Some really great research is beginning to disseminate through the blogosphere emanating from the Personal Democracy Forum just held in New York. In particular, is the user base and growth of the two largest social networks, MySpace and Facebook.
Northwestern researcher Eszter Harggitai found that MySpace’s users slightly declined or stayed about the same over a 0ne year period dating back to 2008. In fact, Facebook’s traffic increased 97 percent and MySpace’s traffic declined 5 percent from a year ago, writes Riva Richmond, blogging for the New York Times.
Both Richmond and Harggitai refer to social media researcher Danah Boyd, who has uncovered important demographic trends with Facebook and MySpace users.
Research by Harggitai, Boyd and others boils down to this:
- Whites are using Facebook more and leaving MySpace
- Asians are using Facebook at very high levels and MySpace very little
- Hispanics are more likely to be active on MySpace than Facebook
- African Americans seem to be more evenly split between using Facebook and MySpace but are using Facebook slightly more
- Facebook users come from more economically advantaged families than MySpace users
Not commenting on the social stratification of the research findings, it is interesting for those who are running local political campaigns to take this data into consideration when putting together an online communications strategy. Supposing there is finite time in a campaign, plus limited staff resources, it is safe to assume that a campaign cannot effectively be all over each social network and use each well (i.e. John Edwards in 2008).
Therefore, especially for urban and suburban districts, it seems practical to use this data in order to assist a campaign in choosing what kind of social networking strategy they will employ. Campaigns have to ask themselves, does it make sense to use Facebook in a more predominantly African American or Hispanic voting area? This research would indicate that would be a bad idea. But, the realities on the ground are always a little different and must be measured for each case.
The lesson here is listening to statistics and going with the percentages. Other campaigns have tried and failed, others have won. Good campaigns listen to those lessons and put those findings to work to their advantage.