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Data, data everywhere, but demographics remain extremely elusive

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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

Instagram’s false information flagging may accidentally shut down artists

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Instagram is doing its hardest to insure no false information gets released wide, but the net they cast may catch a lot of artists who manipulate images.

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technically a false image

Instagram’s new update is hiding faked images. The downside? Posts by digital artists are being swept up in this new flagging system. In December, Instagram announced the release of a false information warning in order to combat the spread of misinformation on the platform.

How does this work? Content that is rated as partly false or false by a third-party fact-checker is removed from Instagram’s Explore option and matching hashtag pages. Additionally, the image will receive a label to warn viewers about its credibility with a link back to the fact-checker and further sources that debunk the visual claims in the image. These labels can be seen on profiles, feeds, DMs, and stories. Identical content from Facebook will be automatically labelled if posted to Instagram.

Digital artists are feeling the effects of Instagram’s update as digitally-altered images for the sake of artistic expression are being slapped with the misinformation label. The good news, however, is that not all photoshopped images are in danger—only the pictures that have gone viral attached to false information and identified as such.

So if an artist manipulates an image, releases it, then someone else decides to use the altered image to spread misinformation, the artists image could be labeled as misinformation and will be hidden from the Explore and hashtag pages. The artist pays the price for someone else spreading false information.

While a label will save a viewer from questioning a post, digital artists, whose careers depend upon visibility and the spread of the work are likely to feel the effects—whether it be scroll-frenzied viewers passing their work by, deterred by the label barring the post from a quick look, or even worse, the artists having their own credibility called into question.

With only a couple of weeks into the new year, it’s yet to be seen how other digital art may (or may not) be caught up in Instagram’s well-meaning update.

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Business Marketing

How becoming better listeners eliminates our culture’s growing isolation

(BUSINESS MARKETING) We have all be frustrated by someone who doesn’t listen to us; so why not make sure that you are taking the steps to not be them, and be better listeners.

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good listeners breed good listeners

We all want the same thing: to be heard. In this digital age, we’ve created an endless stream of cries for attention via comment sections, forums, and social media feeds—shares, retweets, tags, videos, articles, and photos. Worse, our words echo in our digital bubbles or specific communities, doing nothing but making us lonely and isolated. However, in the midst of a divided political climate, we can all stand to strengthen our ability to listen.

Me? A bad listener? What are you trying to say? I got enough flaws to worry about and don’t wanna hear about another skill to improve. Oh, the irony.

“Bad listeners are not necessarily bad people,” assures Kate Murphy in her new book You’re Not Listening. “Anyone can get good at it. The more people you talk to, the better your gut instinct. You’re able to pick up those little cues. Without them, you’re not going to get the full context and nuance of the conversation,” she says in an interview with The Guardian’s Stephen Moss.

Our bad listening aside, we can all remember a time when we weren’t treated with the attention we craved. Moments where you’d do anything for the person you’re conversing with to give a sign of understanding—of empathy—to validate our feelings, to acknowledge the vulnerable piece of ourselves we’ve entrusted to them is cared for. Nothing is worse when we’re met with blank expressions and dismissive gestures or words. These interactions make us feel small and lonely. And the damage can stay with us.

So what can we do to ensure we’re the listeners we’ve always wanted from others? Being a good listener does take time, energy, and tons of practice. There are easy tips to keep in mind:

1. Show you care by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
2. Patience. Everyone opens up on their time.
3. Ask open-ended questions. Yes/no responses inhibit the flow of conversation.
4. Repeat what you’ve heard. This clarifies any misunderstanding and validates the speaker.
5. Give space. Let the conversation breathe—silent pauses are healthy.

By becoming better listeners, we show care. We become curious about and empathetic towards others, leaving our bubbles—we become a little less lonely.

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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.

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work week rush

With the new decade comes the renewed resolutions. Social media has been 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 resolution to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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