Social media are capturing a growing number of users from an array of market demographics, including older people, rural communities and business professionals.
South African companies need to take a more sophisticated approach in segmenting social media audiences for marketing and communication purposes.
Melody Maker, head of social media at Acceleration Media, takes a look at the diverse social media landscape and advises marketers to use a more sophisticated approach.
Not all audiences are the same
Many brands make the mistake of assuming that they are having conversations with a uniform audience across the many social media platforms that are prevalent in South Africa.
But with social media now straddling a range of ages, income and geographic groups, the audience has grown nearly as large and diffuse as the country’s Internet-using population.
No longer can marketers work on the assumption that the audience is uniformly young, tech-savvy, and urban across all the different platforms, says Maker.
Social media users getting older
Indeed, as World Wide Worx’s South African Social Media Landscape 2012 study shows, the fastest growing age group among Facebook users in South Africa is the over-60s.
If your grandmother is on Facebook, it’s safe to say that it is now a mainstream service.
Perhaps even more interestingly for brands, is the fact that people further into their careers and with more disposable income, are as easy to reach using social platforms as the youth who live on their mobile phones.
Tailor your message
“Social media users in South Africa are a diverse bunch, which means that marketers need to be ready to tailor their messaging to different demographics,” says Maker.
“Listening closely to understand who exactly you are talking to, is more important than ever before.”
One important facet of a sound social media strategy, is to understand exactly which users one will find on various services and the reasons that they use these platforms, says Maker.
US research by the Association of Magazine Media (MPA), pinpointed distinct differences in the appeal of different social networking platforms to different age groups.
Horses for courses
Younger users (ages 18 to 24) were more likely to use YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr than older users.
LinkedIn was more popular among older users than young.
The number of users on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest had equal appeal among different age groups.
Says Maker: “Our experience in South Africa draws a similar picture – older users favour services such as LinkedIn while younger users love platforms oriented around video and images.
“But that’s just one point of departure - we should also be considering how different LSM groups cluster around various social networking services, as just one example.”
Cross media messages
What this all means is that companies need to put tools and processes in place that will help them to understand who they are talking to across different social media platforms and what they need, adds Maker.
This will allow them to tailor content, tone and messaging of their conversations to the needs of different audiences.
“Social media might sound like a single field, but it is actually a whole medium splintered across a range of services and tools servicing the needs of different audiences and users.
“We can no longer just treat it as a lump called social media, but we must instead tailor our strategies to the demands of different audiences, platforms and needs as we talk to customers using social platforms."