Five Takeaways from the Latest Nielsen Report: What It Really Means for Social

Who’s using what? We have some insight into where our generations land on the social media plane.

If you’re in the business of social media marketing, you’ve almost certainly seen the recent conversations about the 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report. You’ve also likely been as stunned as I was by the sudden declaration that Gen Xers are more addicted to social media than Millennials.

How did this become the biggest takeaway? Well, the president of Nielsen Social, Sean Casey, wrote in his opening letter: “surprisingly, the heavy social media user group isn’t Millennials. In fact, Generation X (ages 35-49) spends the most time on social media.” Marketers across the country read this pesky little statement and immediately declared Gen X the new social media generation.

The problem is, they’re jumping to conclusions, and the consequences could be severe.

So, before you jump on the bandwagon and scrap your social media strategy, here are the five most important takeaways from the 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report.

1. What demographic is most important on social media?

Yes, Gen Xers spend more time on social media, but Millennials spend a larger percentage of their media consumption time on social.

What the data says: Gen Xers spend nearly five more hours than Millennials and 11 more hours than Boomers consuming media every week. Meanwhile, Millennials spend 24% of their media time on social, while Gen Xers spend just 22%. This may feel like I’m arguing semantics, but arguing for either generation has broad implications.

The bottom line: Admittedly, the numbers here are close and it’s easy to start twisting the data – but they’re close no matter how you twist them. The real point is: nearly everyone is on social media – yes, even Boomers. This isn’t something new, and it shouldn’t change how we think about social media marketing. All this indicates is the increasing importance of knowing your target audience – where they spend their time online, and the best ways to interact with them. Marketers should use all the data at their disposal to help them reach their audience.

2. What age group spends the most time on social media?

People are spending more time on social media, and Boomers are quickly catching up.

What the data says: Baby Boomers (ages 50+) increased their time spent on social media by 64% from the 2015 report. Meanwhile, Gen Xer’s increased by 29% and Millennials by 21%.

The bottom line: Social media is not confined to one generation, and declaring any generation the social media generation is problematic. You can reasonably count on your audience having a presence on social media, no matter their age. Once again, data is going to play an increasing role in how marketers reach their target audience online.

3. Does social media advertising work?

Social media advertising can work, but you need to speak directly to your audience.

What the data says: 13% of heavy social media users – defined as spending 3 or more hours on social media per day – are clicking on ads. This isn’t particularly high, but it proves that advertising on social media is motivating people to take a course of action.

The bottom line: Impressions are less relevant than ever (if they ever were). Getting your ad in front of people isn’t going to guarantee sales. Your ads need to be relevant to the audience, and what works for one person probably won’t work for others. Speak to the people in your audience. They have real needs and emotions. Know them, and you will win the social media game.

4. Is there a link between social media activity and spending money online?

People who spend time on social media spend money online.

What the data says: There isn’t a direct correlation between time spent on social and amount of money spent online. In fact, moderate social media users (1-2 hours daily) are the most likely to shop online. However, 78% of people who spend even a light amount of time on social media spend money online, while only 46% of those who aren’t active on social media spend money online.

The bottom line: This just confirms what we’ve known for a long time, if you’re selling online – look to social media first.

5. What is the link between social media activity and watching TV?

People are on social media while watching TV.

What the data says: 37% of tablet users and 45% of smartphone users access social media at least once a day while watching TV. Meanwhile, only 21% of tablet users and 17% of smartphone users never access social media while watching TV. What are they talking about? The shows they’re watching. They interact with other viewers and anyone connected with the programs they’re watching.

The bottom line: Watch TV with your target audience. Post about what you’re watching. Use the popularity of their favorite shows to open lines of communication with them. This requires listening to your target audience to know what they watch and how they like to talk about it.

Like all aspects of marketing, to be successful, you need to know your target audiences. Once you know the social media habits of your audience, be sure to reach out to them when and where they are and address them with relevant content.

For more information on how you can speak to your target audience, download our free white paper.

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