Sunday, January 25, 2009

Social Media Survey Results, Discussion

If you follow Relatively Journalizing, then you will know that I recently conducted a survey here on the site utilizing a university survey tool to measure practices of readers in relation to social media. I have spent some time analyzing this data, and I have even developed some visual aids to go along with the results for this post. I was not sure at first what the best way to report the results would be, as there is quite a bit of information and quite a few graphs are involved. However, I felt rather than breaking the post down over several, more traditionally short posts, it would be a good resource for those who are interested in social media to have everything in one spot to reference.

First, some minor details to mention for your consideration. I did not submit these numbers to any sort of statistical tests for significance or correlations of any kind. However, because this went so well and was so interesting, I am almost considering it a pilot test for a future survey I might do for actual scholarly research to publish in a journal, and I would of course subject those numbers to such scrutiny at that time. For now, I'm simply blogging about observations I have made about the results and sharing the numbers with you. Still, even without all the uber-nerdy stuff, I find this stuff very intriguing.

I think it is important to note that the people who took this survey were likely more prone to use social media just because they are (A) on the Internet already and (B) linked into the survey from either my blog, my Twitter or my Facebook. However, many of them did not reporting consuming much social media, surprisingly, and I also feel as though there was a moderate amount of diversity for the sample size. Here are some other statistics about the respondents before we get into the real meat:
  • Of those who reported race/ethnicity: 76 percent were white, 10 percent black and 10 percent reported "other."
  • 25 was the mean age of respondents.
  • 81 percent of respondents have a bachelor's degree, 14 percent have a master's degree and 5 percent had a high school diploma.
  • The majority of respondents earn no more than $35,000 annually, though 14 percent earn between $75,001 and $80,000 — 5 percent earn between $95,001 and $100,000.
  • Only 15 percent of respondents did not report being of a Christian faith.
  • 52 percent of respondents indicated their political leaning as moderate, while 38 percent were liberal and only 5 percent were conservatives, indicating a disparity in Internet use from one political leaning to the other. Recent research has indicated that liberals are better at implementing social media and do so more often. For one example, see the information presented from the 2008 election cycle at TechPresident.Com.
Now, on with the data, shall we?

You'll see here that a whopping 90 percent of respondents use Facebook regularly. Wordpress (33), Twitter (33), MySpace (29) and Blogger (24) come in behind the social media giant. The interesting thing here is that Facebook has been around for years now, though the site has seen a few redesigns to keep up with the evolutions of Web 2.0. Twitter, however, is a relatively young medium to date, and it already came in at a tie for second place (and with a blogging service, interesting because Twitter is considered a form of blogging called microblogging). It seems that social bookmarking is a trend that has yet to really catch on though, as sites such as Reddit were much rarer in terms of being reported for regular use.

While many on the Web are reading blogs, this second graph shows only a fraction of respondents actually have their own blog. Figuring out just how many blogs are out there in the U.S. or in the world is a very difficult process because so many blogs are inactive or created for spamming purposes. One thing is for sure, blogging is becoming much more mainstream than it was when I created a Web log (yes, that's where the term blog comes from) back at the turn of the century. Hundreds of new blogs pop up every day, and 2005 estimates put the number of blogs in the world at about 70 million, a figure that I'm sure has exploded since the popularity of blogging during a globally popular U.S. election by both candidates and constituents.

As I mentioned above, social bookmarking sites did not yet seem to be very popular. Only 10 percent of respondents participate in social bookmarking, that being the practice of selecting something such as a blog post or news story and tagging it through a site such as Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon where it can be voted on and shared with other members of that community. Almost 40 percent of respondents did not know what was meant by the term social bookmarking. Even though one would think that respondents who came across a social media survey link posted on social media sites only would be early adopters, it appears that may not be the case.

Even though we know from recent research in media that more people are getting their news online (and anywhere except in print format, it seems), it seems that the mainstream media (MSM) still have a hold on what people accept as news. I was certainly surprised by this number because I really thought more than 24 percent of the respondents would find their news away from MSM on sites such as Drudge, the Huffington Post or Perez.

The response to this question was perhaps one of the most important, if not the most important, from the whole survey. 90 percent of participants indicated that they use social networking sites (I am guessing this 90 percent correlates closely with the 90 percent who use Facebook) to keep up with their friends more than through phone or face-to-face interactions. This statistic is just a real wake-up call for everyone to see what the Internet has done for us (or to us). We have the ability to quickly find out what is going on with virtually anyone we have ever met (if they participate in social media), but what is this doing in terms of creating a society of people who do not communicate with one another but rather communicate into cyberspace with everyone. I imagine that if the respondents to this survey saw a status message of a friend on Facebook that sounded distraught about something that they would call that friend (depending on the closeness of the relationship, I suppose) rather than just read the status and move on. But how many would comment on the status? The questions go on.

Though not too many people had their own blog, we can see here that only 24 percent of respondents are not reading any blogs regularly. Much more than half are, with some even reading more than 10 regularly. The same percentage of people who read no blogs regular reads four blogs regularly, a moderate number, but one that showcases that people will find niche information sources on the Web that fit their lifestyle and stick to consuming that media.

It seems that subscribing to RSS feeds, really simple syndication of Web content using XML file formats that are aggregated and read to allow quick access to snippets of lots of content at once, is still something only for early adopters. 71 percent of respondents do not subscribe to any RSS feeds. I wish I had included an option somewhere to ask participants if they knew what an RSS feed is and how to subscribe to one because I think RSS is such a simple, helpful tool that people would want to use it. (By the way, to try it out, click the big orange button at the top left of this blog to subscribe to our RSS feed! Or, click here.)

So, we know so far that while blogging and social media in general has definitely caught on in a big way, especially Facebook, RSS feeds and social bookmarking are underutilized thus far. It seems the same can be said for accessing mobile social media with 57 percent of participants not using cell phone options for social media at all.

The whole point of social media is the development of community — it's about participation and discussion. However, 14 percent of respondents never never leave comments on blog posts or news stories online and 48 percent rarely do. Only 38 percent of participants can be counted on to leave a comment from time to time, but no one said they do so "very often." By the way, I'd really appreciate it if you'd please take a moment to generate a little bit of discussion and leave a comment at the bottom of this post!

I've read in a lot of different public relations resources lately that e-mail is still king in terms of reaching most people, especially those outside the millenial generation. In fact, 63 percent of participants were subscribed to at least two e-mail newsletters, with 24 percent subscribing to four. As e-mail becomes more integrated with social media and instant messaging through things such as Gmail chat, it will be interesting to see if there is some sort of Web 3.0ish merger of the mediums. We already have out own messaging system in Facebook with an inbox, and there has also been a recent addition of Facebook chat, a built-in-browser instant-messaging service with which one can chat with his or her Facebook friends in real time in addition to leaving wall posts or e-mail-like messages.

I thought the "yes" response on the above chart would be higher, but I suppose that may be because I am connected to AIM and Gmail chat constantly any time I have an Internet connection. Still, this is almost a split right down the middle, and that is quite a few people who use instant messaging. For those who do not IM daily, I wonder what their primary means of communication with online friends is. Any thoughts?

Speaking of IMs, here we see which tools people are using the most to send IMs. AIM, after all of these years is still on top at an astounding 71 percent. However, Gmail chat/Google Talk is still very new, and it is already at 38 percent, meaning at its current rate, it should overtake AIM at some point in the near future. It probably does not help AIM that Gmail allow the integration of AIM into its chat system, which I know is something I take advantage of. I have not had to open AIM/iChat since Gmail chat came out. All of the other IM services play a minute part in the conversation in comparison to these two.

So those are the results of the social media survey. Please, leave your thoughts about the things I've discussed here. If you have ideas for good questions or ways to tweak such a project as this for future posts, feel free to leave them as well. What do you think the role of social media will be in the future in people's lives? If you want to do a guest post about some aspect of social media, feel free to contact me about that as well.

That's all for now, I'll see you on social media!


The College Blog Network said...

Very cool information, nice work

Joshua said...

I liked the pie charts and bar graphs! It made it easy to visualize what you were saying when my eyes started to burn from all the reading.