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Data, data everywhere, but demographics remain extremely elusive



But don’t social networks track everything?

It’s not secret that social media users generate a great deal of data. Big data. Take a tweet, for example. Each time one 140-character message is sent out, dozens of pieces of metadata are connected with it.

Even with so much data being generated and collected, it’s still difficult to find reliable and complete demographic information for even the biggest social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

There are a few common reasons for this:

  • Privacy. Consistently a topic of conversation among Facebook users, privacy often prevents researchers from learning a great deal about demographics. Unless your profile is open to the public, it’s unlikely you can be found and analyzed, so to speak. When you like a company’s page or otherwise give them permission to access your data, this changes, but it’s unlikely you have given this permission to every brand or company who may wish to target you.
  • Incomplete self-reporting. When data is accessible, it’s often incomplete. Think about your own social profiles. Have you filled out every single piece of information you can? Is it all accurate and up-to-date? Maybe you’ve moved but have yet to change your current location on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you choose to leave it blank, or maybe you choose something generic like “USA” or “Illinois.”
  • Inconsistent, unconnected data. If I were on Twitter and Facebook, it would likely be helpful for companies to know this about me and be able to form a more complete picture of me. However, unless I use the same name on both accounts or otherwise connect them, it may be hard to compare the two accounts. It’s common for folks to use one social network for business and another for pleasure, and they may want to keep these worlds separate. This makes it tricky for those of us trying to understand who they are.

Don’t let me convince you that demographic research is useless online. There is still plenty of information and value to be gleaned from the data that is available.

Resources and techniques for demographic studies

I wanted to share my favorite resources and techniques with you, but the biggest thing you can do is to get creative. Think about your own social network usage and what information you share. Consider what your own profiles might tell marketers, and then seek out the same information from your consumers.

  • Facebook Insights. This is a no-brainer. While it will only give you the bare basics (age, gender and reported location), it gives you information for anyone who likes your page. Of course, you have to remember that this will only include information consumers have volunteered in their profiles (thus some are “unknown” gender), but it will usually give you a pretty good look at who connects with you.
  • Facebook Ad Builder. While the tool was built to help brand pages create ads to grow their fan base, there’s another way these tools can be used. You can learn more about your fans by using the ad-building tool to segment your audience. You can slice and dice your fans by age, location, gender and interest. Using the interest search you can either look at broad categories of interests like sports or cooking, or at specific interests like the Chicago Bears or French cuisine. It takes some time and manual guess work, but it’s easy to learn a great deal more about what who your Facebook fans are based on what else they’re interested in.
  • Twitter Analytics. Twitter’s analytics tool is not as robust or familiar as Facebook’s, but it still provides basic information about followers: age, gender, location and broad interests. Using filters, you can drill down into segments to learn more about them. For example, if you select all women, the remaining metrics will adjust to reflect only your female followers, so you can understand if the women who follow you are of a different age or have different interests than the men.
  • Manual Searches. While tools like Facebook Insights can give you hard numbers on who connects to your page, qualitative research can tell you who is mostly likely to interact on your page. Read through the last month of posts, note the folks who comment or like the most, and then look at their profiles to see who they are and to see if you can’t guess which demographics may interact with you more. Similarly, watching who tends to retweet your content or reply to you on Twitter can help you build a better understanding of which followers are more likely to interact and how to encourage the rest of your followers to speak up. Also, consider really re-reading through Facebook posts and tweets to see if your fans aren’t volunteering more information through their words. Do they mention their kids a lot? Do they talk about sports more frequently? Try to find patterns in what they talk about and what gets them most excited.
  • Paid Tools and Research. When you need a more detailed or full picture of your fans, consider using paid services like Nielsen or other survey methods to dig into what makes your fans tick and who they really are. There is a great deal of information you can find for free, but sometimes paid services will help you find some extra nuggets that you would miss otherwise.

There are more ways to dive into demographics, but this is a good place to start. The myth that social networks track everything and know everything about users is not exactly false, it just isn’t readily available to marketers, so get creative in how you reach your target demographic!

Rebecca is a passionate UNC graduate, and a biochemist-turned-communications professional, she spends her days as a senior social media analyst at Digitas in Chicago, specialized social media monitoring and measurement best practices. She is continually excited to explore additional facets of digital measurement like traditional Web analytics, search metrics and integrated data models.

Business Marketing

How Nestle’s emotional branding converted a nation into coffee drinkers

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Nestle hired a psychoanalyst to convert a nation to coffee with long term, science backed strategies connected to why we like what we like.



nestle japan coffee

When Nestle first attempted to market coffee in Japan in the 1970s, it did not go well. Though their products tested well with audiences and was priced affordably, sales never took off. Nestle was committed to break into the profitable Japanese market and embarked on research that would inform an innovative new strategy going forward.

Nestle hired French social psychologist, Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, who specialized in the emotional bonds people form with objects. Dr. Rapaille conducted various experiments with participant groups to better understand why people were not buying coffee in the Japanese market. In one such experiment, Dr. Rapaille played calming music while participants lay on the ground. He asked them to talk through early childhood memories. He then asked participants to share experiences and emotions they associated with various products from their childhoods.

Participants did so, except when it came to coffee. Most had no memories of coffee and therefore no emotional bond to it. Japan had long been a tea drinking society, very few sections of society included coffee drinkers. Sales reflected the lack of cultural familiarity with coffee; it was not part of Japanese life. This understanding from Dr. Rapaille’s research sparked a bold marketing move with a long-term strategy in mind.

Nestle created coffee-flavored chocolate and marketed them to children. Introducing the flavor of coffee to Japanese youth while at an early age would not only imprint the flavor profile on them, but they would associate the flavor with positive emotions. Nestle tested, manufactured, and sold their coffee-flavored chocolate in Japan. They were immediately popular with youth and eventually with their curious parents who wanted to give the flavor a try.

A reentry into the coffee market by Nestle years later was met with a different response than the first attempt. The kids that grew up with coffee-flavored candies were now a part of the workforce and ready to become coffee drinkers. Today, Nestle imports nearly 500 million tons of coffee per year.

What began with a failed attempt at entering the coffee market resulted in a long-term strategy that proved that strong emotional bonds with customers can build strong sales.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.



work week rush

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and…hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care…that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well…probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.



Snapchat's video

Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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