in the noise of the communications. Also, to date, Facebook's ad targeting has been less than stellar. Where brands have seen a lot of success on Facebook is through the use of customized home pages and applications that drive users to provide data to brands.
By the same token, advertising, especially on social sites is just one way (and probably not the best way) to monetize users. Virtual goods, which can effectively be advertisements, have proven to provide meaningful revenue opportunities, though as CNET's Caroline McCarthy wrote recently "many of the virtual goods in social games are still earned through the completion of offers and surveys rather than purchased upfront with real money."
But there is a major shift under way and I would expect offers and surveys to fall out of fashion pretty quickly as soon as more sites aggregate their virtual-goods payment methods and economics to share virtual money across sites.